“And so this is Christmas,
And what have you done,
Another year over,
And a new one just begun.” – John Lennon
Those words are, of course, the opening lyrics of “Happy X-mas (War is Over).” It was released in 1971, thirty nine years ago, and has become an annual reminder of just how far we are from realizing the Promise of the Nativity.
It begs the question – What have we done?
Literalists and atheists have it easy. The former don’t believe that the “Kingdom of Heaven (or God)” can be realized until Jesus comes thundering down from the sky like an alien invader in a bad sci-fi flick. Which means that – although they certainly do charitable works – changing the world isn’t really part of the agenda. That’s God’s job.
Atheists, on the other hand, see nothing more than random chance in the intricate interactions of the universe and the incredible diversity within it. Justice and equality are driven primarily by net personal benefit. Changing the world – except insomuch as it increases that benefit – isn’t really part of their agenda either.
Both positions are convenient rationalizations.
For those of us who believe that we’re not only one with God, but that we are the hands of God in Creation, convenient rationalizations just don’t cut it.
For us, changing the world isn’t a matter of supernatural intervention or personal gain. Nor is it a matter of blind luck.
It is – it will be – the result of the efforts of each and every one of us, working together. Not out of fear of damnation, or out of self-interest; but out of our unshakable certainty that we, and God, and all of Creation, are one in the relationship called agapé.
I realize that there are times when it may not seem as though we’re making progress. The world is still all too full of pain and suffering; persecution and injustice are all too common; the vulnerable are all too often exploited rather than treated with compassion.
It would be easy, when asked the question “What have we done?,” to answer – “Not much.”
It would also be wrong.
Another year’s over. What have we done?
We’ve held the hand of someone in pain; held the door for someone whose arms were full; held our temper when we wanted to speak sharply.
We’ve opened our hearts, our arms, and our wallets to the victims of catastrophes – some natural, some the result of our own actions.
We’ve spoken out for justice; stood up to tyranny; demanded equality.
We’ve done much. There’s much yet to do.
So … another year’s over. A new one’s just begun.
What will we do?
For some, the Nativity is about innocence, or love or peace, or Light returning to a darkened world – and it is indeed all of those things. That’s one of the amazing things about faith – it is for each of us what we need it to be for where and who we are at any given time.
For me, the Nativity is about nurturing.
Just as the Christ did not enter the world fully formed and independent, neither did the Message of Love and Peace and Agapé.
The Christ child was wholly dependent on the care, the support, the protection, the love – the nurturing – of those around him.
In just the same way, the Message of the Christ – agapé, the all-encompassing, spiritual relationship – has come into the world as a child. And it’s dependent on each of us to nurture it.
If we fail, then it, like a child born into neglect, will not realize its potential; will not grow strong and overcome all obstacles; will not transform the world.
The oft-quoted African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. For me, in faith, that also means that it’s up to all of us to raise the Message of Christ – to transform it from an idea into an ideal and into a way of life.
Not just now and then, or here and there, but always and everywhere.
And in transforming it – by living it – we will transform the world.
Of the coming year, Lennon sang “Let’s hope it’s a good one.”
“Hope” leaves it up to someone else. Or to blind chance.
Let’s not do that. Let’s follow the example of God, who entrusted ordinary people with the Greatest Gift.
A very Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year,
Let’s MAKE it a good one.
Without any fear.