Today’s Advent thought talks about holiness. In particular Bodenheim writes about the resistance of Jesus; ‘One of the teachings he resisted was holiness-as-separation‘. Jesus got involved in the dirt and mess of his creation. He touched lepers which ‘the law’ said he could not touch. He healed ‘demoniacs’ which were exiled from the community due to their uncleanness or not being holy according to the law. Jesus simply showed acceptance and compassion.
Jesus upset people doing this as it was a massive challenge to the tidy laws of the time that told who was in an who was out.
This week I spoke with someone who shared a sad story of a Christian person they knew excluded from their church because of their sexuality. This person had been forced out because he did not fit this particular churches purity rules of what is and is not holy, who is in and who is out, who can and can’t be a Christian. The ridiculousness of that very statement just made me LOL! As if anyone can make that decision other than Jesus! This case is both shocking and sad. Someone’s sexuality does not prevent them from being holy. God’s presence makes them holy. God’s love means they are accepted.
This morning I was working on my allotment. As I was praying and pulling up crops and weeds i was conscious of God being with me and walking on Holy ground. All ground is holy – it must be as God is everywhere. Still today we think of holiness as purity but, today, on my allotment, I was filthy as I was covered in mud and grime and whatever else. It’s easy to forget that the world, created by God, is sacred and yet it is filthy!
God is in the mud and grime and everything else of our creation. God is in the filth. It’s not us being pure that makes us holy, it is God’s presence that makes us holy. It’s not purity that defines how we act with each other, it’s compassion.
As my Advent journey continues I am mindful, again, of Mary travelling on a donkey to Bethlehem. The journey itself would have been filthy and grimy. My thoughts go to the room full of animals. Jesus, THE holy one, was born amongst the hay and crap of a farmyard and yet this IS the most holy occurrence on the planet that has ever happened!
Jesus did not worry about cleanliness at the start of his mission. He did not worry about being born in a pure environment. His coming amongst the crap of a stable showed that healing our communities was far more important to him than being concerned about his own holiness. And Christians we are called to follow the example of Jesus.
This Advent, do we join others in condemning so we keep ourselves pure and clean, or this Advent do we have the courage to step into the filth to help heal brokenness and transform communities. (I call that mission). The choice is ours to make.