If it had not been previously established, 2020 has been painfully blunt about the brokenness of humanity, our communities and nations, and the entire creation. This brokenness is a darkness, intensifying our sense of hopelessness, anxieties and depression, disappointments, and fears, while bringing forth the worse of our humanness.
This darkness embraces the hopelessness of a global pandemic increasingly impacting communities from small to large, from rural to suburban to urban centers. The hopelessness intensifies with each updated report of increasing positivity rates, confirmed positive cases, hospitalizations over-whelming the medical system, and ultimately deaths.
This darkness fuels unhealthy strife and enrages devasting conflict, instead of meaningful conversations and the ‘Good Trouble’ of John Lewis, the civil rights movement, and those seeking equality and equity.
This darkness embraces a false sense of peace that too often seeks to maintain the status quo and its systematic injustices; protecting the privileged while causing harm to the under-privileged; and affording those with authority, power, and wealth opportunities at the expense of those without said authority, power, and wealth.
This darkness thrives in hatred, particularly the dehumanizing and demonizing of persons in order to justify a lack of compassion. Our polarizing extremes serve to increase tension until persons are divided and sorted based upon race, ethnicity, and nationality; biological sex, gender identity, and sexuality; socio-economics; political affiliations; religious adherence or lack thereof; and beyond.
This darkness dispels the divine light and diminishes our ability to recognize Emmanuel, or God with Us.
Joy is rooted in our ability to recognize God active in, among, through, and despite said brokenness and darkness, but it is challenging while existing during a deadly pandemic, civil and social unrest, and a financial crisis.
BUT, God is with us. God is acting in, among, through, and even despite us in all times and places.
Our Christmas story confirms God breaking into our brokenness unexpectedly.
One. God choose a young, engaged but not married, Israelite girl named Mary in first-century Palestine to birth the incarnated God, the divine in human flesh and bone, into our broken, dark world.
Two. God assured Joseph, her older and well-respected fiancée, to trust Mary about her own sexuality, to dismiss the reasonable doubts of their community, and to proceed with their pending marriage.
Three. God encouraged Joseph to father, nurture, teach, and love this Christ Child as his own. He did.
Four. God proclaimed the birth of the Savior, Messiah, Christ Child to lowly, rough shepherds.
Five. God did not awaken those traveling for the census, the inn keepers and Bethlehem residents, or even the elites who all slept peacefully, unaware that night.
In addition to God being unexpected, another theme emerges in the Christmas story.
It emerges in the experience of the lowly shepherds to the elite wisemen who have not yet arrived.
It is within our Advent and Isaiah scriptures. It is reflected in various religious and cultural traditions, as well as in nature, at this time of year. The theme is LIGHT.
Light has come into our broken humanity, communities, and entire creation to dispel
- Unhealthy Strife and Devastating Conflict;
- Dehumanizing and Demonizing Persons;
- Being unaware of Emmanuel, God with us; and
It is the light of hope. True hope dispelling hopelessness by trusting in God to provide the needed insight and wisdom to those whose education and knowledge, training and experience can guide individuals and communities through a global pandemic while developing effective, safe treatments and vaccines.
It is the light of peace. Honest peace dispelling unhealthy strife and devastating conflict through meaningful dialogue and action resulting in sustainable equality and equity. As Martin Luther wrote:
Peace when possible. Truth at all costs.
Martin Luther King Jr spoke about the arc of history might be long but it bends in the direction of justice.
Honest peace embraces the truth and arcs towards justice through ‘Good Trouble’.
It is the light of love. Unconditional, agape love dispelling polarization and hatred that divides, sorts, dehumanizes, and demonizes persons who may look, speak, think, belief, act, or love different than ourself. In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives a ‘New Commandment’ which is to love one another as Jesus first loved his most intimate disciples, knowing we would be different and that was the point. This love honors all life as sacred by seeking justice and equity, acting with compassion and mercy, while tending to and serving all persons but especially the under-privileged and vulnerable.
It is the light of joy. Real joy dispelling hopelessness, anxiety, depression, disappointment, and fear enough to enable our awareness of Emmanuel, God with us, who is always and forever active in, among, through, and even despite us unexpectedly in hope, peace, and love.
The Christ Child is born! The Light has come! The Light is returning!
May the light of the Christ Child be born
in our hearts, souls, homes, communities, and the entire creation
this night, every night, and beyond.
Scriptures were Isaiah 9: 2-7; Titus 2: 11-14; and Luke 2: 1-20.
Originally preached on 24 December 2020 for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN).