This past Monday night, the 20th, my section for Sacred Ground met on Zoom. All day before the meeting, I kept saying, “ugh, I have Sacred Ground at 6:30.” Please understand that this is entirely atypical for me to complain about this meeting. Four meetings out of ten into this program and the videos, the readings, the discussion that has ensued have all been amazing. Each of us has learned so much more than what we were ever taught about the history of our nation and its history of white supremacy and resulting genocide of the native people and oppression of anyone not white. However, the topic for our Monday meeting was one of the hardest and it seemed incongruous with the spirit of Christmas. We covered the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We had two people absent from our normal group, people traveling over the holidays, but even with our 6-7 people present, I was particularly grateful when someone noted how she didn’t really want to talk about this during the week before Christmas, that she was a tad annoyed. That the Christmas spirit had landed on her, and this topic was definitely a downer. BUT then she noted that her outlook also really spoke of her (our) privilege. And I say “Amen.” Yes, she named it squarely—each of us could decide how much of this we wanted to let in, whether we wanted to attend, how much a bummer we wanted to let this hang in the balance during our Christmas week.
So that you don’t think otherwise, I love Christmas as much as the next person. I love the imagined scenes of the Holy Family in the stable because there was no room for them in the inn, along with Mary laying her babe in a manger. The pastoral scene of someone finding a way to house the migrating couple and the animals sharing their feeding trough does a heart good. I say “imagined scenes” because there was no evidence there was a Roman census, and there is pretty good evidence that even if there were, the setting would have been at the home of some of Joseph’s relatives. It possibly was how the cover art of our bulletin depicts that a bed for the couple was made on the lower level of the house, where the animals would have been housed. Still the thought that things can be topsy turvy but somehow or other OK because God watches over all, and Jesus is not harmed, and instead he is cared for throughout it all, is magical. Absolutely magical.
And in our northern hemisphere, it is winter, and cold and dark, and we are cuddled in, while visions of sugarplums dance in the dream sleep of our children. And I would like to stay right here, I rarely have had a problem embracing the sentimentality of Christmas. Still, I have a feeling that that is not where Jesus would have us stay.
There is a reason why Mary’s Magnificat calls for the overturning of earthly empires. There is a reason why Jesus is always counter cultural. There is a reason why we are told to care for the marginalized. There is a reason why Jesus points to the least of these. And there is also a reason why Jesus initially comes to us as a babe, meek and mild, undefended. I don’t think Jesus is against snuggles, but Jesus’ message is more what Jesus is for. I really think it is a both/ and. Jesus is not against snuggles, but Jesus is for those who have don’t have power. When we see God taking care to watch over all, and ensure that Jesus is not harmed against all odds, and instead that Jesus is cared for throughout it all, then we see what we are to do, we too are to be absolutely magical – we are to provide the “magic” of care for those in need.
And magical events, not actual magic, of course, but loving actions that cross borders, which are therefore magical, real and imagined borders, loving events that remember people who have no power— the world needs, even craves, this care-taking. And similar to my Sacred Ground session where we realized we have privilege, we also have privilege in this country, some more than others. Just living in this country, for many of us, amounts to having privilege. Afghani children, and others, are starving, the omicron variant of the Coronavirus is sweeping through the world, people are dying, icecaps are melting, storms are devastating to people and animals all across the globe. And we have choices whether we choose to wake up and pay attention. Jesus would have us wake up and attend to others, because Jesus spent his whole life subverting the powers in charge and remembering those without power.
Just like my Sacred Ground group was not ready, in the week before Christmas, to hear the litany of pain that First Nation people and African descended slaves experienced, so you may not have wanted to hear the litany of troubles I just rattled off. But what if, instead of hearing this litany as depressing, we hear it as invitation? As opportunity? As places where we are invited to cross the boundaries, to reach out and be the ones through whom God provides magic for others in need? Which is to say, what if these are invitations to find LIFE, to find life even as we give life?
This is the season where, in the empire of darkness, light rises up. Light breaks in. The light of love, and compassion; the light of care and concern and advocacy and prayer for those in deepest need. It is for those in deep need for whom Christ came, and it is for them that we come in Christ’s name. Let this be our Christmas magic, our life, and our very salvation.
May the magic of the Incarnation be with us all.