Second Sunday after Christmas:
January 5, 2020 12th Day of Christmas
It is my last chance to talk about Christmas, and its meaning amidst the annual sacred journey of the church. In this morning’s collect we pray, O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature.” God did and does this by sharing in that humanity through the incarnation. The holy days of Christmas are about celebrating God’s solidarity, God’s unity, the divine intertwine between God and humankind, between heaven and earth, between Creator and creation. Christmas is the eternal and irrevocable pronouncement that “God Is With Us!”
The sacred Christmas story also tells us how and why we so often miss God’s incarnation, God’s visitation in our own life and in our own times and places. God enters humbly and vulnerably, not to dramatically change or remove us from our lives, but to be present bearing the gifts of love, grace, peace, faith, and courage in the midst of our lives. Like the entrance of Jesus into the life of Mary and Joseph, he joined them in their displacement in Bethlehem, their exodus into Egypt, their humble and quiet life in Nazareth.
God is in our life naturally, like a child is born into the world, God is born into our life, through joy and through sorrow, through wellness and healing and through sickness and dying, through celebration and community and through travail and separation, the divine is born into our life through the humble and human “yes”, let it be done unto me.
I believe I am like any and all of you, when I confess that I get myself in a lonely and anxious place. The place where I am bearing things alone and feeling separated from all with whom I am intended to be in community and fellowship and family. You know that place where sleep is interrupted, and internal debates are ongoing, and the world of us and them, black and white, my view and your view emerge and create a culture that is no longer practicing beloved and diverse community, but instead sowing the seeds of separation and indignity amidst us. It is into the brokenness and factious condition of humankind that God has entered to reconcile and redeem and recreate the rhythm and beauty of our shared humanity.
Into the mess, into the divide, into the violence and occupation, into the displacement and exodus, into the least, into the threat and vulnerability, into the struggle — the divine seed is sown, into the least optimal and the most disadvantaged, the divine infant is born, and amidst lives on the run, the young child is nurtured and takes his place as family in anonymity and humility. No wonder so few recognized in Jesus, God in their very midst. No wonder we too fail to see God in our midst. For God comes in the quiet, subtle, profound stillness that is not in the pulling apart or the pointing of finger or the delegation amidst factions or the inhumanity and dehumanization – God is in the suffering and love of wonderfully restoring the dignity of human nature. Of all humanity.
In our baptismal covenant we make a promise to strive to respect the dignity of every human being.” What does that look like? Jesus spoke to this in his teachings, I believe, when he said things like, “Do not simply love the way many do when they love only their own kind, only those they wish to love them back; but love those who may or cannot love you back. Love those, and give dignity to, those who you might consider least, those who are different than you – different ethnicity, different faith, different culture, different politic. Respecting the dignity in all human beings means respecting the dignity of all human beings – for we all bring our unique gifts and traditions to celebrate God’s solidarity in all humanity through the Christ. Like the wise men bearing gifts from their own culture and place, all are welcome to bring their gifts from afar.
2020 lays before us as a troubling one. One filled with the potential of great division, indignity, and dehumanization in our land and culture. But the story of Christmas tells us, unto us a child is born, one in whom all creation moves and breathes and has their being. Our faith commends us to seek that Christ in our own time and in our own place to share that divine life that wonderfully restores the dignity of human nature, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being, the sacred in all creation. Amidst the struggle and conflict the Christ is born in our midst, may we have eyes that are open to see, may we have hearts willing to receive. May we have the courage to follow.