Christmas: God's gift to Haldimand County

by Gary McHale - The Regional - Opinion

December 21, 2011

I am quite certain that God's gift to mankind wasn't a Turkey, stuffing, cranberries and an iPod (or a stone tablet and a chisel). Even the Charley Brown Christmas show tells us that the gift was God's son being born in a manger. However, it wouldn't have been much of a gift if Jesus grew up to be a drunken sailor. God's gift includes the life Jesus lived and how Jesus was willing to pay a price in order to show the love of God to all mankind. If Christmas was merely about giving then God could have rained down Turkeys and cranberries until everyone was full.

Christmas is about Jesus being willing to sacrifice himself to bring us the truth. As he stated before Pilate, "the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth". This truth caused riots, crowds called for him to be stoned and he was finally crucified. His death is as much a part of Christmas as his birth is. While Jesus doesn't walk the earth today, he lives on in the hearts of all Christians who are called to be the salt and light of their communities.

For this reason I have, for the past 30 years, wondered what pastors and Christians who lived in the deep South would say when they stand before God and are asked what they did to help their black neighbours, what they did to end racism or what they did to address the injustice that they saw every day. I envision the Christian saying, "I did pray privately and I didn't engage in any beatings but I was afraid to speak out, I was afraid of what my neighbours would say, would I lose my job, would my family be targeted for hate so I... well... didn't do much."

Christmas is all about God's son paying a price to be our advocate, to bring God's love to us and helping us to see the truth. The greatest gift God can give Haldimand is for Christians to bring Christmas to this community through their actions. By being the light and salt of the community we answer the call to love our neighbour knowing full well that "people will insult us, persecute us and falsely say all kinds of evil against us".

Christmas has no meaning if there is no cost.

As Martin Luther King jr. said, "We shall overcome, Lord before this victory is won more will have to be thrown in jail but we shall overcome. Don't worry about us that before the victory is won some of us will lose our jobs but we shall overcome. Before the victory is won some will be misunderstood and called bad names and dismissed as rabble rousers and agitators but we shall overcome. I'll tell you why because ours is a moral universe... no lie can live forever... that truth crushed down to earth will rise again... We shall overcome because the Bible is right that you shall reap what you sow... Deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome..."

It must be remembered that Dr. King jr. was publicly opposed by Christian leadership. While King was in jail for not having a parade permit, the Bishops of several church groups issued a public letter declaring King to be an outsider and someone who incites hatred and violence. King's response from prison was a 12 page letter where he states, "I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice..."

I didn't come to Haldimand because a family member was being attacked. I didn't come because my best friends lived here nor because my business was losing money due to the occupation. While my family did live in Caledonia in the 1950s and I have two brother born here, I was born in Kingston and prior to July 2006 I had never been to Caledonia.

I came for one reason - I was compelled to. Yes, the people of Haldimand County were complete strangers to me but how could I claim to be a Good Samaritan and ignore those who are in need. Don't get me wrong, it is not that I am better than anyone else - after 30 years of marriage you can just ask my wife for the long list of my faults - but if God has demonstrated His love to me through Jesus then how can I avoid sharing that love with others?

Christmas is about understanding God's commitment and faithfulness to us. Some of the same people Jesus helped cursed him and attempted to kill him. Should Christians only help those who are kind to them and thank them? Should we only do the things that reward us with people's gratitude? Or are we to help all people because everyone is of value and created in God's image?

To the Christians in Haldimand I ask you to consider this Christmas that Christianity comes with a cost and certain duties and obligations. We are called to take up our Cross daily, pay the price, endure the hatred, understand the anger, pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, and radically change our community by being the salt and the light.

This Christmas decide not to hide your head in the sand or be controlled by fear, but decide to give the gift of Christmas to your neighbour by standing up and being an advocate for truth, justice, equality and help bring an end to racism within government policies.

We Shall Overcome when God's people pay a price as Jesus did. If you have any questions call Merlyn Kinrade 905-765-0423 or me 289-286-0423 email: info@GaryMcHale.ca