I wonder what would have happened if Jesus were born in today’s world. In all our busyness would we have responded like the Shepherds and said: Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place. So they went with haste. Would we have been too busy? Would we want to check our emails first? Just hang on, my shows got 5 minutes to go. Would we want to update our Facebook status first –“on my way to Bethlehem”. Would we have gone in and worshipped or first checked in on Facebook and taken a selfie? And what’s so special about this baby anyway? We are living in a world that has become so self-obsessed that we are looking less and less to Jesus.
A recent medical journal has identified a new syndrome that is affecting society and it’s called the Selfie Syndrome. It’s closely linked to Narcissism which is a mental health condition. Narcissism is characterised by believing one’s self to be superior over others, to constantly pursue admiration from others, and to participate in egotistical thinking and behaviour.
In other words – it is where I am the focus of my attention and I constantly need people to tell me how good I am – how beautiful I look – how great I am. And we are never satisfied and have to keep taking “selfies” and have affirmation by people “liking” our pictures on Social Media. And we hate it when other people take focus away from us and onto themselves. When they get more “likes” than we get it causes great distress. The birth of Jesus Christ goes totally against the selfie syndrome. In Philippians we hear Paul talk about Jesus’ birth: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.
Facebook has over a billion people using it – about half the amount of Christians in the world. Whereas Luther instructed in his Catechism when upon waking, make the sign of the cross as a reminder of your baptism and pray the Lord’s Prayer – most upon waking check their Facebook. Christmas turns all that on its head as we are told to look away from ourselves and to look, firstly to the child wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger – and then to look to our neighbour in need. Just as Jesus’ birth is about God loving the world so much that he gave us his son, Christmas is about goodwill to all by loving our neighbour as ourselves – loving our enemy – feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger. At his birth Jesus was homeless – no room at the inn. Soon after, with Herod wanting to put him to death saw Jesus become a refugee fleeing to Egypt with his parents. These are 2 demographics that we have seriously neglected because of our self-focus – my taxes – my country.
Jesus birth challenges us to look beyond the world immediately around you! Why? Because God wants the whole world to know that he is there for them, too. God needs to be known where people are starving and hungry — where people are powerless and homeless — where people are fighting or dying — where people struggle for freedom and justice and human dignity – to know that God has not forgotten them. God was not sent amongst the elite but amongst the lowly shepherds – born to lowly parents – born in lowly lodgings. But he was also received by the elite as he was visited by the Magi from the East. It is when we look beyond our immediate world that we hear Jesus saying to us: “As you did it for one of the least of these my brothers or sisters, you have done it for me.” And doing it for one of the least of these doesn’t mean clicking “like” on a post or posting a sad face on the Facebook post.
Christmas is a mystery which occurs not just on December 25th but over and over again each time we respond to Christ’s command to reach out to the lowliest of society — and especially those whom society would ignore. Christmas is an encounter with God’s Son that continues to bless us as we look beyond our own lives. Looking away from ourselves gives us meaning and a sense of satisfaction. The more we focus on ourselves the more dissatisfied we are with our lives and the less meaning we find. You only have to listen to people speak today about their lives to understand that. It is said that Christmas is a time of giving. But to truly understand “giving” we look firstly to what God gave us; For God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but receive eternal life.
There is giving and there is giving. The giving we example is the unconditional giving we see exampled in God giving his Son and in Jesus giving his life. It is a giving that gives to help and heal other as a sign of our love for them. So much giving today is done with conditions and an expectation that if I buy you something then I expect a gift from you in return. Christian giving is a giving that goes unrewarded. It is a giving that goes to the undeserving. It’s a giving to those who aren’t on anyone’s Christmas list. Christmas is a joyous time of year and it is a great time to celebrate with family and friends. We are not asked to forego that but to spare a moment for those who struggle at this time of year for many and varied reasons.
Christmas is about Joy to the World. Christmas is about good news that will cause great joy for all the people. It is news that can’t be contained just as the angels in heaven rejoiced even though it made no difference to them but they were overjoyed at what God has done for humankind. May God bless you as you again celebrate our Lord’s birth and all that God gives to us through him and may you share that peace on earth with all people.