We have grown up to love this time of year. The carols, the presents, and the pageantry of the arrival of the "Christ child," the one who will one day die, allowing us an easy path into heaven.
We check in for his miraculous birth: his mother impregnated by God, the story of wise men following wandering stars, an evil king who kills entire towns to destroy him. And then we ignore him until we are ready for him in the spring - when he is slaughtered on the cross.
In fact, many Christians believe this is the only act for which he was born.
But lost in all the anticipation of this "easy" salvation is the fact that this man was not only a baby, and not only one who was killed, but in between, he was teacher. He was a teacher, and the chosen prophet of God, who actually said things, and told us that those things, those words, will never pass away.
And yet, his teachings are often ignored or even openly disparaged by modern Christians, as if they were irrelevant and meant for another time.
Christians love the baby Jesus, love the dying Jesus, but ignore the teacher and Prophet Jesus. Why?
The teachings are difficult, and we seek the easy way - the WIDE GATE, as Jesus called it.
Jesus calls us to take the Narrow Gate, and says few will choose it. He was right.
Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, and defeat them with kindness. Today, we're told to hate our enemies and make cultural or literal war on them.
Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek if we're struck on the cheek. We are told today to be "prayer warriors" and fight back.
Jesus tells us to go into a closet and pray in secret, and not be ostentatious when we pray amongst others. But we like those long prayers that are performed in pulpits and stages for show before 10,000-member congregations.
Jesus says riches on this earth are meaningless, and we should instead act righteously to store up treasures in Heaven. Christians today pray to God to make them rich, and deny that we must be righteous at all.
Jesus tells us we will be persecuted and cursed for performing righteousness, for believing in the Gospel, and for serving God Christians today expect to receive "favor" from God - including riches and perfect health - simply because they utter Jesus' name when they pray to God.
And Jesus tells us we must perform Good Works in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, and that mere words will not gain us Heavenly rewards. Christians today blatantly deny this, and teach the opposite - that a "Sinner's Prayer" magically forces God to give us eternal life.
When the teachings of Jesus are the center of our faith, we begin to live the life that God knows we can achieve. His words and commands are challenges - challenges for us to live up to our God-given potential.
Through the life and teachings and death of Jesus, we see through a glass CLEARLY towards what God intends for our lives.
This Jesus, God's Anointed Prophet, challenges us to rise up higher and higher in our Righteousness, performing Good Works and acts that please God, all the while relying on God for forgiveness when we fail to live up to God's high standards, and relying on God's Grace to strengthen us and help us become spiritually complete.