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December 23rd, 2013
03:29 PM ET

A Christmas apology, and the seeds of hope

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) - This week we celebrate Christmas, and as a Christian, I want to say I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that this season has become about fights over manger scenes on public property, about complaining when clerks say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas,” about rampant commercialism and faux persecution.

I’m sorry that Christians in the United States can be so entitled when we’ve long enjoyed majority status, when we can be so blind to our own privilege.

It is ironic, really, because in the church calendar, the seasons of Advent and Christmas call us to reflect upon and celebrate what Christians believe was the most radical act of humility of all time - the incarnation.

The doctrine of the incarnation holds that the God of the universe, in his love for humanity, emptied himself of his power and became human, like us, in the form of Jesus.

The word incarnation literally means “to make into flesh” and refers to the apostle John’s teaching that “(t)he Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

“No one has ever seen God,” John explains, but Jesus “has made him known.”

In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus -

Jesus, who was born as an oppressed minority in an occupied land,

Jesus who was an immigrant,

Jesus, who surrounded himself with the poor, the sick, the marginalized and the “untouchables,”

Jesus who was criticized by the religious for hanging out with sinners,

Jesus who treated women with dignity and respect,

Jesus who taught his disciples to love their enemies, to give without expecting anything in return, to overcome evil with love,

Jesus who suffered,

Jesus who wept,

Jesus who - while hanging on a Roman cross - said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood put it this way: “The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means that God is like Jesus.”

It means that God suffers, God forgives, God fellowships with the poor, God cares for the sick, God loves His enemies.

Even as a lifelong Christian, I struggle with doubts about God. I struggle to make sense of the violence in the world, the violence in the Bible, the violence in my own heart. I don’t have all the answers.

But even when there’s nothing left to my faith but a little seed of hope, that hope is in the incarnation, in the radical teaching that God loved us enough to become like us, and that when God wanted to show us what he was like, God showed us Jesus.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" and "Evolving in Monkey Town." Evans blogs at rachelheldevans.com, and the views expressed in this column belong to her.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Christmas • Faith • Holidays • Opinion

soundoff (2,872 Responses)
  1. u c?

    he lived and lives. godman. phenomenal. that we can no him, walk, talk, commune with the one true god is beyond the scope of words to describe

    February 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm |
  2. 1mytthnk

    hatred makes truth and love hard to see, hard to know, hard to trust.

    January 28, 2014 at 11:02 pm |
  3. reason

    god is cool. clouds of beer floating through outer space

    January 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
  4. bozoed

    I think it's silly to believe in such a stupid god and azzhole god, but there's no hate. What kind of stupid god can't make his own creation robust enough to withstand one twist of one woman's wrist? Why make the thing so "good" and yet so fragile? What kind of azzhole being would send his enemies to a place of eternal torture when he could just eliminate that torture chamber? Oh, and all while he tells us to "love our enemies." LOL!!!!

    LOL!!! SHE DON'T BELIEVE IN AND HATE AZZHOLE GAWD. OBVIOUSLY OBSERVER!

    January 24, 2014 at 7:53 am |
    • UBETCHA

      "In the early days of Christianity there were many arguments and rumors surrounding Jesus." some idiot
      how does she know?

      The "Gospels" that we have today weren't the "Official Rumors" until much later when they were pronounced to he the "Holy Scriptures" by various people. same fool
      prove they were rumors

      At that point if you refused to accept the "Holy Scriptures" as the only true rumors you could face serious reprisal or even a death sentence.

      what point?

      January 25, 2014 at 10:12 pm |
      • toxic idiots

        many reasons contribute to the disdain pharisees earn.

        to wit, –The "Gospels" that we have today weren't the "Official Rumors" until much later when they were pronounced to he the "Holy Scriptures"–
        he wants you to assume that the contents of the n.t. are rumors.

        January 26, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
        • u ain't kiddin

          in point of fact, the n.t. is the most fascinating, well written, scholarly set of books ever written. Just look at the arguments, the detail, the logic, the phraseology. The writers were absolutely brilliant.

          January 26, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
        • toobad008

          no one has found a single error or untrue statement in the n.t.! not bad. in 2,000 years many have tried. many devoted their lives, their energies, their finances to prove the n.t. does not describe god's work of redemption through his son, and everyone of them failed. every single 1 failed.

          January 28, 2014 at 12:45 am |
  5. bozoed

    I think it's silly to believe in such a stupid god and azzhole god, but there's no hate. What kind of stupid god can't make his own creation robust enough to withstand one twist of one woman's wrist? Why make the thing so "good" and yet so fragile? What kind of azzhole being would send his enemies to a place of eternal torture when he could just eliminate that torture chamber? Oh, and all while he tells us to "love our enemies." LOL!!!!

    LOL!!! SHE DON'T BELIEVE IN AND HATE AZZHOLE GAWD. OBVIOUSLY OBSERVER

    January 24, 2014 at 7:12 am |
  6. Sena

    I'm sorry I know this is not my culture but it sure does make me laugh because they look like their having fun!!!! Get it Santa's!!!!! Ha!!!!!!!!!!!! Girl God is Good, I'm a Christian and you don't have to apologize for NOTHING. I say Happy Holidays as a Christian and I say Merry Christmas and a christian and I don't care WHAT people think about it. Including the Christians who are not convicted by their sin just yet. In time, everything in GODS timing. Hallelujahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
    • TIME TRAVELER

      oh yes, everything in GOD's time...well the christians have been waiting for over 2000 years now. Maybe God could hitch a ride in the Pope Mobile like that one guy did and get here a little faster

      January 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
      • E=MC2

        Silly. Makes no difference how long He is gone. He's coming back. That's all you need to know. Are you ready or will you be lost for eternity?

        February 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
  7. 00 00

    Observer,
    The world could have be created by Zeus or a committee of zombies or the Three Stooges or an infinite number of other possibilities.

    nothing wrong with the stooges. 2 bad god isn't an infinite possibility

    January 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
    • GOD of ALL GODS, yes even that one

      What are you talking about...it was the stooges

      January 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
  8. 00 00

    if i was crushed every time i tried to make a point, i'd b angry, 2

    just don't lie and say u want truth

    January 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
  9. 00 00

    if i was crushed every time i tried to make a point, i'd b angry, 2

    January 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
    • igaftr

      Since you never make any points, how would you know what it would feel like?

      January 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
  10. 00 00

    so, we learned not one pharisee who claimed to have loved him, loved him. they lied. they were bitter, vulgar, impatient,. blocked posts, flooded using posts.

    confirmed

    January 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
  11. 00 00

    if only she'd apologized for the
    millions that have been tortured and/or viciously murdered in the name of Christianity.

    don't even mention the countless atrocities committed by the church in god's name
    current bitter god hating nazi

    that's absurd! gimee a break. it was billions pal. horrible stuff, man. catastrophic. i have names!
    "countless"? seriously? try trillions! i was tortured so i no. i was forced to write, word for word, reality #2s monologues 5,000 times

    January 13, 2014 at 8:03 am |
  12. Logical default

    Question: Why do so many Christians support capital punishment and the war when it directly contradicts Jesus' teachings? I'd love to hear a conservative christian answer this one.

    January 6, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • progressive christian

      coservative christians views are obsolete,you have to learn of the new Panthrotheistic view of reality,where all religions belongs to God and that religious diversity is part of His will and we will be the future gradual implementor of it.

      January 6, 2014 at 10:18 pm |
      • Dandintac

        Obsolete you say? They seem the dominant force in your religion. Christianity reminds me of the Republican Party–they think they can keep the lunatics as part of their coalition, and stay safely in the majority and in control. Then they wake up one day to find it's too late–the inmates are running the asylum.

        January 11, 2014 at 11:22 pm |
      • Someone

        The Panthrotheistic view of reality is not the way most Christians look at reality

        January 15, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
    • Salero21

      illogical by default, When, where and how did Jesus taught against capital punishment or war? Your ignorance on the teachings of Jesus is enormous! :-O

      January 12, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
    • southerncelt

      Protestantism?

      January 16, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
  13. TYRANNASAUR

    The doctrine of the incarnation holds that the God of the universe, in his love for humanity, emptied himself of his power and became human, like us, in the form of Jesus.............

    Lololololololololololollolo...that's only if you believe this fictional crap.....and oh yeah...Dec 25 was originally a Roman holiday for the god Saturn but the bishop of Rome moved in and took it over for his fantasy......a day Roman day when they wish each other well and exchanged presents....sound familiar?

    January 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm |
  14. Reality # 2

    "The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:

    One, man intelligent without religion,

    The second, religious without intellect. "

    Al-Ma'arri
    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/resalat-al-ghufran#ixzz1lI6DuZmZ and http://www.humanistictexts.org/al_ma'arri.htm

    January 3, 2014 at 8:06 am |
    • Reality # 2

      "Death's Debt is Paid in Full

      Death's debt is then and there

      Paid down by dying men;

      But it is a promise bare

      That they shall rise again. "

      Al-Ma'arri

      January 3, 2014 at 8:08 am |
  15. Reality # 2

    Back to the topic:

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, :

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva”

    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    January 3, 2014 at 12:25 am |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    christians claim that the bible is THE WORD of their omnipotent, perfect god.

    So based on the contradictory, ambiguous, brutal, misogynistic, scientifically historically and factually incorrect content of the bible, it amazes me that christians would actually worship such an incoherent, raving, nasty, petulant, sad.istic, confused, lying deity.

    If it was the word of a perfect god then the whole book would be PERFECT! Flawless. There would be absolutely no errors! There would be absolutely no contradictions. There would be absolutely no lines that could be ignored by christians or taken as guidance and not command. There would be no need for translation or interpretation or explanation or apology because it would be perfect.

    Instead, you have a book that either is not the word of an omnipotent perfect god, or if these ARE his words, he is far from omnipotent and perfect

    January 2, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Reality # 2

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, :

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva”

    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    January 2, 2014 at 8:10 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.