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As birth narratives go the Greek Gods had “unnatural” births: Dionysus was born “perfect” from Zeus’ thigh. Athena was born fully grown from Zeus’s forehead, fully armed and clad in armor. No Labor pains here. Also no humanity. Humans need to push to accomplish co-creation with God and that was the plan for Jesus: God fully human and fully divine.
The Isaiah passage is classic for Christmas Eve. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light for a child’s been born for us, a son given to us. Of course, Isaiah’s not writing about Jesus. For Isaiah, this is a passage of regime change where the powers of one generation are passed onto the next. And every time that happens, there is a possibility, an opening for God’s grace to break through on the stage of human history. Isaiah is saying that this is the opportunity for us as we pass leadership to another generation that children can save us. But that’s a very vulnerable thing to confess and a very anti-establishment thing to confess. As church, as families, we spend so much of our time trying to form the next generation so that they will be like us. And we can get really upset when they’re not. They dress different, use different criteria to define themselves and understand communication media! But the possibility also exists that they might take seriously saving the environment, the creatures and the human race!
The only possibility that God’s grace could break through on the stage of human history were the PUSH principles of: Prayer, Preparation, Persistence and Praise. In the generations of the People of God, prophets, matriarchs and patriarchs stepped up when called and told the People ”you must Pray, Prepare, Persist and Praise God until something happens.”
The glorious possibility is that God could do something new. God might heal a world as broken as ours is, that would be Good News. A new generation could actually give good advice, and counsel us in ways that stir up marvel and amazement, not just repetition of our hard-learned lessons. People could be set free. The Prince of Peace, who would not be going to war on our behalf and in our name, would bring peace to us and others who would choose something besides war.
How will change happen? Well, part of it has to be letting go of what was before. Jesus came to help humanity let go of erroneous notions and interpretations of God’s law.
Part of the process of birth is Knowing when to PUSH letting what has grown up inside you get out. And as the mother’s cry fades into the child’s cry we believe in a God who hears both of those cries and wipes all of those tears. Like Mary we need to let the child out And cut the cord. The child Jesus, this new thing God has done.
Our children never see things through our own eyes. We behold them face to face, but that means we see things from opposite directions, very literally. And what they see and we can’t see is a miraculous opportunity.
Birthing is a painful time. It is a time of great crying. But PUSH we must. And after all that labor, How frightening if we do not hear the child cry!
So Isaiah tells the People of God to anticipate a child with new ideas and possibilities. Isaiah and all the prophetic voices say: Pray, Prepare, Persist and Praise until something happens- Prayer, Preparation, Persistence and Praise. Voila THE child.
Secondly, On Christmas Eve, we think about the stars aligning. So there’s a great light over the nativity. God’s light is always exactly where you need it in the dark. God’s light was in Christ Jesus – and He was God – the same God that was at Creation.
How often are you in a dimly lit place and you’re trying to read something, and the light’s behind you, and you’re in the way you can’t see what you’re reading because you are in the way.
Let the light shine – shift. Shift is not quite PUSH but it could be shove. You’ve got to shift [PUSH Yourself] to let the light shine on what needs to be illumined. You need to move the light or move yourself, sometimes you need to move heaven and earth for the possibility of salvation.
So this moment in time – the end of 2021, while we contemplate the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth and the labor necessary to birth his agenda of LOVE that is Peace with Justice in all areas of Human interaction – this is the time to push: to Pray, Prepare, Persist and Praise Until Something Happens to create a more just social order – until the Kingdom comes on Earth as it is in Heaven.