From the daily lectionary today;
“Jesus called (his disciples) to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
– Matthew 20:25-28
Disciples of Jesus stand today just two days from the beginning of Advent. It is one season of two in the year (Lent being the other) where disciples are encouraged to step back, reflect, and consider our lives under the gaze of a holy God. Both are seasons of stripping away, of thoughtfully engaging in deprivation rather than sense indulgence, taking away things that provide us comfort and meaning in order to focus in on the meaning of the upcoming time.
Advent, and Christmas, then, are about remembering God’s great love for us, which is so great that he sent his Son as the fullness of truth. Jesus emptied himself of power, and chose to embrace the human experience, beginning as a deeply vulnerable child. He was such a threat to the powerful even as a child that a king committed genocide to seek to remove the threat. He was not born to the elite, but to a common man and his wife. And over the course of his life, he proclaimed this simple message from the lectionary today;
“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.”
“Because the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That last phrase has come to mean so much more to me over the past year. Jesus gave his life as a ransom. In his life and teaching, he ransoms us from our selfish, rebellious way of life that makes us comfortable but spits on and denies the dignity of God and his creation. He redeems us to be people of radical humility, unconditional love, and simple obedience. In Jesus’ death, he ransoms us from the fear of death; facing his conspirators and his eventual murder with quiet strength. In this act, even as we crushed him in our rebellion, he showed the love of God and the depth of God’s commitment to forgive and reconcile us. And we are to do the same. In his resurrection, he ransoms us further from the fear of death, revealing the power of a God more powerful than death; a God who rewards his people in life with abundant life and meaning, and a God who rewards his faithful people in death with life that extends into eternity.
Jesus ransoms us.
In the absurdity and sadness of what the Christmas season has become.
In the detached time of busyness, complexity, stress, and insane spending.
On this day, Black Friday, the day where we are encouraged to wait for stores to open at absurd hours so we can give them our money to “save.”
This official beginning of the Christmas season, the season where we follow the example of Santa Claus, raining down gifts everywhere in blissful disregard for the cost later,
may one single voice, the voice of the reason for the season,
“One’s life is not found in the abundance of possessions. Cease your striving. Simplify. Give your life, your energy, your money, to those who need it most. Spend your time and money primarily among the marginalized.”
Few will listen to this voice,
in a world where for Christmas, our parades sing the theme, “I believe in imagination. I believe in childlike hope. I believe in love. I believe in…
Yet may disciples of Jesus strip away the stress of the season, taking on the resentment of friends and family who have grown used to the way of materialism, gathering that burden on our shoulders for the sake of our King, and say;
“Jesus is enough.”
“God’s kingdom isn’t about our successes or failures; it’s about God’s movement in this world. We must learn to simply join in, wait, and hope.”