January 8, 2017

We Must Be Convincing, We Must Be Heard

The first day of Christmas is passed for another year, but that does not mean our journey to the manger in Bethlehem is over or any less relevant tomorrow.  Speaking from within the language and tradition of my own faith, I believe the lesson of Christmas is essential to the survival of our way of life, even the world.  The God I believe in is larger than any one faith tradition, and I am confident that the lesson taught to Chrsitians is present in other faiths.  Jesus, after all, was Jewish not Christian.

Many in our time are living quite intentionally and proudly without faith.  Religious persons have proven themselves foolish and done astonishing harm in the name of God.  But in the absence of faith, I 'd invite you to consider what is lost?  Without -- in Chrsitian lanaguge -- the journey to Bethlehem, who will we become?

I have in my library a book by a legal scholar (Michael Perry: The Idea of Human Rights).   Perry's conclusion is echoed in the work of others.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the idea that every human being is of inestimable worth is a religious conviction.  It is our only hope for peace, yet it cannot be proven by reason or established by logic.   It is a gift of whatever it is that we gesture at with the word God, and it is born into the world through faith.

Christians, on our Holy Night, rehearse a journey to Bethlehem to behold a child, a child through whom we come to know that every soul has worth.  Without this faith, without this gift, I fear for the future of our country and our world.   We must be the instrument of this healing gift for the world.

A young person asked me once: “What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway…isn’t the way Jesus lived the important part?” It was a good question. The meaning of Christmas for me is expressed in a reading by Barbara Crafton (from Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet).

“I look at the latest photographs of our newest grandchild, sent through the Internet from an ocean away. He is not a week old. He knows next to nothing and cannot survive on his own…and yet I cannot take my eyes off that little face in those pictures. I would give my life for his in a heartbeat. He has done nothing to earn this devotion but be born into this world. That’s it. This is the key: the fact of our being is sufficient cause for God’s celebration…The sufficiency of my little Grandson’s face in my eyes is complete, and that is just the way God sees us all.”

Christmas is a celebration of this gift. The simple fact of your being is sufficient cause for God’s celebration. There is a tendency in each of our lives, and a great suffering in the world, caused by the root thought that we are not welcome, that we do not belong, that others are blessed and we are not.  Whoever your are, and whever you are in your life journey, know that your existence, and the existence of the one most unlike yourself, is sacred.   In the blessing is also an essential critiques. As Anne Lammott has said: "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do."

From this sancity of every life flows the very idea of human rights: "that there is something about each and every human being, simply as a human being, such that certain things ought not to be done to any human being and certain other things ought to be done for every human being." (Perry) Without it any firm ground for human rights is lost.     Many today proudly prolcaim themselves to be agnostic, religious "nones," spiritual but not religious.   I woud invite you to think deeply about what is at stake.  And for those of us who remain and practice our faith, we must be convincing, and we must be heard.

-- Rev. Mark Sturgess, Dec 26th, 2016