Friday, December 25, 2009
Christmas Eve 2009
Philippians 2: 5-11
Luke 2: 1-20
It was rather shocking to realize what I was feeling. To admit it to myself was a little difficult, but it was undeniable.
I was sitting with Donna in the lab area of the oncologists’ office, waiting for the phlebotomist to come take a few vials from Donna to test for various things after her first round of home-administered chemo. I looked up at the television, and they had on a popular show in which a extremely politically active evangelical clergyperson and TV show host was expounding on some subject that highlighted his view that the current governmental administration and the majority view of the country was in fact evil, and evidence of the apocalypse was all around us. At least that’s what I could discern from the pictures that were flashing across, the screen, because the sound was muted.
It was shocking what I felt when I saw that face on the screen; anger and rage, and a disquieting wonder that he and I would share the same faith. We both identify ourselves as Christian. We are both white men. We both carry a book called the Bible, we both are parts of groups of people that meet in a common house on Sundays for worship. And yet our worldview could not be more different. The things he was talking about on television, the graphics behind him on the screen, I assumed automatically to be complete falsehoods, or at the very least the clever twisting of slivers truth to his personal ends.
I don’t know why I reacted this way; whether it was the surroundings, the fact that I was sitting there with my wife in such a place and confronting daily the sort of truth that makes political machinations not only irrelevant but offensive, but suffice it to say that that kind of religion is not my speed; there is no comfort in it for me as my family continues with this experience. I would not choose to be associated with this pastor and his worldview. There is nothing about what he says that builds my faith.
But, (and this I think is God talking) I remembered, standing there, that this guy and I are both going to be going to one church or another the next day, today, to celebrate the birth of the one who was sent by God for us. And I have to take a step back. We both identify ourselves as Christian. We may use different language for what we mean, but we both believe that Jesus was sent for us to know God’s love.
And that tells us a lot about God, doesn’t it? There are many groups around the world who have an understanding of the divine presence in the universe. Some others deny that it exists, on various grounds. Humanity as a whole does not hold much in common with each other. But we, the ones who call themselves Christians, talk about an Omnipotent God who sought to show his love for us, his creations, but taking off his omnipotence, and assuming a physical form that we would recognize. Living a life that begins in childbirth, just like us, proceeds through puberty and adulthood, the learning of a trade, and eventually to begin to speak to the people around him about who God really was.
We talk about it as an act of love. We talk about this choice by the Creator of the Universe as one of love, and when we read the words of the adult human he became, the words all reflect a love of the people he met. Love of both individuals and the collective group. And his teachings were nothing more than the love of the universe put to words, and individualized. It’s not enough to know that he came to earth for us. He came to earth so that each of us, individually, can know that we are loved, are known, and are cared for. It’s not enough to understand that he came to earth for us. It’s that he came to earth for you. And You. And Me. So that we can understand that to be human on this earth, to be what he designed, is to care for each other; to show each other this love when some forget, and to spend our lives showing this love to everyone we meet.
He could have come to earth like a big blue Genie and tell us all, fingers shaking in our faces, that this is how we should act. But he didn’t. Even the way he came showed that he needed to be loved and nurtured first. Because he came as a baby. A thing that needs constant care and nurture. That in itself is a message!
And we celebrate all of that on this evening. The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Somehow, despite my differences with the person I saw on that television, somehow I think he is probably hearing the same thing. And it’s humbling to remember that we are both responsible to care for and nurture that baby. It’s humbling to know that that guy and I somehow have to cooperate enough to keep the promise that that baby represents alive in this time and place, in this world.
And we get a fresh chance every year.