Preparation Time:: the Birth of Jesus
Sunday, December25th, 2011
Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the rebirth of the people of God and the miracle that God comes into our lives and makes everything new. But how does this happen – and can it happen every year?
They say Emiliano Zapata was a great general even though his troops were poor and poorly armed. For Zapata had a genius for dividing his troops into units and giving them each a different assignment. When each unit carried out its assignment, then the battle was successful. The units, the parts of the army, working together, were greater than they would have been if he had not divided them and given each unit a different assignment. The whole became greater than the sum of the parts – and it became something new.
When a man and a woman come together and bring into the world a new child, science tells us parts of both the father and the mother, and even of their grandparents, are brought together in the child – but the child is something new. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. That is the meaning of miracles!
Joseph was to be father of Jesus in order to bring him up in the world. But Joseph was reluctant. He thought Mary was a virgin and he knew he was not the actual father of Jesus. He was angry. He was ashamed of what people would think.-
So the angel came to him and explained what God had done – and what Jesus would mean to his people. He came to Joseph in his sleep – but when he woke up, he knew what he had to do. He married Mary and accepted a Holy Covenant to protect and raise the baby Jesus.
God gave Joseph a sign. Joseph was one piece of the story and God brought him together with Mary and with Jesus. God made from them a new family.
For Jesus to do his work, it was necessary for the people he came to save to expect him. They needed to look for him – so that they would see him. They needed to listen to him so that they would hear the words he would bring to them. So the angel appeared to the sheppards. He told them to expect a savior for the people and he gave them a star to follow so that they would know this child was really sent by God.
Now sheppards were poor men – but they were also men with responsibility to take care of many sheep. Jesus called himself a sheppard. And he told Peter to be a sheppard to his people after he died. You see God was choosing men who would take responsibility for the leadership of the people and bring them to hear and see his messenger. They would become more than sheppards of sheep – they would become sheppards of their people, they would become something new.
Each year, if we live according to the scripture, and to the way God asks us to live, we listen to God’s call, we look for a sign so that we can be made new. It is a chance to start over, to start over with each other, to start over with our lives – because God promises to make us new again this year, just as he brings a new crop of corn from the seeds in the ground.
Some of you have had an experience; you have been given a second chance. Maybe you were caught on drugs or alcohol. You got clean, recognizing the help of your higher power.
You were scheduled for a deportation but at the last minute the movement prevailed and you had another chance together.
Some found a new chance in a new love or relationship – or in a new calling. You felt new, no longer chained to your past and your past mistakes. But scripture teaches that, just as the farmer plants a new crop every year, so God can make us new every year if we listen to his call, make us young and strong even if we are old and weak, make us clear headed and energetic, even if we are confused and infected by demons.
So this year, as always, I looked for a sign. Our year ended with many small victories against deportations. That meant to me that we must carry on our defense work and build a structure around the country to make our defense strong, to make it works for hundreds of thousands of people this year.
And surely, the opportunity presented itself to us, right on time, to get dozens of organizations and dozens of cities to take up the cause. I could see God putting all the pieces of our work, out contacts with different people and different groups, our experience with cases right here in this church, which taught us what to tell them. I saw God making something new.
But I was still looking for a sign.
Yesterday, it came.
Now we have been working for several years trying to put together the pieces of a health program that would challenge this nation’s refusal to give health care to the undocumented. We were insulted when Obama announced that his new health reform would not include those he called ”illegals”. We wanted to fight back as we watched people from our communities have their lives cut short by treatable diseases just because they did not have health care.
We had worked hard to recruit young people; to learn how to screen people for different kinds of illness, to get resources to build a big program, to get transplants for some people we loved in our congregation. We had gone to meeting after meeting. We had a lot of pieces – but they didn’t seem to fit toether.
Then our sister church in Little Village called us. They had some people who were undocumented and needed health care and they proposed to take them to Rush Hospital for a Posada – and to demand that they be treated.
We were tired. We did a lot this year. We just wanted to spend Christmas in peace and rest up. In truth, we had skipped the tradition of posadas this year. But I felt something happening. And I talked to Emma and she felt something happening. TheHoly Spirit passed byand we felt that mysterious wind on our backs. So we decided to mobilize for the Posada at Rush.
Now we had been meeting with the doctors at Rush, presenting our ideas. We had worked to get at least one person on the transplant list at Rush. But things were not coming together. Yet when we arrived, the doctor in charge of the hospital was there. How he got to Rush in that position is another story. He made the hospital let us in for our posada. He accepted the five people Fr. Landaverde brought with him in the hospital.
Was that a miracle.? When we read that Jesus healed a blind man we recognized that that was a miracle. Yesterday, there was a man who had been declared legally blind from diabetes. He could have been healed by laser surgery but he did not have the money. But yesterday, the hospital committed to give him his surery and he will see again!.
Was that a miracle? You see all the pieces were there: the doctors, the hospital, the medical knowledge and technology, the church that chose to bring him as part of their posada, our church with its relationships with the doctor and the hospital, the young health volunteers that we had trained that filled the posada with their families. These were the pieces that were necessary but what brought them together? And was not the whole bigger than the pieces?
Most important, we have got our meeting with the top administrators to address the problem of health care for the undocumented, a commitment to work at this problem not only with Rush but with all the hospitals and clinics in Chicago.
I know that something new is happening, something that will come together in Chicago and spread across the nation. Yesterday was a sign of what God is calling us to do – a sign of what God intends to do with us this year.
When we say that God makes everything new, that he can make your life new this year, it means that God puts the pieces of our lives and our struggle together and this becomes something new – because like Zapata’s army, the whole is greater than than parts!
Today, in the last weeks of preparation time, we are called to look and listen for what God is calling us to do. When he calls, like General Zapata, and we answer, like his loyal army, he will put the pieces of our lives together and make us new again this year.
I am not saying this is easy. Often the pieces of our lives seem to pull us in different directions. The members of our family seem to be going in different directions. We want peace and harmony at home but instead we find conflict. The necessities of our bills and our jobs, or lack of jobs, drive us crazy. We look to the church, to our faith, but the faith is asking us to do things which pull us away from other things we feel we have to do. We love the struggle – the marches, the demonstrations where we feel so much spirit and unity – but the work of building the movement is hard and so many people have other responsibilities and let us down. It as if we can’t get everyone together at the same time.
No it is not easy. And even the best of us lose faith. And we get involved in negative things which confuse our lives even more.
`We need a General Zapata to coordinate the pieces of our lives ! Well the Good news is that we have the best general anybody ever had! We just have to listen for his commands and be willing to follow them!
Look at the pieces of your life. Keep whatever is good and righteous – turn away from what is negative and wrong. You know the difference!
Stay faithful to the people you have been given to love, to the struggle for your people you have been given a place in, an important place.
Don’t worry if they don’t seem to fit together. God will make them fit! It may take a while but you are going to get that feeling this year. You are going to see the pieces come together! You are going to be made new this year! You are part of God’s plan for his people, to stay and struggle in this land and be a witness to God’s love and justice. He has made you to be fruitful and multiply. He has a purpose for you. And he will use all the pieces of your life, of our lives together, to make something new and wonderful.
After our prayers today, we will ask each person to make their promise to God.
Commit yourself to him today.
Accept him as your General.
Open your hearts and let him work through you.
You are going to know the Lord this year as you have never known him before. Believe it!
You are God’s people and he will never leave you.
Let us go forward together for the Lord God Almighty is with us. Adelante!Adelante! Amen! Amen!
Scriptures for Preparation 5: the Birth of Jesus
Isaiah 9:2, 6, 7 For To Us A Child is Born
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Matthew 1:18-25 Joseph and the Angel of the Lord
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Luke 2:1-7 The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:8-14 The Shepards and the Angels
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”