December 24, 2016

A Child is Born...For This?

Christmas, in whatever mode you celebrate it, seems to be pretty irrelevant for America this year. What should be a time of joy and hope is this year little more than a ceasefire in the political battlefield our country has become. We’ll all be nice to others over this weekend, while secretly hating them simply because they disagree with us. Is hate too strong of a word?  To me, it describes very well the increasing stridor in political discussion over the past 10+ years. It would be one thing were this a strictly secular phenomenon, but it is increasing in the Church, to the detriment of the underlying message of this season.

Celebrating the birth of the One who came to bring us unity at such a time of division not only seems absurd, it is absurd. Yet much less absurd than Christ’s existence upon Earth. The spiritual purity of Divinity took on the physical taint of human flesh. The independent Creator became a dependent and interdependent creation. The impassible God experienced all the passions of our mortal life. He who is deathless and eternal became temporary and died. These concepts are contradictions of such an irreconcilable magnitude to make them completely absurd to any logical examination. Yet this absurd space between these wildly unreasonable extremes of existence is the space in which we are called to live.

Why then is is so difficult for us to try to bridge the much smaller gap between political opinions? That’s pretty simple. The scandal of the Incarnation isn’t that God experienced these mortal things, it’s that He willingly reached out in love to do so. We’re just not doing that these days. We prefer the certainty of our issues than the uncertainty of searching for compromise. We pay more attention to Megaphone Martyrs than to Silent Servants. We claim to be open-minded when we’re secretly terrified to admit to ourselves that we may be wrong.

We celebrate the solidified diversity of temporal physicality while fearing and avoiding the diverse ebb and flow of thought and spirit. Meals have become something merely for physical sustenance or solidifying in-group status instead of the welcoming of strangers and building of community that ancient peoples practiced. This is something we should be especially mindful of at this time of the year.

“For unto us, a child is born...” A child born for us to despise and forsake, as written in Isaiah. Most of us would be mortified at the thought that we despise and forsake Jesus, but what else are we doing when we refuse to live in the absurd space defined by the Incarnation, to seek understanding in the gap of opinions, to seek peace in the war in the gulf between us?

Titus 3:10 talks about “a divisive person”; the Greek word is hairetikos, from hairesis, where we derive our words heretic and heresy. While hairesis naturally implies a choice of opinion, in biblical terms, we are not warned against it unless we are actually being divisive. What better time of year for us to fight divisiveness in our homes, churches, and communities?

This holiday is about a child that came to give us the life of the ages in abundance. But we let anger and fear impoverish that abundance. Enjoy your holiday, connect with those with differing opinions, give love and compassion freely. And do it again next week and next year.

We all deserve better than this current state of affairs. But if nobody wants to share the blame, then everyone gets more of the same.

May God grant us all His peace.

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