Now What?

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, December 29, 2023

When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among others, to make music in the heart.”

—Howard Thurman, “The Work of Christmas”

The confession and testimony of the church about Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, is that God is here. Now what? How will we bring to bear the power of that witness on our grief at the suffering in our midst? What is our mission as a faithful people still confronting the powers and principalities of a dark, broken world? How do we shape our lives to reflect the presence of God? It seems to me a meaningful way to answer the “now what” question of our meditation is to take seriously God’s call on us, to listen to and for God’s Word to show us how to be the vessel through which God’s love, peace, and liberation can be a reality for all; to go, to move, and to wait on God so that the destructive power of hate, division, and violence can’t have the last word.

Given our witness to God’s incarnated presence, we live in tension. We testify that God is unmistakably and powerfully present in our midst. And yet, we face the reality that the empire will seek to prevent our liberation, and barbarous rulers will counter any presence of love, peace, and liberation with overwhelming power, wealth, and weapons. And we see the outcome. We weep over the children and families in Gaza, Israel, and Ukraine displaced, traumatized, maimed, or killed as war rages. We cry over gun violence, racial and political divisions, and struggling migrants on our Southern border. We lament the stubborn persistence of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in the United States and throughout the world. As the great theologian and philosopher Howard Thurman describes our assignment in the face of these troubles, “The work of Christmas begins.”

Now that God is with us, we may be tempted to live life in self-righteous piety because of God’s gift of grace to us personally, neglecting neighborly service to the lost, broken, hungry, and prisoner among us. I pray we do not give into the world’s understanding of God’s love, peace, and liberation as commodities to be packaged and sold like so much we deem worth having. As we move into the New Year, I pray we answer the “now what” question by embracing God’s liberating presence in our lives and letting it prompt us to participate in God’s reign of love and justice for all God’s children. Amen.