The Gospel writer we call Matthew has Jesus say four times (!!) today that if we are to be true followers we need to dedicate our lives to feeding the hungry, making sure people are not thirsty, are not left alone to feel strange in a new environment, unclothed, uncared for when sick or forgotten in prison. Four times these "lesser thans" are cited as the focus of our mission and ministry. And it has to be said, we don't do a very good job about paying attention to these directives.
Our world would be such a different place were we to literally live into these instructions by Jesus. Our economic and sociological and cultural systems would be vastly changed. And because we live in a world (much like the one Jesus trod) that does not pay attention to the hungry, thirsty, lost, exposed, sick and imprisoned, these directions by Jesus as to what building the kingdom is like, seem impossible, and we can end up doing nothing because of the overwhelming nature of the job at hand.
If we looked at these individual groups, these outcasts of society, to which Jesus points as metaphors, what would that mean to our daily interaction with the world? Could all of these descriptors be considered a single metaphor for those who need to know the love that enters the world eight days hence, for which we have been preparing these past weeks of Advent? Are they hungry for this knowledge? Thirsty? A newcomer seeking to have that hunger and thirst quenched? Naked in their exposure to the desire to understand this belief that there is something more to life than the unfulfilling consumerism that surrounds us? Sick in their heart and life at the emptiness of much of our culture of selfishness? Imprisoned by that sickness?
What if we took today's Gospel account and thought about the joy and fulfillment we sing about on Christmas morning, and looked around at the newcomers present who are hungry, thirsty, naked, feeling strange and sick and imprisoned, and truly welcomed them? What kind of Christmas present would that be? Unwrap-able but joyous and fulfilling nonetheless. And a present that can be offered every day of the year.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: The Stone Arch Bridge, 2011, jfd+