Preparation Time 5
The Birth of Jesus and the Witness of the Five Million
Rev Walter L Coleman, Lincoln United Methodist Church
Today we celebrate a day in which God is amongst us today, a day in which God is one with us. Jesus was to be the Hope of a People, who were to be the hope of the world. Yet this baby was given in the care of a faithful woman and a man, a husband. And this woman and man were bound together in love and in a covenant with God.
Yesterday, many gathered together as families, to affirm this covenant with Godin joy, to exchange gifts and food. In our own family, we were very blessed with a gathering necause there were four generations there that included Grandfathers and great grand children and all the generations in between. And that showed the faithfulness of a covenant with God. The commitment of a man and a woman to stay together, to work hard, to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, to stand strong against anything the world throws at them – and to raise their children’s children in the ways of the Lord.
And yet we can’t help knowing that many were denied this celebration of the covenant, cut off from their families. Many families were separated, by many things. And yet at this time, on Christmas, those, the celebration of the Holy Family had special significance. For at this time we live with the presence of the angels around us. We live in the presence of a Holy God who unites us even if physically we are separated. From this time on, we go forward, knowing that God is with us, that God is giving us a special commission, that this year God is going to do something special in our lives and that God himself will be with us.
Yet this great hope, this great presence, this great power – is just a baby. We know that te baby was Jesus Christ, but the baby could only cry. They say this was the son of God, but nowhere in scripture does it say that the baby came out speaking. It was a baby like other babies – with diaper rashes, crying out and waking you up in the middle of the night. This baby that carried such great hope for a people, for humanity, had to grow, grow in the care of the covenant, in the care of the faithful family.
We know very little about the early life of Jesus. The Gospel really starts telling the ministry of Jesus when he is perhaps 29 or thirty years old. We know that in the Bible, there is the story about Jesus running way and then found him teaching in the temple, “not lost, but in my father’s house.” So there were signs that he was called. There were also stories about learning to use his power: to take life and to give life. Mary tells of watching a young Jesus pick up a bird that had fallen dead, breathe on the bird in his hands and then let the resurrected bird fly away. Others tell the story of an angry young Jesus who with only his finger put another boy to death. Jesus, who we call the faithful and miraculous Son of God, was developing, was being raised by Mary and Joseph in covenant with God. They still had to guide him, still had to teach him, still had to protect him, this little baby in which there was so much hope.
We are asked by our faith to find Jesus amongst us, to raise him in the covenant as families.. Today I want you to see, really see, that if you are looking for Jesus, Jesus the child, that he is amongst the 5 million children with undocumented parents. These five million children, with one or more undocumented parent, represent the sacred demand that they be allowed the right to be raised in the covenant, with their whole family.
Some say this doesn’t matter: the President and the Democrats asked us to accept only the dream act. “Let the children that were raised here, and the children that were born here, let them stay and become part of the United States – but their parents – their mother or their father or both – they must go. This country is committed to deporting 1100 of them every day. They would accept the children as workers and as students and as soldiers – but they would deny them the right to family.
There are some interesting facts that are coming out. 80% are U.S. citizens. When you look at their families, you see that the great majority of them are Mexican. Seventy-five percent of the 5 million Moeover you find that about 70%children are from families with both a mother and father present. This is true in spite of the system that separates families and keeps them separate, in spite of all the difficulties that confront these families, with all the deportations, with all the problems of getting back and forth across the border. The Democrats say “let the children stay, but their parents have to go. On the other hand, for children born in the United States with U.S. citizen parents, only 20% live in families with both parents present.
So what kind of society are they asking the 5 million to join when their parents are deported? A society where the family is dying, where the culture of the family is being replaced by the culture of the material success of the individual! They are not fighting immigration problems. They are not being deported, yet they are not staying together. Where as the kind of struggle that the Leno’s have gone through, that the Seguras have gone through, they are staying together. What kind of a society are they asking young people to join and leave their families behind, leave their culture and their history behind?
They talk about the “Dream Act”. Let me tell you what the first “Dream Act” was. It was when the slavers went to Africa and they took young men that they thought they could work in the field. They kidnapped them and they took them from their families. They said come and work here, but you can’t speak your own language anymore. Come and work here but you can’t practice your own faith any more. Come and work here an accept being second class all your life. Slavery was what this U.S. system and its wealth was based on, but the unity of the family, that is what the culture of Jesus Christ is based on.
As we think about the five million, we should see that they represent the warning of God against the culture of greed, the culture of the broken covenant with God
When some of these 5 million are among a group of children, they are like a marker, a sign, that Jesus is among this group of children. When we find them, we are asked to commit ourselves to them in the covenant, just like Mary and Joseph did, to make them strong, to help them to discover their own inner power, to help them to learn to use their power for their people.
God always gives us what we need to see what we must do next. God has been preparing us. In this church God has been preparing us. We have the pieces that we must now put together. It has been growing in us for the last two years since we began this church with the “programs’ that were organized in our church and the very talented, gifted young people came forward. We saw there was a chance for their talents to grow.
We give thanks for the parents and young leaders who helped the pieces be born: the Flores family, the Valdez family, Fidel and his family, Tanya and the dancers, Stan and his black belts. Now we must SEE what God has given us, how he has commissioned us to raise Jesus in the covenant.
This year we are called to form “The children of the migrants” as an organization of young people up to the age of 15 who are strong in mind, strong in body, strong in song, strong in dance and strong in their faith and witness. They will tell the true story of the migrant families: the story that has been undercut and misinterpreted by the dream act. It is the transforming power of a story that is made to come alive through them.
We saw the vision of this organization of the children of the migrants in the Children’s march on Washington this summer. How did it come about? We had organized programs for the children: martial arts, tutoring, health education, dance and singing groups = and we had worked to help them with their faith. Yet their reality, the reality of their fight to the right to a family, the right to be raised in the covenant, was in their hearts. It was put there by God. And so it was that they responded and took their witness to join children from all over the nation in front of the White House.
In the vision given to us in Washington, in the joining of so many children together, we now see the birth of a national organization of the children of migrants, a visible witness of the 5 million to which this nation would deny the right to family. Those children have less access to education and health care. You know we must organize to help them, to make them strong, to raise them in the covenant. You see we have now all the statistics, the numbers, but the five million are not organized as themselves, a children facing the reality they face of losing their families, anywhere. Still scripture tells us that Jesus is amongst these children and that there witness will shine like a light of truth in this nation. We have a calling to organize them as a witness and a warning for they have a transforming power. When the natiiion looks at those five million people, then they are going to see their choice. If they continue to try to destroy their families, then they have chosen against God. If we make the nation see those five million, and see their families holding together against everyting, then the nation has chosen to break the covenat in their own families. They will have chosen Satan in their own lives and they will pay for it. I am telling you Jesus is among those five million and we are called to make the covenant with those five million so strong that all can see it. It must be the commission of this church this year to build that organization and to support them and help them.
In the formation of “Los Hijos de Los Migrantes” we must recognize the stages of development. At age 12, they must become leaders, like Mary herself, who gave birth to Jesus at the age of 13 or 14. What they have learned, about themselves, about growing strong, about demanding their right to their family, they must teach: each one teach one. And then when those young people begin the age of 15 or 16, God has given us another piece: they become young adults: the equalizers.
We have already begun to organize the “equalizers”. They worked over the summer to “equalize” the disparities in health care in our community, gaining skills and knowledge and passing it on to the community – and preparing for jobs in the health sector. Others learned skills as carpenters and they are forming their own collective to help weatherize homes and keep down utility bills.
The equalizers were involved in self-development, service to the community – and struggle. For it was the equalizers that led the high school walkouts and gave strength and witness to the marches and mass civil disobedience at ICE in demand of a moratorium. Service, strength, and struggle.
These two groups of young people, these two groups of the five million, these representatives of the five million, while they are growing strong, will challenge the nation. “Don’t we have a right to a family? Don’t we have a place in the covenant?”
Finally, the parents who bear the responsibility for these groups of young people must grow strong in their ability to carry out their covenant, not just with their own children, but with the children together, as a witness. They must be organized to help each other with their faith – and with their struggle to keep the covenant.
What I am saying is that we need to reorganize our church this year, with a commitment to organize the five million, a commitment to make them strong, a commitment to make them challenge this nation. We have been given this commission, to organize these three groups: the children, the young adults, the parents.
We have been given this vision, this commission. It has come together without our really knowing where we were ging. When all those children and young adults were gathered together this summer, preparing to go to Washington, gathered in front of the Virgin of Guadalupe. That was the five million – and Jesus was with them, and the Virgin of Guadalupe was with them. And God was calling us to our commission.
So just as Mary could speak very boldly, as we read today, even though she was with Joseph and only a few people, in a poor place, with no resources, and yet know that this Baby Jesus would change the world and save her people, so it is with us.
We have a new hope – a new strength – a new commission. In the next 7 weeks we will reorganize ourselves and discover what God has planned for us. Our goal is to renew a movement to let these children grow up in the covenant of family with God and to make them strong. Our goal is also to bring the witness of the five million, and their right to the covenant of family, before the nation this year. Our Goal is to challenge the nation to change the law, to challenge the people to change their ways.
Something new is happening this Christmas. God has given us a lot of pieces and now asks us to put them together. If we do that, if we keep this covenant with Him then God will do wonderful things for us. If we keep that covenant, to make the witness of the five million before the nation, then if we are sick, God will heal us. If we keep this covenant and we are afraid that our own relationships are falling apart then God will touch us and heal those relationships. He will put what is broken back together. If we keep our covenant with him, do what we are called to do, to make the five million the light of the nation, to respect them and make them strong, to protect them and give them the way to struggle, to keep covenant with them, then God will be with us. We are small, but God is Great and God will make what we do what he does. For there is no God greater than our God!