The other day it started snowing. I was riding my bike and saw a piano that was half in and half out of the entrance of a house. There was no way for anyone to get in or out of the house with a piano lodged halfway in the front door. Perhaps they had miscalculated the turn through an entranceway. It looked like a dire situation to abandon a piano midway as giant flakes began to fall.
The piano situation reminds me how many of us feel in life from time to time. We become committed to something that suddenly seems a lot harder than we expected. A pandemic starts out mild and we assume it will get better quickly until it doesn’t. It begins to snow and we assume it will melt overnight until it doesn’t. We can’t quite turn the corner to be done with moving the piano. And we can’t exactly abandon it on the curb either. We feel stuck in-between worlds. Maybe we’re a little afraid we can’t find a solution. We’re not sure whether to laugh or cry.
In the Christmas story we hear that a messenger, an angel, reassures shepherds with the words, “Do not fear.” “Do not fear” is meant to be reassuring, but it also has an ominous undertone. If someone suddenly comes in the room and shouts, “Do not fear. There is nothing to worry about. Be calm,” we might become suspicious. And yet these are the words God gives the angel to deliver on Earth.
“Do not fear” because God is doing something new. It can be a challenge to hear the Christmas story anew because we’ve heard it so often. That is partly why we read the Native American translation of the New Testament. To hear the story told again differently. We hear Mary introduced as “Bitter Tears” and the Romans as the government of the “People of Iron.” We realize Jesus is being born into a world of political world. The people with the best resources and technology are in charge. And those with less privilege simply need to follow the rules even if that means a pregnant woman needs to journey a long distance so they government census is complete. It’s just government bureaucracy. Nothing personal.
And yet for all the power of the “The People of Iron” (Romans), God is disrupting their best laid plans. The angel announces there is a leader born in their midst who will set his people free. The promise of liberation from fear. Liberation from worry. Liberation from poverty. Liberation from sickness. Liberation from oppression. These are all the things we pray for every Sunday. And for God liberation, setting free, happens on a cosmic scale. The promise of Baby Jesus to disrupt the status quo, so people with less power and privilege may flourish.
A holy baby who opens up a new world and new possibilities. The shepherds are among the first to understand this after Mary, Elizabeth, and a few others. God chooses to reveal the Christmas story first to the shepherds perhaps because they would understand it. They have among the least power and privilege and would understand the power of being set free. Set free from an economic system that keeps them in poverty. They weren’t worried about losing their step on the ladder in society. They were already at the bottom. And so they were interested in this new thing God was doing. They become so excited by new of Jesus’ birth, they announce it to the whole world!
What about us? Where do we find ourselves on Christmas Eve in the midst of various storms? The storms that we are experiencing with the snow, ice, and wind. Storms with with family members who may be sick or hurting in some way. The storms of a global pandemic, a climate crisis, and countless social ills surrounding queerphobia and racism. And yet the good news of Jesus is proclaimed for us today. The good news that Bitter Tears (Mary) gives birth to Jesus who comes to release us from everything holds us back. And together we share the good news of freedom for one another. For our neighbours. A gift of liberation this Christmas. And God knows we all need it.
What will you do with this gift? One way is to think about God removing the piano from the doorway. The helplessness of completing a difficult task. There are so many things in life we wish we could do, but they seem to difficult. We don’t know where to start. We’re afraid we might fail. And yet messengers arrive telling us “Do not be afraid.” We are enough. A world that tells us we are valued only by our work, instead we are told to rejoice in a birth. Rejoice in a new way of being. Like the shepherds we stop our work to come see what is happening.
See what all the fuss is about. And hoping just maybe there is room for us in the manger. Room so we can hear the shepherds tell the story one more time. And rest to ponder, to reflect upon what a story of liberation says for us.
Trust that God is doing a new thing. A world with new possibilities. A world full of God’s love that is for you. Love for each one of us. Amen.