By Rev. Nancy Neal
This year’s day of Epiphany fell on Jan. 6. The same day an angry mob of protestors stormed the U.S. Capitol Building during the certification of President-elect Joe Biden.
In the Epiphany story, the wise ones from the east come to Jerusalem inquiring, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay homage.”
They recognize something special about Jesus and that leaves King Herod and all of Jerusalem frightened.
Herod is the client-king answerable to Rome, which was notorious for violence and repression driven by fear. When communities and leaders deal in the currencies of fear and domination, violence always follows, particularly when power structures are threatened.
In her Magnificat, Mary in Luke 1:50-55 muses about what will come of the child she is blessed to be carrying. And she sings,
“His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
The story of Jesus is a political story. Jesus ushers in a new kingdom that deals in the currencies of light and justice, peace and love, care and healing, and community.
Leaders spewing divisive rhetoric and aggrieved protestors engaging in mob activity is not new.
The currencies of domination and violence driven by fear have been alive and well throughout U.S. history. As long as human beings walk the earth, we will contend with those forces.
But our task is to pledge our allegiance, not to the ugliness and chaos and violence that captivated so many of us last week, but to the Prince of Peace who came to bring love and light to the world. In doing this, our hearts break open seeing the suffering of those who fear for their lives, who face food insecurity and financial insecurity.
Our hearts break for the lives lost during the pandemic and the families and communities with empty seats at holiday tables. Our hearts break as the light shines bright on the ways that evil penetrates our systems and breeds hate and scarcity and fear that lead to violence and domination.
And following the Prince of Peace, we learn to deal in currencies of light and justice, peace and love, care and healing, and community.
As our nation comes together for the inauguration next week, we have a chance to reset, to start anew. As Christians, we can use this moment to recommit ourselves to these important ways of being in the world.
O God, in this time of uncertainty and change, teach us your ways.
Teach us your ways so that we can find your peace, share your love, and fight for your justice.
Comfort our breaking hearts so that we might be a comfort to our neighbors.
Give us courage to speak the truth so that we might share your good news with the world.
Guard our hearts so that we might be agents of healing in this broken world.
In the name of the One who brings us deep peace,
Rev. Nancy Neal is the director of Church Relations at Bread for the World.