The season of Advent is upon us. A time for Christian folks to reflect and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Born to a young couple in a desperate time.
We sing songs including “What Child Is This,” “Oh Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
We read passages from Luke, Matthew, and Isaiah.
We hold pageants, cantatas, and listen to children’s choirs and handbell ensembles. Ringing in the spirit of joy, peace, hope, and unity.
Last year, as I held my son, who was born in late summer, I started to feel uneasy as the season approached. I felt a sense that something was different, changing, and needed to be said, heard, and moved upon. This year, I feel it even more – deep within my soul, and I am finding ways to put it into words, songs, and images.
As we set out our nativity scenes this year, we must take note of what is occurring throughout the world, and has become increasingly pronounced in our own back yard.
There is, indeed, a war on Christmas.
I’m not talking about people saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” I’m not talking about coffee shop cups, commercialism, or Santa Claus.
I am talking about the anti immigrant spirit that would reject the Christ child and his family, even in the houses of those who seek to worship him.
It’s time we confront it, together.
I am afraid that the Church at large is seeing the seeds of capitalism, colonialism, and patriotism, fruiting into idolatry of money and country which excludes the orphan, the widowed, the poor, the oppressed – and yes, the immigrant.
That the Spirit of the Lord upon us to preach good news to the poor and to proclaim liberty for captives has been traded for a flag, material wealth, and blind devotion to party and president.
That the good tidings of great joy to all people has been claimed and made exclusive to a few.
My heart palpitates with trepidation that the very fabric of the Church in the US has been replaced, whitewashed, and adopted as truth.
Are we like the zealots of Biblical times? Willing to reject the Prince of Peace in favor of the sword, militarism, and barbed wire?
Have we forgotten the Sermon on the Mount and listened to the seductive whispers of promises of power and financial gain, rejecting the notion that the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart are blessed?
Surely, in the heart of the women bearing babies across treacherous terrain, seeking safety for their offspring resides the heart of Mary.
In the heart of fathers, determining to protect their families and seek refuge, is the heart of Joseph.
In the face of the migrant child: sunburned, bruised, hungry and afraid – is the face of Christ.
He is hungry.
He is tired.
He is naked.
He is in prison.
He is sick.
But, Lord, Lord, when did we see you?
Have we forgotten the command to love our neighbor? Or cheapened its meaning to fleeting emotions, a limited view of neighbor, or worse…
Have we ignored it?
Have we rejected the promise of abundant life to buy in to a scarcity mindset and mistrust, fear – and yes, hatred of our neighbor?
Our neighbor who is different from us.
Willful and ignorant complicity to the oppression of our black, Jewish, LGBTQ, and immigrant neighbors are a war upon the spirit of Christmas: charity, peace, joy, and unity.
The rampant callousness toward others presents a direct opposition to the spirit of Christ and his sacrificial life.
Have we rejected kindness and giving with an inclination toward “tough love” and following the letter of the law?
Are we on the road to Damascus or Emmaus? Will we recognize the face of God? Will be blinded by truth or ignorance?
I am deeply troubled as I ponder these questions and more. I’m unsure of what is next or what we do moving forward from here.
But, what I do know is this.
Jesus is in the heart of the oppressed, the lonely, and the broken.
Jesus is the personification of God with us.
Jesus understands and represents the rejected and the hated,
And if we love him, we will feed his sheep.
Fight for them.
Truly he taught us to love one another. His law is love, and his gospel is peace.
O Come, Desire of Nations, bind in one the hearts of all…. bid our sad divisions cease.
No crib for a bed.
This, this is Christ the King… the babe, the son of Mary.
Let Earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.