Over the last few days I thought a lot about my Nazareths; the people, places, and situations that I had no right to judge, question, or label but I did, and sometimes still do. I’ve wondered about the ways I’ve belittled, demeaned, and rejected the Nazareths in my life. I am sure I lost more by their absence from my life than they would have gained by my presence in theirs. And I wonder how many times I have missed the Messiah’s presence because I refused to look toward Nazareth.
What if the experience of absence and the accompanying longings and desires are the beginning of an epiphany for you? What if that sense of absence is the star of your life by which God is revealing God’s self to you? And what if your sense of longing and desire is really God’s longing and desire for you?
Regardless of what the last year has been for us and whether we consider the changes it brought to be for better or for worse it is deeply rooted in the Christmas story.
I am not talking about the then and there Christmas story, the one that starts out “In those days” and takes place “in that region.” I am talking about the here and now Christmas story, the one that is taking place in these days and in this region. After all, that’s really the only Christmas story that matters.
Maybe the greatest barrier to seeing the divine presence among us is that we already have an idea or image of who that one is or should be and what that one should look like and do. In other words, we think we know and we stick with what we think we know. We can’t see the one because he or she does not meet our expectations or fit our categories of who he or she can be. Sometimes, we don’t see the one among us because he or she stands outside the box of our beliefs. And more often than not we see and hear in such a way that it only confirms what we already believe.
In what ways are you living as a displaced person? What parts of your life feel uprooted and disconnected? What is your displacement?
“Comfort, O comfort my people,” are God’s words to displaced people. Isaiah first spoke those words to people exiled in Babylon, people whose lives had been uprooted. Those same words come to the displaced people of God today. In some way the prophetic word is always directed to displaced people. And we long to hear those words of comfort. We want to find our place. More than anything displaced people want to be a placed people.
“We didn’t do it that way when we were kids.” “This isn’t the America I remember. It’s not like it used to be.” “The world is a different place these days. It’s changed.” “This isn’t the church I grew up in. I don’t know what happened to that church.” “Back in my day….” “This isn’t the life I planned and worked for.” You could add your own version. There’s a thousand variations on this theme. They all seem to me to have a common thread or question running through them. Here’s the question: What is going on in our world today? What’s happening?
Last week I was on the way home from running some errands. I stopped for the light at the square and a young man walked across the street in front of me. I recognized him as one of “the least of these.” I recognized him as the guy who came by my office just few days before. I recognized him as the same guy who had come by the office five or six times in the last week and a half. I recognized him as the one to whom I said, “I will not help you and you need to leave.”