7pm Christmas Eve - Luke 2
I saw this video recently and it had me thinking about Christmas, very much because of what I just shared with the kids – the idea of the mirror, I mean. But just like I don’t imagine any of those kids asked for a mirror from Santa, I wondered how many of us really want or welcome or receive how meaningful, how powerful, how significant and full of purpose it is that God showed up as a person, in Jesus.
And I wondered if, from God’s perspective, we look something like the animals in that video when we come up against the reflection of Jesus, out there and among us in the wilderness of the world where we live.
Remember, there was that one gorilla, in particular, who seemed downright angry to see his reflection in the mirror. There was the scared baboon, a couple of curious – maybe skeptical – cats, an elephant who couldn’t be bothered, and that family of chimpanzees that looked like a lot of Christians on any given Sunday morning, seated in row, primping and posturing for themselves and others, but not appearing to do much of anything about what they see.
And maybe all of this seems like a stretch. Maybe you think I’m trying too hard. Maybe I’ve lost you altogether.
But I really do think Jesus showed up as some kind of cosmic mirror in the wilderness of our lives and that God’s goal in all of it, was so that we couldn’t help but look upon this one who was so much like us and recognize, in a new way, a call on our lives to respond – not with fear, not with anger, not with anxiety, not with empty gestures of self-gratification, and not with indifference to the reflections of God, in Jesus, that are living and moving and breathing among us every day.
What I mean is, I’m under the impression that God is always holding up a mirror before us and inviting, encouraging, and challenging us to see ourselves in the other…wherever and however and as often as we are able to see them.
Don’t get me wrong, God does look like this:
...soft and sweet, a giggly and dribbly, little baby in a manger. And God is to be found in the familiar faces of the men and women and children who are sitting next to us here and now.
But God also looks like this:
This is Isra Ali Saalad…who moved from Somalia to Sweden, with her mother and two siblings, looking for a safe place to live.
And God looks like this:
Kirk Odom, who spent 31 years in jail for a crime he had nothing to do with.
And God looks like Julie, Antonio, and India:
...children in Flint, Michigan, who still have to collect their daily allowance of water, in bottles from the fire station, because a major city, in the “wealthiest country in the world,” can’t manage to get clean, safe water to those who need it most. It’s been more than a year.
And God looks like refugees in Ramadi:
...and heroin babies in Muncie:
…and hungry people, right here Hancock County, too:
Just this week, a man came to get some help from our food pantry and told Linda Sevier, our Administrative Assistant, as she loaded him up with groceries, that “he used to be just like her.” It’s the kind of thing we’ve heard before. What he meant was, he used to have means; he used to not need to ask for help; he used to have enough. It’s the sort of thing any of us would say to justify ourselves… to establish our worth… to prove that we’re not as bad or as needy or as lost as we may seem to the casual observer… that there was a time when…you know?
And Linda assured him – as if holding up a mirror in the wilderness – that he was still very much just like her; that we are so much more alike, in God’s eyes than we are unalike – as that old Maya Angelou poem goes. And we are so much more alike – and loved and loveable – than we are willing to admit enough of the time.
And that is the message and the hope and the joy of Christmas.
We are, every one of us – the immigrant, the refugee, the addict, the poverty-stricken, the lost and the lonely, the high and the mighty – we are children of the most high God. We are, each of us, brothers and sisters in this Christ who was born and who died and who was raised for the sake of the world.
And we are, each of us, invited to see the world around us as a reflection of God’s very own self, in Jesus. Because when we see ourselves and each other through the reflection of this cosmic kind of mirror, we can’t help but respond (not like those animals in the wilderness) but with the very heart of and in the faithful ways of God – not anxiously, but with a holy kind of patience and peace; not out of anger, but with genuine love; not out of fear, but with faith; not with selfishness or indifference, but with generosity and compassion; not with judgment, but with mercy and forgiveness and grace; not in despair, but with great, abiding hope in what God can and will do with and for and through us, if we will let it happen.
So let’s raise our heads, open our eyes, and look around this Christmas – and every day until we get it right – and let’s look for this Jesus, in the eyes and faces and lives of the people around us. And let’s be surprised by how often he shows up; let’s be surprised by how much we have in common; and let’s reflect the love and hope and mercy of God in ways that surprise and change the world around us, in his name.
Amen. Merry Christmas.