Lectionary Reading: Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
Within the United States, we have continued along the political polarization that has widened in the last two decades. It seems that many Americans were dreading Thanksgiving because they didn't want to get into political discussions with relatives where a diversity of opinion was expected. At one point, it was considered rude to discuss religion or politics at the dinner table. The pew research center suggests that religion is hardly discussed at all anymore. So that just leaves politics.
The difficulty people have with a difference of opinion is astounding. Both Democrats and Republicans view the opposing party very unfavorably at around 45% which may not be surprising. What is interesting is that in 1994, this figure was only at 20%. Our distrust of those who differ in belief or philosophy has increased.
As we approach Christmas, our Advent time of waiting comes to an end. Our longing for God's presence or comfort or justice is fulfilled in the quiet reverence found in the simplicity of the nativity. It may be that we can put aside our differences around the Communion table. Jesus does represent a juxtaposition even in his birth.
As we read Luke's narrative, we see that angels and shepherds become the first messengers of the Good News. These two groups could not have been considered more opposite in terms of societal respect. Angels are seen as higher than mortals and the direct messengers of the divine. Shepherds were not always trusted as they might easily stray onto your land in a time when fences were not as prevalent. However, these too became messengers of the incarnation.
There is something important not only in the declaration but also in the heralds selected to share the message. It seems that both prominence and obscurity go by the wayside when something this monumental occurs.
And so for Christmas, we set aside our differences and bow before the Lord. As we share the Eucharist together, we may remember the parable of Jesus where the tax collector and the Pharisee both kneel to pray in the temple. Both would have been on the opposite sides of what was considered respectable and yet the tax collector is praised. Jesus seems to turn expectation on its head. If this is the case, maybe our celebration of his birth can do the same. Our faith may allow us to reexamine our own views and even if we don't come to a new conclusion, maybe we can grant a little dignity to our brothers and sisters across the aisle.
If we are honest, most people are interested in the same things: love, peace, joy and hope. It is interesting that these are the four traditional themes of Advent. Maybe Christmas allows us to recognize what we have in common rather than what separates us.
Photo by Rosanne Haaland via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.