Sunday, December 25, 2011

When God dropped in. . .

For most Christians, today occupies a very special place not only on the calendar, but also in an understanding of how God operates in and with the world. 

I say "most" because I grew up in a tradition that prided itself in not celebrating the birth of Christ.  The justification for this strange, "non-practice" had something to do with the idea that no one really knew when Jesus was born and that the early church didn't seem to pay much attention to the birth story.  Neither idea made much sense to me from the time I was just a boy.  Who cared about the exact date?  And, it seemed to me that the early church cared enough about the event to include it in two of the gospel narratives. 

But, this is not my point on this gray Christmas morning.

Reading the Gospel narratives about the birth of Jesus turns out to be an exciting, surprising, powerful, informative and formative experience every year.

Consider, for Christians this story's major themes include the following:
  • poor, very young parents
  • unlikely explanations as to why a baby is on the way
  • a teenage pregnancy
  • hardship
  • humility and humiliation
  • misunderstandings
  • faith and deep trust
  • great danger and violence
  • oppression
  • poverty
  • obedience
  • surprising events
  • political intrigue
  • divine intervention
  • refugee status
  • flight /migration
  • understanding of God's work on behalf of the poor and oppressed
  • housing need
  • danger of infant mortality
  • providence
  • darkness
  • great Light
  • miracles in the midst of "the ordinary"
  • formation of new, very unique community
Clearly, this narrative sets the stage and establishes the tone and texture for the rest of the story of Jesus.  Note:  when the gift of God's life shows up for all humanity, we discover it among the poor and outcast.  This unlikely incarnation powerfully communicates God's message of hope and eliminates any doubt about whose side God takes in the human struggle for life and love and justice.

God drops in among the "lowly" to bring great, good news!  In doing so God marks out the pathway for all who claim to follow this child.


Barecycles said...

I probably read or meditate on Luke's account of the birth of Jesus several times a year but around this time of year it is so much more alive. Larry I love this story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, just love it! And I'm equally thrilled to see it this morning on your blog with your bulleted highlights. This story and the context in which it took place can never be overdone.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

This is the hardest day of the year for me to justify how little I do to end poverty.... sitting in a multi-million dollar church, singing songs played on an organ worth more money than some people will earn in their lifetimes.... meditating about a beautiful baby and rarely considering the poverty into which he was born, against which much of his message was formed.

Larry James said...

Your comments, both of you, mean so much. We can do more than we imagine, but we must shift our frame from charity, inidvidual charity to robust community action and the sooner the better. Stay with the struggle!

rcorum said...

I am still a part of the tradition of which you spoke, and thankfully we celebrated His birth with great passion today. Times are thankfully changing. My sermon was based on several of the well known carols we sing. I love the third verse of "O Holy Night." where it says "the slave shall be my brother." That must have been hard for a Southern church to sing at one point in history. It is hard to read about Jesus and not be drawn to the poor.

Larry James said...

RC, I love you and your grand heart! May God bless you and your important ministry!