Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: poor

On His Little Shoulders

Read Luke 2:1-20.

Christmas Ponderings - devotions for the Christmas seasonThe waiting is over. The Child has been born. And we rejoice. A silent night has become a holy night. All is calm as all becomes bright with hope.

As we peek over the side of the cradle, and look at the Peace Child, we feel peace. God’s great kingdom begins with this child. And this child will have authority over that kingdom. For it is as Isaiah wrote, “Authority rests upon his shoulders.” (Isaiah 9:6)

It is the authority to heal the blind and the lame.

It is the authority to raise the dead.

It is the authority to forgive sins.

It is the authority that welcomes the poor and the oppressed. The outcast and the “other.”

It is this authority that will cause those in authority to question him and plot against him. It is this authority that will create tension in the religious and political realms. It is this authority that will be the cause of the greatest weight on his shoulders – that of the cross.

And it starts here, in this cradle, with these little, infant shoulders. It begins with God putting on flesh. It begins with the welcoming of the shepherds – the poorest and often despised in their day. It begins here in the lowliest of places. It begins in the stillness of the night. It begins in a most unexpected way.

This little infant has the authority to bring peace on earth.

And when we look around the world and see the places (read: the hearts) where Jesus reigns, we find peace. The abusive father who turns to Jesus’ authority instead of that of the bottle, finds peace. The sister who turns to Jesus’ authority instead of her own stubbornness, finds peace. The hateful speech of a neighbor who turns to Jesus’ authority instead of that of the tradition he claims, finds peace.

photo by K. Byrne

photo by K. Byrne

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of our greatest theologians of the 20th century, told a German-speaking congregation in Havana, Cuba on December 21, 1930 in a sermon:

But now it is true that in three days, Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world, a world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us anymore, or threaten.

The great transformation will bring peace. And it starts at the cradle.

As we peek over the cradle this Christmas at the infant Christ, let us remember that the weight of the world with all of its brokenness and sin is on his little shoulders. As we peek into the cradle, and look into his eyes of love, remember that Jesus does not bring peace by force, but by invitation. When we invite Christ into the dark places (read: hearts), peace will follow.

Guest Post: When There is Love

Rev. Lisa McGehee is an ordained deacon in the Virginia Annual Conference serving as Minister of Adult Discipleship and Communications at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Henrico, Virginia. 

Slide3Read Psalm 72. 

The theme for the second Sunday of Advent is love. While the word love is not found in Psalm 72, it’s there in the prayers for justice and righteousness. Psalm 72 originated as a prayer for the king – it is thought to be King David’s last psalm written for his son Solomon. It’s a prayer focused on justice and righteousness – God’s justice and God’s righteousness. It’s a prayer that gives a charge to the king (vv. 2-7) to protect and defend the poor and the needy and to take down those that oppress. Or as described in The Message, “Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants.” The psalmist prays that justice and righteousness prevails when the king stays focused on God’s plan.

Where there is justice and righteousness there is peace. Where there is peace there is love. Ah, peace and love. Perhaps there is no other time when we pray for peace and love more than Advent. Oh, but wait, this year we have constantly prayed for peace and justice. We’ve prayed for Egypt, Syria and North Korea. We’ve prayed for innocent children and teachers, for Navy yard workers, for marathon runners who lost their lives because someone was calling out for help or sought revenge. We have prayed for senior adults who cut back on meals because of local food pantries with empty shelves. We’ve prayed for cities that have declared bankruptcy. These issues seem insurmountable. This is due in part because governments and political systems appear to be the controllers, perhaps even the oppressors, of this world. Yes, we have prayed for peace and love this year.

Psalm 72 doesn’t give a strategic plan on how to bring about justice and righteousness. However, the key is found throughout all of scripture – the key is love. Even in the darkest of days and times, where there is love, oppression is lifted. When we remember the love that God has for this world, we work harder for justice and righteousness. This week, think about ways that you can be the king – or queen – of love who stands up for the poor, who helps the children and who lets the oppressor know that their way is not a way of love.

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