Christmas peace, Chriwstmas justice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord…
                  who has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
         God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                  and lifted up the lowly;
         God has filled the hungry with good things,
                  and sent the rich away empty.”

                  —Luke 1.46, 51-53

Mary sees herself as part of how God is changing the world. Her song is not about piety, but justice. The Biblical model of justice is not just charity for the needy; it’s the exercise of complete compassion among all people as sisters and brothers. This requires the elimination of all that separates us from each other: the end of exploitation and dehumanization, and a radical upheaval and complete re-ordering of power and wealth and the economic and political systems that maintain them, a turning inside out and upside down of our society for the sake of the poor and the suffering. God doesn’t just lift up the lowly, but also brings down the powerful. It’s not just a change in certain people or behaviors; it’s a new world.

Christmas—the coming of Christ—is not a sentimental birthday celebration. It’s an act of God’s anguish at our self-centered ways, God’s judgment of our injustice and violence. It’s the initiation of God’s insurgence into the world to bring about justice and peace. God is sending an undercover human to totally disrupt our abuse of power and the very structure of evil itself. The Undercover Christ will defeat bitterness with forgiveness, subvert suffering with mercy and healing, and even overthrow the inner operation of death itself. Mary sees what’s coming. She sees the empire overturned.

To see the world through Mary’s eyes, through the eyes of Christmas, is to see the world from the place of the outcast and the downtrodden—and to see hope. In Mary’s eyes Christmas doesn’t make us think of comfort food around the family table; it makes us think of prisoners and the homeless, refugees, victims of discrimination, war and human trafficking. And thinking of them, we have hope, because God is among them and for them, and therefore so are we. In the birth of Christ, God is a poor refugee child and the emperor is powerless. If God is truly in the manger, our divisions are illusions: we are all in this together. We all are needy and powerful, all poor, all gifted. God brings us all together as sisters and brothers, and eliminates the illusions with which we separate ourselves from each other.

Seeing the world through the eyes of Christmas we see power in a peasant girl, we see hope in an empty manger, we hear angels when others hear only wind. We know that heavenly messengers visit lowly shepherds, not mighty kings. We see God’s infinite power and glory in every poor, vulnerable child. We hear hope even in the weeping of those who mourn, and we see glory and beauty in everyone, even the most plain. We know that God is among us in love and healing. We know, like Mary, that we are part of how God is changing the world, and we give ourselves over to that change. We know that even in the darkness and evil and suffering and sorrow, we are truly, gently, mercifully, lovingly saved.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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