It’s that time of the year – the lights are on the houses, wreaths are on the doors, trees are on their way to our living rooms. The busyness of the season threatens to overwhelm us – go to a grand-daughter’s Nutcracker performance in the afternoon, and attend a Christmas party that evening… and when will you get the shopping done, the packages wrapped and shipped?
Most years, all that activity is nothing but a background to the Christmas Story, to the story of the arrival of God in the daily lives of us all. But this year, it seems, more and more, to mirror the general turmoil of our world.
Christmas comes, this year, to a world where the idea of peace and goodwill to all people is suddenly suspect.
Christmas comes, this year, to a world where the values we hold dear – that every person matters, that it is morally wrong and simply unacceptable for people to starve to death or die because they couldn’t afford a doctor, that every person has a right and obligation to literacy — all those values are under attack.
Christmas comes, this year, to a world suddenly aware that there really are people who believe that some people are more important than others, where it’s ok to rob the poor to enrich the wealthy, so long as you do it by manipulating stocks, where it’s acceptable to mock the disabled. Christmas has come to a world where we now meet people who say that “white is right”, who would deny gay people the right to live undisturbed lives.
Christmas comes, this year, to a world which desperately needs to hear, once again, the story of a child who taught us that the poor matter more than the wealthy, who taught us that God welcomes everyone, who taught us that the values of honesty, decency, fidelity, and trustworthiness are the marks of God’s way.
For years, we’ve assumed that everyone shares those foundational principles. Though founded in our understanding of Christianity, we felt they made such clear sense that, of course, everyone agreed with them. This year, we know that’s not true.
This year, Christmas is much more than a reminder to stock up on wrapping paper and eggnog, or a time to enjoy the light in our children’s eyes as they see their presents. This year Christmas comes to remind us that we are at the front lines of a struggle for the soul of a people.
This year, Christmas comes to remind us that we are not alone in the struggle to build a compassionate and just world.
This year, Christmas comes to encourage us to keep walking in the way, to listen to the souls of those who have chosen hatred, to continue to testify to them of the power of redeeming love.
This year, Christmas comes to empower us to stand with those who are afraid, who are persecuted, dismissed, rejected.
This year, Christmas comes to remind us that the Christ Child was despised, rejected, condemned for being an outsider, poor, from the wrong side of the tracks. The story recalls to us that the Holy Family fled as refugees from persecution to the land of Egypt. And in those reminders, we are called to the true message of Christmas, to the description of what “peace on earth and good will to all” looks like:
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
Christmas blessings to all!