The Christmas Promise
Thoughts on the First Readings – by Joe Frankenfield
Fourth Sunday in Advent
What do we want from God?
What do we expect from God?
If God were gone tomorrow (say, we find a signed note from Him saying that He’s permanently relocating to another universe and wishes us a “nice life”) what actual difference would it mean for us?
These may sound like questions hurled back and forth in a heated relationship argument but they’re not hidden accusations, they’re a faith life self-exam.
Religious images and language are so prevalent in our society, the assertion that we’re a “Christian nation” so widespread, that we can blithely acquiesce to Christianity without consequences. Claiming faith is often easier than denying it. Since the mere discussion of religion or politics is viewed with distaste in many circles, particularly if it progresses beyond the most superficial level, no one will challenge the depth or results of our beliefs. Except for the ritual of a sermon or the safety of a religion class this is often true even within our parishes. Presenting ourselves with a blunt faith interrogation is important: no one else is likely to.
The Christmas story is presented so romantically that we can overlook that it’s a story for adults. The love that God reveals in the birth of Jesus is not a generic warm feeling for humanity; it’s a specific promise to rescue the weak from the exploitation and misery that they suffer at the hands of the strong. From its setting in Bethlehem to its references to King David, from the appearance of shepherds to the words of the angel chorus, the message is that the world is in for radical change: a change that many will resist but a change that God will accomplish through his faithful ones. God’s gifts are ultimately for all but getting to that ultimate place will be neither easy nor painless. Still, God promises success.