Of the three wise men who came to the King,
One was a brown man, so they sing.
Of the three wise men who followed the Star,
One was a brown king, from afar.
They brought fine gifts of spices and gold,
In jeweled boxes of beauty untold.
Unto His humble manger they came,
And bowed their heads in Jesus’ name.
Three wise men, one dark like me,
Part of His Nativity
— Langston Hughes
I breathed a sigh of relief after Christmas last year. With the advent of a brand spanking new year, I felt relatively certain that we were done with the Christmas brouhaha of 2006. So, imagine my surprise as I have perused the blogosphere to find that Christmas is once again front and center in the “cultural wars” raging in our country. Starting even before Thanksgiving, I’ve been involved in on-going discussions with some who truly feel that there is a marked conspiracy to wipe out Christianity from our country. They point to FOX News reports that some have taken to calling the Christmas Tree a Holiday Tree and to others who have phased out Merry Christmas in favor of Happy Holidays. In an effort to keep us all in line, groups formed by the likes of the late Rev. Jerry Fallwell have taken to the courts with threats of lawsuits against those who would so desecrate this most “wonderful time of the year.”
Living in one of the more progressive states, I am often viewed as a nut case liberal. Maybe it’s because I think that all people were created by God, in His image, uniquely and wonderfully. Maybe it’s because I think that all people deserve to be treated with respect, without regard to their opinions or beliefs that may differ from my own. Maybe it’s because I don’t believe in forcing people to agree with my opinions and beliefs. Not that I’m always successful, but I do try! Or, maybe it’s as one person recently told me, simply because I’ve lived outside of US for so long that I’ve forgotten what an American really is (for those who are wondering, I’m pretty sure that California is still a state in the Union). Irregardless of the reason, it has been interesting to observe the opinions of some because I refuse to engage in this war revolving around Christmas!
Growing up in a preacher’s home, I always assumed that the traditions we followed were from God himself, given to Santa Clause at the North Pole shortly after He spoke to Moses high atop Mr. Rushmore. As this war surrounding Christmas has begun to resonate with people I know and respect, I began to wonder about these traditions we hold so dear. So, I did a little research and found that many of the traditions surrounding this most sacred of holidays have no basis in Christianity at all. In fact, many of them, including the tree, can be traced directly to pagan rituals and celebrations.
In the midst of all this hullabaloo, the little one in my life came to me with a question about the original Christmas.
How come there weren’t any brown people at the manger?
I laughed to myself and began to explain to this amazingly intelligent little brown boy that, even though many artists like to portray Jesus as being “white”, in actuality He was a lot more “brown” than otherwise. The more I gave thought to that question and my response, the more I have begun to realize that there may in fact have been a cultural war surrounding Christmas. As I have studied this issue, a nagging question has invaded my thoughts –
Could it be that the real cultural war surrounding this season has to do with exclusivity?
I have often felt that Christians are the worst when it comes to excluding those who haven’t lined up. Some Christians refuse fellowship because of a person’s color or because of perceived “sin” that is not on the “approved sin” list. When did Christ move from being “like me” to being this deity who only offers His love to those of the right stripe?
When I got home last night and was sorting through the mail, I came across a holiday card with Langston Hughes’ poem Like Me featured. It made sense and so, when Paris got home, I read it to him. He didn’t say much, but I could tell that he was relieved that he had been represented at Jesus’ birth as well. This morning it dawned on me just how important the “like me” question really was to Paris. As I was helping him make his bed, I found the card under his pillow and it hit me that maybe some people have become disenfranchised with Christmas because we’ve excluded them…for whatever reason.
I am reminded as I write this that the Creator of us all gave up everything to come to a lowly cattle stall…not just for the benefit of some, but for every last one of us. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, this baby played host to a wide variety of people of differing ethnicities and cultures. In the darkness, He came and shined a light. A light for all, not just for some! That’s why we celebrate this time of year!
I wonder what would happen if we as Christians lived out that love…for all instead of just for the “chosen few.” Perhaps if we started loving people regardless of their race or age or sexuality or any of the host of other issues we hold against people, there would be a lot less of a need to force people to “come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!”