For me, these seasons of Advent and Christmas have seemed different from years past. Perhaps it’s due to the recent election cycle and its results. Perhaps it is a result of the crisis of refugees and the recent death and destruction reaped on Aleppo. Perhaps it is due to the busyness of life that accelerates with each coming year. Whatever it is, something seems different and I am left wondering, “With the decadence of our modern world, how could I hope to find the birth of Christ here? Does Jesus even have a manger to rest his head in during these times of fear, pain, and loss?”
I’m led back to the first century. I imagine the people of Palestine struggling under the oppressive regime of the Romans – the last in a long line of conquerors (following Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece). They had long awaiting a king and liberator that would free them from these political persecutors and return them to the “good times” promised to the line of David. After all these years of pain, strife, and even exile, how could they remain in hope that an anointed one would deliver them back to a time when justice, mercy, and righteousness reign supreme? Their own world did not offer them hope and their hopes for a savior dwindled as they asked where is God now? These are questions I ask today as well.
Enter Jesus. Baby. Born to a poor family. In a barn. Under suspicious marital circumstances. A refugee family fleeing their own land to escape a punishing leader – Herod. This little one is the he who will speak truth to the power of the world? This is the one that will lead us out of oppression to freedom? This is the leader we have been seeking to fix our messy world? This is our savior? Seems hard to believe. After all, this was supposed to be the one who was going to lead a political revolution! Yet, God had other ideas.
Our world is not so different from Mary and Joseph’s. This is even more true outside of the United States. Just as God entered a world of strife, oppression, pain, and sorrow in the first century, God enters again this Christmas a world that sees racial oppression, political radicalism, and widespread pain in its daily news briefings.
Let us pray that Jesus’ message of hope, of peace, of “be not afraid”, of “love thy neighbor as yourself”, may find its root in this world once again in this Christmas season. We pray that we may find in this poor baby a savior that liberates us through one moment of healing, one moment of love, one moment of kindness at a time. We pray that transformation begins with our own hearts and spreads to the those we touch.
As we march onward through Christmas, where do you witness our God breaking into this messy world during this season of rebirth? How do you relate to a God that chooses to come as a poor and fragile baby? And what does it mean for you to live into the hope that our God’s justice and loving kindness will be the final word?