Keep Herod in Christmas?
CrossOver reflection for Week Three • Beginning December 16, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 16
by Rev. Gregg Sealey, CPCC, ACC
How many of us have a nativity scene or crèche decorating our home this Advent?
Nativities include some powerful symbols in this season of waiting, even outside of the Christ child (that incidentally should be absent until Christmas!).
- The shepherds are a powerful reminder of those who are looked down upon as they were the first to see and worship the incarnation of God.
- The wise men/”stargazers” are symbolic of the government representatives who have to travel long distances to celebrate this Good News and are transformed along the journey
- Joseph had three opportunities to bail on Mary but remained steadfast and faithful
- Mary, God’s chosen one, is an unwed, pregnant teenager of all people.
We often see animals that are clean and happy in nativity scenes, but I wonder if we lose some of the message of Christmas (and in fact the message Jesus himself brings to us as Emmanuel/”God with us”) if we keep our holy season completely sanitized. Does the season speak to the world today as richly when we don’t realize the importance of keeping Herod in our awareness during Advent and Christmas.
There was darkness in the world that first Christmas, and there is certainly darkness in our world today. Just as innocents were slaughtered by Herod, we have innocents who have been slaughtered in places of worship, in stores and in schools. We don’t have to look any further than the daily news to see the darkness in our world. Herod is THE symbol of our messed up world ruled by fear and violence.
Will we acquiesce, become cynical or depressed, or will we look for another way? Mary’s song, the Magnificat, foreshadows how the rulers of the darkness will be brought down and how her son will lift us up! The message Jesus brings is a call for us to be people of love and hope in a world of fear and violence; to be people who can attest to the light that cannot be overcome by darkness; to be a people of healing and life in a world of death and disease.
In this CrossOver year, where there is anxiety in our United Methodist system, my prayer is that we don’t forget about the darkness in our world, but it ought not be our sole focus either. What if we were to actually “cross over” from an existence ruled by anxious reactions to the darkness in our world to one in which we can thoughtfully and faithfully respond, guided by the peace and grace of Christ?
There is another way … a way that leads to life.
May we follow that more excellent way, this Advent and always.
Rev. Gregg Sealey serves as Superintendent for the Inland Missional District in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He is the current dean of the PNW Cabinet and is a trained and certified Professional Co-Active Coach.