|In a world where safe places are getting harder and harder to find, Christmas remains a haven from the storm if we will enter into it. “Safe places” can be defined in several ways, but I will describe them this way for our current discussion: A safe place is an activity we engage wherein we are free from conflict either from within or outside ourselves. That activity may be sitting in silence, lost in meaningful and fulfilling conversation with a loved one, engaging in a solitary hobby, reading, or certain kinds of prayer or worship. It is “safe” because nothing is being demanded from us, save engaged thoughts and feelings that give us peace and purpose with life itself.
A case in point wherein this kind of peace was socially threatened here in the US this year took place that I had previously never associated as being a “safe place.” When the protests regarding tensions between police and the African American community led to sitting or kneeling during the NFL’s national anthem, several social commentators said the politicizing of football games would forever ruin them for many fans because sporting events were one of the only safe places socially where the divisive challenges of life and society were carefully kept outside. They were right, at least in the short run. NFL fan attendance has taken a hit. The National Basketball Association took note, as did Major League Baseball. They made sure they avoided being politicized or no longer being a place to escape for shelter from life’s stresses.
Politically, we know that as a nation we are painfully divided and seemingly ever-further from real solutions to major social-economic problems from either political party. There are no safe places in sight for more and more people. More drugs, sex, rock and roll, and even the passing benefits of wealth are sliding downward as well as anything other than false shelters. If we are not clinically depressed as a nation, we are, at least, increasingly disillusioned. The reality remains that in a fallen world, truly safe places can only be found when they exist both in and beyond this world–that is, a pathway connecting time and eternity that reconciles both contradictions, the needs for justice, and a purpose within the drama of life. True Christianity and the true Christian life and mindset is that pathway. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) He was perfectly describing that He is the bridge between tangled life now and resolved life in the future, and that only in Him can we experience a safe place now that is totally interconnected with later. Alas, too few of us Christians walk on that path or even hear it spoken of.
So Where Is Christmas in All This?
God, knowing all this about humans’ need for safe places and pathways amidst the nonsense of life, commanded Israel to live in a safe place every seven days (the Sabbath), take a whole year off from work every seven years, and celebrate special days throughout each year including three full-week-long, national holidays. All of this caused me to preach my infamous God the Party Animal teaching some years ago, causing real trauma to those who were in need of one. That said, Christmas is God’s gift to us all to celebrate the ultimate intervention into a space-time world of eternity’s embodiment of the ultimate safe place. This place is Jesus Himself, and the activity required to engage him is to repeatedly stop and focus on Him until He breaks through. My prayer for myself and all of you is that this Christmas will open the bridge upon the pathway with Jesus the Safe Place as no Christmas has before, and keep us there as never before. Merry Safe Place to all. And that is…