MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Pastor Micah Wright with Spring Hill Avenue UMC joins us to talk about Christmas. Here’s a look at our conversation:
Anchor: Christmas is coming this week, it’s one of the biggest holidays on the Christian calendar and perhaps the most widely acknowledged holiday in the western secular world. Why is this holiday so important?
Guest: Well, believe it or not, most of your classic Christmas movies and programs–whether in the church or not–all attest to the importance of this holiday: it is all about relationships. Certainly, this includes the relationships we have with one another, our friends, family, and significant others; but most significantly our relationship with the Divine, with God. You see, while it is easy for us to get caught up in this picture-perfect manger scene with the tiny little baby Jesus and a star hanging overhead, that tender scene is an image of the moment in human history where the Divine and the mundane collide. In this moment, the God of the universe cried out to humanity without a single word saying: I want to be WITH you! For God, our relationships are of paramount importance–not the least of which is our relationship with this God. So, when all of humanity is frantically searching about the earth for some meaning in their lives, often missing those moments in which God reaches out to us, that same God decides to come to be with us, to take on a form we can understand and comprehend just to show us how much we are loved. This holiday is about exactly what most people think, except for the fact that it was not some Hallmark creation that got us there. It was God saying “these relationships matter,” and then showing up in the most humbling way to prove it.
Anchor: What do you preach about during this season and how does the minister keep that message fresh?
Guest: It is funny that you ask that because this season is filled with expectations of the same themes and the same scriptures and the same “feel-good” message, all surrounding the same manger scene. So, I have made it my mission to draw attention to the uncomfortable things that disrupt the familiar images of Christmas. This includes things like how Jesus was born in a remarkably “disgraceful way,” or how the first to receive the good news were the poor people not the rich or even the middle class, or how it probably was not a “silent night” because the act of giving birth is rarely quiet. I do this to unveil that the birth of Christ is not something that we left behind 2000 years ago only to nostalgically bring it up for a few weeks of the year, but is something that impacts the present and the future just as much as the past. When we recognize that Jesus’ birth was not a cute, picturesque moment but a messy moment, then perhaps we can begin to appreciate how God works in the messiness of our own lives. When we understand that the first people to behold God incarnate were very poor shepherds, perhaps we can understand that God is with the poor and we should be too. When we hear that it probably was not a silent night, perhaps we might have a greater inclination to live like Mary and give of our entire being to live faithfully to God.
Anchor: How do you keep Christ the focus in a holiday that’s often co-opted by the secular world?
Guest: By reminding people that Christ came to be IN the secular world, not separate from it. And then, while interacting with the secular, Christ took these little moments to point people toward a message of love. In something as simple as eating a meal with sinners, which Jesus is nearly attacked for, his response it: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Christ did not come for the spiritual and the holy, Christ came for the secular and the sinners. So, to keep Christ the focus in a holiday that’s often co-opted by the secular world we simply need to look harder and see that Christ is already there. It is then the job of those who look for this to point it out to those who have not yet seen. To say to the person buying extravagant gifts for their loved ones: “did you know you are so loved that the God of the universe got you the most extravagant gift of all?” or to the under-appreciated parent who works tirelessly to make this season special: “Jesus was also a servant to many, and I see that love in you.” We keep Christ the focus when we recognize that he is already in the secular ready to make a difference.
Anchor: What’s your favorite part of this time of year?
Guest: The unspoken spirit of kindness. There is just something in the air this time of year that prompts people to be just a little nicer to one another. It is the same spirit, which I might be so bold to call the Holy Spirit, that leads more people to volunteer this time of year. It is the same spirit that sparked the Christmas truce in WWI when enemies dropped their weapons end even played soccer for the day. It is the same spirit that encourages more people to give to those in need. It is the same spirit that leads whole communities to rally together for one of their neighbors in need. We hear about that mysterious Christmas spirit around us, and if we look a little harder we might just realize we are right in the middle of it. That has to be my favorite part.
Anchor: If you have a guest at a service this week, what do you want them to leave with?.
Guest: My hope for any guest joining us at any time, but especially in this season, is that they will be able to leave knowing they are loved by an unending, relentless, unconditional love. That is something we all need to be reminded of. God came to earth in the form of a humble baby to dwell among us for no greater reason than love. That’s the gospel message wrapped up in the most well-known verse of the Bible, John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” That’s what our churches need to be doing more of, reminding people that they are loved; and that is what we aim to do every day at Spring Hill Avenue UMC.