Is it not one of the amazing ironies of Christmas, that at its heart is a festival of peace, but it often triggers conflict?
How many times do you drive to your Christmas celebrations, or away after them, with a row ringing in your ears?
It’s almost as if twelve months of pent up anger get unwrapped with the presents.
For our last look into the shadows, I am going to show you four ingredients in a recipe for Christmas conflict. We will finish, however, with some sustained notes of hope.
The first ingredient is dehumanization. Dehumanize your object. To do this, you will need to strip them of hopes, fears, emotions and needs. Crush their ambitions and drain out all sense of vulnerability, leaving only an objectified caricature of human. Let this process simmer for as long as you can, until you no longer see any humanity at all.
Now make sure you devalue. Consider your dehumanized person worthless. Not only that, make sure you do not value what they value, or respect what matters to them. Their beliefs, concerns, and priorities must be seen as valueless, for this stage of the recipe to work.
You are now ready to despise. Adding several large tablespoons of hatred, you can now actively loathe the dehumanized, devalued individual or group.
Finally, destroy. In this act of the heart and imagination, you can now complete your recipe.
To illustrate, we have some examples that have already been done to show you how these recipes work in the world. Foreigners, immigrants, those of different colors, religions, creeds. Already done. Nearest national neighbors. Jews, if you are a certain type of Arab; Arabs if you are a certain type of Jew; European if you are English; female if you are male. It’s all over the world, and you don’t need me to spell it out. It’s obvious.
But it’s not just global is it? It’s personal. You know who you dehumanize, devalue, despise and destroy in your heart.
So God starts by humanizing himself as a baby. In the act of Christmas, the whole human race is dignified by divinity. God in human form.
Pouring value into us by being one of us, he endorses, enriches, and celebrates what it means to be human.
Finding the rejected, he accepts. Touching the unlovely, he loves, bringing healing, restoration, uplifting as he tenderly binds up the broken-hearted and despised.
His offers are of reconstruction, rebirth, and new creation, reaching out with life, freedom and hope.
But the shadows fight back. First accusing him of being a demon, thus dehumanizing him. Then by devaluing his words and his offers, making him become increasingly despised and rejected, until finally destroyed, caught in the crosshairs of Middle Eastern wood.
Until Easter Sunday morning, when he re-humanizes, demonstrating that his values are priceless. He is not a reject, nor a rejecter. And he has despised shame, destroyed death, and offered peace over conflict.
Such is the Christmas light, dispelling the shadows.
May your Christmas be full of peace, comfort, hope and gifts.
Geoff Shattock and all the WORKTALK team
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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