We Are Christmas
The Advent season should remind us of who we are, or at least who we, as confessed followers of Christ, should be. Unfortunately, often we find that we have become so comfortable and complacent that we have forgotten how dangerous it is to become negligent and unconcerned about the things of God. We forget that we often literally affect and impact people’s lives. And without thinking or reflecting, we make decisions with our pleasures and emotions, with our biased opinions, with our jaded motivations, rather than our conscience. And in doing so, we fail to consider the well-being of other people.
Advent should serve as a reminder every year of how morally wobbly and woozy we are, how unaware of the impact our decisions and deeds have on others. And in the words of Cardi B, “Don’t get comfortable.” While it would be convenient for us to ignore, our faith demands that we don’t remain silent in a culture where everyone simply does what is right in their own mind while ignoring the teachings of Jesus, at least not in the church.
As UCC’ers, we talk a lot about covenant. Let’s understand what that means: to walk circumspectly in the world, to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagement, and exemplary in our deportment. We live in an age where integrity is no longer valued; and what is even worse is that we have some capitulating groups under the umbrella of Christianity who have decided to go along with evil rather than to address it. The question is how one can profess to be a witness for Jesus and then not say anything at all when you see something. In the words of that ole’ song of the African American church, God Don’t Need No Coward Soldiers in His Band.
In this Advent Season, we often can’t talk about the birth of Christ because sometimes we’re not ready for it. The days of going along to get along must come to an end. The days of laughing when it’s not funny must come to an end. The days of turning a blind eye to what we know is wrong must come to an end. The days of being silent in the face of suffering must come to an end because acting as if violence, oppression, and brokenness have disappeared is NOT an expression of a faithful witness.
Our faith demands that we break the silence and come to terms with our own complicity. In this season of Advent, we find ourselves following in the footsteps of generations of believers, who were staring at the darkness of their times while praying and hoping that God would come and see about them.
In Isaiah 64, the people looked around and realized that God was no longer there. God turned away from them because they had abandoned their call for justice and righteousness. Their civic and religious leaders, who were supposed to be leading the community, were only looking out for personal gain. God had promised earlier to restore their land if they looked out for the poor, if they spoke out for those who were vulnerable, and if they did right by the least of these. But, because of their silence in the face of injustice and evil, God went into hiding.
They are praying in the middle of a night season: God, I wish that you would just tear open the heavens, and that you would come down. God, do whatever you have to do but PLEAE COME! OH COME, OH COME EMMANUEL! WE WHO MOURN IN LOWLY EXILE HERE UNTIL THE SON OF GOD APPEARS.
In this Advent season, God calls us to be honest in the ways that we are complicit in the suffering of other people. In order for us to ask God to come down to us, we must first acknowledge how far we have drifted from God. And sadly, our culture puts the focus of the Christmas season on consumerism and capitalism. The culture tells us that shopping, and decorating, and wrapping gifts, and taking pictures, and partying, and stressing out in stores, and receiving gifts are what this month is all about, but as believers we acknowledge that December is the month of Advent. A month of preparation and anticipation — We are waiting, we are expecting, we are observing, we are praying, and we are hoping for the coming of God in our lives. In other words, we need a whole month of preparation in order to be in the right spirit to celebrate Christmas.
I was recently talking with a clergy colleague, who shared his personal story about Christmas. As a child, he believed that Santa would come to the house that was the best decorated. So immediately after Thanksgiving, he would begin to pull out the Christmas decorations. But his mother would say “no, you can’t decorate the house, until we clean the house….”
In order for Christ to be born anew in our lives, we have too actually clean up! We have to admit that there are issues in our lives that we need to work out. We need to confess our propensity to harm others and to harm ourselves. We must be straight up about our own, sometimes bad, decisions. We have to clean up before Christmas comes. That’s why we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King…Let every heart prepare Him room.” We cannot bring a newborn baby into a dirty house. Isaiah says in his prayer, yet you are the father. You are the potter; we are the clay. God, we are the work of your hands. We must yield to the potter’s hand. We must be willing to follow the potter’s plan.
In the Second Corinthians, Paul picks up on Isaiah’s prayer and remixes it. While Isaiah says we are clay, Paul takes it a step further and says that we are not just clay, but we are earthen vessels with a treasure inside. Christ has taken the clay of our lives and has made us a vessel and placed his treasure inside of our vessel. We are more than clay. We are more than shiftless people roaming through the world without hope. We are more than people who are driven along by history. No, there is something inside of us that changes history, that alters hell bound destiny and gives new life in the midst of death. There’s something inside of us that calls us beyond our complacency. As we await the arrival of the Christ Child, God gives us the responsibility to BE Christmas.
Valerie Ross Associate Conference Minister
An excerpt of this piece was originally published in the Coconut Wireless, December 22, 2021.