Saturday, December 08, 2007

Running on empty

(Read Amos 5:18-27)

'The first Nowell
the angel did say
was to certain rich folk
in comfort as they lay . . .'

Well, that's not quite how the carol goes, is it? But it seems as if this is how most of society interprets it these days. That the reason for the season is to spend, to consume, to fill our homes and our lives with more and more.

Think I am being too much of a curmudgeon? Think I am being too negative? Think I have become a scrooge? Maybe so. But I look at the ads on TV here, in a time when a economic crisis is brewing in our midst, folks are being told 'maybe this is the time to buy a BMW' . . . a big hunk of jewelry, that chalet you've always dreamed about! It's tempting, isn't it? I admit that, if I had the money, there is that list of things that I would go out and buy, and a classic car is one of those items.

But then I read the Advent scriptures, then I read the Christmas story, and what happens? Amos comes knocking on my door wanting to collect a cup of justice for the people sleeping under the bridges; Gabriel and the angels come whispering to poor folks working the night shift to go look at what God has done for them; Mary comes caroling about the One who comes to fill the hungry with good things and to send me away empty.

The Christmas story is pretty explicit that God came down through (and for) the poor. And that's the part on the story we seem to always overlook. In our costly decorations, in our beautifully staged pageants, in our marketing of the message, we always seem to leave out the poor.

So, maybe it's time we remember them, and the justice we are called to share with them. Maybe, when we go and spend money on a present for a neighbor, we can send the same amount to a local shelter. Maybe, when we buy our Christmas feast, we can provide a feast for another family through a food pantry. Maybe, when we decide to go caroling, we will make sure we sing to the poor in our neighborhoods, not just the privileged. Maybe, just maybe, we can empty ourselves this year.

Because if I become empty then I, too, become poor. I, too, can hear the promises whispered by Gabriel. I, too, can open my heart to the way God wants to be incarnated in my soul. I, too, can be filled with those good things called grace, hope, peace, joy, reconciliation, justice. And then, I can go out and empty myself of these gifts, so I once more become empty enough to welcome God, once again.

The path of justice we are asked to take to Bethlehem is all downhill. How do we keep from putting roadblocks in the way so that justice can roll down to those who need it the most?

Prayer: Not a not a slow drip, not a trickle, not a gently flowing stream, but let your justice
rough-tumble through our lives, River of Righteousness, so it can sweep us along to all those places where we can serve and grow with all of your people. Amen.

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

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