Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Showing up for Christmas
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. (Galatians 4:4-5 NRSV)
The saying goes, ninety percent of life is just showing up. Indeed, showing up is a good way to explain what God has done in the story of the coming of Jesus Christ. God showed up to be with us in our world. Jesus would be called Immanuel, Hebrew for the "with us" God.
One simple thing that I have through life learned is that people show up because they care. Some of the most powerful moments I have seen are when someone shows up to something important to me when I did not expect that person to be there. Likewise, some of life's greatest disappointments are when someone I counted on to be there for me failed to arrive. To show up or not, is a vote about whether we care or not.
The people who really care are those who have the love to show up not only when they approve of things, or are comfortable, but those who show up when they are disappointed or know that arriving will bring mixed feelings. This is the kind of showing up modeled in the coming of Jesus Christ through the miracle of the incarnation. This kind of showing up has a word to describe it, forgiveness.
I am asking you to consider remembering those who showed up in your life when times were bad, and especially those who showed up after your actions had hurt them. These are those that love you. These are those who have compassion for you. Compassion in popular parlance is synonymous with empathy. In theological terms, compassion is much more; it sticks to its root meaning in Latin, to suffer with. To forgive means to accept suffering for love, the person offering forgiveness always suffers a bit to extend it. So yes, forgiveness hurts. The bible reminds us there is no forgiveness without some sacrifice. "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22 NRSV)
The word compassion is a great shorthand Gospel summary. God has empathy and decides to come and show up to be with us in our time of need. Even though our need has been created by our own failures, mistakes, and lashing out, God still shows up. This is love. This is the meaning behind the hope of Advent and the promise of Christmas.