You can keep your Jingle Bells, and Frosty the Snowman’s, I don’t care much for Sleigh Ride’s or having a White Christmas (I do after all live in West Texas). Because my favorite Christmas song of all time has got to be “O Holy Night”
It’s one of the best hymn’s that has ever been written. And while it’s a pity that it only makes an appearance in December, I think I understand why we can only sing it a couple of times a year. It’s too insistent, it a song that makes too many demands on our life.
“Long Lay the world, in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”
This is a song about the Solidarity of God. About a God who chooses to be among us.
But it’s who he chooses to be among that fascinates me. This is a God who chooses to be among this little nation of peasants, He appears to shepherds and teenagers and fishermen and single mom’s and little kids. That’s who God was with.
Rene Girard was a French philosopher who taught at Stanford University. He was a brilliant anthropologist who was fascinated with one single question: “Why, in modern times, does the marginalized person have moral authority?”
This trend was confusing to Girard because there was nothing comprable to it in ancient literature. In fact, everything was pretty much the exact opposite. The ancient world, celebrates the strong, the heroic, not the vulnerable and weak. And this fascinated Girard, because he noticed that it was picking up steam. Liberation movements working for minorities, and against slavery were growing more and more popular. But where did this way of thinking come from?
And that’s where Girard’s life began to change. He traced this social phenomenon all the way back to the life of Jesus. He discovered that with Jesus’ birth and death, Jesus introduced a new plot to human history. The victim also mattered. The people who were oppressed mattered. And to the confusion of his peers at Stanford University, Rene Girard started following Jesus.
We live in a world that thinks the most important thing that you can do in your life is take the right position on the right issues. Christmas reminds us that the most important thing is to be standing in the right place.
This is how Christmas worked, it slowly created a new ethic. God came and stood among the least of these, until everyone else started to realize that they mattered to. And slowly it worked.
Who would have ever thought that a baby in a manger in Bethlehem would deconstruct an economy that was built on slave trading 1500 years later, or a sex-trade two thousand years from then. But it happens all the time. Jesus has awoken us to the reality that the worst lie that someone can believe is that some lives matter more than others. And He does it by standing with all the wrong people.
Father Damion was a Catholic priest who decided to go into mission work…In Hawaii. But before you start thinking about what a cushy job he had, you need to know one more thing. Father Damion went to work in a leper colony. He was one of the most beloved figures in Christian history, he served and loved these people as their bodies slowly fell apart. He was so great at what he did, that today Damion is considered the patron saint of the outcast or marginalized.
But the best part of his ministry came after 16 years of being there.
Father Damion spilled hot water on his foot, and noticed that it didn’t scald him. In fact, he didn’t feel anything. So Damion poured hot water directly on his foot, but it confirmed what he already knew. The disease that had taken so many of those around him, was now a part of his life as well.
That next Sunday morning, Father Damion stood up to preach, as he had for almost 20 years. And every week he started each sermon with the words, “My fellow Believers.” But this day, he started with the words, “My fellow Lepers.”
And the soul felt it’s Worth.