During these weeks before Christmas, we seem more sensitized to human need and lack of peace in our communities and around the world. As we frantically attempt to have a season that is merry and bright in the midst of mass murders, economic injustice, acts of racism,
unwelcomed refugees, hungry and homeless children, women, and men, we try to convince ourselves that for a few days there will be hope, joy, peace, and love. And that our good feelings will somehow help the world be a better place.
Then, like never before, but really like every day, we have political candidates speaking what most of us Americans would never utter for the sake of political correctness. Yet, we think and feel it in the darkness of own souls. For some of us there is relief that someone speaks for us. Someone who names our fears, announces our desires, and verbalizes our deepest desires.
In this time of “peace on earth and goodwill toward all human beings” could it be that we might need someone to address our hopes and fears and redeem us from our deep rooted bigotry and racism? Someone who embodies hope, joy, peace, and love?
The celebration of Christmas is the story of that someone. His name is Jesus. He is known at this time of year as “the Christ child. He is, as John writes in his story, “…the word became flesh.” Jn 1:14 Let’s see if I can illustrate “…the word became flesh.”
Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia, was a Southern Baptist preacher with Ph.Ds in both New Testament Greek and Agriculture. He had been invited to preach at a Baptist church located in a little suburb of a large city in North Carolina. In his mind, he assumed that it was an aristocratic, liberal church that wanted someone to come and pat them on the back for their liberal views toward race.
He said he went to the church. Instead of it being a big suburban church, it was a little mill-town church that was on the edge of the city. In fact, the city had grown up and engulfed it.
There must have been 600 people crowded into the sanctuary that would seat 300. He said the people amazed him. It was a racially integrated congregation. Black and white people sitting next to one another in the sanctuary. The choir was mixed with 50 voices in it.
After the service, the pastor got up and said, “Now we’re going to have dinner on the grounds.” Clarence said he began to tremble. It is one thing for black and white folks to worship together; it is another thing for them to eat together. He said, “The pastor was advocating social equality right there in the South.”
The choir sang, “Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees,” and the congregation went outside for dinner. Clarence thought they would go to the back yard of the church, but they went to the front yard, spread their tables, and started eating together.
He said, “I knew this wasn’t an unusual thing. I knew they had been doing this a long time.”
He eventually made his way over to the pastor and said, “You know, this is a rather amazing thing to me. Were you integrated before the Supreme Court decision?”
The pastor responded, “What decision?” He went on to explain, “Back during the depression, I was a worker here in this little mill. I didn’t have any education. I couldn’t even read and write. I got somebody to read the Bible to me, and I was moved and I gave my heart to the Lord, and later, I felt the call of the Lord to Preach.
“This little church here was too poor to have a preacher and I just volunteered. They accepted me and I started preaching. Someone read to me in there where God is no respecter of persons, and I preached that.”
Clarence asked, “How did you get along?”
“Well, the deacons came around to me after that sermon and said, “…we don’t want that kind of preaching…”
“What did you do?”
“I fired them deacons.”
“Why didn’t they fire you?”
“They never hired me. I just volunteered.”
“Did you have any more trouble with them?”
“Yeah. They came back at me again.”
“What did you do with them that time?”
“I turned them out. I told them anybody that didn’t know any more about the gospel of Jesus than that not only shouldn’t be an officer in the church, but shouldn’t be a member of it. I had to put them out.”
Clarence asked, “Did you have to put anybody else out?”
The preacher responded, “Well, I preached awfully hard, and I finally preached them down to two. But,” he said, “Those two were committed. I made sure that any time after that, anybody who came into my church understood that they were give their life to Jesus Christ and they were going to have to be serious about it. What you see here is a result of that.”
Clarence Jordan concluded by saying, “I thank God there was a preacher who had no better sense than to preach the gospel. It was the preacher’s faith that brought the power to the church. The preacher was willing to bring a conviction with an action and take the consequences.”
“The word became flesh…” What do you think? Do we need someone to address our hopes and fears and redeem us from our deep rooted bigotry and racism? Someone who embodies hope, joy, peace, and love?
Well, do I have news for you! May Jesus truly be born in your life today!
Here’s my question: Does Jesus make a difference in how people address racism in our neighborhoods and communities? How does Jesus address bigotry and racism in your life? Reply on Facebook.
Story adapted from Substance of Faith and Other Cotton Patch Sermons by Clarence Jordan, pages 43-44.