Monday, December 19, 2016

someday at christmas: a post for my church family





“Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmas time

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart.
-Stevie Wonder


This Christmas has me feeling a kindredness to Ruth and Naomi. As we walk through this holiday post-election season, I feel torn and shocked by the pain and fear I feel along with some of my dearest friends, and yet hopeful and grateful for my natural and spiritual family.

I hear the bells of Christmas and I also hear what Naomi described in Ruth 1, that many feel the hand of God has gone out against us. I can’t shake the general awareness that in that old Bible tale lies a story that mirrors our own spiritual family at Mosaic Church.

I can almost see three women standing there on the side of an ancient road, Ruth the Jewish mother-in-law with Naomi and Orpah, her Moabite daughters-in-law. They were not so unlike us: different ages, races, and faith backgrounds. Naomi and Orpah thought their love could not withstand the pressure of their loss. The deaths of their husbands had divorced their hearts from the love that had made them a family.

But Ruth clung to her mother-in-law. In my mind’s eye, I see Ruth kneel before Naomi and wrap her arms around her ankles. I see the surprise in Naomi’s wise eyes, and the great longing for family in Ruth’s.

That’s when I know I want to be just like both of them.

Given the challenge of learning to live and love in a diverse, multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-ethnic church, I realize it would be simpler to be more like Orpah. When the days turn dark, we could go back to the comfort of a people who “get” us, back to wherever it is we came from. We could divorce each other, I suppose, by segregating our lives and our faith relationships. There would be no shame in this choice, but it would require we relinquish the joy of building a faith community that validates the gospel's message that we are all one, brothers and sisters united by the sacrifice of Jesus.

Nothing can separate us from God's love, but I suppose we could allow the love we share here at Mosaic to be taken away from us by the deep pain and pressure that has been created by the recent election.

Or we could cling to one another’s ankles and the dream of sharing everything in life: our people, our God, what we gather as we go, and our dream for a better future.

I don't think we know exactly how to love one another perfectly, but I hope we are learning to do it better all the time. God has offered us a beautiful gift in the scriptures, by showing us how Boaz humbly redeemed Ruth and Naomi’s lives. Jesus is our greater Boaz, of course. He has lifted His blanket of grace and covered us with it, making a safe place for us together beneath the shelter of His Church. He offers us a chance to dwell here, to endure the unknown and the pain with Him by our side, to find our way through the darkness, hand in hand and heart to heart.

It will always be easier to stop trying to understand one another. It will always seem like letting go is simpler than clinging to one another.

But today my heart shouts it from the mountains, that I have come too far to go back. Your God will be my God and your people will be my people. Our church has become a song for us in the valley and a prayer in stillness of this needy world. This is the hope of the gospel in our midst: that we would take this journey of hope and faith together, hiding ourselves in Christ’s sacrifice, allowing the love of God to comfort us when loving one another costs us some of our earthly comfort.

The grand heavenly judge has ruled in favor of all who cling to Emmanuel. All that we have lost since the beginning of time will be returned to us One Day. Our Jesus has redeemed us and assured we will inherit our true home in heaven. Our endurance and faith builds a house here on earth together, where generations of Ruths and Naomis can live and learn to love each other better and better every day.

Perhaps we can’t change the entire structure of society or every hate-filled heart simply by loving one another. But our love and unity can answer the questions our culture is asking about fear and freedom. Here within this church fmaily, we can experience a taste of what it will be like on that great Someday at Christmas, when Jesus returns for us. On that Someday, there will be no more hate. Love and freedom for all God’s people will prevail.  

We will all kneel before Him, our arms clinging now to His scarred feet. We will sing for joy because we could not have made it safely home alone. In the end, church and Christmas are about you and me, cradled in Jesus, fully loved and fully loving.

Merry Christmas, my dear family. I love you.

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