Four days after the solstice, you are more likely to catch COVID than Jesus. If you do catch Jesus on Christmas, it will probably be asymptomatic. The theological antibodies will be gone by Easter, which is the main point anyway.
Don’t blame Jesus, his parents or Paul for the confusion. None of them cared about the birth stories (Rex god via Emperor Constantine), or Santa (Coca Cola) or the tree (Teutonic tribes) or run-amok accumulation (Jeff Bezos and Sam Walton). Mary’s baby trouble would have shaken all of them—and should, us.
Very little of the Jesus story in Luke is fit for children. Ask Elizabeth: “brought down monarchs..humble lifted..rich sent empty away.” Ask Herod, who responded rationally by killing all the boys under two years of age. Or ask why John Lewis responded by taking on people like Herod and getting arrested forty times seeking Jesus’ “beloved community.” Or why a variant of the Jesus virus a century ago caused thousands of adults to gather in hundreds of church basements to invent things called hospitals. Troublesome and costly adult behavior.
The children came to Jesus in spite of, not because of, their nervous parents. The adults knew he would heal seven days a week, if you dared the desperate crowds. Jesus never sought political or theocratic office. But the parents also knew his generous life scared the powerful, who would inevitably kill him and anyone standing nearby. The kids recognized love when they saw it and came anyway.
I wrote a book of prayers last year in which I tried to sort through all this for myself and others who disagree with our younger selves about some of the answers. We are repelled by religious claptrap but still compelled by the Jesus almost lost in the fog of Bezos and our latest COVID wave. Bill Davenhall–a man of no claptrap of any kind–thinks my book of prayers is about leadership. I’d say followership. It belongs in the adult section, not on tepid “spirituality” shelves. That makes me happy and then scared, which seems closer to what Luke was writing about. John Lewis arrested 40 times for disruptive justice-making; Gary zero. But later on in his life he spent more time in committee meetings just like me. He was fighting the same fight that got him hurt; not always true for me. Maybe this is the year I hear the grown-up story, too. I pray for that.
Here’s the prayer about Jesus and John Lewis: https://vimeo.com/658180695?embedded=true&source=video_title&owner=126298847
You can buy the book here with the money going to Stakeholder Health (on Amazon, ironically): https://www.amazon.com/God-People-Prayers-Newer-Awakening/dp/1732422249/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1631569138&refinements=p_27%3AGary+Gunderson&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Gary+Gunderson