• Christmas 2016

    Posted on December 23, 2016 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Christmas this year.

           We will hear the Christmas story again this year. It is announcement of HOPE and a call to ACTION!

         THE INFANCY NARRATIVES OF LUKE AND MATTHEW both present the clear message:  Some People Accepted Jesus.  Some People Rejected Jesus.  The Gospel of John states it this way:  He came to his own but his own people did not accept him.  But to those who did accept him he gave power (he empowered them) to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.  Jn. 1:11,12. From my perspective some who are claiming to have accepted Jesus find no difficulty supporting positions that are clearly not of Jesus.

         Paulo Freire who wrote the challenging and informative book: PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED, helps me to get a start on transformation.  He argues that perception, the recognition of one’s current situation, is the beginning of transformation. Here are a few examples of people who went through a process of transformation.  They come from the paper, the Catholic Agitator of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker:

      “You could say that we came from a tradition that was pretty much into the Bible.   As Anabaptists, a founding premise of our religious identity was that history and tradition could contort the message of Christianity, and that therefore constant reference back to the contents of the Bible was necessary to maintain or arrive at a steady, faithful understanding of Christ’s message.”

          “As someone whose personality tends towards introversion and introspection rather than action, as well as someone who grew up in a tradition emphasizing in many ways, right?belief over right?action, I knew that I needed to be around and learn from people who made a concerted discipline of working out in action the social justice imperatives of the gospel that I believe I had come to recognize through reading the Bible.”

        “…the part that I value about it most is the chance to hear perspectives on the bible that are formed through daily experience with an embroilment in the systems of oppression that affect the people that we know in the inner city.”

        Here is another example of another similar story.  A man of a certain prominence, began helping out with the weekly Saint Vincent de Paul Society, food distribution and soup kitchen.  At the regular Sunday service, he shared that he previously didn’t know much about this service of his church community.  He then held up his green envelope that is used for financial contributions to support this work.  He encouraged others to be generous.  To me this was a clear example of how actual contact with the poor brings a different perspective and conversion.  I’ve been trying to perceive and recognize what is my current situation.  The present political climate in the U.S. and the World surely calls for transformation. When we pray in the Our Father: “…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is it a command, a prayer, or what? What does the Kingdom of God look like?

        In Matthew there are guiding dreams and a guiding star. Joseph accepts the message of the dream and the magi follow the star.  Herod and the scribes and priests of Jerusalem are threatened by the coming child and respond as threatened people do.

        In Luke there are announcing angels, Mary and the Shepherds accept the message, but Simeon tells of the “fall of many a sign to be contradicted.”

        This pattern of announcement, acceptance or rejection will be carried through the entire Gospel. It continues tonight.     Tonight we receive and renew the announcement again: For to you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  But we must be attentive to what action these words are calling us.

        When Luke in his orderly manner according to the Roman way of announcing speaks of the birth of Jesus he tells us:  of “Caesar Augustus (the emperor), Quirinius, governor and Joseph and Mary….”  In the eyes of the world it is from the most important to the least important.  But reversal of values will be a continuing part of the Gospel message.

        The child to be born is to be called Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.

        He is to be called Emmanuel which means God is with us.

        Our Gospel tonight presents us the image of Jesus being born on a Journey for a Journey.

        We are invited tonight to Journey to Bethlehem.  You have all come here tonight to pause on your life journey.

         We return to the place where God is homeless and we are at home.   We make the journey to Bethlehem each year to rediscover our own roots in the gift of Jesus. But we must be aware of the homeless, the migrants, the hungry, they are present at the manger.

        The words of some of our Christmas carols announce good news to us:

         Oh holy night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior’s birth, long lay the world in sin and error pining till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.  A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  Fall on your knees oh hear the angels voices, oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born o night divine, oh night oh night divine.

        O Little Town of Bethlehem.  Yet in thy dark street shineth the ever lasting light, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

        The Gospel Story is an old one we know it quite well but what newness does it bring for us now on this 2016 birthday of Jesus?    Is it announcing NEW HOPE TO US?  It gives substance to our hope that new life is possible because of the birth of the Son of God.

        But retelling and rehearing the story is not enough.

        The Gospel writers make clear that Jesus was the awaited one of ages and generations for the Jewish people.

        But the birth of Jesus is not to be just a past event.  It is to be for us a present reality. Sin and error have been part of our life. Maybe even chaos, surely so in the world in which we live.   But we hear the promise of a new sense of self worth.  In our weariness we hear the promise of a thrill of hope.  In our darkness we hear the promise of ever lasting light.  In our fears we hear the promise of hope.  We can begin again, we can be people of hope. Listen to your guiding stars and guiding dreams. If Christ is to be born again this Christmas then we must be people of Action who bring his message to the people that Jesus brought hope to in his life, (Matthew 25) hungry, thirsty, strangers, in need of clothes, sick or imprisoned.  Be attentive for Angels of Announcement.  Jesus the Son of God was born and wants to be born in us and our world again.

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