Before Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, scientists and experts said it couldn't be done because the human body wasn't capable of running that fast. Today, high school kids run under four minutes and the world record is close to 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Before Joan Benoit won the first Olympic women's marathon, those same experts and scientists opined a woman is incapable of enduring such a physical undertaking and a race that long would destroy her body, reproductive organs and might be fatal. Women now regularly run such distances, and more, and keep getting faster. At one time, it was said it was impossible to climb Mt. Everest. Since it was conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary, Everest now entertains hundreds who climb it annually. Our history is full of examples of achievement thought impossible until one person has a vision and makes a breakthrough and then everyone who comes after them benefits and has the opportunity to move the needle even further.
We are about to celebrate another Christmas. We will honor the birth of Jesus. The reason we remember Him is because He busted a barrier never achieved before and we are get to share in His triumph. (it has also been called redemption)
When God created us. She did so knowing our potential...knowing what we were capable of reaching. God created us as an act of love and anticipated a relationship which would be deep and intimate. However, since an act of love is freely given and must be freely received and returned, God was continuously disappointed by the human capacity for sin...the choice to dehumanize ourselves or others. She was amazed at how we would ignore revelation, inspiration, prophets and the all the various ways She tried to help us understand how simple it is to be close and enmeshed in this love, this grace, which is ours for the asking. Instead, as Alfred North Whitehead observed, God weeps and is constantly let down by the choices we make. Imagine a parent who helps create a child and can't wait for the wonders of loving that child and receiving love in return. (I can think of nothing more tragic or painful than to be cut off from my children and not have them return my love...something my actions caused me to fear and could easily have occurred over these last years) God offered us the gift of creation only to confront weak humans and our fitful stops and starts. The story of Hebrew scripture is a story of God revealing and humans listening sometimes, but also ignoring and refusing to live and love and open up all the possibilities of this relationship.
What we had was a world in darkness...a world which can seem hopeless...a world where we wonder what life is for and know there is something better, but fail to achieve it. Some say it can never be found. Others offer substitutes...sex, food, wealth, selfishness, ego...and a promise these will result in satisfaction. Still others, like Nietzsche, say there is nothing, no reason to search and no there there. Maybe this is all a myth. Maybe it's fools gold for the sucker. Maybe it's just about being afraid to die. Like the 4-minute mile, a woman running 26 miles or someone climbing Everest, it cannot be done and shouldn't be attempted and we are doomed to the darkness of our frustration and fear.
The good news of Christmas...the glad tidings...the joy to the world brought about by the birth and life of Jesus is that God finally has someone to run or climb or perform in a way no one has ever done before. Jesus opened up new possibilities, new hope, which was never this deep in the past. When asked about it, Jesus talked of God not as the other or distant or as lord, but rather as Abba. (Dad, Pop, Mom whatever your most precious term of endearment is for your parents) He shocked and scandalized by proclaiming the Good News that God is relatable, caring, loving and we can love Her back. He announces there is new life. Even better, He promises us a full life now, here, at this time. (In 2013 what is the definition of a full life?) He does something never done before. He returns God's love in a way never achieved before. He fulfills God's desire to be intimate with Her creation and, because of Jesus; we all get a chance to do it too. We all get the same opportunity...the same grace...the same offer. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a Jewish child who grows up to redeem the world...make it full of hope...take away the darkness of despair and fear and because of His new relationship with God, we get to improve, advance and deepen our relationship. Cool huh?
Ok, so what are the practical results of this birth, this Christmas miracle? Here is the good news...the promise. If you can live a life similar to Jesus. If you can try to love your neighbor, forgive your enemies, turn the other cheek and choose to always act in ways which enhance you as a person and those you encounter, you will have a full life. (I forgot, even if you screw up you can be forgiven and try some more) It gets better. How many of you reading this are afraid and worried and weighed down by so much in life? The list of what troubles or scares us is endless. (what are you worried or afraid of right now?) How many of you have experienced peace and are living with joy and satisfaction?
The reason to celebrate Christmas...the reason it is a festival of light...the reason to stop and take the time to honor this event is because the birth of Jesus, and His life, have given us a chance to live without fear and at peace. In the upper room, Jesus greets his apostles, scared out of their minds with fear they are next to die, with the wish of peace and He tells them not to be afraid. They are transformed as they are filled with the Spirit, and begin living without fear and at peace.
What I have learned is the more I lead my life in turn with Jesus, the more I trust God, the more I can lead a life without fear and at peace. I am not there yet. (and it's so clear how far off track I had gotten, a clarity missed until I lost everything society values) I still worry so much about family and my future, but I'm better and I now know what is possible. I now know a mile can be run, a marathon finished, an impossible mountain climbed. I have hope and the reason for it is the birth in a manger, with songs of Joy floating down from the heavens, that today in Bethlehem a savior has been born and He is called Emmanuel, God with us.
MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!