It’s A Boy!

Opening Words: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Come let us ponder the wonder of this birth that has changed the life course of many.  Come let us ponder the wonder of our own nativity and what our lives may mean in relationship with one another.  

It’s a Boy! By Rev. Fred L Hammond

Delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa in Alabama.   24 December 2009 ©

When Jonathon Tucker Jones (not his real name) was born this past August, I pondered on what the world would be like because of his presence in it. Would he grow up to be tall and broad shouldered like his dad? Would he have his mother’s wit? What would he choose to do for a living?

What societal issues will he be facing as an adult? Would he be among those addressing those issues? Is he the one we have been waiting for that will bring true reform to our healthcare? Is he the one that will develop an economic policy that makes our border fences unnecessary? Is he the one that will find a way to make solar and geothermic energy cost efficient enough to mass market? Is he the one who will write the symphony that defines the 21st century? Is he the one we have been waiting for?

I pondered these things and grew amazed at the sharpness of his eyes and his easy smile at the world as it unfolded before him. Perhaps… perhaps there will be another.

Each new life that is received into this world is a life of endless possibilities. If there is anything that 2009 has taught us it is this. We can no longer assume that our station at birth is equivalent to our destiny. The Christian hymn, “What Child is This,” is a universal question of every birth.

He was born in Hawai’i to an interracial couple at a time when interracial marriages were illegal in many states across the US. He was raised by his grandparents. He did well in school enabling him to graduate from Columbia University in NYC. He used his degree in political science to assist in community organizing in Chicago’s south side, a depressed region of Chicago. He decided to go into law and attended Harvard Law School where he became the first African American to head the school’s prestigious law journal. We now know him as President of the United States and his destiny is still unfolding.

She was born in Brooklyn just three days before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. She was raised in a Unitarian household and learned values of equality and justice. She had to fight for her education since girls weren’t supposed to be educated in the ways of the world. Her education taught her how to analyze social conditions and her style of analysis became the foundation of modern sociology. She became increasingly alarmed at the treatment of African Americans in society. She went on to become the founder and the driving force behind the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for its first four decades. We know her as Mary White Ovington.

He was born to middle class black family in Atlanta, GA which protected him from the harsher realities of the south. Yet, when he was five years old, his best friend was no longer allowed to play with him because his friend was white and was entering a segregated school. Because of his family’s class privilege he was able to go to college and planned to follow his father and grandfather into the ministry. He spent one summer in Connecticut to work in the Tobacco Farms and was amazed at how different race relations were there versus in the south. He learned about Gandhi’s work in India and wondered how it could be of use in America. He returned to the south to become a minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery and then a boycott against the bus company began. He was asked to speak which elevated him to be the leader of the Civil Rights movements. We know him as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born in the Ukraine at the close of the 19th century, her family escaped the pogroms against the Jews by migrating to Wisconsin. Her parents thought girls only role in life was to get married; not to have a profession. Over their objections, she went to a teacher’s college and she also married. She and her partner moved to Palestine to work towards building a Jewish state. She organized illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine before and during Hitler’s Third Reich. When Britain arrested the leaders of the Jewish Agency, she became acting head of it and ultimately became one of the signers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. She continued to serve the developing country and became Prime Minister in 1969. We know her as Golda Meir.

He was born in a borrowed cave used to shelter animals. His father was a carpenter. His mother pious. He had no provisions to ensure an education. Yet, this person was gifted with a sense of compassion that was extraordinary for his day. He spoke of this compassion that all could develop. He called it loving one’s neighbor as one self. For this message he was arrested and executed. His message, however, has lived on and went to transform the entire world. We call this man, Jesus of Nazareth. Some call him Lord and Savior; others call him a Great Teacher. By what ever name we honor his birth this night.

These stories of men and women reveal one common theme. Regardless of the actions they took as adults, they all had a common and somewhat obscure birth. No one knows how a life will develop and how that life will impact a society.

I think it is important giving this common theme to all births, that we treat each child as having the potential of shaping our future towards peace. What does that mean? It simply means to seek to honor the inherent worth and dignity in each child we interact with because we do not know who this child will be in the service of the universe.

So as I pondered Jonathon Tucker’s birth back in August, I thought there might be some small role that I, that we, might play in his becoming the person he potentially could be. And for that matter, what role do we play in the shaping of all of our lives this Christmas and every day? Perhaps the season is a reminder that there is the potential Christ child in each of us. Blessed Be.

Published in: on December 26, 2009 at 2:37 pm  Comments Off on It’s A Boy!  
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Peace on Earth; Good Will Toward Men

Peace on Earth; Good Will Toward Men was originally published in the Our Home Universalist Unitarian monthly newsletter for December 2009.   

Another year is coming to a close and our thoughts begin to drift to the holidays of gift giving, parties, and celebrating each other’s company.  These are all good things to do; especially as our economy still struggles to rise from the ashes of mortgage and banking schemes of greed that backfired on millions of people. So what does this season of joy mean to us in the face of such struggle?  Is there true hope that shines over a manger in Bethlehem?    I believe there is. 

Conservative Christians see the birth of Jesus as a fulfillment of the promise of God to redeem the world from sin. To participate in this redemption a person has to confess with their mouth that they have asked for forgiveness of their sins and accept Jesus into their hearts. To quote Joel Osteen; to say this prayer transforms one into a Christian.  

Unitarian Universalists tend not to believe that a simple confession of the mouth will save or transform anyone.  It is not words alone that save us.  If there is a contention between liberal and conservative religion, perhaps it is whether repeating a prayer will save a person from anything let alone from judgment day.  This is not the hope that shines bright each December.  

No, the hope that shines bright is the belief that we can indeed fulfill the promise of “Peace on earth, Good will toward men.”  The purpose of Christmas is not eternal salvation as Rick Warren’s popular book of the same name claims but rather to instill the hope that humanity can evolve to the point where violence—physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual violence—towards one another no longer needs to be the norm.  This sort of transformation does not happen over night, it takes diligence.  It takes discipline, rigorous discipline of the every day kind for that sort of transformation.  

I spent over 20 years of my life as a Charismatic Christian. I have seen many things that I cannot explain.  But the one thing I can explain is why individuals who claimed to be instantaneously freed from addictions (defined as broadly as possible) did not remain in their sobriety of that addiction.  It did not last when the holy chills of the moment wore off unless they committed themselves to the work of one day at a time.   Jesus’ command to “go and sin no more” was not just an idle saying.  As anyone in alcoholics anonymous can tell you it takes a recommitment every day and sometimes every hour, every minute to fulfill Jesus’ word of “go and sin no more.” 

It is the same for all of us.  The spiritual journey is not a blanket that is wrapped around us on a cool evening but a diligent stoking of the fires of warmth and generosity.  It is not a check off list— complete laundry; buy groceries; accept Jesus into my heart—that’s now done, where’s the party? The teaching of Jesus’ to love our neighbor as our self takes the kind of discipline that a person in AA takes to remain sober. Unitarian Universalists believe this is the way towards the Christmas promise.   Whether you claim to be a Christian, a Unitarian Universalist, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Mormon; by whatever stripe you are healed, work out your salvation not just in words but in your commitment to actions that bring peace on earth, good will towards all.  Blessings,

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Comments Off on Peace on Earth; Good Will Toward Men  
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