Why This Way? A Christmas Message from Bishop Fairley

December 20, 2019


Please be forewarned that this will not be your standard Christmas message or greeting.  I want to begin with a series of “Why?” questions.  Why not in splendor and glory?  Why not with royal fanfare and shimmering lights?  Why not with outstanding parents with proper pedigree and connections?  Why a teenage girl from “hick-town” Nazareth, the armpit of Galilee?  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:46.
Why not announce Jesus’ birth with festive singing and sounding of trumpets from the temple in Jerusalem, with priests dressed in their finest religious garments; stoles and fancy collars, robes with bars of distinction and bishop’s patches on the sleeve, lapel pins prominently displayed for all to see?  Why instead have this birth dancing on the lips of a most unlikely girl, singing, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty?”  – Luke 1:46, 52-53
Why lift up the faith and trust of a simple carpenter (Joseph) who chooses to suffer the disdain and ridicule of others for breaking religious law by marrying a pregnant woman who claims the child she carries is the Son of the Living God?  We know better than that!  We know that’s not the way religious, God-fearing folk would usually see such a thing.  Remember, Mary was a woman who, according to the law, should have been stoned to death. 
All that being said, I don’t think we realize how subversive it is to say, “Merry Christmas.”  Yet, it is what I choose to boldly say and proclaim. “Merry Christmas!”  “’Be or make merry’ translates to make joy or be joyful.  It generally is used to express good cheer and being in a state of content.  When people use the words ‘Merry Christmas’ they are expressing their desire for the other person to be joyful,” according to  “The Merry Christmas Meaning” – Wilstar.com.
It is a Merry Christmas because God has broken into the world of sin, death, darkness and oppression with a Word of salvation, reconciliation, and redemption.  God has broken into our world of violence and injustice with a Word of ultimate hope.  Ultimate hope for those in despair.  Ultimate hope for the marginalized.  Ultimate hope for those held captive by the bondage of sin.  Ultimate hope for those lost in darkness.  Ultimate hope that truly says, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”— Psalm 30:5.
Merry Christmas, a great joy has broken over us. With the coming of Jesus, everything changes.  Our worldviews are turned upside down “so the last will be first, and the first will be last.”— Matthew 20:16.   
Merry Christmas, because God has broken into our chaos through the child born in Bethlehem, who will one day stand in the synagogue with these subversive words flowing from his spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19
Merry Christmas, as the hymn writer proclaims, “Jesus the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; tis music in the sinner’s ear.” – O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing – UM Hymnal
Merry Christmas! Be joyful because God almighty has done unto us a marvelous and mighty thing.  Remember when you tell another “Merry Christmas,” it is not some Pollyanna bumper sticker slogan or a sign to display on your lawn.  It is not a Facebook post asking readers to pass it on if you want to keep Jesus in Christmas: The last time I checked, Jesus is, and always will be, in Christmas.
If you are going to say, “Merry Christmas,” mean it with all your heart, mind, and soul.  If we are going to “talk the talk,” let’s walk the walk by confessing our sin and surrendering everything to Jesus so that his joy might be complete in us.  I believe it would go a long way toward transforming the world if we would spread a little subversive peace, love, and joy into our darkness.  Merry Christmas!!!
Blessings and Peace,

Bishop Fairley