[This article appears in the La Crosse Area Synod’s Coulee Courier for December of 2017.]
WE JUST DON’T LIKE EVERY JESUS
You can see it most clearly when we are in the Holy Day Season. Christians tend to prefer some Jesuses over other Jesuses.
Most everyone likes the little baby Jesus. What’s not to like about a little baby that doesn’t cry while lying asleep on the hay surrounded by loving parents, adoring shepherds, kneeling sheep, and one noisy drummer boy? Because we treasure the infant we can love each little one in our family. Because the Magi brought precious gifts to their little Lord we can load up the stockings for our little ones. Because the child came to earth we know the child came for us.
Most everyone likes the forgiving Jesus. It’s good to know the story of one who loves us so much he will die for our sins. It’s good to trust the vision of one dying with outstretched arms to welcome us into God’s forgiveness.
We tend to like the carpenter who has prepared homes for us in heaven. It’s a comfort to picture our loved ones who have passed through death into the eternal care of our Lord. It’s hopeful to envision Jesus waiting at the heavenly gates to welcome us into that eternity when our time comes.
But we are not so sure about the “Follow me” Jesus. Sure it’s nice to be invited into the group. It’s good to know that Jesus want s us near. But following is more than walking the same road. When Jesus calls us to play follow the leader he calls us to walk his path AND Do. What. He. Does.
The Jesus who was born in a barn calls us to enter our neighbor’s barn, to shiver in their cold, to stare into their darkness, to be present with and for them no matter what. I do think it was convenient for Jesus to enter our world of joys AND sorrows, hopes AND doubts, life AND death. Following Jesus takes us out of convenience into work. Sometimes we like to let Jesus walk so far ahead of us that he goes out of sight.
The forgiving Jesus calls us to forgive – those who trespass against us, those who sap our strength and stress our patience, our enemies. We don’t want to go there. We would rather search for reasons to refuse our forgiveness. We would rather feel justified in our self-righteousness and confident of our condemnation. Instead we get “forgive.”
Even the Jesus of heaven gets to be a challenge. He gives us a vision. He tells us that those with him for eternity will include people from all tribes and types and races. In him we see diversity and welcome for all. Yet many of us would rather not welcome – we like our silos and long to let us be us and them be them. And we wouldn’t mind if they were way over there.
Of course there is only one Jesus. That One loves us all. That one calls us all to follow. That’s the promise and the challenge. As we look to the babe in the manger may we see the blessings for all.