Beyond the cards, glitz, and glimmer; beyond the call for Christ in Christmas and beyond Currier and Ives there is a real story here. The story is more than a birth narrative. The birth account is found really in two of the Gospels and they serve as a sort of prologue to the rest of the story. But I believe that the birth of Jesus has a broader appeal and broader text. The broader appeal, the real text is simply this…innocence.
Innocence is something that seems to be in very short supply these days. I not talking about naiveté I am talking about innocence. That “something” that the world takes away. As Jesus was born according to the narratives in the Bible he was born into difficult circumstances. But none the less as humans we focus on the innocence of the child. We see imagines of his mother and often Joseph looking with adoring eyes at this new birth. It is sometimes said that witnessing a birth and being a part of a birth is as close to the divine as one can imagine. I agree. I was there when my son was born. Some of you know him. He is a big guy now. He is ginger, big boned, not really too much over weight a bear of a guy. Yes, some of the folks at the Phoenix would come and visit him. He is, perhaps, a little naïve but he is a kind soul. When he was born he was small. His arms slender, he had a shock of red hair, he cried and did what newborns do. When I held this new life in my arms, for a moment, there was perfect innocence.
The innocence of Jesus is precisely what the Father; in this case I am talking God, wants for us all. God is who Jesus would develop such a deep connection with so much so that Jesus was undistinguishable from God the father. There was such deep intimacy between the creator and Jesus that Jesus would fondly call God, “Abba.” Abba was a term of endearment. And so it was that the baby Jesus would grow and develop and become the image of perfect innocence. He was filled with no guile and only longing for grace, peace, and harmony. Innocence.
Where do we go to get this innocence in a world that seems to be falling apart in so many ways? For the LGBTQ community marriage may be legal now (thank God) but there are so many obstacles still remaining in laws and just as importantly in segments of the larger community. There is work to be done and so where is the innocence to be found? There are wars driving families out of homes. Where is the innocence to be found? It seems like the rich get richer and no one has heard of Scrooge (not the duck). Where, my friend, is innocence to be found? Is it lost forever?
NO! The innocence of Jesus was found among the animals in a situation of homelessness even just for a time. The innocence of Jesus was found and is found in the midst of horrible slaughter (Matthew 2). The innocence of all of us is found in the midst of the drama of life. That innocence is in the heart more than the mind. It is a state of being that requires some sort of awareness. Your innocence is what compels you to give the beggar a dollar or two. Your innocence is a collection taken up to help a gay man beaten down in the Quarter. Your innocence is a can of food for the hungry placed in a small out of the way box in a bar. Your innocence is in buying a toy or present for some poor kid and dropping it off at the Pub. Your innocence is manifested in your concern for someone other than you.
Innocence is not a weakness it is a strength beyond most virtues. In a community that almost prides itself with its worldliness, mordant humor and almost brooding sense of the world innocence can be found. It surfaces when we walk, or dance, with integrity and dignity. Innocence is found among the ashes. I know of two wonderful men who have been married for a while. They just adopted their second daughter. Innocence is not the absence of grit it is the absence of guile. These two men walk with dignity with two lovely daughters. They have started a blog and website to encourage other gay couples in their quest to become loving parents. They have many obstacles, mostly social, to overcome. Yet, when I see them smile they light up. Photos of the Dads with kids radiate innocence and indeed strength in the same image. If you look very carefully you can see that the world has challenged them. Even in their smiles, somewhere at the edges of their eyes, there is weariness of a world without innocence. But, their hearts are full because their innocence made room for more love.
My friends, if you are not a Christian or perhaps enjoy God in another avor think about the nativity story in full context. Maybe even read the Bible stories as literature not holy writ. See if within that story something resonates with the 21st century. A powerful and vindictive leader plays a role (Herrod the Great); a small town anywhere is the location (Bethlehem); humble folk not rich and wealthy folk come to adore this new infanthumble folk (shepherds and farmers); one parent is adoptive according to tradition (Joseph). The other parent, a very young girl named Mary, which says at one point: “he (God) hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.” These are powerful words, powerful gures, and a powerful story that has as its bedrock, in many ways, innocence. Believer or not believe in the myth of the nativity; believe in the hope of a spirit that walks with integrity; believe in the hope of a just future. Then, show some of that innocence and receive the blessings of doing good things in a world yearning for change. HAVE A VERY MERRY AND INDEED INNOCENT CHRISTMAS!