Monday, December 21, 2020

Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation

Galatians 3:23-4:7

Richard Bach was one of my literary heroes in my teens and well into my twenties. His book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, found its way into my psyche as a teenager, which led me to the perpetual pushing of boundaries … some were rebellious and others were signs of positive growth.

Jonathan is a seagull who is told by his elders that his wings are meant for hovering, catching fish, and waiting for boats and beachgoers to provide food. The wings of a gull had nothing to do with speed or agility.

Jonathan, we soon discover, completely rejects these boundaries and restrictions.

Jonathan continues to work on his speed … drawing his long wings tighter and tighter into his body … going to greater heights and falling faster and faster trying to maintain speed while somehow pulling out of the disastrous collision with the ground awaiting him at the end of each fall. His determination to fly fast while abdicating the more materialistic goals of his flock lead to his banishment from the flock.

As he continues to practice alone, he is met by two mysterious, loving gulls who come to teach him more about breaking the boundaries. He finally breaks through and finds himself in the land of gulls like himself … gulls who know the liberation of moving beyond the boundaries.

My own story in faith is one that was, for so many years, set within the parameters of rules and boundaries. As a Methodist, I was raised on a steady diet of discipline. The curious “methods” observed by John and Charles Wesley and their group of friends at Oxford University were derided by other students thus earning them the title of “methodist.” Additionally, our churches and our ministry are guided by a book that is called The Discipline.

Over the years, I have found myself increasingly pushing the boundaries … especially when faced with boundaries that are exclusive or unjust. As a child who was raised during the civil rights movement, I was influenced by the people who dared to take a stand against injustice … even injustice that was cemented by our own legal system.

The people who got in trouble for taking a stand were participating in what John Lewis referred to as “good trouble.” These were people who openly defied unjust laws and faced abuse and incarceration … many lost their lives.

It is not different from Jesus who radically transformed our world by pushing the boundaries of the law (especially the moralistic and ritualistic laws that demanded conformity) for the sake of the law of love. He, too, was turned away by many of his own people, and it cost him his life, as well.

The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is itself liberating. And when we experience this liberating power of this God born in Jesus, as Paul shares in Galatians, we have no need to draw distinctions among ourselves. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

As we celebrate the birth of Christ in our world, we realize in Christ both the power to unite us and set us free.

God who unites us in your law of love: Be with us as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ in our world that we might break down the boundaries that divide us. May we live with as one in a world defined by your grace. Amen.

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