“Seek first God’s reign, and God’s justice, and all these things will be given to you besides.”Matthew 6: 33
During Advent we look forward to Christmas and we notice the darkness of the season. Soon we will endure the longest night. But then the days will get longer, and the sunlight will stay with us longer each day. I can hardly wait for those days when the sun stays with us well into the evening. Just as we yearn for the sunlight to push back the darkness, we yearn for the Light of Christ to push back the darkness of our world. We yearn for justice, peace, and kindness.
We are experiencing the darkness of violence across our country, even here in my neck of the woods. Those who are disappointed in the outcome of the election are acting out their frustration and dissatisfaction not just with threats of violence, but with violence itself. A pastor I know was pushed down in the parking lot of her own Church because that Church is a welcoming Church for all people. Violence can pop up anywhere these days. I am guessing that some of the discontent we witness comes from those who fear losing their place of privilege due to their “whiteness.” It seems a lot of white resentment was stirred up by the presence of a black man as president for eight years. The increase of violence toward people of color is notable.
We are yearning for something to to save us from this violence. Scriptures tell us that the Israelites were yearning for something or someone to save them from their enemies. Thousands of people went out to listen to John the Baptist who told them that the time was close; that a powerful person was coming; that they better be ready because God’s judgment was coming. John was an old-style prophet pointing to the coming of Christ, but he did not know what surprising and unexpected thing God was already doing. He did not know that God was already living with the people in the person of Jesus. John expected a savior like the ones he grew up hearing about – like Moses, like Samson, but especially like king David of old. No one could have expected that God would show up in person to usher in a new era unlike any that had gone before.
Before Christ Jesus no one knew what God is like, so people could think of God as a Warrior, fighting on their side, and think of God as wrathful and angry when offended. It was convenient for leaders of religion and leaders of nations to claim that the same things that offended them offended God. God became a way to control people. There are people today who still want to use God to control others.
But God is not what the leaders and rulers claimed, and because of Christ Jesus we know what God is like and what God wants. God came to us in the person of Jesus and was nothing like what people expected. God came to us as a baby, grew up in a manner common to us as human beings, and lived among us for years and years before anyone even knew it. Think about that for a moment, that God would live such an unassuming life as to go unnoticed. God is still with us and we still fail to notice. If we are looking for something majestic, stately, and regal, we will miss God’s presence in the least ones.
When Jesus began his ministry, he went to the outsiders and those rejected by society, to people who would never be noticed by anyone important. In one of the Christmas stories told each year the first people to hear the good news were shepherds – dirty, smelly, hard-working laborers. Immediately we see that things are topsy-turvy. God comes into our world in a way that goes against things as they are. God wants to turn over the tables, as Jesus would do in the temple one day, and create a whole new system for our world. God wants to guide us into a system where all people are valued and given dignity and respect.
The good news we look forward to at Christmas is that we now know what God is like – God is like Jesus, full of compassion, kindness, gentleness, and ready to forgive. What God wants is for us to pay attention to Jesus, follow him, and be like him, and continue his ministry to the world. Christ is the light coming into our world to overcome the darkness. We are called to be that light, too.
God means to overturn unjust world systems because even at their best these human systems fail us. There are always those who fall by the wayside. But for God the little ones, the excluded ones, the ones fallen by the wayside come first. With God, justice starts by making things right for the least ones first. If that happens, then everything else falls into place. As scripture says, when we put God’s way of doing things first, there is no cause for worry any longer, for all will be well.
My beloved ones, let’s look for God in all the unexpected places.