Christmas is sacred space for many people. It inspires great passion, and I think the season welcomes it. The language of Christmas lends to a passion for revolt. The Christmas story demands to be taken seriously; it calls for a revolution, but the story draws us into a particular kind of revolution. The coming of the Messiah would have it no other way.
This week our gospel reading told the story of John the Baptist’s questions about Jesus. John is in prison; its walls forcing him to question everything he has done. The life of a prophet rests on great faith. Faith for a future he might not witness. And so he sits, a prisoner on account of his message.
Much earlier, John stood in the water with Jesus. He looked him in the eyes and welcomed him into the water. The sights and sounds of that day were correct. John was sure Jesus was the Messiah, the one to come. But the stories after that day were outside of his expectation.
And prison gave him space to wonder. John began to think and calculate and reflect about Jesus. He remembered the prophecies and thought about the stories circulating concerning Jesus. As he calculated, things did not seem to match up just so. He hurried a friend to his side to carry a message to Jesus. This messenger made his way to Jesus and with a bit of trepidation delivered his friends inquiry. “Are you the one to come or should we wait for another.”
Jesus’ answer was different than you might expect, but was an answer nonetheless. He says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me (Matthew 11:3-6).”
John would recognize the language; he likely nodded his head as the messenger relayed Jesus’ words. The language drew on Israel’s long history with God. These words call up the kingdom promises.
God becomes King in Jesus, because the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is God’s saving work. The Gospels assure us that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise, but even John needed a conversion.
And if Jesus is the way God becomes King then it calls everyone into this new kingdom order. This order draws the people of God into this New Order of things. Christmas ushers us into a reign where the promises of God come to life.
I love how Mary, Jesus’s mother, makes sense of her promised baby boy. She sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant, From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the mighty one has done great things for me — holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down the rules from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped the servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants just as he promised our ancestors.”
Do you hear the language of revolt? Christmas calls for the passion of revolution, but it is a different kind of revolt. It is less interested in correct speech and nativity scenes. It demands that we lean into the reign of God. A revolution where the proud are scattered, where the eyes of the blind are opened to life in Technicolor, a world where weak legs jump for joy. A new order of things full of the justice and peace of the Lord, and an new world order where the poor in our midst receive good news.
So count me one of the activists for this kind of Christmas. I care about the reason for the season because It changes everything. It is the season where our Savior comes. The one the parts all things right.