I had a strange and surprising experience yesterday. I went into a store that sells fair trade goods from all over the world. It's an interesting place. Ethereal, New Age music playing. Incense burning. My wife and daughter browsed around looking at their very unique handmade items. I checked out several things. There were 3 or 4 ladies serving people. They were very helpful and friendly. It was packed with stuff and with people. I picked up a vile of aroma therapy perfume called "Rain" and sniffed it. I liked it. I want some. I made my way over to a corner were some handmade banners were hanging inscribed with wise sayings from Mother Teresa, Zen Masters, Nelson Mandela, Buddha, Jesus, Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Confucius, and so on. As I was reading the sayings with the aroma of "rain" still in my nostrils, I suddenly noticed that I was feeling very emotional. I was embarrassed and almost left the store. Instead, I maintained a level of control, just allowing my eyes to be misty and my throat slightly choked up. My heart was welling up with waves of incredible feeling. I walked around the place enjoying the rich atmosphere of peacefulness, calm, joy, and solidarity. I felt genuine unity among all of us in that store. More than any other store, including the Christian book store, this one seemed to promote, even unconsciously, the good will toward all people that the angels promised on that first Christmas. Oh, may it be! People pick their Jesus. Yes, Jesus said he came to bring a sword. But this is in the larger context of him bringing peace and reconciling all things to God through himself. Instead, some people think that because Jesus said he brings a sword, it gives them permission to be divisive, to draw lines of demarcation between themselves and others, to judge people and make life miserable for them. It is incumbent upon us to make peace, to love all people, to discern the powerful current of all things moving back to God and participate in this reconciling force that the scriptures say is at work in the world. We do not as yet see all things submitted under his feet, even though they are... apparently. Rather, I think many of us would prefer to separate those who disagree with us and cleanse the church and even the world of all who are different and challenge our understanding of who Jesus is and what he means... unless they get saved, of course. When Jesus said that we would have the poor among us always, does this mean that we should no longer help the poor? When Jesus said that he brings a sword, does this mean that we no longer do anything in our power to reconcile, make peace, and work for the unity of all people? You say, "Not if it means forsaking my theological position!" If God gave up his Godhead, considering it as something not to be grasped, but humbled himself and emptied himself and became a man, why are we so unwilling to give up our rights, our privileged positions, our thrones of intellectual certainty and polemical assertiveness? I ask you: What do we actually give up and empty ourselves of? When a complete stranger that Jesus hadn't even met was preaching and healing in the name of Jesus, the disciples asked Jesus if they should stop him. Undoubtedly he was getting some things wrong. Instead, Jesus said to leave him alone. If he isn't against us he's for us! We prefer the variant reading that implies that if he isn't totally for me and the Jesus I believe, then he's against me and against my Jesus. He's not one of us. He can just go to Hell! I'm getting the impression that, generally, religious people actually prefer cleavage to unity and proof-text militant scriptures to support their divisive attitude and ways. So, Merry Christmas, peace just on my little piece of earth and goodwill toward all people I approve! The image is a pencil sketch I did entitled, "Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth".