Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Salvation Doesn't Trickle Down

Last night I wrapped up our latest online/season/pastor's Bible study with a great group of young adults.  The scripture was The Annunciation, Luke 1:27-38, the fateful passage where we learn of Gabriel's approach to Mary and her acceptance of the Lord's will to bring Jesus Christ into the world.

We were reflecting last night on what it meant that Christ, the Son of God, would be born into such humble circumstances - by God's own choosing.  It's a topic that's been mined for meaning for centuries, and at times it's been avoided by the church (the empire, rather) altogether.

In my prep for the message on Christmas Eve I've gotten fairly stuck on this topic.  What does the humility of the holy birth mean?  Better yet, if Christ came today, what people would he be born into?

I think a lot of American Evangelicals assume Christ would be born in America.  Because, why not?  Right?  So, think about how Christ came the first time ... He came to the Hebrew people.  The Hebrews weren't exactly well-to-do folk in the Roman Empire.  For sure, there were wealthy among them - but they would always be under subjugation to the Romans.  So, they were second class.  And Mary and Joseph were Jewish AND poor.  Poor folk among poor folk.  Doubly poor then, to get to the point.

Who would that be today?  For sake of the American argument, you gotta go for the poorest demographic around here.  In Texas, where I'm from, you'd be looking at illegal Hispanic immigrants.  There are wealthy among them, there are educated among them, especially those able move into citizenship.  It stands to reason that Christ might come from somebody such as them.  Or perhaps a Cuban family that has come in under the radar in Cuba?  Or an African American family in Ferguson still trying to overcome a world that ignores white privilege?  Or from a Native American family in Oklahoma?

I wonder if we expect Christ to come again today the same way as those who were originally waiting for the Messiah ... As a triumphant and conquering king.  When are we gonna learn?

Something that we came up with in our study last night just really took me by surprise ... Why did Christ come to the poor of the poor?  Maybe because God knows a lot about how the world works from God's vantage point.  If Christ had come to the rich, would the salvation message have trickled down to the masses or stayed at the top?

Yes, salvation does come from above, from God's glory to us.  But the humbleness of the Holy Birth tells us that in the world, the message bubbles up from the bottom.  It tells us where we should be looking for Jesus now.  Because God is for everybody.  This is the good news of the Incarnation.

Mmmmmhmmm.  And Merry Christmas!