As I sit down to write I am amazed by a few things—first, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, and second, a non-career politician has won the Presidential election.
We look on in wonder. For the Cubs, there is elation and celebration. Unless you’re from Cleveland. For Democrats and Independents, there is anxiety, anger, and fear. Unless you’re Republican. Okay, some Republicans. I wonder what all of this feels like to those who play or campaign. What does a victory or loss such as these feel like? Especially with the whole world watching? Winners and losers are named with a base hit or a ballot box.
We often consider the world in terms of winners and losers, or successes and failures. As a fan of a particular sports team or a member of any political party, we cannot be described with one word or one label. Labels get us in trouble. They make us small and limited. Names, on the other hand, have the potential to give us meaning and purpose and potential.
As we plan to gather around tables for holiday meals with family and friends, recalling names and faces bring a flurry of memories of celebrations past, as well as anticipation for the ones to come. Every year we begin a journey to Bethlehem just as Mary and Joseph did, to connect by family name and be counted. While the land was occupied by Roman rule and the census was taken to determine the amount of taxes to be levied against the Jews, it was an occasion to connect with people on the same journey, wondering what will become of them once they were counted.
Tired from a long journey, Joseph and his pregnant wife, Mary, depended upon the hospitality of family to provide lodging for them. But the city was full of others coming to be counted. Trivago or Expedia travel services don’t exist yet. The little city of Joseph’s birth was at capacity. There were no rooms to give them shelter and rest. In the midst of what seems to be a desperate moment in time, someone offers what they have—a little shelter, around back, with the household animals—it isn’t much, but you will be safe and warm. This is how God works, people sharing what little they have with others.
It was there that Mary, with the help of Joseph, delivered a son. Joseph knew he was to be named ‘Jesus.’ Jesus is our anglicized form of Jesu, or Yeshua, which means “God Saves.” The angelic host proclaimed that a Savior was born, the Anointed One of God. This child grows and learns of God’s love from family and community. He begins a journey to call people, by name, to join him on his journey of healing and teaching and touching those who believed they were good and those who believed they had no value.
Each year, for several weeks in November and December, you and I recall this story and the power of names, not labels. For the Son of the Most High has come to call us back home to our spiritual family, to take on the name of Child of God, Beloved of God, the Apple of God’s eye.
As we take time to enter this journey which reminds of who we are and whose we are, may we be mindful of every person on a journey hoping to hear their own name called, to be found valuable, of intrinsic worth, and ultimately worthy of God’s great love through Jesus, the Christ. Let us cheer for the Cubs and offer prayerful support for our leaders, each having been called by name to their office. Not because one is more special than another, but simply and honestly because God loves them. God’s love is not determined by a label. Only the Name above all names, the King of kings and the Lord of lords offers us a family name. May God’s love be made known through each of us this season as we see one another in awe and wonder, compassion and mercy, as we recognize God’s image in each person. May we speak of one another by our given names and not labels. May we learn, again, to live into our status as ‘saved by grace through faith’ and that not of our own doing, but through Jesus.
God’s grace is amazing!
Yours in the Journey, Pastor Susan