One of the many things we can learn from Christmas is that for God people are important. Jesus came among us through people who were on the peripheries — an unmarried teen age girl, a man who was “publicly embarrassed” by his betrothed, shepherds, animals, foreigners who studied astrology. All these were considered outcasts by the temple authorities, yet Jesus God became one of us through and with them.
We believe Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, and that God became human in Jesus. But can we not also say God is becoming human through each of us, although not in the fullness that God was in Jesus? We believe we are created in the image and likeness of God, that God is in each of us. Yet, these days as we look around us, it is clear that many of us have no idea we are of and in God. Watching the terrible things that we are doing to each other throughout the world, we can see easily how far we are from what we are celebrating in Christmas.
The world Jesus was born into was in its own way not all that different from our world today. Its values were very different from the covenant Israel had with Yahweh God. Jesus came as a sign of hope to the people of his time, and is still coming among us as a sign of hope for us in our time. Hope remains just a nice idea until we choose to act in it.
It’s worth noting that Jesus did not tell us what to believe but called us to act, not to worship him, but to imitate him. It is much easier to worship Jesus than it is to follow him and live how he lived, to follow his values and make them our own. We can claim to worship Jesus without it having any real impact on how we live every day. There are folks claiming to follow Jesus who judge and condemn any who do no think as they do. What is going on around the world is a reflection of what is going on in the lives of so many of us. Besides the “systemic outcasts” based on religion and politics (these days there is not much difference between the two) many of us have our own personal outcasts — people we just don’t like for whatever or no reason. Yet, Jesus is coming to us in them.
In his Christmas message Pope Francis said “the culture of peace is not built up solely between peoples and nations. It begins in the heart of every one of us”. We can choose how we want to relate to others. Do we judge people based on how comfortable we feel around them? Do we really think we can tell other people how to live when we think we know all the rules but don’t know their story? Do we really think we know the relationship other people have with God, or that our way of knowing God is the only one for everybody always? Do we really have the authority to declare folks whose lifestyle we don’t like to be intrinsically disordered, or to tell people we don’t think are enough against abortion that they cannot receive Christ in Communion? Do we really have the right to threaten violence on folks with whom we disagree? The god whom we serve in this way is the god we create for ourselves so we can feel comfortable and in control, not the God who comes to us in Jesus.
The Story of Jesus coming among us reminds us that “outcasts” are very important to God. God does not make people outcasts, but we do. We do not know the mind of God, but Jesus gives us insight into God’s values. One of the images of the Christmas Story is light coming into darkness. Light helps us see. The light of Christ helps us see as Christ sees, if we let it. The light of Christ might help us see thing in our own life that are contributing to the violence and suffering everywhere. This same light offers us the grace to be open to the Spirit who inspires and guides us as we try to follow Jesus in our everyday living.
A worthwhile question might be how ready and willing are we to accept Jesus coming to us in people or situations we don’t like or want to be a part of. Are we willing to journey from our lace of safety and comfort to where the Spirit might be leading us? Do we have to know, or are we willing to trust? Letting go of our need to know and be in control is no simple thing. Mother Theresa used to say “prayer does not change things – prayer changes us, and we change things”. As we again celebrate the Birth of Jesus, God becoming one of us, what are we willing to do, where are we willing to go on our journey? Can be believe that we are important to God, and go where this takes us?