The Joyful Journey

Bishop David Bard invites us to ‘bend low’ this Advent in order to listen to our neighbors.

bard-smallAdvent is upon us, the season when we ready our faith communities and our own hearts for a fresh coming of Jesus. Thinking about the many images I’ve seen of the Christ child, from Nativity scenes to paintings of Mary and Jesus, there is often a familiar posture, bending low. Magi and shepherds bend low to see the baby Jesus. Mary, as parents do, bends low to listen in on the breathing of her child. Then I begin to think that the entire Christmas story is about a certain kind of bending low. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Jesus, God “bends low” to be with us, to listen, to embrace, to redeem.

An adult Jesus would later speak these powerful words” “Be merciful, just as God is merciful” (Luke 6:36). If God bends low to be with us perhaps we should take time to bend low and bend in to listen deeply to the hopes and dreams and fears of our neighbors.

Following the recent presidential election, pundits have spoken about the voice of hurting blue collar families struggling in our current economy being heard. They wanted change. Can we bend low and bend it to hear this pain? Following the election, voices of racial-ethnic communities – African-American, Hispanic-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, Native American – have voiced fear. Some of the rhetoric of the campaign seemed to suggest that making America great again might mean making America less diverse. Tragically, hateful actions toward persons in these communities have heightened these fears. Can we bend low and bend in to hear this fear, anxiety and pain? Native Americans and allies at Standing Rock are asking questions about the safety of their water as a pipeline is being built.  Have we bent low and bent in to hear these concerns?

In the cacophony of such voices might we also bend low to hear the whisper of God’s Spirit, the voice of the Christ? In this season of lights, might the Christ be reminding us that economic pain is no excuse for the darkness of racism, though certainly most who are experiencing economic distress are not giving in to racism, and racism is unfortunately found across economic class? Might the voice of the Spirit be reminding us that humanity is woven together and we are invited to celebrate the rainbow tapestry that is the human community and that when we do there is healing? In this season of hope, might the Christ be reminding us that no matter the circumstances, God remains at work in the world to transform broken lives and to move the world toward justice, peace, reconciliation and love?

This Advent and Christmas, bend low and bend in to listen to the hopes, dreams, fears and hurts of your neighbors – neighbors who are African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, European-American, and more distantly African, Asian, European, South American, Central American; neighbors who are younger and older; neighbors who are straight and gay; neighbors who are working class, middle class and upper class. Listen. Bend low to hear Christ’s voice of reconciling love, Christ’s voice of grace and truth. Listen. Bend low to share that love in a hurting world with words that heal and actions that offer hope.

Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas on this joyful journey.