This Christmas season celebrates human inclusion in a divine story. I know our American culture has made a concerted effort to commercialize this season and muffle any mention of its thoroughly religious significance. Imagine evacuating Yom Kippur, Hanukah, or Ramadan of its religious foundations. This season reminds us there is significance in the human being. This season celebrates active divine personality affirming the value of human personality in time, space, and creation.
While American culture continues to sanitize and demystify the Christmas season, the Church has a fresh opportunity to recapitulate the first century event of the incarnation. We can breathe new life into this historical narrative and communicate it within the context of our nation which has pockets of persons struggling with economic burdens and people anguishing over many difficulties in cross-cultural relationships.
In summary, the angels appear in a dynamic high definition spectacle to poor working class persons during their swing shift. These poor working class persons of the Middle East exist in the shadow of a government ruled by persons of a different ethnicity. Their subjugation has resulted in events which included rebellion through violence by some, accommodation to obtain political and economic influence by others, and for others, the prayerful anticipation of the Messiah to establish an everlasting kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace. The poor working class and ethnically marginalized have a front row seat to the drama of the ages.
The Christmas season significantly affirms the dignity of poor working class Americans. The angels did not appear to affluent intellectuals with the message of peace. The working poor on the fields of Israel observed with their own eyes the majesty of eternity communicating the ceasing of hostilities between God and man because of the presence of God. In an American culture and specifically in an American Church culture which esteems prosperity over poverty, white collar over blue collar, and formal over informal education, the Christmas season reminds us the working poor are privileged with the experience of beholding God in the flesh first and the vocation of evangelization to announce what they had seen and heard.
As we stumble into 2017 with a growing number of working poor and unemployed persons imagine the societal transformation which can occur as these men and women are offered primary seats to announce good news. In the realm of religion this can resemble pastors and preachers submitting to the teaching of working poor men and women who possess an experiential understanding of Philippians 4. As Pope Francis states, the Church needs evangelization by the poor. In the realm of economics, the Christmas season reminds the working poor, in fact all of us, our value, worth, and opportunity to participate in the story of God does not depend on our economic standing. The Christmas season invigorates the working poor to be active participants in transcendent storytelling demonstrating the power of God in and above our limited economic barriers.
What does the Christmas season communicate to men and women experiencing the storms of ethnic strife and dehumanization? Let me briefly state, the American Church has been complicit in advancing-explicitly and implicitly-the notion the Christmas season is about a Caucasian family. This event does not begin on the rolling green of Ireland or the rainy country side of England. The angels do not appear in Germany, Sweden, or Norway. This event occurs among persons whose skin color and hair texture is far from Western European ethnicity. A tradition which “prides” itself on biblical accuracy should make the necessary correctives. Considering such correctives, the angels’ announcement of peace has personal and societal implications. God declares peace to men in whom he is pleased. God’s gift of peace is indiscriminate in its offering. Jew and Roman are both included in this new reality of peace which offers an internal transformation of the soul. As men and women, of various of ethnicities experience the individual peace of God, such a transformation extends to transformed interpersonal relationships.
I have no idea as to why we continue to circle around this same bush of racial reconciliation. It is as if we are the children of Israel taking a forty-year trip to a land of peace which should be a short journey from slavery to freedom. Yet we persist in the desert as another generation dies in not able to appropriate the Promise Land. The Christmas Season reminds us God indiscriminately and graciously reconciles himself to persons who “injure” his love and holiness in the most horrific of ways. In 2017 and in the sphere of societal relationships we can extend peace to those who injure us based on our ethnicity. Violence in word and action demonstrates the possibility a person has not internally appropriated the peace of God. Peace which unites former opponents results in forgiveness, relationship, and above all, love which confounds the world. Lastly, the political sphere can learn from this announcement of peace as well. Our government must continue to participate in legislative actions which protect and unite all her citizens affirming the dignity and significance of all persons. As peace pervades our personal, societal, and political lives we will be person who dance into a land of peace which overflows with the milk of affirmation and love which taste like sweet honey.
I am thankful for the Christmas season. I am thankful God continues to give peace indiscriminately to men, women, and children in past generations, our present, and the future. This Christmas season reminds us to look at our culture upside down and place as much affirmation in the value and worth of the working poor and those who are ethnically different. This is a peace we can all celebrate.