The Challenge of a Single Child
Children are challenging. They are dependent upon parents for everything: diaper changes, late night feedings, transportation to soccer practice, help with homework, the list is endless. Beyond tasks, children require the emotional support, encouragement, and unconditional love which are all necessary for their healthy development. Yet children challenge us in ways that surprise us. They challenge the assumptions we have made about our world with the simple question “why?” They teach us new understandings, such as how true love is not based on a person’s achievements or behavior.
The child Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, challenges us in some of these same aspects of our lives, and more. Christians believe this child is the divine in human flesh. All of God’s dreams for the world are shown to us in what this child brings. It is good news for poor social outcasts like shepherds. It is good news for people who seek God in unconventional ways like the Magi chasing stars (astrologers from Babylon). God directly identifies with the homeless and refugees, as Jesus is born in a barn and the family is forced to flee to Egypt. Into the midst of human struggle, God comes as a child, and the angels proclaim glory to God and peace on earth.
Peace: now there’s a challenge. ISIS’s caliphate is defeated, and yet there will continue to be attempts by small cells to intimidate by terror, in a corrupt understanding of Islam, to kill in the name of God. North Korea is rattling nuclear powered sabers and our nation seems only able to respond by reverting to the old cold war approach of attempted peace by assured mutual annihilation. The United States still has troops in Afghanistan in the longest war in U.S. history. There are shootings of the innocent in schools and houses of worship. Leaders in our nation seem more polarized than ever. Events in Charlottesville reminded us that there are still people in our society who wish to harm or kill others simply because of race or religion. While the birth of Christ promises peace, we humans are incapable to live in peace even thousands of years later.
Peace is elusive. Working for peace is difficult and risky. Famous people who have worked for peace, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and even Jesus himself, were killed for their efforts. But those who follow this child Jesus are challenged to work for peace until it is real. And as Jesus has shown us, true peace goes beyond a lack of violence to reconciled relationships, personal contentment, and peace within our souls.
The birth of Christ, this challenging child, brings with him the assurance that we are not alone in the struggle of peace making. This is not a God who is off in the distance watching us. This is a God who is born among us, who is in the midst of us. Will you take up his challenge of peace on earth, goodwill to all people?