While We Were Gathered / by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

"Holiday Season" supposedly doesn't start for another few weeks, but I'm already seeing some Christmas decorations in stores. It's no wonder; Christmas is America's favorite holiday by far, and there are many people who want to get into the "Christmas Spirit" as soon as possible. It's a time of year when we tell stories about generosity and encourage one another to be kind and hospitable. What could be wrong with that?

Well, if you're looking for someone to tell you what's wrong, you never have to look farther than the words of the prophets, and this week's passage from Amos cuts right to the heart of why we often feel so upset with public displays of religion in America. 

Why would God say "I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies"? Isn't it good to go to church? Isn't two months of holiday cheer better than none?

While we were gathered this past Sunday, 27 children of God were killed by a young man who should have seen himself as beloved and his 26 victims as family and friends. Instead he was, by all accounts, filled with petty hate and inspired by the supposed glory of taking human life. 

When a country filled with churches and obsessed with Christmas sees so much bloodshed and injustice, both here and around the world, I resonate with the grief and impatient fury felt by God and expressed by the prophet. How dare we as a nation claim God's favor? How dare we look forward to the Day of Reckoning? 

I don't think God really wants us to give up our festivals and our solemn assemblies. But I do think God wants us to keenly experience the divine grief and anger at violence and injustice that blossoms while we look the other way, and I think God wants us to do something about it. Let that holy fury make you strong and bold, make you stiff-necked and sure-footed in the fight for justice. Because without that fight, the Reason for the Season is just so much noise.

Blessings of fortifying fury and healing grief be with you all this week,