“We can do both Joy and Sadness”©
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are a few facts to chew on. First, in 2019, that’s right – next year, ethnic minority children will be the majority of all children in the United States. Second, minority children are already the majority among all children in 10 states. Third, in less than 25 years the white members of this society will become the minority population.
These facts hit home to me at the same time that immigration has become a very divisive reality among us; one more issue that is being used to divide us from one another. In the woeful American tradition of the “Know Nothing” political party, the “No Irish Need Apply!” policies, and Jim Crow voter suppression tactics we now have currents of fear running right through how we treat the immigrant, the alien, and the asylum seekers on our southern border.
Why, one might ask is Joseph and Mary not seen as people to be feared? Not to get too far ahead of the story, but when they fled with their infant son to Egypt apparently there was no barrier to prevent their entry – no wall, no fence, no steel slats. When they arrived do you suppose they assimilated with diaspora Jews – the ones who spread around the region for economic reasons? What do you suppose would have happened to Salvation History had the Egyptian government decided to separate the baby Jesus from Mary and Joseph after they had the audacity to seek refuge?
2018, more than any year I can remember (with the possible exception of the Vietnam War years) the entangled combination of joy and sadness is what I think marks this Christmas. The joyful message of Christ becoming human and by so doing ennobling every human being’s worldly existence cannot be slipped under a rug. And the sad condition of cruel and brutal treatment of human beings at the border – on both sides of the border – may not be avoided.
Joy and sadness is the mix of this Christmas.
On Christmas Eve our community celebrates the liturgical reminder which is the Service of Lessons & Carols to clarify for ourselves, yet again, that we are immersed and embedded in a life sustaining, renewing, and deepening faith. This appearance of the Christ is a joy filled event. After much expectation we experience the manifestation of the Word become flesh, the revelation that God makes all things new. It is reason to celebrate, yes to be joyful.
At the same time we constantly see the cruelties and the smashing of hopes that happen in our world. We are probably all aware of the 7 year old girl who died while in the custody of United States government border patrol personnel. Last week I heard a radio interview of a person connected with a shelter on the Mexican side of the border. This person said that in the previous week at her shelter two children were strangled and murdered. Another child received an anonymous message that said, “I know where you are and I’m coming to kill you.” How deep can this terror go? When will the sadness end?
We do not know. So, in the absence of knowing we believe that when it comes to joy and sadness we can – we must – deal with both. But what is to keep the joy from being mindless and the sadness from being bottomless? What I mean by mindless is the kind of Christmas joy that fills the feast with decorations and festivities with little sense of meaning. And a bottomless sadness would be a capitulation to the unrelentingness of human-on-human cruelty.
We can do both joy and sadness by freeing ourselves from our fear of the accusation that we are naïve and just too unrealistic. And we do that by believing in Isaiah’s prophecy that the “little child shall lead them” Isaiah11:6.
Did you happen to see Greta Thunberg, the 15 year old Swedish girl, at the recent meeting in Poland on the Climate Accords (COP24)? She addressed all the adults by pointing out that they abandon strong measures to address climate change at their peril. She told the assembled officials and representatives that they were not mature enough to effectively deal with the problems that threaten her and her generation’s future living on this earth. It is her life that is at risk – not a job that adults become too focused upon.
Are you aware of the children, the Earth Guardians, who have brought suit against politicians in this country for their cowardice and inaction in dealing effectively with climate change? 21 young people from this group, organized as Rising Youth for a Sustainable Earth (RYSE), are suing politicians and bureaucrats in many nations making the same point.
And then there’s the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who spent their summer of 2018 in vans traveling across the country for the sole purpose of registering voters.
Yes, the children shall lead them.
In a society of just about full employment with millions of jobs still unfilled our southern border is regarded by the current federal administration as a barrier to all but the few who just barely manage to jump through the legal hoops that are made to constantly shift. In a society wherein the white population is on the verge of reproducing at a rate that will not replace themselves, how are we to think of the motives behind blocking entry to people who are not white?
In a society where it is a fact that the crime rate for immigrants is below that of the natural born citizens; and in a society where by far the terrorists within this country after 9/11 are predominantly native born white males – in such a society do we really deserve leaders who cynically play on fears and fake news to make us into an isolated and cut-off solitary nation that abandons hope and celebrates a hollowed out joy at Christmas?
Here is how we do both joy and sadness. We follow the lead of the little child whose approach to joy is a mindful hopefulness for new life and whose hold on sadness is broken by understanding that the cross is our way to resurrection.
Yes, we can do both. We must do both. Celebrate joy and deal with sadness because the little child is every child – who deserves a home in which love drives out fear.
A Prayer (JR)
Christ among us. Born into our hearts to guide our way through joy and sadness.
You are the Bethlehem Child who joins us on this human walk with the divine. On this Christmas Day we celebrate the joy that is not mindless and the sadness that is not bottomless. We do this not because we are certain of the way. Rather, we have come to believe in your love, this gift of the Little Child who leads us now and forever. Amen.