An Advent Journey: God’s Signature: “Eternally Yours”
Read in preparation: Isaiah 63: 7-9, Matthew 1: 18-25, Matthew 2: 1-18.
Christmas is a time of remembering. It is a time of remembering God’s long-distance call through the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Look, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:1:14.
Eternal soundtrack or contemporary voiceover
Christmas is a time of remembering and acting out the musical greetings from the angels: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors,” Luke 2:14.
Christmas is a God-themed event. Christmas is a Peace-themed event. Christmas is a Good Will-themed event. It is the God event. The angelic choir provides an eternal soundtrack of God, peace and music in today’s world. The Herods of the world seek a voiceover and try to make it a dirge – a song of death aimed at killing the Peace Child.
Christmas is not a tender musical conversation between the angelic choir and humans below. It is rather a monumental block of sound piercing down the corridors of history asking us, members of the faith community, to confront our inner and outer demons that seek to destroy the Song of Peace. It is, also, a reminder that though Herods connive to kill peace, warning voices remind us to be aware of Herods masquerading as worshippers of peace.
With the story of Herod’s treachery tucked in, Christmas is a rugged event. However, God outwits the evil policies of the Herods of the world, through the obedient and tireless work of the faithful. We cannot mask this inherent truth. It is part of the native truth of the timeless story – and eternal soundtrack – of Christmas.
God’s covenant versus the empire
Christmas is a story of people’s long walk home, under the Roman Empire, in order to register their existence and get proper personal identification. It is a story of the Holy family finding themselves homeless, and walking long distance seeking shelter and food. Christmas is a story of the innkeeper offering to be the “neighbor” for Mary and Joseph in their hour of need.
Christmas is a season of remembrance of other long walks of other displaced people and groups, and offering ourselves as neighbors in their struggle to find bread, shelter and human dignity. We remember the long walks of:
- People who exchange their roots for bread, and
- Women and children trafficked into sexual slavery.
While the Empire is concerned about the documentation of natives and immigrants, God chooses to be born in a cattle stable, for there is no place in the inn. God, in fact, offers solidarity with the poorest of the poor by being born in a stable.
This child’s name shall be Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” This is the Good News of the gospel. This God is a traveling God. The one who came from heaven to dwell with us has already made a move from the center to the margin. Further, this God accompanies the peoples on the margins to the center. This God takes sides with the people on the margins, in their struggle to be change agents in the world.
An alternative world
We have to imagine a world of peace, justice and harmony, and place ourselves in it. Christmas is answering the call of the angelic choir with human songs of peace, praise and justice. Here is a song of Miriam Therese Winter longing to see a transformed world:
“O for a world everyone
Respects each other’s ways,
Where love is lived and all is done
With justice and with praise.
O for a world where goods are shared
And misery relieved,
Where truth is spoken, children spared,
We welcome one world family
And struggle with each choice
That opens us to unity
And gives our vision voice.
The poor are rich, the weak are strong,
The foolish ones are wise,
Tell all who mourn; outcasts belong,
Who perishes will rise.”
(Words copyrighted 1987 Miriam Therese Winter. Used with permission)
God’s mission of Emmanuelization
Christmas is a reminder to see a changed world and work for it. God is with us in this act. In the book, The Gospel Train’s A-Coming by Josiah Young III, M. Thomas Thangaraj, theologian on World Christianity, calls this act of God, “Emmanuelization of the world.”
Emmanuelization is to spread the Christmas news that God is with us and to live out this message. Let us open ourselves to God to Emmanuelize us, so that we can be bearers of the Christmas message that God is with us. Christmas is all about God signing God’s signature in Jesus saying to humans, “I am eternally yours. Will you be mine?” It is the desperate lover’s open secret to the world: “I am still in love.”
* Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D, is director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.