Tonight over two billion Christians will gather around family tables and church altars, in the open and in secret, to commemorate the Incarnation. Scripture and song call the Christ child Emmanuel, or God dwelling among us. The celebration of a stateless refugee child born to an unwed mother in an occupied land. I can think of no other god worshipped for his humanity, his weakness, and his suffering the way Christ is.
It is hard to imagine now that we have had almost a millennia and a half of Christendom, that the Faith is ultimately about an underdog who confronted power and always chose to follow love over enforcing law. Who healed on the sabbath, comforted those whom society discarded, and ultimately died as an enemy of the state to save the stranger.
It’s been hard to keep the Faith these days. At times it seems like both church and country are occupied under a hostile power. There were still a few glimmers of hope and glad tidings that are bringing me comfort and joy in 2019.
One is this reflection from the former conservative evangelical activist Peter Wehner on the humbling necessity of Christ’s weakness as it relates to the human condition and structures we erect to deny our own weakness and suffering.
Another is this stern rejection of the least moral and least Christian man ever to hold the office of President from a magazine started by Billy Graham and the local pastors of Park Street Church who founded Gordon College.
Greta Thunberg embodies the original Franciscan spirit of preaching the Gospel always, and if necessary, using words. Her love for the planet and righteous indignation at our continued inaction on its behalf channels the Francis who talked to animals and dressed down Popes as well as the Francis who today sits on the Chair of St Peter. This Scandinavian also channels her Lutheran forebears in nailing her sole thesis to the cathedrals of power: do something.
Lastly there is my favorite image of the Nativity. Made by a Portland graphic artist (but of course!), Jose y Maria depicts a subtle modern day Nativity. It depicts a working class couple out in the rain and seemingly on the run; the woman is pregnant, and there is no room indoors available to these cast offs. We see the strength of these two committed to bringing their child into a world that is seemingly rejecting them. There have been more recent variations showing a coyote bringing the Holy Family across the border and churches near and far symbolically caging their nativities to protest family separations.
I have not been to church at all this Advent, but I am looking forward to joining my father in law in his new parish at DuPage County Corrections. He walks the walk. Our business as Jacob Marley warns Scrooge, is humanity. Taking care of our fellow man and our shared home. No matter who you’re voting for in the primary, however you choose or choose not to worship, I wish you a reflective holiday season. The fight for justice goes on.