On Tuesday afternoon I stood with a group of interfaith clergy and community members around the statue of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which is located on the plaza in front of the county courthouse in White Plains. The group who gathered had formed in response to the rise in hate crimes in our country over the last six to eight weeks including swastikas being painted on the jogging path along the Bronx River Parkway and on the campus at SUNY Purchase. 200 hundred people on a Tuesday afternoon in a county of nearly a million people to say Not In Our Towns. To say intimidation and discrimination and bigotry do not have a place in the communities in which we live. In addition to standing outside for 45 minutes and listening to the requisite series of speakers and singing This Land Is Your Land This Land Is My Land, decals were distributed which we are going to ask store owners and shopkeepers and churches and synagogues and mosques and schools to put in their windows. One is on the window in my office.
45 minutes on a chilling December afternoon.
A decal on my window.
Not much in the face of the challenges and complexities of the world as it is.
The humanitarian disaster in Aleppo or devastation of the fire around Gatlinburg. Not much in the face of the fear and uncertainty which some of our neighbors go to bed with each night and wake up to each morning. In the face of it all, we easily feel overwhelmed and begin to wonder if there is anything we can do or if anything we do do is more than just a drop in the bucket.
But, here is where Advent steps in.
And the reminders wrapped up in Christmas come into play.
Remember the story.
Lowest on the totem pole of the clans of Judah.
Mary. In all likelihood a teenage mother.
Joseph. In all likelihood a day laborer father.
Peasants both of them. Uneducated both of them. Poor both of them.
Living in an occupied land under the thumb of a foreign oppressor.
In the broad sweep of history not much. Maybe even less than that.
The Roman philosopher Celsus, writing his treatise against the emerging Christian religion sometime between 177 CE and 180 CE found it incredible not that Jesus was divine, but that Jesus, because of who he was and where he came from, was divine.
Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan, page 27)
Maybe all this serves as a reminder that even the small things matter.
A decal in the window.
Preparing a meal.
Speaking up with speaking up is needed.
Refusing to step away when others push back.
Treating the other whoever that may be with respect and dignity.
You don’t have to wait until you have the spiritual stature or the public stage of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Theresa or have the wealth and influence of Warren Buffett or Bill and Melinda Gates. Maybe some day that will come to you. But, for now, what you have is you.
Your best sense of what is right and what is just.
Your best understanding of how you would like to be treated.
The best you can imagine for your children or grandchildren, nephews or nieces pushed out a bit further to include their children and grandchildren as well.
The best of who you are called to be.
How did the scripture go?
But you, O Bethlehem,
And Paul and Mary and Dave and Heather
Who are only one in all the clans of humanity.
Yet from you shall come forth