No, no, no...it's "if I were preaching"
Or maybe it's "what I need someone to preach to ME this Christmas"
Anyway. That's what the RevGals are thinking about on this Friday, December 23: what message will they bring to their congregations this Christmastide?
Here is what I have heard in the last week that grew into the idea really makes it Christmas for me this year. Darned if I can remember where I watched or heard or read it:
God became a human person. Most religions' deities stay comfortably where they are, but not this God, our God, the God named I AM.
God loved us so much that God became a human and lived and died like a human. And you know, human life can really be awful. Especially when Jesus was born, in ways that I doubt we in the 21st century western world can really imagine. Infant mortality, murders by dictators, rape, incest, child abuse (wait, this is from yesterday's newspaper...)
What really transfixes me on this incarnation idea is not the lovely (? ask Mary about the adjective) birth part...babies don't really remember much of that as they grow...but the not-so-lovely life and death part.
Whether you believe that Jesus' death on the cross was God's plan, or that it was not necessarily God's plan but was still what happened (all in the name of redemption, of course) -
it was horrible. It was the worst and most painful and humiliating way to inflict suffering and death in the first century.
In this year when my loved one has been betrayed by his body and by modern medicine so miserably (all in the name of healing, of course) -
I see that incarnation just a little bit differently.
I have said for years that when I see God, the first thing I am going to do is kick God in the leg, because the ways most bodies break down as we age and die seems like such a betrayal.
Sure, I know of people who have lived happily and vigorously to age 78, and then died suddenly in their sleep. "What a great way to go." But we all know that is not the prevailing way, not in this Great Age of Medical Innovation that keeps us alive longer and longer to receive more and more exquisite tortures intended to help us.
(You see why no one is actually going to let me preach this...right? That's why I blog).
Here's the money line: Jesus didn't know what was going to happen to him...but he signed up for it anyway. He accepted the job and essentially said, "okay, whatever this ends up meaning for me, I'm going to work to overturn the rotten rule by people and introduce the kingdom of God on this planet."
In the years following Jesus' death, we have tried to carry on what he taught and planned. We seem to have gotten off track a good bit, as we fuss and stew about church schisms, resolutions and covenants. We forget about the infant mortality, murders by dictators, rape, incest, child abuse...that would likely have been of more interest to Jesus than policies and procedures and what color the paraments are this week.
The challenge of Christmas is to think how we will live. How we will use our wild and precious lives to bring the kingdom. And to know that whatever pain, loneliness, illness or torture we may confront and experience, Jesus knows what that's like; he's been there.
What do I have to do, then? For years I've been unable to watch TV commercials that show abused animals - I have to leave the room. Same for children in poverty. I sponsor some women and children through various agencies, but it's all very safe and comfortable, and I wonder....
And recently I read something by Pema Chodron that advised to embrace the thing you fear. Smile at your fear. Lean into the sharp places. There's a lot I am afraid of. But I'm going to take a step and see what volunteering at the animal shelter might be like. There's a training session in January.
I've always said that when I see Jesus, the first thing we are going to do is hug, and he's going to say, "Mary Beth! I've been looking all over for you!" and then we will sit down and play jacks together. I do realize that the Trinity means that Jesus and God are the same person. I need to work on connecting that in my head and in my heart. No kicking. Just loving.
Picture found at Theology Lived website, produced by the Office for Faith and Learning at Biola University.