As we wind towards the end of 2017 and approach Christmas, time (finally) begins to turn a little slower. School work is slowing down, businesses are rushing to close out year-end reports or taking some much needed rest before the new year. You may be making last minute arrangements to visit family or friends, or just planning some quiet time at home. For more than a few folks this is a well-deserved, even necessary, break from an otherwise busy and hectic year. A time to take stock of the year that was and what is to come.
National and international politics has left us more divided. Violence and inequality locally continue to hurt our neighbors, friends and our whole city. A rise in ‘hate’, new voices carrying old messages of racism, bigotry, homophobia and xenophobia has left many of us a little more scared and a little less hopeful this holiday season.
It has also, I suspect, been a good year for many of you personally. New friends, new opportunities, new connections in unexpected places. Maybe some new love, new joy brought into your life. It certainly has been a good year for our parish community — a renewed sense of purpose around justice issues, community and children and youth; new members, new programs, new faces in the pews and I hope, a lot of new joy.
As we wrestle a bit more than usual with the tension between the good and bad, between fear and hope I want to invite you into the ‘Upside Down’ world of the Christmas Story.
You see the story of Christmas is the story of the birth of a Savior. A King! But royal births should have been in Rome or at least Jerusalem. They should have royal courts. And royal announcements. They should have clear lineages with high born parents. The world should take notice.
But what ‘should be’ for us is rarely what ‘should be’ for God. And Jesus - born lowly in a manger, surrounded by animals, heralded by shepherds, of dubious origin came - is here - to save us all.
So don’t worry if your world feels a little ‘upside down’ right now. Jesus was born into that upside down reality in order to turn us all right-side up. And as you take stock of the ending year and start looking toward the year ahead ‘fear not!’ Don’t worry if you don’t have the accolades, the wealth, the power, the prestige being projected from Washington, Rome, or City Hall - but instead look to the still small signs of hope and resurrection in your life, and in our common life, that tell us a new day is ahead. Take joy in knowing that the Light of the World comes amidst the darkness, in unexpected places, and in humble ways.
That is our Merry Christmas Story.