Pope Francis stated in a recent sermon that celebrating Christmas this year is a “Charade…when all the world is at war.” It does seem like a bad time to exchange gifts and spend money on decorations when so many millions have no home or country. The refugees have poured into the Europe by the thousands and are predicted to be in the millions. The Exodus from Syria and Iraq are in biblical proportions.
This year I have been challenged by James C. Howell’s book entitled Why This Jubilee? to meditate on some of the lines from Christmas carols that I had for years sung without special consideration. Howell’s journey through the Christmas carols unpacks their most powerful and greatest lyrics. They offer a message of hope to a world torn apart.
Advent and carols are not a means of escaping reality to some nostalgic Victorian Christmas, where mom and dad celebrate with stockings hung on a fireplace and a turkey in the oven. We deck the halls to cheer up the darkness, not to ignore it. Celebrating Christmas has always been in spite of the darkness in the world, not in ignorance or oblivion of the state of the world. When the whole world is at war from France to Mali to Lebanon, we have all the more need to celebrate Christmas. If we are nostalgic about anything it should be about our solidarity with others living in a world still full of hatred and violence. But the good news is that the hatred and violence never win! Oppression must always cease. Advent and Christmas is in defiance to whatever bleakness the world has to offer. Our plea is, “O Come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that morns in lonely exile here until the son of God appears….Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” This is the jubilee! This is “the Hope of all the Nations!” This is the “Christ child born of Mary.” So, “Come let us adore Him!” Because “He rules the world with truth and grace.” And it is true that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Why this jubilee? What is this good news we are proclaiming? Just ask the shepherds, or the guests at Bean’s Café after Thanksgiving meal, or the children at Homework Club, or the families who get to shop at R4R, or refugees finding hospitality and care in a foreign country. Ask Mary…ask Joseph. Ask yourselves this year, “Why this Jubilee?”
It is an Honor to be your Pastor,