"....it is not the duty of the Christian to decide who is worthy of love.
It is the duty of the Christian to love."
What an odd time to be alive. Even as I write this, I am listening to the impeachment hearings that have been held for the past couple weeks (and which I assume will continue through the publication of our newsletter). I suspect that most of us have already formed opinions about the hearings (and our hoped-for results thereof) as well as the state of political process in our country. Yet, even as I witness these historical events and certainly have opinions on what is happening, I also feel somewhat helpless. I have no doubt that the proceedings and machinations of real people in Washington, D.C. will have an impact on me, my family, and ordinary Americans (indeed on ordinary persons all over the world). But I certainly do not possess the power or access to impact these events (at least not beyond my vote).
As we enter into the season of Advent, I find myself able to identify a bit more with the holy family. As we all know, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Christmas art often portrays a be-fogged, soft-lit pastoral scene wherein Mary and Joseph are surrounded by wise men, shepherds, and adoring animals. The grit and grime of a stable, field hands, and even childbirth is washed away. This does not even mention that the event took place in Bethlehem, which was most certainly not where Mary and Joseph made their home and life!
Indeed, scripture tells us quite clearly that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem precisely because of the political movements of powerful people far away. The emperor in Rome had decreed that a census be taken (and let us not even imagine the whats and whyfores of that), forcing persons all over the ancient world to travel in order to fulfill the law (or one might say, the whims of politicians). In a day when traveling half-way across the country is no more than an inconvenience and across the state a day-trip, it is easy to forget that travel was exceedingly difficult and dangerous during Mary and Joseph’s day. In essence, it would be as if a trip from Sheridan to Grapevine (or Poyen or Prague or Center Grove) would only be undertaken under dire circumstances or for extraordinary reasons.
But because a powerful person far away made a decision, Mary and Joseph had to assume the risks of travel (with Mary pregnant no less) and she gave birth in a strange (and no doubt, dirty) place far from home and family. Furthermore, because of a decision by another powerful person far away, very soon after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt where they became refugees for several years. Imagine how helpless they must have felt. Imagine how miserable it must have been.
Yes, of course the impeachment hearings will have an impact on me and on each of us. And of course, I (nor probably any of us who read this) have any ability to impact the process or its results. But I certainly do not anticipate being “inconvenienced” quite as much as Mary and Joseph (and Jesus) were. I certainly don’t think that I’ll end up in a refugee camp. Nor do I believe that I will be “inconvenienced” as much as others who live at the margins of our society or the world will be impacted. Powerful people make decisions every day that change the lives of regular people, sometimes for the good and sometimes for ill. That will never change. I submit that part of our duty is to support those in power who do their best to make decisions that have a positive impact on the least of these.
Beyond our vote and our political advocacy, I think that it is at least incumbent upon us all to make a positive difference directly with and for those whose lives are upended because of the decisions of powerful people – at least for those who are around and near us. As has been said repeatedly, it is not the duty of the Christian to decide who is worthy of love. It is the duty of the Christian to love. Our love must take the form of action on behalf of those who need it.
Perhaps you or I will never be the one who has the ability to (or burden of) making weighty decisions. But we will always be able to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick or those in prison. Thus, as Jesus taught, we might always be able to do the same for him. Matthew 25 appears to be linked quite closely with Matthew 1. I encourage us all this Advent and Christmas season to seek ways to positively impact the lives of those around us. That might just be the fullness of the Christmas season.