You’ve heard the stories:
- The Dutch family giving shelter to Jewish families fleeing the Nazi’s
- The Soldier who threw himself on the grenade and saved his comrades around him
- The Hotel manager, who at great risk to himself and his family, protected hundreds of Tutsi from Hutu militia
There are many historical, and maybe ever personal, examples you could site, where a person chose to give-up their own self-interest, to protect the interest of others. We like to think these moments reflect the best of humanity, however this is the act that most reflects the divine.
As Christmas approaches, it is sometimes hard to remember that behind the gift giving and decorations, is the story of the incarnation, God taking on human form. It is not like the creator of the universe needed to live like us. Yet…
The powerful chose to become like the powerless, the source of life chose to become like the dying, to save humanity from the curse.
In Luke 4:17 – 19, Jesus described the effects of the curse in one of his first sermons;
…the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him (Jesus).
Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor.”
The Year of the LORD’s Favor was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.
Jesus launched his ministry, and based his identity by reading the prophecy from Isaiah. The poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed are released in the “Year of the Lords Favor”, also known as the Year of Jubilee. A celebration God had commanded in the law of Moses, when debts were forgiven and prisoners and slaves set free.
Jesus did not give up his divinity to ONLY bring a spiritual healing to humans. The incarnation is about holistic healing (the salvation) of humanity; it is about righting injustices that may be found in economic structures, the criminal justice system, or the way we fail to see (and are blind) to the world around us. When Jesus shared this message, it was clear that the leaders in the synagogue understood he was talking about a holistic salvation that up-ended the current social system. They wanted to kill him immediately.
Christmas is not just about us getting a “ticket to heaven”, it is about God, via Jesus, giving up his own interest for the interest of humanity.
Paul writes of this in his letter to the church in Philippi
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus “made himself nothing”- gave up his “divine privileges” to become a baby in a barn. To grow up a poor Palestinian Jew, in the conquered town of Nazareth under harsh Roman occupation. Under these hardships, he went on to defy the social and religious norms that coerced ‘stability’ in a society rocked by injustice.
Jesus allied himself with a hemorrhaging woman (who was a social outcast and an untouchable), a demonic crazy man, hated tax-collectors, and fishermen exploited by Roman taxes and the sell-out Jewish leaders. Jesus placed himself between the sin-filled greed and self-centeredness of his time and those who were most impacted by these evil powers. This is how Jesus laid down his life for his friends. He chose to place himself as a protection, a buffer, between the powerful exploiters and the powerless.
Jesus was executed by the social and political elites out of their fear of the subversive movement being birthed, a movement based on:
- Unconditional love for all humans,
- A shared respect for the one creator of us all,
- The creation of a community of people who defied the cultural norms of class and gender exclusion
- Non-participation in the structures of sin and power that kept the rulers in control.
We know that God reversed the order of execution of Jesus, by performing a resurrection, and instituting his movement. It was called the Ekklesia, the “called out ones” who were launching a movement of living out the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. In English we use the word “church” however since the time of Constantine till this age of Trump, the word “church” has been usually more aligned with the evil power structures of the world than the original subversive movement of Christ.
Jesus was God, the creator, standing between the evil of this world and humanity at risk. I wish we understood that following Jesus is not merely a faith statement, it is a life style commitment, to do likewise. This is the Good News that Jesus challenged his followers to spread into all the world.
In our Communities, there are many people who feel at risk, vulnerable, this year:
- Latino Immigrants, who suddenly feel unwelcomed and threatened
- DACA students, who fear losing the only life they have ever known
- African-Americans, who wonder if the criminal justice system of this country will ever give them justice, or will continue to always assume them as the criminal
- Muslim-Americans, who are grieved and frightened to see their country reject them, while a few degrade their faith
- The working poor, from every ethnicity, who feel that their country has forgotten them and their needs.
Perhaps while preparing the house for family festivities, also prepare yourself to become a subversive follower of the Creator. Use the power and privileges you may have to shelter those most vulnerable, yet surrender your power to learn from and journey with those on the margins of society. Be more than an ally, become an accomplice in the proclaiming the salvation, of the Year of Jubilee.
Oppose the evil that is ingrained in the structures of this world, and create spaces of Beloved Community.