Throughout the month of November, we invited you to join us as we engaged in a conversation regarding race and trauma. We knew that in our current climate, words like “race” and “trauma” might elicit discomfort, hostility, dismissal, or avoidance for some and deep heartache, trauma, and rage for others. We hoped that you’d join us with humility, curiosity, courage, and compassion as you heard stories that have the power to invite us into our common humanity, into lament, into righteous anger, reclamation and blessing, and hopefully into what it means to be people of love. It was a labor of the gospel, and laboring that must and will continue even as that series comes to a close. So as we lean into the Advent season and turn our hearts with anticipation toward Emmanuel “God with us”, may our hearts be both filled with wonder and disrupted by the Spirit-anointed one who came to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18). May we be people of wild hope in the midst of all that seduces us to despair.
At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen. – I Timothy 6:15-16
Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. – Revelation 1:4-6
Christmas is a celebration that portends the overthrow of the Empire. And yes, I am excited about the next Star Wars film, but I am not talking about that empire. I am talking about the one you live in—America. And if you don’t live in America, look at your passport and call the country of your citizenship—the empire. Christmas is a celebration for the disinherited, rebels, the lost, lonely, exiles, illegal aliens, and the incarcerated.
Here is a Christmas statistic from the Empire in which I live: Whites are 8 times more likely to use opioids, heroin, and meth than Blacks, and Blacks are 13 times more likely to go to jail for the same offense than Whites. We live in an empire with kings and queens, rulers, powers, and principalities that set the structures for how we will tell the truth, what truth can be told, and how to respond to those who tell a truth that is counter to the accepted pattern.
Jesus came to the earth as God flesh not merely to save your soul. He came to restore the earth and all who inhabit it to the glory of his Father. His arrival is an invasion, not a merry Christmas. Christians get whacked when a clerk says: Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. We get apoplectic if Starbucks has a cup that doesn’t acknowledge our holiday by name. These concerns are the belching of a self-satisfied, consumer Christianity, not the holy awe that an invasion has occurred and that some fool put a weapon in my hand and told me to fight when I don’t have a clue how to use my weapon, let alone how to know who my enemy is.
Jesus came to the earth to upend the relationship between rulers and slaves. He dawned as the light of the world to disrupt the kingdom of this world. Anyone whose existence depends on its survival is at odds with his Kingdom. Here is the rub: I am a boomer, aging idealist, white male, granted far more power than I deserve, with only a few decades of health, let alone life, left (maybe). There are few on the earth more dependent on the status quo for not only surviving, but thriving, than me.
My King invites me to join the invasion with weapons of love that expose me to his foolishness and the wonder of his righteousness.
I prefer Merry Christmas to the welcome of a revolution. And that is the rub. My King who can never die died, who lives in splendor supped cold soup, and whose power commands obedience over every King and Queen submitted to the machinations of a lowly regional governor. The God king came in baby flesh and sucked the nipple of a virgin. The one known as the Word had to learn how to talk.
His kingship is about reversal, if not something closer to vertiginous upheaval. He came to clean the swamp first and foremost of the self-righteous, the self-bloated, and the self-satisfied rulers of this world.
The distractions of this season and the trivialities of worrying about nonsense—“Will he like this tie? Is this on sale? She didn’t say Merry Christmas! Remember the reason for the season!” All of these will unwittingly align us to what the kingdom of darkness desires: minimization of how the kingdom has already come.
I prefer a cozy Christmas morning, brewing coffee, warming coffee cake, and grandchildren’s voices manic in anticipation of opening presents, rather than picking up my bedroll, eating C-rations, and marching to the next point of conflict to offer truth, honor, respect, kindness, and mercy. My King invites me to join the invasion with weapons of love that expose me to his foolishness and the wonder of his righteousness. Prepare to open presents, eat more than you need, and be distracted by the trivialities of our self-possessed lives. Just keep your senses slightly awake—it is not Santa stealing into your home; it is the King who has come and who will come. He is inviting you to be a Priest, one who offers your own holy life as an offering to be sung to his glory.