January 5, 2020

Abnormal Christians
2nd Sunday After Christmas, Year A
Becky Robbins-Penniman

The magi are up in our Creche on the side altar. They’re a day early. Tomorrow is the feast of the Epiphany, and it’s the day when we tell the story of the strangers from a far-away land who arrived in Israel looking for the Messiah, the new King of the Jews. They knew the way by following a star, which led them, not to a palace, but to the home of humble peasants. The strangers came to honor this child, God in man made manifest; while child’s own king tried to kill him as a threat to his power.

That’s the story the Church tells tomorrow. Today is the 12th Day of Christmas, though we will NOT be singing about 12 Drummers Drumming, or even one little drummer boy. Today’s story is about how the density of normality keeps even truly lovely people from leaving what’s familiar to live as if everything is different once God shows up on the scene.

Normality – it’s something we are taught, carefully taught, from childhood on and it’s peculiar and particular to every family, every community, every culture. It’s the Way Things Are. The Rules of Life. The System. Now, some of the things we’re used to do indeed morph and change; the pace of technological advances these days can make our heads spin. But the deeper systems – especially those that dictate how economies work, which humans are inherently valuable and worthy of having power, and which humans can be oppressed, manipulated and discarded – those systems are deeper than any deep state your favorite conspiracy theorist has alleged.

What’s been normal for humanity for thousands and thousands of years? The prophet Jeremiah was active in Judah 2600 or so years ago. The biblical writings of his time describe how people faced war after war, dread diseases, anxiety, natural disasters that wiped out entire cities. Most people were poor, while just a few had privilege and power. Of course, those with privilege and power had no interest in changing normality, and those without it were convinced they couldn’t change it. That was normal life then, and it’s normal life now. The fact is that we humans, deep down, believe what’s normal for humanity is a world of war, disease, disaster, anxiety, poverty and despair. There is one moment in our culture, though, where a different possibility breaks through the system of what’s normal. It’s a time we say we love: the holidays. Christmas.

I usually join the chorus of people who fuss and bother at the merchants who put their Christmas wares out as soon as the Back to School specials end, but I’m even more dismayed at how quickly so many of us let the Christmas Spirit dissolve like sugar in the rain as throw the trees on the curb and get back to our normal life of no parties or presents, no lights or singing or feasts, no visits with family and friends, and for a lot of Americans – no church until the next holiday season. Nope, it’s back to normal…

For the full sermon text, click HERE.

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