by Jim Loduha
This year it has been difficult for me to get into the Christmas spirit. It is often my favorite time of year, a time for generosity and the warmth of friendships and family. This year feels different, and I’m wondering if the uneven economy, the pattern of systemic injustices and the brash insincerity among national leaders is making me weary. In the face of my exhaustion, I am this morning considering the reminder of a favorite author, Gustavo Gutiérrez. (Forgive me using only excerpts from a devotion he wrote in Watch for the Light.)
Jesus was born in a particular place at a particular time. He was born a man of no importance in the eyes of the cynical and arrogant authorities as well as in the eyes of those who disguised cowardice as peace and political realism.
He was born in Bethlehem…where at birth he was surrounded by shepherds and flocks. His parents had come to a stable after vainly knocking at numerous doors in the town, as the Gospels tell us; we are reminded of the popular Mexican custom of las posadas. There, on the fringe of society, the Word became history, contingency, solidarity, and weakness.
…Jesus was born of Mary among a people that at the time were dominated by the greatest empire of the age. If we forget that fact, the birth of Jesus becomes an abstraction, a symbol, a cipher. Apart from it historical coordinates the event loses its meaning. To the eyes of Christians the incarnation is the irruption of God into human history: an incarnation into littleness and service in the midst of this world; an irruption that smells of the stable.
The Son of God was born…in a marginal area…he lived with the poor and emerged from among them to inaugurate a kingdom of love and justice. That is why many have trouble recognizing him.
Only with this as a starting point is it possible to believe in God. It is in the concrete setting and circumstances of our lives that we must learn to believe.
Christmas – Advent – is a time of God coming to a specific time and place, among specific people groups to deal with specific political and socio-economic regimes that bleed of painful injustices. This year, many centuries later, we are feeling the pain and the weight of seemingly insurmountable injustices. For my Christmas season this year, I am starting my belief over. The opulence is out. The joy must be found in new ways. For this light of God in Jesus to be real this year, I will be entering Christmas Day stripped of me. It’s the only way I can stand with those whom Jesus came to lift up.