Saturday, December 9, 2000

"He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives."

I remember as a child singing, "O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by."

It wasn't, however, until many years later that the last stanza of the first verse really touched me..."the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." I don't know the hymn writer's intention, but it sounds like an acknowledgment that the incarnational in-breaking of God just might be an occasion for fearfulness that it might stir things up a bit and disrupt comfortable lives.

Jesus says that he is going to bring good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free and while that is our eschatological hope, the possibility of these things actually occurring NOW brings alarm and anxiety to even the most receptive of us.

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

Our hope is for justice and equality, for a leveling of power, and for inclusive love. But, with the coming of the Kingdom of God we wonder how things will change for us? If the poor are released from poverty, will I have to give up my luxuries? If we make room for the oppressed and the marginalized, will there still be room for me? Will I have to sit next to a homeless man at church? Will my children's Sunday School teacher be gay? Will an ex-con be stirring chili in the church kitchen at our next potluck dinner?

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

With the coming of the Christ Child, we will cross the threshold from hope into fulfillment and that is downright terrifying. May the Christ who comes to change the world, give us the grace and the wisdom to welcome those changes. --AD

PRAYER: "God did not wait till the world was ready, till...nations were at peace. God came when the Heavens were unsteady, and prisoners cried for release. God did not wait for the perfect time. God came when the need was deep and great. God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine...God came to a world that did not mesh to heal its tangles, shield its scorn. In the mystery of the Word made Flesh the Maker of the stars was born. We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, for to share our grief, to touch our pain, God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!" (Madeleine L'Engle in Guide My Feet, by Marian Wright Edelman)

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