Christmas is about celebrating hope. The hope of a world crushed by shame but rescued by the coming of a savior in the birth of a child. This is Christ-mas.
The beginning of this sacred mass, this Advent, saw me celebrate with two African village pastors. I have walked life’s road with one of these for over twenty years. We both grew up in Apartheid South Africa. Our government told us we could not be friends. He was too dark and I was too light. Our government told us these two colors do not mix.
Christ told us differently. This is the Christ I celebrate in Christ – mas.
I celebrate the Christ who forged within us a deep mutual respect. When the law of our country was against us, when society scolded our friendship, when convention dictated otherwise, Christ set us together on a path. A path that would take us to hungry children, dying parents and hope. Hope in the midst of suffering. Hope right there – at the core of institutionalized racism – flickering bright through black and white hands joined together in a sacred task.
Twenty years have passed and I celebrated the beginning of Advent this year with my friend. Two weeks he has spent visiting in my home. We shared meals, shared new experiences, shared memories of old ones. We have talked, and shared and laughed and loved. A black man and a white woman raised in apartheid South Africa, visiting with each other in the United States, all the while Ferguson raged and burnt.
We talked about that. We talked about the hurt and the hatred and the hell. In quiet voices and with quiet eyes we talked of Ferguson and we remembered our own country’s turmoil and trouble. Then we spoke of hope and peace and friendships that forge despite the hell of places that burn with rage.
We both know that friendship like this does not come easily. It is two decades in the making. We have walked rocky inner roads, climbing over personal boulders of prejudice, stumbling over cultural confusion and falling down ravines of racial misunderstandings. Not to speak of our gender differences and the cultural expectations of these roles.
Yet, we are friends.
Together we celebrated the first day of Advent. Our savior has come. He offers peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
O, that we may truly enter into the season of Christ-mas.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6