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A lot of promises are being made these days with allusions to God as if God stands for the greed and divisions among the global community. Wars and power plays are justified. Wealth keeps getting hoarded and redistributed in a way that does not honor people as being either worthy or intelligent enough to make their own decisions. Global conservatives and global liberals each justify their right to define what society should look like and how society should be lived out. I remember in the 60’s the voices of protest were often expressed in song.
Isaiah’s words are not shy, The Lord called the prophet.
These words were not accidental. He made words to be sharp, to be like a polished arrow. These words reveal the very nature of God. The image of God cannot be limited to a “gimme” attitude that so often prevails. Indeed as God is understood the very nature of God reveals a redemptive calling for all humanity. Here then comes a twist. Each individual like the prophet, like the Psalmist, like the Apostle, like Jesus Himself personifies all the people. This is not about the piety of individuals. It is, as the Psalmist says about a new song. It is about words, laws, written in the heart. It is about deliverance, it is about the faithfulness of God. God is stedfast and faithful to the congregation, to “all of us!” There is not an ambivalence to a winner take all scenario. There is a desire that spirituality acknowledges the human frailty. Spirituality acknowledges the destructive nature of people when God is not at the center.
People are called to a relationship, an awareness, an understanding that in the perfect nature of God is a way of life for all people to live in harmony. When this way of life fails it is God who then provides a way to recognize how this brokenness exists. The word sin is used to describe it. The voice of one who is “outside the box” (John the Baptist) is then used to illustrate the tearing down of walls that justify ignorance and profiling idiotic justifications.
There is one conclusion provided. Human purpose is then understood in reference to an understanding of the nature of God and not the self centeredness of people.
Again I turn to music to help understand this calling.
I the Lord of Sea and Sky (read the words as you listen)
Did I make a decision or did I only express an interest? For me what does it mean to decide?
The world is experiencing a precarious time. Each time I read from the prophets I am moved to say yes. I believe in the betterment of society, of the betterment of myself but then I look out the window and I see change happening unchecked. Am I a part of the change or am I a passive observer.
This week I was confronted by myself. I have made some very significant changes but were they the right decisions? What voice am I listening to? And then it is as if a 2×4 catches me on the side of the head saying wake up.
The prophet is very clear about words that help set guidelines. These words arise from both the personality and the intentionality of God. And then a voice comes into my mind and says “so what?” At what point do generalized understandings become personalized directives or a commissioning? At what point is the lever sprung to release anyone from behavior arising from the personality or understanding of God? Yet by looking at our world it is as if the spring on the lever holds no more tension and God has become an innocent bystander to a chain of events called “life happens.”
I was recently a part of a Bible study where people talked about everything from soup to nuts. When the time was over the group joined hands, thanked God for what they had learned and left. The Bible had been alluded to in passing but ony in passing and then to defend a perspective being espoused.
The writer of the book of Acts speaks to an activity, an event that is contrary to passivly allowing words to fade into the woodwork. Here once again the story of Jesus becomes God’s activity to give flesh to the desires of God.
Matthew’s words bring us to a place in the life of Jesus where Jesus clarifies that any decision has to be based on righteousness. Is it the right thing to do? The world has recently been led to understand that as long as something is legal it is acceptable, even if the law was written without concern for what is right. What is acceptable then arises out of personal interest instead of the personality of God. Jesus then steps into the water. Jesus made the decision to do more then think about what he needed to do. He made a decision. He did not just express an interest. It was then the heavens opened up. It was then people saw and heard an expression of God’s affirmation. Jesus did the right thing.
This meditation for me was prompted by a question. It is a personal question.
Did I make decisions or do I only express an interest? For me, is the Gospel about a decision or is it a moving story that informs my decisions without holding me accountable?
There was Mary, her family. There was Joseph, his family. There were the Shepherds and their families. There were dignitaries and their loyal adherents. Then of course there was the infant child who born with a name Jesus already given.
Each group brought with it a series of resulting dynamics. Mary, a child herself was pregnant. She had those who believed the story as it was told to them. Then there were others who no doubt made up there own stories, believing Mary to be anyone from a devout woman chosen by God to someone being a scandalous child having relations with an older man. She had somehow convinced him to do the unexpected and have this “guy” actually stick with her. Joseph on the other hand had the right to chose a potential bride, even as young as Mary. Mary getting pregnant before the proper time was not in the script. The fact he did not reject her may have caused confusion and perhaps even consternation, but none-the-less he started a new life. The shepherds had a wild story to tell. This was not about wolves, bears, this was about angels and some overly bright star and a lady having a baby. The things “myths” are built around. Things that happen eventually getting talked about around a camp fire. “I remember when,” some would be heard saying for years later. Then there were those who in following a star would eventually meet up with a person they sought to see. A person they believed would have a special significance. Again as the years go by they would speak of an event that somehow became a defining moment in their “forever after.”
It has been a quiet week for me. I watched as events unfolded. Instead of experiencing a sense of aloneness I experienced a strange sense of inclusivity. The Salvation Army bell ringers were reaching out. The police were running their “blue” Santa event. The stores filled up with promoting special Christmas packages. There were children living with a stressful expectation. Would they be the recipient of a gift, perhaps something of great value like that first Christmas? The gift of a child. The gift of a child who’s story has been reborn in the world many times over. Random thoughts filled my mind. How would I “do” Christmas this year?
One day while in the grocery store I noticed a lady was pushing her grocery cart. She had a very young child sitting in the cart. The child was crying. It was the cry of a child hurting from something. A cross between whimpering and louder cries. Then as I walked into the next isle a little girl sitting in her father’s cart was asking what was wrong with her little brother Mikey. The father said he wasn’t feeling well. Somehow in the next isle we all ended up at the same place. A thought crossed my mind, would I dare act on it. I looked at the little boy. Then without warning, it was as if the sound of a telephone rang. I took my fingers and my thumb pretending I was holding a phone. The ensuing conversation happened loud enough for the family to hear. Hello Santa, how are you? Had I found the little boy yet? Santa asked. I haven’t found him yet I said. What was his name again? Mikey. The family went absolutely silent. You have a favor to ask of him Santa. Yes Santa said. When you find him…the little boy spoke up, I’m Mikey. I said really! Wow Santa, Mikey is right here! Mikey’s face lit up. The older sister said WOW Mikey, Santa knows your name. He wants your help. I then looked at the mom and dad and asked permission to talk to Mikey for a minute. They said yes. I walked closer and said Santa wants your help. You see Santa will not be able to be at your home when you open the presents. He said your mommy and daddy are very special people. They love you and your sister very much. Santa wants them to know how much he loves them. Would you give them a great big Christmas hug from Santa. Tell them Santa says “I love you both so very much.” Mikey looked at his mom and dad and said yes. Then Santa wants your mom and dad to give you and your sister a big hug too. He wants you to know how much he loves you and your sister. Mom and dad smiled and touched their children. They said I love you. Then I was gone.
As I was getting into my car I saw in the distance the family was leaving. The children were laughing. Mom and dad were talking with each other. I wondered what this had to do with the Jesus story. Perhaps Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus but it is also about how the life of Jesus is reborn into our traditions and practices.
I hope you had a very special Christmas and you understood once again that God desires you to know of His love for you. Have a Happy New Year.
PRAYER: Today Lord is the beginning of a new season. There will be new challenges added to those that are ongoing. In each moment we are introduced to the new birth of Jesus Christ. Enable us to know in a very real way what this means to us personally as well as in our ministry of service and caring. Enable us to rise above the pressures of the day and celebrate your intentions. In Jesus name. Amen.