Many Moods of Christmas: Child in a Manger

Treat yourself to some time in front of the fire watching the Bing Crosby classic, White Christmas.  It will take you back to simpler days, whether you lived them or not.  Bing and Danny Kaye try to help their old retired Army general save his Vermont Resort during a season without snow.  The dream for a white Christmas is not just romantic; it’s a dream of preserving the business and avoiding bankruptcy and loss.

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah dreamed of a day when justice and peace will kiss the way Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.  Zechariah was a priest of Israel, married to Elizabeth, who was barren.  Gabriel appeared to him in the temple; saying he would be a father and his son would be a prophet like Elijah.  Zechariah didn’t receive the news with joy at once, so he was struck mute until the boy was named.  When he did name the boy John, his voice was released, and he could praise God.  The song of Zechariah is called the Benedictus.  It translates in Latin the first words of his praise: “Blessed be the God of Israel”.

Zechariah’s song addresses God’s deliverance of Israelfrom her enemies by delivering on God’s promises of justice and peace.  God’s people have prayed for it, sung about it, and Zechariah’s believes it is happening in the birth of his son.  He says: By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  These are beautiful words, which dream of a peace in his land where all is made right.

We all dream that the world will be set right and runs fairly.  (Kids )  We want wrongs righted, virtue rewarded, vice punished, and systems working for all, not only those who know the right people or who are the right people.  Zechariah dreams of the day when justice will prevail and peace arrives to those who have been waiting for the dream to come true.

This kiss of justice and peace brings to mind a small modernist plaster figurine by Constantin Brancuci’s, The Kiss.  He depicts two heads that are melding together in a kiss that makes them look conjoined.  To further emphasize their unity, he has arms entwined around each other’s necks.  The two are so connected they appear as one.  Zechariah dreams of justice and peace so intimate with we can’t think of one without the other.

Have you tried to quell dissent by telling people not rock the boat, just play along for the sake of peace?  That pits peace and justice against the other instead of bringing them together.  We do the same thing when we prefer not to ask why things are not right; rather confront what is disturbing the peace.  As long as injustice is the rule, there will never be the righteousness of God and the Peace of Christ.  No justice, no peace!

District Attorney, Craig Watkins has made it a priority to revisit suspect cases.  As of August, twenty two people who were spending years behind bars have been exonerated by DNA evidence; not available when their cases were tried.  They lost their freedom, family and friends because of aggressive and sloppy prosecution along with simple human error.  To his credit, whatever mistakes the renowned Henry Wade made, he preserved the evidence in each case.  The people of the Innocence Project have seen results in attempts to make things right that were wrong.  Every time this happens, the peace of life that was wrongfully taken away begins to be restored as justice served by making things right.

The messiah born of Mary would grow up to bring peace by disturbing the peace as a child in a manger.  The manger of Christ is a picture of inclusion.  Those who gathered around include: the high and low, rich and poor, insiders and outsiders.  God brings the world together around a babe who came to bring peace by overcoming unjust barriers.  Through his birth he brings peace and justice together.  When he sees hunger, he feeds.  When he sees the sick, he heals.  When he see wrong, he confronts.

We who invite Christ in our hearts believe he will bring us a peace that passes understanding.  God does so by making some things right.  God’s righteousness reigns as we put our trust in the babe; allowing the child to bring us peace by casting out all that might keep us from it.  The Christ child is not satisfied to be in our hearts alone.

God desires creation knows the peace God intended in the Garden.  This is a peace we have struggled to know since the Garden, when we went our own way; thinking we know more than God.  Violence toward one another showed up right outside the Garden between two brothers.  Bethlehem was no less violent when Jesus was born that it is today.  When Herod learned Jesus was born the King of the Jews; he ordered boys under age two slain.  He wanted to maintain the peace through fear and intimidation.  Peace won at the tip of a sword or at the passing of an unjust law is not peace.

God won’t rest until peace on earth includes good will among all.  There are many ways we join together at FUMC to join Christ in his work of peace by working to makes things right.  There are neighbors around the church that need us to work beside them to make things right?  I could share my real dreams I have about those possibilities.  Let’s start small.  It has been a rough week for some of you.  Is there a family member you need to do what is right and to right what is wrong?  Are there changes you need to make with a co-worker or someone in the church?

Mapule Ramashala is a black South African woman who moved into a white suburban neighborhood.  When harassment did not intimidate here, twelve youths were arrested trying to burn down her house.  She refused to press charges.  Instead, she met with parents and made arrangements to work together to repair her home.  The young arsonists only had to do community service, and she personally checked on them to and to see how they were doing in school.  The community rallied behind her, accepted her into the neighborhood, and the whole area is different.  That black woman was intent on peace, and she knew that justice meant more than punishment—it meant friendship and good will.  She gave a gift of peace.

The kiss of peace and justice is sweeter than sugarplums.  Will you do whatever it takes to taste it?

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