Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christ is born . . . for whom?

The title is not a trick question.  The answer is simple: the whole world.  But how we make our way through these seasons of Advent and Christmas and the days after our Epiphany feast speaks volumes to how we understand the direction and effect of the incarnation.
So here are some other questions:
How do the conditions of your birth affect your life, today?
Jesus came into the world in just about the worst of circumstances.  Thanks be to God he had a mother who loved him who had the committed support of a husband.  But Bethlehem was not his home.  How many of us were born into circumstances that thrust meaning and significance onto us over and above joining a family?  How do we understand poverty or wealth as related to our beginnings?  What family histories of health concerns are now ours to consider?
How do you balance society's version with the Church's version?
Ours is a confused mix of symbols and signals.  If we take the first amendment seriously or literally then why is there a display on the post office square of wisemen and the holy family?  How much care do we take to protect the legendary nostalgic Santa Claus from the Christian history of sacrificial saints?  How so we teach so as to minimize what must be "unlearned?"
How do you understand our lives as made better or different by his birth?  We hear "god with us" and many are encouraged toward gratitude and so turn into gift-ers to those less fortunate.  Others understand His birth as indicating God's love and therefore are encouraged toward hope for a darkening and fallen world.  Some immediately feel blessed and joy is their first expression.  
How do we express our claim that God is incarnate -- think "with us" -- when the days aren't a break from routines of school and work?
The incarnation must play out over time, when the decorations are down and the season is ordinary. But will it work to chime, "Merry Christmas!" in mid February's chill?
How do we incarnate God?
If Christ is born for the whole world then how do we participate in furthering his presence, in making him real, helping others to see that greatest gift of God with us?
I'm not suggesting that we leave our trees up into Lent or that we force our Christmas traditions beyond their reach.  Twelves days is too much for many.
I am suggesting that we have a part to play in the emerging of what Christmas capsulizes and capitalizes for us.  Some of it will be to look for ways to make a difference in the world that traps people in the conditions into which they were born. Some of our part will be to disambiguate society's versions from the Church's. Some of it will be to engender hope, joy, gratitude and faith in our own lives. Some of it will be keep asking the questions of how is my life better by way of His incarnation and what difference we can make for others?  
All of it is for the whole world.

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