As we are preparing to go into the season of Advent…and beginning our preparations for Christmas…I got to thinking about what we know about Jesus.
He was born into an occupied country—a country wracked by violence where one never knew from one day to the next whether they would be alive or dead…and where safety for the occupied community was really a mirage.
Besides the occupiers, his country was also torn by violence between competing groups who had very different opinions on how to deal with the governing authorities. Some wanted to just get along. Others wanted the invaders out—and were willing to use every method they knew to get them gone…along with those who had collaborated with them.
There was a large gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Some were secure in knowing they had a place to live, clothes to wear, and enough food to eat. Many, many more weren’t sure where their next meal would be coming from.
At various times, people fled their country. Some were running from the violence that surrounded them. Others were hoping somehow to find a better life. Jesus’ own family fled the violence and became refugees in another country.
As an adult, back in his own country, Jesus continued to face challenges. Violence, corruption in government and religion, fear, hatred of the other…
And yet…he did otherwise. He ate with corrupt religious leaders. He healed family members of the oppressors. He visited with those who were “other.” He talked about love…and challenged his followers to truly follow his example of all-embracing love, hope, and healing.
So this year…while I love my traditional and beautiful nativity scenes, I also want to look at ones that make me uncomfortable…that remind me that the One I will be celebrating did not live an easy life–and calls me to make sometimes difficult choices. I want to be reminded that when I look into the faces of “the other,” I am called to see the face of Jesus.
Advent is a time of preparation for the celebration of when Jesus came 2000 years ago…and a time of preparation for when Jesus will come again…and I want to be reminded again and again of what he said–that when I bring ministry (food, water, shelter, affirmation) to any of God’s children, I am doing it to and for him.