I am sometimes accused of wearing blinders.

When people are sleeping passively on park benches, I want to stay focused on how we create resources in the community where that is unnecessary.

So, I’ve been thinking about it; and I don’t think it is as much that I have blinders on, as it is that I have x-ray vision. I can see things that others cannot because of the rose-colored lenses through which they engage the world. Rose-colored lenses, of course, only allow someone to see what they want to see.

When mentally ill friends are misbehaving in town, I want to create systems where people get help, not punishment.

I don’t like spending a lot of time moving unsheltered people along, when I know the requests are only keeping people out of sight and out of mind; not creating solutions that will be meaningful to all involved.

It’s like a Christmas story that only includes shepherds, angels, wiseman, a happy couple, a baby and a star in the sky.

We miss things like, the chick that just gave birth in a stable, and smell that must have consumed that labor and delivery room. Or a Mary and Joseph who couldn’t find a safe place to settle, because they were on the run. Or a government leader who had a hit on their baby. And, well, how Mary’s whole pregnancy was quite suspect from the beginning.

I saw a t-shirt recently that said, rejoice in the birth of a brown-skinned, middle-eastern undocumented immigrant; and I’ll add, bless this holy homeless family. Rejoice, it says, in all the different sub-groups we persecute, exclude or try to move out of the way of our pretty, peaceful nativity scene.

According to Mark, the urgency of what happens because of the Christmas story is so great that he skips the whole thing!

The beginning, he says is when Isaiah prophesied that a messenger would come and prepare the way for the people to receive God in the flesh. Cue: John the Baptist and his not so peaceful entrance into our Christmas story, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Without belaboring the little town of Bethlehem and the Silent Night, people are still flocking to him for this baptismal moment of repentance and forgiveness. It isn’t a church or a clean baptismal font with a robed priest and organ music. It is in the middle of a desert, in a river, performed by a guy who has been surviving off the land and hasn’t had a shower in months.

Why do we think people trusted this guy so much? What did he have that increased their urgency?

First, the wilderness had meaning. It was a symbol of the liminal space between their slavery and the promised land. It was where the Israelites and their ancestors learned the most important lessons about their faith and how to grow in it. It was a symbol of where their story turned from one way of being to another.

This truth often remains for our friends overcoming homelessness. Even in their stability and their wellness, they often seek community in the Micah hospitality center, which is designed to care for people while living on the street. Micah Street Church, not a mainline church, becomes a place of belonging and acceptance both during and after someone has overcome their homelessness.

There is peace in the location.

There is also an immediacy in what John is offering. Waiting is a core tenant of advent, which literally marks the period of waiting on the Messiah to come; but John has something that promises instant gratification. Note here, that John’s baptism is about being changed in the moment, rather than doing something to be secure in the afterlife.

There is peace in both the release of confession and the renewal of cleansing.

While we are waiting on Christ to come, Mark’s willingness to cut to the chase shows us that we don’t have to wait on a manger scene for peace to enter our lives.

There is a popular Christmas musical composition performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby. It combines the “Little Drummer Boy” and an original called “Peace on Earth.” With a background sound of pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, the words “Peace on Earth, can it be?” carry overtop the traditional tune.

“Every child must be made aware,” it continues.

“Every child must be made to care.

 Care enough for his fellow man

To give all the love that he can.”

Within the drumbeat of the world, I wonder, can we be the voice that sings of peace. Mark’s gospel, particularly, points out that peace starts with someone else.

People come to Christ and get a bigger vision of the kingdom when they see goodness, purpose and peace modeled in others. It might mean that someone thinks you have blinders on. Perhaps, your peace is allowing you to see some things that others cannot.

X-ray vision is, indeed, disruptive. I for one, can’t be at peace until peace is equally available to the brown-skinned, refugee, undocumented immigrant, homeless communities I know. For the true meaning of Christmas is not in the shepherds or drummers or a manger. It is a question.

Peace on earth: can it be?

Merry Christmas,
Meghann Cotter
Executive Servant-Leader