From Rev. Kate Murphy of The Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte:
My favorite Christmas carol is ‘In the Bleak Mid-winter.’ My husband thinks this is just what’s wrong with me. In the season of peace and joy and hope, who sings about darkness, poverty, howling winds and a frozen earth? This is the time when we are supposed to be celebrating the light of God coming into the world. This is the time for joyful songs.
Except that it isn’t – not for Michael Brown’s mother, not for Eric Garner’s wife, not for Tamir Rice’s parents. Not for the thousands who have poured into the streets. Not for the millions of African Americans who sincerely wonder if our country prefers them dead or alive. And not for the police officers who uphold their vow to serve and protect and now must do their always dangerous job in an even more toxic environment. For so many, songs of peace on earth and good will between men seem like a cruel joke.
And I am a pastor. It is my life’s work to gather my faith community around the sacred truth that the messiah, the prince of peace has come into our world and changed everything. But I saw Eric Garner die. I saw it. You did too. That has to matter to us every day. But it especially has to matter to us as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior – Our Lord who was publicly brutally executed by those who had every legal authority to do so. Just as, apparently, Daniel Pantaleo had every legal right to strangle Eric Garner. You don’t want to read about it. I don’t want to write about it. It’s ugly and tragic and divisive and this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
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But this is happening now – we can’t hum Silent Night and look away just because it isn’t joyful.
Thinking and talking and caring about the deaths of unarmed boys and men may not put us in the Christmas Spirit, but it absolutely gets us ready to celebrate the birth of a messiah. In the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary tells us what Jesus came into the world to do – to do mighty deeds and scatter the proud, to remove tyrants and lift up the oppressed. God came down in the person of Jesus Christ to redeem the world – because this world needs redeeming.
Those of us who follow the Lord Jesus Christ have a holy obligation to look at the brokenness in our society, to pray and to mourn and to lay down our lives – to take risks and make sacrifices – for the sake of the Kingdom. We don’t worship the newborn King by singing about peace. We worship Christ by not making our peace with the world as it is.