Stephen Chavez

Coordinating Editor, Adventist Review

Born to Be Wild

By now you’re probably getting tired of Christmas. I know I am. Since the “holiday season” began—just after Labor Day for us here in the U.S.—the shepherds, the reindeer, the wise Men, the gifts, the angels, the elves, the chestnuts roasting by an open fire have all gotten jumbled and blended into so many trite symbols and clichés.

For a large number of people the central figure of the celebration—the Baby—has been shoved off center stage in favor of the ubiquitous characters from the North Pole.

It’s not surprising.

From His obscure birth, noticed by just a few, to His nondescript journey through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, there were not many reasons to embrace Jesus of Nazareth more than any number of Israelite youth—certainly nothing that would dictate a worldwide celebration to honor His birth.

But when Jesus began His public ministry, what a radical difference He made. Jesus shattered stereotypes. He demolished preconceptions and slaughtered sacred cows. He dismissed the conventional wisdom of the world (and institutional religion) with unconventional deliberateness.

And what radical demands He made (and continues to make)!He claimed that we gain wealth by giving it away; that we gather honor by stooping to serve; that the least in society are the greatest in God’s kingdom; that we experience real life by dying. No wonder His place on Christmas’s center stage has been usurped by a reindeer with a red nose.

The truth is that many people prefer it this way. They’d rather worship Jesus from a distance. They’d rather let the shepherds, the Wise Men, Mary and Joseph, run interference between them and the one who might change their lives.

Jesus shattered stereotypes. He demolished preconceptions and slaughtered sacred cows.

In the U.S. presidential race, recently concluded, a lot of the debate seemed to center on how much the government should be expected to solve society’s problems. Too much violence on TV? The government will fix that. Crime turning cities and suburbs into war zones? No problem; the government has a solution. Kids turning on to drugs? Ditto.

That same mentality has seeped into the church. Apathetic youth (young adults, boomers, seniors)? The church has a program. Boring, lifeless worship services? A new resource is available from the Adventist Resource Center. Divisions in the church? The General Conference has just issued a policy statement . . .

Meanwhile, Jesus is not often (or regularly) consulted by those of us who should be playing a part in creating real solutions. Why? Because He’s too radical. Because His mandates are too wild; they don’t take into account life in the “real world.” They might even involve life-altering commitments.

Like you, I have my routine—the things I do day in and day out; month in and . . . well, you get the idea. And most of the time I get along just fine doing the things I’ve always done them, without a lot of divine assistance, thank you.

Oh, I know Christ’s number. I can get Him on-line whenever a deadline looms, or a personal, professional, or family problem gets out of control. But most of the time I can get by on my own.

However, it’s become increasingly apparent to me that Christ wants to do more than just handle my crisis calls. He wants to be involved in my life on days other than Sabbath. He wants to be an influence not just when the Christmas decorations are up, but throughout the rest of the year as well.

But do I have enough courage to let Christ be more than just a baby in a manger; more than just a picture I hang on my wall? Can I trust Him with my career? Will He make me a better husband and father? Will He get me through a future obscured with all kinds of insecurities (both real and imagined)? Will He guide me to a life of radical discipleship that will actually make a difference among the people I touch for the here and hereafter?

Stay tuned.

And keep your seat belt fastened. Because Jesus is not a baby anymore.

Stephen Chavez is an assistant editor of Adventist Review. This article first appeared in the December 19, 1996 issue.

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