So, my friends, we are on this journey to Christmas, trying to balance our time preparing interiorly and exteriorly for the “coming” in ever greater ways of our brother, Jesus into our lives.
I often speak to you during Advent about “carving out” some moments in each day to nurture your relationship with Jesus, our brother who was willing in the great plan of God to immerse himself in humanity for no other reason than to show the over-the-top love of our God for each of us. We don’t want to lose sight of this one key idea. We also don’t want to get lost, lost in the busyness of this time of year, when this season is so much about being found—found by our God who loves and cares for us beyond anything that we can imagine! I have shared here before the beautiful new translation of Scripture from The Message, and specifically the 23rd Psalm where we read about, “God chasing after us all the days of our lives…”
In John Shea’s Creed, that we use here at All Are One, he speaks rather poetically of, “God risking” in sending Jesus. I have always found this notion that, “God would risk,” seemingly something that an all-powerful God would not be capable of, very compelling! I find it so because the “risking” is not about the “all-powerful-ness” of God, but about God being willing to be vulnerable in Jesus, with us humans. In choosing to be, One-With-Us/Emmanuel, God “is able,” to risk.
For this very reason, the feast coming up this next week, the Immaculate Conception is really a contradiction to the great love of our God who chose to become part of our humanity.
To say that Jesus’ mother was conceived without sin is to say that she was not human as the very definition of humanity is that we are not perfect and the best part, is that our God loves us anyway! So, if the only way that Jesus could be part of us, and our humanity was that his mother needed to be perfect, or not human, then where did the human component in Jesus come from? Clearly, the theologians and clerics need to clean up their act on this one. And if they can do that, then some of the negative thinking around sexuality might be able to be done away with as well. The beauty of the Incarnation is the realization that God loved us from the get-go and chose to be immersed in our humanity that is not an “original sin,” but an original blessing! Talk about risking!
Having put forth the idea that our loving God chose, “to risk” and become One-With-Us, the next piece to consider in today’s readings is what Jesus, living among us wanted us to know about our own human experiences in life.
From Baruch in the Old Testament to Paul and Luke in the New Testament, it seems evident that Jesus wants us—each of us, to live lives of mercy and justice. Baruch says, [There is] “peace through justice and honor through devotedness.” He continues, “For God is leading Israel (and us) in joy by the light of divine glory, escorted by mercy and justice.” The psalmist prays, “God has done great things for us” [and this should make us glad and help us to persevere, in times of trouble]. Additionally, Paul, writing to the Philippians affirms this notion, “the One who began [this] good work in you, will keep perfecting it.”
Paul continues, “My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and discernment…that you may learn to value the things that really matter…that you [may] be found rich in the harvest of justice.
Luke then gives us the wonderful message of John the Baptist and his “herald’s voice” in the desert—a line that each year we all connect with Advent, “Make ready…clear a straight path.” And Baruch foretells this command, “Every lofty mountain [will] be made low and age-old depths be filled to level ground,” suggesting the Baptist’s, “straight path”—made ready.
My friends, in today’s world, there is so much that calls each of us to be people of mercy and justice—gone are the days when it seemed OK to come up with a “black and white” answer to any problem. Paul encourages, “understanding and discernment” when considering issues and how we live our lives—praying that “our love may more and more abound,” which all indicates that “simple” black and white answers will never do when we say, as Christians, that we follow, (or try to), Jesus’ lead.
A cursory look at current issues facing our world shows this truth, that there are generally, no easy answers: Consider the issue of abortion before the Supreme Court, systemic racism emanating from the very foundations of our country, our legal system that often appears to deal out, “justice” unfairly to people of color, which directly stems from systemic racism, as written about and proven in the last several years through the works of Ibram Kendi, Bryan Stevenson and more, our inability as a country of seemingly intelligent people to get our hands and hearts around the COVID epidemic as well as our inability through our legislatures on State and National levels, to work together for the good of all our people, especially those who live on the margins—giving them the justice that we all deserve. Unfortunately, we could go on…
Sometimes, this may feel like more than any one of us can handle and that is when we need to truly keep our eyes on Jesus—first to know how best to act, and then, to know that our brother Jesus will always “have our backs,” simply because that was his final message to us upon physically leaving the earth— “I will be with you all days…”
The Scriptures for Advent leading into Christmas time and beyond tell us, in no uncertain terms that Jesus, our Brother came not as royalty, but as a poor baby of poor parents, choosing such an existence, to teach us all a powerful message about “mercy and justice” that today’s Scriptures call us to—the goods of this earth are intended for all and none of us can be truly happy until each of us have a measure of the “goodness.”