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Christmas is not for children

By Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos 

New York, December 22, 2006 – Christmas is not for children. Not really. The idea that God became a human being to save God’s creation is not the stuff of children’s entertainment. 

Oh sure, the biblical accounts – filled with kings and shepherds, prophets and angels, the birth of one baby and the killing of others – tell a rather fantastical story. But at its core, it’s a profound one, full of truth.

What truth? That God has entered the history of the world so that the world might find the fulfillment of its history. That we, as children of God, are now God’s witnesses, who are to proclaim peace and mercy, liberation and life.

How are we to do this? Well, let’s enter the story. How many of us allow ourselves to be led to the manger in Bethlehem, as the wise men did? If we did, we’d wonder why it is that today our Christian brothers and sisters in Israel / Palestine can’t even get to Bethlehem to celebrate our savior’s birth.  

How many of us allow ourselves to hear the angels in heaven singing about peace and goodwill, as the shepherds did?  If we did, we’d ask why it is that today religious minorities are forced to flee Iraq after living in the land of Abraham for thousands of years. 

How many of us allow ourselves to be instruments of God’s salvation, as Mary and Joseph did?  If we did, we’d want to know why it is that today in the Holy Land men and women lose hope for the future and turn to violence. 

This is what the Christmas story – our story – is all about.  It is about God’s love for the world, and making that love real in history.  It’s about violence in the Middle East and genocide in Darfur; it’s about immigration across the Rio Grande and environmental degradation in the Amazon; it’s about torture at Guantanamo and sex trafficking in Asia.  It’s about all of these things, and how we are to look at them through the eyes of the baby born in Bethlehem. 

But let’s be honest:  this story may be too much to bear.  And so we Christians will do our best again this year to make it more palatable for children, and for the child that still lives in each of us. 

Forget the obvious trivialities inherent in lawn Santas.  Let’s jump to the more “serious” ways we experience the holiday: gifts wrapped in brightly colored paper; nutcrackers dancing across countless stages; children dressed in velvet; sumptuous dinners with family and friends.  Then there are the “religious” things that fill the season:  “Hallelujah!” sing-alongs at community auditoriums; children’s Nativity plays in neighborhood churches; coat drives by various charities; midnight services.   

Of course, none of these are wrong.  But none of them – not really – get to the heart of the story.

Antonios Kireopoulos, Ph.D., is associate general secretary for international relations and peace at the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,


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