Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Born To Die

I've been listening to Christmas music, and I've got a CD by Barbara Mandrell that I enjoy ("Christmas At Our House", 1984). There's one song that really caught my attention this year. It's called "Born To Die" written by Shireen Salyer. The point of the song is that Jesus was sent to earth to die for us, and in his birth, we can already see his death. God's heart must have broken because He knew His son was to die. Mary's grief was overwhelming because she knew that her baby son would die. The tune is haunting; the lyrics, poignant; Ms. Mandrell's voice, a blessing.

"Born to die" is a common theme in the Christian world. In one of my readings, an author pointed out that the Nicene Creed says of Jesus: "...he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilot; he suffered death and was buried." No hint of the marvelous, loving and revolutionary things that Jesus did while he was alive. Birth, death--and resurrection--are the most notable points in this person's existence.

I was struck hard by the whole idea this week because my father-in-law is very ill right now and words like "palliative care" and "hospice" are creeping into conversations with his care team. I thought about my father-in-law's life--a force in the house, working several jobs to provide for his family, telling stories about growing up in Philadelphia, mentoring young electricians--and my gut rejected the "born-to-die" description. Dad was born to live.

It's a matter of perspective, isn't it? We're all born to die, if we take the traditional Christian approach. And if we move through life with that perspective, we may live life with anxious urgency or we may brush along life's surface, attention focused on the dying part.

On the other hand, we can face our existence as if we're born to live. Then what we do with our lives matters. The decisions we make that affect ourselves and others matter. Working for the Beloved Community matters. Embracing life's complexity matters.

During the Christmas season, let's remember that Jesus was born to live, to teach us, to guide us, to show us how to see the Divine every day. Let's remember that we were born to live. To immerse ourselves in life with all its joys and sorrows. To give to ourselves and others in balanced measure. To let God shine out into the world through us.

Let us be Christians who are born to live. May it be so. Amen.

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