Tuesday, December 29, 2009


7 qualities are reflected in the people who populate the birth narratives of Jesus

ORDINARY PEOPLE.  It is not just quaint that ordinary people like Mary and Joseph find a central place in the story of salvation.  I think it’s because they are ordinary that they can perceive both the need for salvation and live in hope of it.  Along with Zechariah, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna, Mary and Joseph convey qualities that make them salvation-ready.

SEVEN ASPECTS OF READINESS.  The kind of people who populate the birth and early life narratives of Jesus are not perfect people.  Not well-bred people.  Not influential people.  Not highly-educated people.  The following seven aspects do not “qualify” them--or us--for salvation.  They are, however, qualities prominent in the people who fill the Christmas story.  I wonder to what extent today our readiness to enter into salvation history hinges on the same?

1. People who can bear the shame of scandal without giving up.

2. People who are willing to accept simple, humbling instructions…and follow through.

3. People who are acquainted with suffering and know the limits of self-righteousness and self-effortfulness.

4. People who are earnestly curious about the ways of God. They are sincere seekers.

5. People who don’t have things figured out so much as they steadfastly trust God will make a difference.

6. People who are willing to be led and to lead out based on clear, if incomplete, commands.

7. People who fear but who refuse to become--or be defined by--their fears.

THE ARC OF HUMAN LIFE.  Salvation, as I refer to it here, is not a mere spiritual transaction.  It’s not some kind of individual mental assent and emotional consent to a gospel syllogism, the result of which promises to secure one's personal soul for eternity.  Salvation does have profound personal dimensions and makes intimate claims on each of us.  But the salvation described in the stories of the birth and life of Jesus of Nazareth has just as much to do with salvaging, reshaping and redirecting the arc of human life and history away from destruction and despair and toward ultimate meaning and purpose.  Salvation is transformational at both personal and systemic levels, both for today and was we move--day by day, decision by decision--into the future God’s Christ has opened before us.

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