At the very beginning of his life, Jesus was a threat. So too at the end. There was something about who he was, who he claimed to be, what he represented and the way his presence was felt that made him feel dangerous to others. So dangerous that they wanted him gone, removed, out of the picture.
But how could an infant child born to displaced wanderers be a threat to a mighty king? Yet Herod sought to prevent this infant from ever growing up to become the challenge he feared. And how could a man who roamed from town to town with a small band of followers and who spoke of love, forgiveness, not judging others and helping the less fortunate ever pose any kind of danger to… anybody? His message was one of peace, not war.
Have you ever wondered about this? In this season of Advent, I have. And in this time in our culture and at this place in history when so much is being written and said about the diminishment of organized religion and the significant numbers leaving the Catholic faith, I have. Sadly, we seem to be entering into a time when hostility towards Christians seems to be on the rise. When I was younger, I used to be grateful that we no longer lived in times of persecution for our faith or faced harsh treatment for our beliefs. But that may be changing.
If so… why?
Jesus challenged the status quo and suggested an upending of power. The first shall be last and the last shall be first may not be a comfortable message to those who are accustomed to being first. And suggesting that the established rules of order needed to be amended by his understanding was probably an unwelcome statement to those who were charged with honoring and promoting the current rules of order.
Are we being called, as the modern-day Catholic Church, as representatives of that small band of followers who wandered with Jesus, to stand tall and in opposition to those who prefer the status quo, who are in power, who endorse the current rules of order? Are we supposed to be a threat? Does the mere fact that we are Catholic Christians make us such?
Personally, I’m not looking for a fight. And I’d rather not be considered a threat to anyone. Then again, Jesus did tell us that the true path forward is to pick up a cross and to follow right behind him.
During the Season of Advent, we not only prepare for the coming of the infant Jesus at Christmas… we also prepare for his second coming into our own lives. And that will come at a time we can’t choose or mark on a calendar. It could be a long way off. But it might not be. Advent is also a time for taking stock, of honestly assessing where we stand and how prepared we really are for that moment… whenever it may come.
As we move closer to Christmas, let’s be counted among the followers of Jesus. Let’s stand tall and profess by our actions the meaning of the words we utter together during our shared times of prayer. And as the saying goes, let’s make sure they know we are Christians by our love. Even if we are not welcome. Even if we are perceived to be a threat.
Through the power, healing, forgiveness and enduring love of the one who is coming, we have nothing to fear.