Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Third Day of Christmas: Surrendering to the Divine Promise

There is a crucial word that must be part of the Advent and Christmas message, a word I have not  yet used. It is a word most of us avoid because it means something we do not easily handle and something we resist with all our being.  That word is “surrender.”  The act of surrender is repugnant to us.  It means “to cease resistance to an enemy or an opponent and submit to their authority.” The synonyms for the word do not help us at all and perhaps are even more repulsive to our spirits—words like,  capitulation, submission, yielding, succumbing, acquiescence, and resignation.  Who is willing to do that?  Who wants to do that?

Yet this word “surrender” is central to the preposterous promise of Advent and the deeper meaning of Christmas.  No annunciation can be heard without yielding.  A visit to the manger of Bethlehem (within the heart) is impossible without capitulating to the “song of the angels” as the shepherds did, or succumbing to the urge to “follow that Star” as the wise persons did long ago. 

The preposterous promise is that God has acted, is acting, and will continue to act until God’s dream for this world becomes a reality.  Christmas is about believing this promise.  It is about believing that the “Holy Spirit can overshadow us,” like Mary, and that a new birth can and will occur in us.  This is the work of Christmas, to believe at the deepest level of our beings that this promise can come true.  So it is, if we want anything to happen in us this Christmas, we have to surrender (submit, capitulate, yield, and succumb) to the promise and such surrendering goes against our grain!

Come to think of it, we can’t even pray without surrendering—as in this prayer written by Howard Thurman:

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!
Brood over our spirits, our Father,
Blow upon whatever dream Thou hast for us
That there may glow once again upon our hearths,
The fire of Thy contagion.
Pour out upon us whatever our spirits need of shock, of lift, of release
That we may find strength for these days—
Courage and hope for tomorrow.
In confidence we rest in Thy sustaining grace
Which makes possible triumph in defeat, gain in loss, and love in hate.
We rejoice this day to say:

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!

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