Job title: Messiah
Also known as: The Christ or anointed one, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father (or could be Mother—we’re all about equal opportunities), Prince or Princess of Peace, Child of God, Savior, Lord, Word (capital W), Light, Life.
Requirements: Must bring peace forever to all the nations, save all the people—and the planet and all of creation, rule with justice and righteousness, shine a light in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome, bring life to everything that lives, liberate the oppressed, heal the sick, care for the poor, speak truth to power, preach, teach, generally spread the good news of God’s love, and feed thousands of people with five loaves and two fish. Ability to walk on water is a plus.
Hazards: Risk of crucifixion for upsetting the powers that be.
Compensation: No financial remuneration. Undying gratitude of millions of followers throughout the ages. Oh, and eternal life.
Start date: ASAP. Please send resumes to God. The world is waiting.
Any takers? It’s a daunting job description. Do you know of anyone who could even begin to fill this role?
Some of us want one leader who will magically fix everything just the way we want it. But the task is too big for one person, even someone who has a special “in” with God. Let’s see: rule the world, make peace break out everywhere and forever, save the people, bring about justice and righteousness, and the list goes on.
Sometimes we are tempted to vote for a candidate who seems to be promising what we want through slogans such as “Hope,” “Change,” “Yes we can,” or “Make America Great Again.” But then they get into office and we discover their feet of clay. They are human, just like us. They can’t just wave a wand and make things better. And their idea of “better” may not be the same as ours, in any case.
We can’t be the Messiah all by ourselves. The job description is wayyyyyyy too long. But maybe if we divided up the job and worked together, we could come closer. A job-share program.
I saw an example of this kind of job-sharing when I was a kid. Every summer, we had family reunions over the 4th of July at the family lake cabin. There might be 15 or more of us sitting around the dinner table. After dinner, my grandmother would have us each draw slips of paper from her hand. On each slip was a task. “Wash silverware.” “Dry pots and pans.” When we broke down the enormous task of cooking and cleaning for all these people, and when we all pitched in and did our task, the work went quickly and there was a sense of teamwork. No one had to do everything. But everyone did something. Even we kids did our part.
Filling all the job requirements of a Messiah might just take all of us, everyone doing their bit. Some to feed the hungry, some to clothe the naked, some to house the homeless—even as staff at Mary’s Place and other shelters are doing on this holiest of nights. Some to care for the sick, even as the doctors and nurses are doing at hospitals on this night. Some to be excellent parents, teachers, preachers, artists, poets, builders, farmers, and on and on. We need everyone. Every job can be a ministry of the Messiah, if we just know how to go about it.
So how do we begin?
Doing the work of the Messiah begins with love. I asked my 13-year-old niece the other day what message she would want to hear in a Christmas Eve sermon. She considered for a moment and then said, “I would want to hear that I am loved. That we are loved.” Smart girl.
So on Christmas we get to remember that we are surrounded by God’s love. The birth of Jesus Christ reminds us that God loves humans so much that God becomes embodied—in the Christ child, and in us. God is not just out there someplace, off in some heaven not paying attention. God is in us—in me, in you, and you, and you, and you. God is in this room right now, loving every one of us more than we can imagine.
Sit for a moment and soak that in. God loves you more than you can fathom. Even after we made that bad mistake, cheated that time, said hateful things, or all the ways in which we fall short. God still loves us more than we can even take in. And if God can let go of our shortcomings and keep loving us, then we are invited to do the same. We get to unhitch from those mistakes, heal, move through and beyond them. What a gift is this love. What a Christmas gift, to be surrounded by such love. So we get to practice receiving this love—maybe right here in this congregation, or in our families, or in serving others.
Love is one of the candles on our Advent wreath. The other candles stand for hope, peace, and joy. We get to practice hope, even in such challenging times as this. We are a people of hope, because our hope depends not on external events but on God. We get to cultivate inner joy that transcends fleeting happiness. And we get to wage peace until people can learn to live in harmony, until the needy have the essentials and the wealthy discover the joys of sharing.
Here is an extended quote from the Christmas message of the Rev. Traci Blackmon, executive minister of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries:
Lately, the wonder has been difficult to fathom and the miracles more difficult to see, but they are still happening. The miracles of joy and love and peace and hope are still springing forth. Amidst the confusion and the mean spiritedness of our days, the spirit of the Christ-child is still being born again and again.
We are the beneficiaries of Hope Incarnate.
We who wait in this Advent Season with great anticipation. We who are breathed and born in Hope of the coming of the Christ child.
We must expect Joy! We must expect Love. We must expect Peace. We must expect the in-breaking of Christ among us.
We must expect Light to show up in the midst of darkness.
We must expect Peace to show up in the turbulence of our storms.
We must expect Hope to show up in the [most] desolate of places.
We must expect Generosity to show up where scarcity abounds.
We must expect Life to spring forth from where death has been pronounced. The in-breaking of the Christ is to be expected. Because we know that Christ has come!
For unto us a child has been born. Unto us a Son has been given. And authority rests upon His shoulders. And He is named Wonderful. Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.
May this Advent Season fill our hearts with Great Expectation of what is possible when Hope is born anew. May we expect Joy and Love and Peace and the in-breaking of Christ through our hearts and feet and hands as we care for one another. May the Light of the Christ within us shine through.
Reminding us...we are the Christmas we are waiting for and when we serve, Joy is to be expected.
[Traci Blackmon, “Hope Is Born Anew,” Dec 15, 2017, http://www.ucc.org/hope_is_born_anew?utm_campaign=jpanet_dec21_17&utm_medium=email&utm_source=unitedchurchofchrist.]
The angels said to the shepherds, “Fear not!” We get to dare to open ourselves to this invitation to love that can be born in our hearts and souls—the Christ child within us. We get to choose which of the slips we want to do in the grand task of filling the Messiah’s shoes.
There are slips at the end of each row. But unlike the ones that my grandmother handed out, these are blank, because God invites us to choose what part of the Messiah’s work we want to do. Choose something that makes your heart sing. Good parent. Preacher. Teacher. One who heals the sick, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, finds housing for the homeless. Poet. Musician. And so on. Write down one part of the Messiah’s work that calls to you. And then keep this slip someplace where you will run across it now and then. Maybe in your wallet, or on your desk. Just remind yourself that this work you do so well is a ministry. It is part of the oversized job of embodying the Messiah in a world that is dying for such good news.
Job title: Messiah
Start date: ASAP. Please send resumes to God. The world is waiting. Amen.