Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Journey 340

Read: Luke 3:1-14
With the onset of advent season, every house is gearing up to decorate their homes with lights and Christmas artifacts. It is wonderful to behold every house in this part o

f the country being decorated with lights, Christmas tree and different material objects that reflect the spirit and story of Christ event. Many houses also has sported this time the scenes of Nativity in their front porch or in the lawn of their house. Yes Christmas celebrations are made colorful with all these decorations especially the nativity scenes that are displayed in different houses. Nativity scene has always been an integral part of Christmas celebration whether in home or in church when Sunday school children enact Sunday school plays. But in Santa Monica, California the Nativity scene has become a huge point of dispute between the community of faith and an atheist group. The atheist group argued that display of nativity scenes hurt sentiments of people who do not subscribe to any faith and hence they requested that the display of nativity scene be banned. The city council after looking into different aspect of the case and arguments from both the sides decided to ban Nativity scene display this year, a display that was going on for the last 59 years this year at the Palisades Park in California. This was very frustrating news for the church’s and the groups that were involved in this venture. So will the Palisade Park not have a display of Nativity scene this year?. This was a question that was raised by number of people. It is this question that made church’s and other groups that were involved in the nativity scene display, to think a bit differently. Instead of getting angry and upset at being denied the permission to display the nativity scene in the park, they decided to do things differently this year without breaking the law of the land. They have decided this year that every day in the evening they will present live scenes of nativity in the park, with people all dressed up as historical figures, like Joseph, Mary, Shepherds, Wise Men and so on. Along with the nativity scenes they have also decided to sing carol songs. They have decided to continue this unique kind of celebration every night till December 23. Some of the people are happy at the turn of events and they feel that when a live display of nativity scene is displayed, there is participation of people and they will also have a chance to talk and interact with the people who are visiting the park. The leaders of different church’s who are associated with this event feels that the Christians should always display their traditions of faith in the most loving way and in a non confrontational manner , taking into consideration the feeling of people around. Moreover the church leaders also felt that in a land where everybody celebrated the Christmas by merely decorating their house and house yards, it is important that the real meaning of Christmas needs to be emphasized rather than celebrations seen purely on decorations and display of Christmas artifacts. One of the strange aspect that I see in my neighborhood is that when there is Halloween day, some of them decorate their homes with the Halloween symbols like skull, cemetery slab and memorial stones, ghost images and so on. Come Christmas these very home are decorated with lights of different colour and the whole house is well lit up with fancy lights and Christmas trees. It is this context that we need to understand in a society where emphasis is only on external decorations and celebration, the community of believers need to truly affirm this advent season that Christmas is not outward celebration of lights, decorations and other artifacts on the contrary the celebration should be a result of an inward joy and inward transformation that has happened because of Jesus Christ, God’s gift to us.
We are meditating on the theme “Transformed Living” and the portion that we shall use for our meditation is from Luke 3: 1-14. This portion from Luke describes the preaching of John the Baptist. John who was the forerunner of Jesus Christ is preparing the way for the Lord. As he prepares the way for the coming of the messiah, he convicts through his message. His thrust is that people need to be transform their life and their life style and only then can they truly receive messiah and be his followers. His point of argument was very simple. The community needs to distinctly see the see the change and the unique lifestyle the Lord brings about when an individual is in relationship with him. When the people boasted about their spiritual heritage claiming to be descendents of Abraham, John the Baptist rebuked them sternly and asked them whether the spiritual heritage they claim, had helped them to live a live without sin and a life that is pleasing to God, thus not inviting the wrath of God?. It is then he exhorts people that if they claim to have a spiritual lineage and heritage their life should be an example and an expression of the rich faith that they not only believe but also practice. Hence the exhortation to the people to share clothing and food with those who are denied these basic necessities, the exhortation to the soldiers that they should not take money by force nor accuse any one falsely. John also exhorts the tax collector not to collect more than what is legal. Here is John helping people to understand the true meaning of preparing the way of the Lord. What the Lord expects from his people is not tall claims about ones spiritual lineage or history, nor certain rituals and symbols that express the joy of the coming of the Lord but on the contrary show outwardly through ones life, the inward change that the Lord has brought about. I think as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas, the birth of God’s Son in our world, let us deliberately cleanse our life so that our lives are a reflection of the transformation that the Lord has brought about in our life because of his birth in our life and in this world. It is only when this happens can we communicate to the world and to the community, that Christmas is not decorations, lights and nativity scenes but transformed lives because of the birth of God’s Son in our life and in our world.

Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla,