Nativity   1 comment

20130627-172708.jpgPhoto: Faith leaders gather at Grace Cathedral to support Marriage Equality on the day of the Supreme Court decisions. Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California speaks at the podium (left).

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ 61 They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
Luke 1:57-66, 80

The Christian Church has traditionally celebrated the Nativity of John The Baptist on June 24. The feast marks half a year until Christmas—the nativity of John’s cousin Jesus, whom Luke’s Gospel tells us is six months younger. As John is the harbinger of Jesus—the Baptizer prepares the way for the Christ—so John’s birth alerts us that the Christ Child is on the way.

The backstory from earlier in the chapter is that Zechariah, refusing to believe that he and his wife could conceive—they are both “getting on in years” (verse 18)—is struck mute as a sign. At the circumcision, having finally accepted God’s good news in this child, Zechariah gives the child God’s appointed name and has his speech returned. He celebrates (beginning in verse 67—see below) by speaking a poem of praise, hope and justice (one of several such songs in Luke’s early chapters).

I see some auspiciousness in the occurrence of the two US Supreme Court decisions on Marriage Equality in the week of this Feast Day. After a long wait—months between arguments and the decisions, years between the original suits and the decisions, and an eternity for gays and lesbians who have hoped for this right—the court spoke. And we sang songs of praise, hope and justice in celebration.

And yet this is not the light, but it testifies to the light: full justice has not yet come; this is merely the harbinger of justice, a sign of hope. There is much to do—for marriage equality, for LGBTQ rights in general, and for justice and peace among all people. These decisions admonish me to work harder.

Certainly the other justice issues that have happened this week are even more insistent calls to action: the day before the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, SCOTUS weakened the Voting Rights Act, allowing states to make it harder for minorities to vote—enfranchising fewer where we should be enfranchising more. And in Texas on Tuesday, the mostly-male state senate would stop at almost nothing—including trying to alter a time stamp on a vote—to restrict women’s rights. But one woman, Wendy Davis—cheered on by many more in the gallery and online—stood (literally) against them and turned the tide.

I believe with all my heart that this nation and this world are getting better, that things are changing for the good. That we are becoming more compassionate, more empathetic. That the power and privilege of straight white men like me is shrinking, and that we will ALL be more free because of it. Many days the signs in the news seem to be pointing the other way; horrible injustices happen all over every day. We are still too easily caught up in fear and group-think. But we’re getting better. In weeks like this—even in weeks like this, because of weeks like this—I see more signs of hope than despair.

As of this writing, Nelson Mandela is clinging to life. The great justice-worker has lived long and leaves an amazing legacy of changing the world. His example, too, calls us to work harder for justice. Bear fruits worthy of repentance.

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

68 ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
Luke 1:67-79

One response to “Nativity

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  1. Scott, this is beautiful and moving. ‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance.’ What a powerful reminder that is. Thank you.

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