Christmas I Year A: At The Kid’s Table

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7
John 1:1-18

Christmas is filled with images of children: telling Santa Claus what gifts they want, waiting for Santa Claus to bring those gifts, opening the gifts, breaking the gifts, going to Grandma’s house, sitting at the kid’s table for Christmas dinner (usually a card table either stuck next to the end of the main table where the adults eat, or put in an adjoining room so the adults can eat in peace). Of course the main child image of Christmas is the Christ child, because he’s what the whole hassle is about, anyway.

Paul adds two more child images to our Christmas celebrations in our second reading today. Those image are of us humans – Children of God. He mentions that God gave us laws to live under in order to form us into adults, and then he says that God also adopted as children when God lived among us as our brother Jesus. That might not make sense, but no human words can ever fully explain God, and Paul was doing his best to make the incomprehensible comprehensible.

Maybe it could be put this way: God creates us to be his Children, God puts his stamp of approval on us by being one of us, and God further claims us (his natural children) by adopting us as doubly worthy of God’s name. That might not make sense either, but once again, human words can only go so far.

What it all boils down to is: we are God’s Children. As Children, we must grow. Contrary to what a lot of tv preachers and political candidates and people knocking on doors with Bibles say, becoming a Child of God is a beginning, not an ending. As Baby Jesus had to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and nursed by his mother, as kids at Christmas time have to wait for the gifts to come and Christmas dinner to be served, we have to admit our dependency on God. We also need to realize that growth is difficult and takes a lot of work, so we must be open to the things God gives us to grow and use them to our advantage with a minimum of whining. That is difficult, and I certainly don’t do it very well, but it is the only way to grow.

So while we are in this life, our vocation is grow, even though we will never be fully grown. This table up here is the kid’s table, even though the host is the King of the Universe, who chooses to feed his children himself, with himself. May we take what God gives us today with joy and gratitude, and may we be open to all the good gifts to come.   AMEN

Proper 26 Year A: Proactive Humility

Micah 3:5-12
I Thessalonians 2:9-13,17-20
Matthew 23:1-12

Micah was probably not a popular person. We heard him in the first reading today telling the truth, and the truth does not usually make one popular. He was letting people know that Israel and Judah had not lived up to their vocations as examples of God’s love to the world around them, so they were to be chastened and reformed by being conquered by surrounding empires so that they would learn to trust in God alone, rather than in their military, economic, or diplomatic prowess. The people around him did not want to hear that news. They liked the other prophets, who, for a small fee, would tell them that everything would be ok. There preference for lies over truth doomed them.

We tend to be like those people. We don’t want to hear the truth if it makes us uncomfortable. But if we do not admit the truth, no matter how frightening it is, we are doomed, just like Israel and Judah. We can’t ask God for help when we never admit anything is wrong. Humility can only work in an atmosphere of honesty.

Jesus talks about this subject in our gospel reading this morning. The scribes and Pharisees should have been leaders of the people, but they had stretched the proportions of that leadership to the point where they expected admiration from others whom they considered to be less worthy than them.

The scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’s story needed humility, not because they were worse than the people around them, but because they were just as good as everyone else. They were loved just as much by God as the people around them were. They did good things as well as bad things, just as much as the people around them did. Because they did not want to admit that they were just like everyone else, they were doomed, because that was the truth, and just like the people in Micah’s day, when we don’t face the truth, we are doomed.

The truth is: we are all wonderful, beautiful children of God, and so is every one else. We are no better or worse than anyone else. We are all equally worthy of the love of God and the people around us. Anytime we act otherwise, we doom ourselves to life in the hell of our own lies. Admitting the truth of our infinite worth as God’s children is just as important as admitting the truth of our failure to live up to that vocation. Only when we admit both can we ask God to forgive us for failing in our task to be God’s image. Only when we admit those same truths about the people around us can we live with them in peace.

Our job is to be the Body of Christ; the presence of God to the world around us. We don’t always do that job well. We don’t always forgive others when they don’t do it well. We must confess both of those failures and get on with the job. The truth sets us free. Lies bind us. Humility is the only cure; admitting that only God can help us be who we truly are.   AMEN