Tonight, as part of the adult Christmas Eve service, I will be reading Rev. Mark Belletini’s take on the birth of baby Jesus. By the time I read it, it will be the forth version in which I have played some part in the past two weeks, the first two of which were HIGHLY participatory and involved random costuming.
Though I grew up celebrating Christmas, the Nativity Story is not mine — ours was a thoroughly secular Christmas. No Baby Jesus. Just Santa. And Frosty. Preferably, Rankin and Bass style. Or Miracle on 34th Style. Definitely not Biblical scriptural style.
I feel particularly Unitarian when it comes to this holiday — the teachings of this wonderful rabbi were revolutionary and wonderful. I love the compassion, the crossing of socially constructed borders, the standing against the Empire for which Jesus stood.
I am, however, not so much moved by the miracles. Maybe I should set aside some time and read the Jefffersonian Bible, in which Thomas Jefferson (yes, one of our founding fathers) did a version of the Bible taking out the miracles. So, I am not so much moved by miracles like those associated with his conception or birth.
(Don’t even get me started on the cross thing.)
This afternoon, I was honored and blessed to take part in a #blacklivesmatter vigil organized by congregants of the church where I am the intern minister. Despite the day — it’s Christmas Eve, people — and despite the rain (first it was drizzle, then it was full-out rain) we had fifty (50!!) people standing on the side of love, proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, that we will be a part of the healing of the festering wound of racism in our nation. Three different area Unitarian Universalist congregations were represented, as well as people from the town not associated with the church. Children, young adults, Gen-Xers, Boomers, and perhaps even one or two from the Silent Generation.
It was, indeed, a (secular) miracle.
Because I love this becoming-a-minister thing, and because I want to engage parts of my faith’s traditions, I am intentionally engaging this birth of Jesus story. It’s kind of important. I am trying to figure out what is there, despite its foreign-to-me feel, despite my somewhat allergic feel, that can move me. It moves so many people I know, including numerous people whom I love and respect. I know it’s worth my effort.
Today, in getting ready for these two events — the #blacklivesmatter vigil and the 7:30 Christmas Eve service — I finally got it. The final paragraph of the Belletini narrative says
That night, the magi dreamed they heard a message warning them not to return to King Herod, so they went back to Persia following a different route.
Because those three wise persons enacted a kind of sedition (they went against a direct royal “request” to give away the location of the newly born Prince of Judea, whom the king knew to be a threat to his power), a wanton act of civil disobedience really, a child was able to grow into his full potential. And what a potential he lived into!
That’s what I want for the Black and Brown men (and women) who are disproportionately jailed, institutionalized, and killed (too often at the end of a police officer or vigilante’s gun). I want them to have the chance to live into their full potential. Not marred by systematic violence or poverty-induced disenfranchisement. I want them to have the chances equitable to those of my own white children. I want to live into my faith’s believe that every child born is a holy child, that for each child who is born, a morning star rises, and speaks to the universe who we are.
I hear that message — the one that the magi dreamed, warning them not to go back to Herod — in the movement that is alive and fierce in our nation, that asks each and every one of us to resist the racist system as it now stands, to take part in dismantling the unjust systems that plague our fellow citizens. To live our lives, individually and collectively, as if Black Lives Matter.
I want to be one of the three (thousand? million? hundred million?) wise persons. How about you?