Summary: All throughout scripture, we see the priority God has with the poor. We are called to participate in that inititative
To Remember the Poor
Somehow this is what we've turned Christmas into. When did Christmas become all about us? The Madison Avenue version of Christmas with the angels, glitter and gold, and cheap plastic Santas and snowmen and Christmas gifts ad nauseum stands in sharp contrast to the stark reality of the first Christmas in which God entered into the world in a borrowed cave which served as a stable, filled with dung and animals and a feeding trough. Most of us make Christmas and birthdays for that matter about us but Jesus’ birth was never about him. He came to live and die for the sins of the world. One can never separate the cross from the cradle. So in many respects, our Christmas of today is a faint resemblance of the first Christmas and what it was meant to be. So our task this Christmas is to go back and re-imagine Christmas or reclaim the first Christmas.
Shane Claiborne tells of going to the Gallery Mall in Philadelphia on "Black Friday" to invite people to do just that, re-imagine the Christmas season. Rather than Christmas being about spending money, buying and giving gifts, they invited people to re-imagine the season with messages on signs like, "Love doesn't cost a thing," "Spend time not money," and "Buy less and love more." The celebration was magnetic. One woman passing by with shopping bag in hand stopped and said pensively, "Why do we do this empty routine every year? Thanks for making me think." Sometimes we just need permission to say "NO" to the 450 billion dollars spent (on us) during this holiday, and (instead) to remember the poor, the refugees, the invisible people….”
Last week we looked at Mary this teenager of 12 to 14 years of age to whom the angel Gabriel showed up and made the announcement that God was going to impregnate her with the greatest miracle in history. We also saw the consequences for this young single mom - that she would be considered a capital criminal with the possibility of execution by stoning. That was the penalty in this culture for being pregnant and unmarried. Yet it amazes me that Mary, instead of sitting around in her fear and uncertainty, wrote a song of praise to God, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant."
The English word humble is very inadequate. In the original language what we interpret as “humble” literally means low in situation, poor and depressed. God has been mindful of the low status, poor and depressed state of his servant "and from now on all generations will call me blessed," Mary said. God is mindful of the humble state of his servants. God lifts up those who are poor in status, low in situation and depressed. "For the mighty one has done great things for me - holy is his name." God's priority is the poor. Think of all the people God could have chosen to conceive this miracle in. I would think God would have chosen someone of prestige, power and influence. Maybe it would have been like a Princess Diana type or maybe it would have been someone who had media exposure like Beyonce’ or Oprah. Yet God chose a poor, Jewish peasant girl from a backwater town.
Being Jewish meant she was a nobody in a Roman world. Peasant meant she was marginalized, and being female meant that she had no social or political voice or rights. I think if I had the opportunity to place my child in a situation where they would prosper, I would be very careful to put them in a home situation where they would have all of the advantages. But God placed Jesus in this poor, working class family. How do I know this was a poor family? Look at 2:22-24. When Jesus was eight days old, Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord, according to Jewish law. According to Jewish law in Leviticus, when you presented a baby on the eighth day you had to make an offering. And the preferred offering for a baby was a lamb. Now the lamb is a very important symbol in the Old Testament because it represented a sacrifice to God for the sins of the Jews. And Jesus is called the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. So after Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, there was no more need for sacrifice because he paid the price for all of our sins. Now Mary and Joseph don't offer a lamb. They offered birds for sacrifice. Leviticus 12 says: "If a woman in presenting her child to the Lord cannot afford a lamb (in other words, if she is poor), she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons.” This tells us that Mary and Joseph were a family of limited resources. In other words, they were poor.