Why Does Christmas Matter Here?
We live in a church tradition that is always looking for new truth. In theory, we’re willing to take the newest insights and wisdom into what it means to live well as humans and apply it to our daily and collective lives. In the midst of all of that, though, many traditional practices and stories remain. One of those is Christmas. In our church, and in Unitarian Universalism, we tell a very human version of the story, and a compelling one, I think:
A human teacher, born of an unwed, (probably teenage) girl living under foreign occupation in modern-day Palestine. She crosses national borders with her child, refugees seeking shelter from an unsafe country and ruler. The child grows up to become a homeless rabbi, likely illiterate in the time, who collects a rag-tag group of friends who help spread a message. In summary, the message was, “God is not somewhere out there, far away. God is here.” He encouraged extremely poor, oppressed, and marginalized people to address God as “abba,” an Aramaic word meaning “father.” It was a personal, intimate term you used for a parent or respected teacher. And to do so was radical. What it meant was that poor and displaced people under violent rule were encouraged to believe that the Divine, the foundation of reality itself, cared for them, was with them as much as any military might, wealthy ruler, or politician. The stories that our homeless rabbi tells are about farming, parties, fishing, and estranged families. He points toward what he calls the “Kingdom of God on earth,” and keeps saying, “it is right here already, and YOU can help show the way.”
In a sense, what he is saying is, the most meaningful, in fact holy moments, show up in extremely ordinary people and places. The eating of a meal, forgiveness of a family member, acts of fairness, and crossing the boundaries of politics and ethnicity to see a human bond.
Each week in our affirmation, we say together that our church exists “to the end that all souls shall grow in harmony with the Divine.” Our shared hope is that everything we do in church points to the possibility that we can share in something holy, right here, right now. It has been a busy and full year in this church. We’ve shown up for justice nationally and locally, helped provide food and shelter when natural and unnatural emergencies occurred. We’ve raised money for a capital campaign and strategic plan for our future. We’ve worshipped together, shared stories and sermons on Facebook, learned in classes, invited friends, been visited when we’re grieving or sick, and laughed a lot. This year has been busy. And, like the message that Christmas points toward, it is all meant to help bring us in harmony with the Divine, to say that something meaningful, sacred, and profound is possible for us right here and now.
Now is as good a time as any to remember that whatever we do here in church, it is meant to bring a holy form of love and justice into people’s lives. We’re meant to be examples that the Divine shows up in us, that we’re the home of something sacred, and that each one of our interactions is a chance to practice heaven on earth with each other. None of the other activities or programs mean much at all if it doesn’t make the place we’re at feel more like heaven. Christmas matters here, because it reminds us that the Holy isn’t somewhere out there. It is in everything we do. May we use this season as a chance to be as kind, just, and loving as we are able.