This Holiday Season

December 31, 2014

By Pastor Michelle Magee, First United Methodist Church

I don’t know about you, but this holiday season I’m feeling like our nation inhabits two separate, parallel universes. In one the regular holiday images, sales, encouragements to spend too much and eat too much prevail. In the other, the deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of white police officers is grieved, analyzed dozens of different ways, and leads certain communities to insist the patterns of relationship in our country change, while others complain of their discomfort. The overlapping in timing of such different atmospheres is startling.   Three days before Thanksgiving it was announced that the police offer responsible for the death of Michael Brown would not be indicted, on any charge. While many went ahead with their grandiose turkey dinners, I heard a news reporter comment something to the effect of, Michael Brown’s family and their community must not have felt like there was very much to celebrate this year. Less than one week after Thanksgiving it was announced the police officer responsible for the death of Erick Garner would not be indicted, on any charge. His widow cried out, “Who will play Santa for the grandchildren this year?” It seems our scheduled festivities are not lining up with the events that seem to call more for sackcloth and ashes rather than glitter and lights. 

And yet I am reminded of the real, gritty circumstances of the first Christmas relayed in the Gospels. There was no great feast, no Black Friday overspending, not even a Santa Claus to bring cheer.  A pair of simple people rather perplexed by God’s plan to send a son. The timing coincided with a census that made an almost-due Mary travel far at the time of her discomfort. Then, no room at the inn, to give birth in a barn with the animals to witness.  Soon after, a power-hungry political leader would order the murder of infants and that family would have to flee as refugees to save their son’s life. Real pain, innocent deaths, injustice was all around at that time, too. 

Even though I, too, enjoy the merriment that the holiday season brings (and that isn’t bad) let us remember what is real:  Jesus did not come into a sanitized version of our world, God did not become incarnate in a Macy’s ad. Rather God chose to become human in the midst of our very messy, unjust, clamoring world, just as we are. But not to leave us as we are. God came to us in Jesus to shine a light in our darkness, to show us the way of love, of reconciliation, of justice, of peace. May that light shine not just in pretty twinkling lights of one parallel universe, but brightly, blindingly, for all to see. May that light transform us, so the angles’ pronouncement of peace on earth and goodwill among people, be made real in us as well. 

God’s real blessings to you this holiday season,

Pastor Michelle Magee, First United Methodist Church

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