Inner City Diary
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Jesus is more than "the reason for the season"
December 22, 2002
This week, I was privileged to receive an award called the “Queen’s Jubilee Medal” for service to my community and country. The award and its presentation were humbling.

It was especially gratifying to hear the presenter acknowledge the motivating and energizing role of my Christian faith. Lots of people gloss over that, but I'm glad she didn't. Acknowledging God's grace in my work and my life is especially meaningful as I approach Christmas.

Earlier this week, a radio reporter interviewed me about my work in Winnipeg. The discussion started with my response to some recent job offers in other cities. It explored the motivations of my 4:30am to 5:30pm workday. It turned into a frank and vulnerable reflection on all I hold near and dear.

We discussed relationships with family and friends. I shared some incredible highs of achievements, as well as some times I felt myself on the brink of insanity and despair.

Sometimes I wake up scared. I know I'm in over my head before I even get out of bed. Sometimes I fall asleep satisfied that I've done everything I can to fight the good fight, even if I’m disappointed in the results.

Vulnerability doesn’t always leave a great impression. But somewhere during our interview I stopped caring about sounding impressive. It was about being real and giving credit where credit was due. It was about acknowledging a power greater than my own.

I told her that in my faith I've found a forgiveness and grace that allows me to start fresh after a screw-up, to dream through despair, to run and not be weary.

In my life, Jesus is much more than the stereotypical “babe in a manger.”

He was born in an emergency shelter in a small city. His parents were uninfluential and his social standing was inconsequential. He never wrote a book or composed a song, but his life has inspired innumerable points of learning and countless songs of praise.

He healed multitudes without a degree in medicine. Without psychiatric credentials, he brought to many a peace that surpasses understanding.

He puzzled philosophers and confounded critics while taking time to play with children and relax with outcasts. He defied distinctions of race and class. His ministry was unconventional and his claims were outrageous. He insisted his death was not some mushy example of inspiration, but an intentional offering of forgiveness.

I know about warped expressions of fanaticism by supposed followers of Jesus. But Christ himself, whose birth parted the waters of history, continues to positively transform lives like mine.

Some people insist our highest needs revolve around education, politics, finances, laws or housing. I figure if that were the case, Jesus would have come as a teacher, politician, economist, policeman or developer.

But instead the angels announced the arrival of a savior. I believe that's because my deepest needs can't be met by those other folk. Christ had the audacity to offer forgiveness for my guilt, and faith for realities beyond the limits of my imagination.

You don't have to believe what I believe. I don’t shove Bibles down people’s throats. I’ll serve people despite the fact that most have no interest in my religion. But I’m not ashamed to celebrate the faith that transformed me from a troubled teen to a community servant. Especially at Christmas.

Most Canadians are proud of our free country and tolerant culture. But sometimes it seems like a lop-sided tolerance.

Many people tolerate my faith if it’s expressed as a sentimental, secularized spirituality. But some take offense when I express the content and consequences of my faith.

Some people smile benignly when I talk about a generic “god,” but wince when I mention the name of Christ.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the intolerance of "tolerant" people regarding the message of Christians. It's not my fault Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by me.” I didn’t write the scripture that claims, “Salvation is found in no one else.”

Some see that as arrogance. I see it as Scripture’s way of saying, "If you think he's crazy, don't worry that he'll force you to spend eternity with his lunacy. But if you believe him, love him with all you’ve got. And while you’re at it, love your neighbour as you love yourself – no matter what they believe.”

For me, Jesus is more than just the “reason for the season,” and more than just a “babe in a manger.” He's the reason for every day I work, and every dream I pursue.

And he’s the reason I can wish you and yours a blessed Christmas.
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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(204) 775-4929