Before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angels proclaimed “peace on earth, good will to all people.” We imagine the scene as a silent night–all calm, all bright. But Matthew’s gospel tells a different story. A paranoid puppet king commit outrageous acts of terror when he heard rumors of Jesus’ birth. A hit was put out on every boy under the age of two.
In a world ruled by people like Herrod, all was not calm. All was not bright. Folks kept their heads down in darkness, praying to make it through. Mary and Joseph were afraid, and for good reason.
Jesus was born in a time not unlike our own, when children in Palestine and Afghanistan cower at the sounds of bulldozers and drones and people on the streets of Paris and San Bernadino flinch at every sound, hoping to God that the unimaginable hasn’t happened again.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as fragile people, living in fear. But we are.
The good news isn’t that we’re all going to be safe because we have enough walls and guns and armor to protect ourselves from every enemy. The good news of Advent is that despite real dangers and fear, there is a love strong enough to come in weakness and befriend us. The good news is that, from the time he was born, Jesus’s story shows us how surprising friendships drive out fear.
My friends over at RedLetter Christians have inspired me once again. They show me that the times of Jesus’ birth were worse than we have it now. They were times when despots put out broad scale assassination orders with no impunity. They were times when the poor had absolutely no safety net under them and many simply died as the result. It was anything but a silent and peaceful time.
And then along came Jesus who turned everything on its ear. He told the religious leaders that they were the worst kind of sinners. They did not even pretend to practice what they preached. He told us that what we eat does not make us unholy. He told us to love the unlovable and hate no one. He taught us how to be and how to live.
Unfortunately too many of us have verbally proclaimed our allegiance but have not taken his words into our hearts and especially into our actions. Let’s all try to do a better job of being our brother’s keeper during this holiday season and in the coming year. Lets take the Good News of Advent seriously…