Carol our Christmas, an upside-down Christmas: snow is not falling and trees are not bare. Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child, warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.
Those words of a hymn by New Zealander, Shirley Erena Murray, describe the holiday as celebrated down under. Long-time Darkwood brewer, Narelle Friar would echo the sentiment. Living in Australia, she is able to utilize the gift of modern technology to interact live with us here in the United States, the primary difference being that she is sipping her morning coffee as we are thinking about sleep after the show. Oh, and in our bleak midwinter, she is able to enjoy a hot summer day at the beach. Her presence with us expands our thinking and helps us to find an upside-down perspective.
Those of us in the First World, especially men, especially white men, especially straight white men, have a great need to develop an upside-down perspective if we expect to read the Bible properly. In this week’s passage from second Isaiah, the word of hope is addressed to Israelites during exile in Babylon. We are tempted to read the message as being directed to us, but I know that I, my church, and my country are not Israel, we are Babylon. So the oppressor that God is freeing the people from is us. The violence that Psalm 137 encourages against babies is directed toward our babies! That changes things, doesn’t it?
Racial tensions are high again in America. To be more correct, they are still high. It is simply that incidents have pulled back the curtain forcing us to see the ugliness of racism yet again. Notice how the public discourse on the killing of unarmed black men by police keeps moving toward specifics in order to minimize accusations and to justify actions. Far too little of the conversation involves the dominant white establishment acknowledging the truth of systemic racism as an underlying contributing factor. That absence of empathy and lack of acknowledgment of guilt indicates our lack of upside-down perspective.
The good news from Isaiah is that God’s plan for restoring justice involves a suffering servant who brings change not through violent opposition but through the force of truth. The narrative told by Isaiah (and lived by Jesus) shows the messenger of God bringing light to the world by way of the dignity of standing and suffering for the truth. The baby in the manger later is the man dying on the cross, asking for God to forgive us for rejecting justice, peace and love. God replies with the ultimate upside-down manner, the resurrection!
The good news is that in these dark times, God’s gift of light is for everyone. When the great antiseptic of light shines in the darkness, evil is overcome. Both the oppressed and the dominant are healed when things are turned upside-down because the truth is that the current orientation is wrong. A good turning will make things right-side-up.
Right-side-up Christmas belongs to the universe, made in the moment a woman gives birth; Hope is the Jesus gift, love is the offering, everywhere, anywhere, here on earth.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of Old South UCC in Kirtland, Ohio, where Darkwood Brew is used as a tool for ministry as church beyond walls. He has a YouTube channel called Bible Bytes, short video commentaries on the scripture lesson for the week.