Reflection 12/27: Come Out, Come Out
Dear Beloved Community of St. John,
On of the core aspects of the Christmas story—a central part—is that any number of people are being told about God’s extravagant love for us. No one seems to be shy in announcing the wonderfulness of the events taking place, even if they don’t understand what it all means. The fact of God’s bold grace must be shared with others.
Gabriel told Mary, who then told Joseph and Elizabeth. After the birth, angels filled the skies, who told the shepherds to find the stable, the child, and his family. As soon as the shepherds eyes confirmed for themselves that everything the angels had sang about was true, they then went out and told everyone, “and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” Next week on the feast of Epiphany, the Magi will be telling Herod and his court functionaries about the little boy who is the Son of God, born in Bethlehem. As we might say, “Everyone knew what everyone new.”
In our secular society, talking about spiritual beliefs and practices seems increasingly rare. Asking someone what they believe borders on being impolite. We anticipate the reaction likely will be judgment, hostility, and confusion all the way around . Most of my neighbors know that I’m a clergy person, but in the 15 years I’ve lived in my home, no one has ever engaged me in a conversation about religion, except for my buddy the rabbi who until recently lived next door.
If there is a fault to this, it starts with ourselves. We just don’t mention our religious faith until we’re veritably forced to. If we had been the shepherds, we would have figuratively gone out the stable’s back door, hastened back to our fields of sheep, and never said another word about it. We need to tease out why this is so hard. Analyzing our spiritual reticence can teach us much about ourselves. Once we see and know more about our hesitancy and where it comes from, our insights might encourage us to find ways to testify to our beliefs in a way that invites dialogue. Perhaps the New Year might afford us to do what the old hymn says: “Come out, come out for Jesus.”