Tonight at my church's Christmas Eve service, they sang this song and it got me to thinking:
That is O Holy Night, one of my most favorite Christmas carols ever. Sung by Celine Dion, whom I still love with all of my 8-year-old heart. I may go on about how I got burned out on Christmas music when I was in choirs, and I can only stand certain people singing certain songs, and that's true. Still, the ones that I do listen to and love, I listen to (sometimes year round) because they're just that good. O Holy Night is one of those songs.
People don't often listen too closely to Christmas carols. They can range from silly to cheesy, to occasionally serious. But the ones that I love, that stick with me over the years, are the ones that actually capture the message of the Gospel better than many normal worship songs.
Consider verse 2 of O Holy Night:
The second half of that stanza is even better. "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease." Let's say that again, for the people in back. All oppression shall cease. Let's apply that to the world events going on in the world this year, during Christmas. Does this really describe the world we live in?
It took me a really long time to realize that living this way, with this level of belief in the Truth of the Bible was actually really subversive. Every belief of mine that has changed over the last 8 or so years has been because I started to really explore what these words convey.
I used to think that being a Christian gave me an excuse to rail on about how other people lived their lives, rather recently in fact. I have been that person who, in the name of opposing oppression, occasionally enforces a different form of oppression. I've really struggled to find the balance between forming and expressing a strong opinion in a graceful way, and just pissing people off which is not terribly useful. I'm still not afraid to say the hard things. I am, and probably will always be, blunt to a fault.
Still it all comes back to this. His law is love, His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break. The slave is our brother. In His name, there is no oppression. Oppression can't even stand to be around. That's subversive. People like oppression. They like having control over others. All oppression ceasing is a monumental shift of power. But it requires the first part. Truly He taught us to love one another.
I was just talking to my friend about this today. About how I struggled with the command, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Because in the Christianity I was taught, loving yourself wasn't a plus. It was called pride and pride obviously goeth before the fall. Being confident in yourself wasn't a plus, if you acknowledged your talents you were arrogant.
I've said it before on this blog, and I'll say it again. Humility is not hating yourself. Maybe others don't need to hear it, but I certainly do. If you're loving others like you love yourself, and you hate yourself that equation is not going to end in a world with no oppression.
Love is the key issue for me, for my whole life. It's the thing I keep coming back to. Because if I believe that God loved me enough to send His son to be born in a stable, to grow up in a hostile world and get killed for His troubles, I have to believe that I am worth that love. Otherwise it falls flat.
The real big thing is that if I'm worth that kind of love, than I have to believe that others are worth that kind of love. Everyone. Muslims, pagans, Sunday morning Christians, atheists, people who hurt and who are hurting. Even Republicans, though Lord knows they're not my favorite group of people in the world right now. Even the people who disagree with me, which is the one that really gets me.
That's where the second part of the verse comes in. Let all within me praise His holy name. Because Christ's power and glory are worth proclaiming. If you think God is not the God of those who are looked down upon, you have not met my Jesus. Let me tell you, He's a pretty awesome dude. I'm glad that I kept looking.
Merry Christmas everyone. Be subversive and really love people this year.