Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Eve

Whose Story Would You Rather Believe?
Luke 2:1–14 [15–20]

With the intimate associations of Christmas to home and family, comfort and security, Christmas Eve is not always seen as an evangelical opportunity. And this may not be the best time to pressure people into making a personal commitment for Christ.

Yet Christmas is a crucial time when we can choose whose story to listen to, whose story to believe.

One story blares on Caesar’s Network News. This story shows the Emperor literally ruling over the world. Images of Caesar and Roman gods fill every city, proclaiming “Caesar is Lord.” This story reinforces the message that you had best submit, in order to enjoy the blessings of Roman-imposed peace. Significance and value are defined by how you fit into the Imperial story. In this story, Joseph and Mary were a flyspeck among countless conquered peoples, their role simply to pay tribute and glorify Rome.

Yet there is this little bitty baby...

If it were up to Caesar, you would never hear his story. Nothing in it is exalted. The poor travelers have no family, connections, or money to give them a place. They carry only a swollen belly of questionable paternity. The newborn’s cradle is gilded with leftover hay and livestock spittle. The witnesses to this glory are the least reputable characters around, shepherds who, filled with angel visions, abandon their flocks.If it were up to Caesar, you would not dare to:
think of responsibilities to any Lord other than Caesar;
glorify any Lord other than Caesar;
even hint at challenging Caesar’s authority.

If it were up to Caesar, the tables of the powerful would never be overturned. When Caesar hears a story like this, he knows only to crush it, to crucify it.

Yet in the starlight of those Palestinian hills and in the candlelight of a midnight Mass, we can glimpse a new reality:

+ where peace comes not from armies, but from justice;
+ where sin withers in the face of truth;
+ where mercy rules the arena of human society; and
+ where love conquers fear.

The angel said “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” Not just the few at the top, not just the ones who deserve it. And the angels rejoiced, not at the mightiest humanity had to offer, but at the meekest.

And bless those shepherds. They believed that angelic story, at least enough to go and see. And their fear turned to awe, and they shared this amazing good news. God sought them out, not as bit players in God’s imperial nativity, but that God’s story might become their story.May Christ’s redeeming love be your story, this night and forevermore.

This text can also be found, with additional material, at the American Bible Society's Bible Resource Center, with this article in PDF.

Unbalanced Load Error

My long-distance friend Erik Doughty writes weekly prayers based on the lectionary. This week's seemed especially timely. (Prayer based on texts for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, year C.)

"Unbalanced Load Error" blinks at us from the washing machine, which does not work well now, despite the Frequently Asked Questions online, and the Knowledge Database. Someone will need to arrive with the ability to repair it, soon.

That washer is not the only one
with an unbalanced load error.
We carry with us the weight of Too Much--
Too Much Responsibility,
Too Much Stuff
Too Much to Afford
Too Much to Understand
Too Much to Do
Too Much to Bear.

Arrive soon, Christ Jesus,
with mercy and strength.
Re-balance us, that we
who have Too Much
may share with those
who have need;
and what pain and struggle
no one needs
take from us and destroy.

You who give grace to the unremarkable and unexpected, grace us too. Wash us clean, right our balance, send us out to get our hands dirty in your world as we continually expect and count on your aid.

© 2009 Erik Doughty. Permission to reproduce this work is granted only when the author is credited.