Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday in Advent 3

Isaiah 9:18--10:4
v. 10:1-2 Ah [or Woe!], you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right...

If there is a common theme among the prophets it is that Israel/Judah has strayed far from the path of God, has, indeed, turned its back on God. The evidence of that, say the prophets, time and time again, is the lack of justice in the land.

Most of you probably know about the "canary in the coal mine." A caged canary used to be carried into the coal mines along with the miners. If the air grew unhealthy, the canary would die first as a warning that it was no longer safe in that part of the mine.

For the Hebrew prophets, "the poor of my people" is the canary in the coal mine. How the neediest among us is treated is a measure not only of our justice but our righteousness. Our relationship with God depends upon our relationship with "the poor of my people."

Sometimes this is called God's "preferential option" for the poor. This is not to say that God loves those among us who are poor more than those among us who are rich. It does mean that the poor among us are "the canary in the coal mine." God has said time and time again that how we treat the poor is akin to how we treat God.

This was not only the message of the Hebrew prophets, it was the message of Jesus. It was the message of his birth which we are about to celebrate. Jesus was born among "the poor of my people," a deliberate act of God which ought to be a wake-up call through the centuries. The one we call Lord and Savior in our Christmas carols, so easily sung by so many, was born among the poor and revealed first to the poor (the shepherds and anyone else around for whom there was "no room at the inn"). To see Jesus you had to hang out in a barn not at the Hyatt.

As we sing our carols this year let us be conscious of this, that the message of Christmas is not only "Peace on Earth," but "Justice on Earth."

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