Friday, December 23, 2016

'Rebellions are built on hope.' Reflections on Luke 2.1-20 (Christmas Eve 2016)

Rebellions Are Built on Hope
Reflections on Luke 2.1-20

Christmas Eve 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

         As 2016 draws to a close, I am seeing, hearing and reading news stories and ‘op ed’ pieces that are apprehensive about the year to come.  Regional wars continue to create refugees and humanitarian crises throughout the world.  ‘Brexit’ and the election of a populist candidate in the United States are causing political and diplomatic uncertainty in the corridors of power.  The gap between the wealthiest and the poorest still grows.  Climate change, whatever part we play in it, is real and will affect all of us for generations to come.

         On this silent night, this holy night, I cannot help but cast my imagination back through the millennia to that cattle shed in Bethlehem.  Joseph and Mary did not live in a world too different from our own.

         They lived in a part of the Mediterranean world squeezed between the Roman and Persian empires with their competing imperial claims and warring client states.  Joseph and Mary knew demagogues and tyrants.  They knew poverty and the fragility of personal security.  They knew the risk of bringing a child into such a world, even the Child of Promise.  Why did Joseph and Mary take the risk?  One word:  Hope.

         Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Joseph and Mary knew that God’s promise of freedom and fullness of life comes into being through people who dare to hope.  Such hope is not naïve.  Hope in God’s promises looks at the world with cool eyes that assess danger, discern falsehood and resist fear.  The cool eyes of hope see the cracks in the façade of power and greed and encourage us to plant seeds of hope in those cracks.  Each time one of these seeds springs into life, it widens the crack and weakens the walls that fear and intolerance try to maintain.

         For two thousand years Christians have gathered on this silent night, this holy night to celebrate the hope incarnate in this Child of Joseph and Mary.  This hope is so powerful that in affluent societies such as ours it is trivialized and commercialized so that its radical call for change can be ignored.  This hope is so powerful that in oppressive and intolerant societies it cannot be proclaimed openly without courting physical danger.

         Tonight we celebrate the hope that ‘this is the end of the world as we know it’ and the beginning of the world as God loves it.  Tonight we dare to hope that we, the seeds God plants in the walls that divide, will flourish and will weaken all that holds human beings in thrall.

         Last Sunday Paula, our sons and I went to see ‘Rogue One’, a prequel film in the ‘Star Wars’ saga.  As so often happens, I caught a whisper of the gospel in the film.  At a crucial moment in the story, one character says, ‘Rebellions are built on hope.’  I won’t spoil the film for you, but I will say that the film does what fiction does so well.  It reminds us that even a small group of people with hope can accomplish more than they can ask or imagine if they are willing to bear the cost that hope might bring upon them.

         Let us enter the new year with hope rather than apprehension or anxiety.  Let us trust that the hope that the Christ Child has planted in our hearts will give us cool eyes to see danger, to discern falsehood and to resist fear.  That same Child asks us to plant such seeds of hope wherever we can and in whomever we encounter.  Who knows?  Perhaps next year on this silent night, this holy night, we shall celebrate how these seeds of justice, of loving kindness and of humility have flourished and brought down even one small section of the walls that injustice, self-interest and pride have sought to build.  

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