What is this thing called Christmas? What is this thing we have celebrated? What is the point of re-enacting an event which occurred so long ago and today has little meaning or relevance for those born into the consumerist world of advertising jingles, product placement and Boxing day sales? How does a baby born in an ancient and forgotten time speak to us today, at the cusp of another year?
How does this little child connect to us in the isolation and violence we encounter in our everyday life, for our world is no less violent than the one into which he was born, a time of military occupation, soldiers and oppression, of mandatory census taking and control, all of which is still the experience of those who live in the land of his birth.
Yet at his birth the world celebrated, the stars in the night sky shone brighter than before, the heavens seemed to sing and the animals of creation gathered to welcome him into this world. In the midst of tragedy was triumph, in the midst of violence was nonviolence, in the midst of angry voices came the gurgle of a baby boy.
This thing we call Christmas is a reminder of the birth that changed a world, of a day when all that occurred after was heralded by all that came before. It is the day in which God visited and said everyday you live can be as this one, the hello to the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God was incarnate in Jesus as he kicked and slept in the stable and is incarnate in us as we live everyday of our lives. Jesus grew and became a threat to the powers to be but also a symbol of hope to all who encountered him in the very ordinariness and oppression of their daily lives. He asks no less of us.
He comes to us in the extraordinary event of his birth to give birth to the kingdom of God in this world through the ordinariness of our daily lives. His coming was the epitome of nonviolence, the exact opposite of the power hungry oppressive violence of the society into which he was born.
He comes to us today into that same world, the world in which we live. William Shannon in discussing Thomas Merton and nonviolence comments ‘Active nonviolence must unmask the contradiction of a society based on force. Unfortunately, the affluent industrial society (in which we live), with all the freedom it presumes to offer its people, is a society that survives because it lives by systemic greed and a subtle violence that makes the affluent richer and the non-affluent poorer. Those who practice nonviolence will almost of necessity find themselves at odds with such a society.’ But always walking in the footsteps of the babe of Bethlehem.
God heralded in his kingdom, which Isaiah expressed as the hope of the people and that Simeon recognised when he met the little family in the synagogue. It is the kingdom Paul asks us to embrace and birth as children of God, not as slaves, but as those who freely live and act out of love for the love who came into the world as a little child.
Somehow this thing that happened at Christmas gives us permission to live reflecting the love which was the nonviolent birth and life of Jesus. Jesus did not come to confront the violence in others but save the world, to heal the deep disconnection in the soul of humanity and to do it through a life of nonviolent being.
He was not passive. His birth was not passive. His very birth disturbed all those who had most to lose, those who used oppression and power to further their own needs. Nothing has changed. He continues to disturb those who use the modern tools of fear, of desire fuelled by consumerism, by difference as we close our borders and protect our possessions, by the isms that identifies others as different to us. Yet the birth of Jesus calls us to a ‘”[Non-violence] (that) is not out for the conversion of the wicked to the ideas of the good, but for the healing and reconciliation of man with himself, man the person and man the human family”’.
Today as we move towards the New year we look back on the wreckage of 08, marred by the greed of the rich and powerful which will see millions of people around the world lose their homes, their livelihood and a future for their children, marred by violence which has ripped apart countries, peoples and families in places as diverse as the outback of Australia, small countries in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mumbai and more, marred by the egos of people like Robert Mugabe and ask ourselves what are we to do?
Perhaps the babe of Bethlehem speaks to us to find the violence in ourselves, in our very being and how the actions we do everyday impact upon others in our world and then to find a way to live in love with all, nonviolent in our being and in our actions. It is a sobering moment when we stand still and listening to the violence in ourselves and accept that we are called to mirror the incarnation of Christ, the most surprising entrance into our world of the Kingdom of love.
For that moment when the Jesus entered the world was the moment when the world remembered what it was called to be and began the long and difficult process of reconciling the fall of man into a resurrected world of love and nonviolence, three days after his death. Jesus lived and died so that we could do the same. He rose again so that we could rise above our fallen nature and become the children of God, and we are called to born again each day in the glowing reflection of Bethlehem
It is hoped that today and everyday forward we will discover what Ghandi meant when he wrote “Jesus lived and died in vain if he did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love.”
Sermon Sunday After Christmas Year B 28 12 08 St Judes