Justice at Christmastime

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Luke 1:46-55

Christmas is a time of peace and joy, as the angels sang, it is a time of good will toward all. So it is particularly jarring for many of us when the problems of the world intrude on our Christmas celebrations. We hear about demonstrations on the streets of Philadelphia and major cities across the country relating to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; we read about challenges to U.S. immigration policy; we are told that the economy is improving but most of us know people who are out of work. Are these “tidings of comfort and joy?”

The song of Mary, known as the Magnificat, reminds us that the first Christmas was not about making us feel good, but about God’s determination to turn the world upside-down. The proud will be brought low, the powerful pulled down, and the rich will be empty. The birth of Jesus didn’t mean vacation days and lots of presents, but God’s setting things right as God intended them to be, instituting justice and righteousness throughout the world. In the events of the first Christmas was contained the promise that the day was coming when if the rich did not make the world right, the poor would find sustenance in their God, and if those who had plenty did not share, then God would provide for the hungry and send the rest away. It was a promise of good news to the least, and an invitation to those with much to share and do right by the least, or find that God will scatter them in the thoughts of their hearts.

Christmas may be a time of joy and goodwill, but it is also a time to renew our commitment to do what God requires of humanity – to seek justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). In this holiday, let us remember that Christmas without justice is an oxymoron. The best gift we can give to Jesus on his birthday is to reaffirm our determination to be people who care for the least of God’s children until the Messiah returns to care for them in person.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came to bring hope for the hopeless and new life to those whose lives were dead, not only from sin but from the oppression of others. Help me this day to be sensitive to the needs of the world around me. Open my eyes to the places where your children suffer and yearn for release. Give me the determination to act, in whatever ways I can, to bring peace where there is conflict, hope where there is despair, and possibility where there are only dead ends. Let me be a conduit of new life, in imitation of your blessed coming so long ago. This is my birthday gift to you. Amen.

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