December 22, 2016
Christmas is just days away. For many, December 25th is a cultural holiday. It is a day off from work to drink eggnog, wear reindeer print pajamas and finally open those beautifully wrapped gifts tucked artfully under decorated trees—while taking selfies.
For others, this time of year is filled with much more than gift-giving and carol singing. After weeks of engaging in hopeful, yet active expectation of the coming of Christ into the world, Christians around the world celebrate His birth on Christmas day. It is a time to reflect on what God with us means for the world today and to express gratitude for the gift of salvation.
I must admit that I engage in my fair share of cultural and religious traditions. I will also confess that sometimes I get caught up in the frivolity of bogo sales and giant, inflatable santas waving from front lawns that I water down the revolutionary messages (cultural, social and religious) embedded in the texts about Jesus’ birth (and life).
The birth narratives found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke describe Jesus as Savior, Messiah and Lord (Mt 1:21; Lk 2:11). However, the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth and early life seem to contradict the typical biography of one who has been given such venerable titles. How could the one with the ability to redeem and transform, the long awaited leader and promised deliverer, the one with ultimate power and authority enter the world in the most vulnerable state possible? Why does the most influential figure in human history have the backstory of a scandalous conception, lowly birth and early life as a refugee on the run from a mad, paranoid king?
I know it is easy to treat the Christmas narrative like a fairy tale; a story of an unlikely family overcoming obstacles to achieve a happy ending. But, perhaps the story invites us to dig much deeper. Maybe the verses and lines highlighting experiences of people being inexperienced, yet called; ill-equipped, yet prepared; poor, but rich; humble, but powerful; and afraid but obedient signal a new kind of order. Maybe, the bold acts of courage and resistance by ordinary people like Mary and Joseph and leaders like the wise men (Mt 2) are the ones that really need to be rehearsed.
Perhaps, you and I need to be challenged, year after year, to consider…
- Our conception of power
- Our attitude toward the poor and the marginalized
- Our hospitality to the foreigner
- Our response to evil
- Our need for redemption
As you reflect on what the Christmas season means to you, I encourage you to hear familiar songs and biblical stories with a fresh perspective and an open heart.
When you think of Mary, exhausted and in the throes of labor in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, unstable place -consider how you can be a safe place and an answered prayer for someone, particularly a woman, in need.
When you think of a little baby thrust into a world of chaos and despised for simply being born - consider how you can protect the vulnerable, particularly women and girls.
And, when you see evil, in the form of personal plots or even public policies - consider how you can stand against discrimination and injustice, stand up to those who seek to preserve their privilege and power by any means necessary and stand for what is right.
Peace and blessings.
Will you stand with us and protect vulnerable women and girls?
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