For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)
Josh Butler and a couple of other church members arrived about two hours before the 9:00 AM worship yesterday morning at Imago Dei Community. They were bearing gifts from the East.
As in, the Far East.
As in the "East" that we on the West Coast of North America have to travel west to reach.
As in Southeast Asia.
As in Hanoi, Vietnam.
As in, yes, the same Hanoi our country engaged as a blood adversary for 16 years, deployed 3.5 million Americans to serve in, shed the blood of over 58,000 of our own, over a million of theirs.
We cannot begin to tally the cost of war.
We left behind thousands of maimed, orphaned Asian children, thousands of Amerasian children conceived by the union of American GI sperm with the eggs of Asian prostitutes and abandoned "girlfriends".
Thousands of square miles of Vietnam were tainted and poisoned with Agent Orange. Over 30,000 Vietnamese have died since the end of the American War in 1975 as a result of one cause: accidental detonation of unexploded mines, bombs and other ordnance that are the inevitable byproducts, whether accidental or intentional, of war.
While we sing the "Alleluia Chorus " of Handel's Messiah in churches, civic auditoriums and via flash mobs in shopping malls, we may in the midst of our celebrations, wrapping paper and debit/credit slips forget the verses of Isaiah 9:2-5 that come immediately before the familiar verses Handel set to music:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as soldiers rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
The "gifts" Josh Butler and the others presented at Imago Dei's worship yesterday were these church bulletins printed in Hanoi. They were printed at a growing community business started by Imago in Hanoi in order to give work and dignity and worth and community to people with disabilities who are often hidden by their families who consider disabled people a shameful disgrace. Some of these workers and their families are so moved by this act of grace and kindness, this new view of life, this new beginning, that their hearts and minds are ready and eager to hear a message of steadfast love and hope.
We call it the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I call it taking the words of Isaiah 9:2-5 seriously because we have taken the words of Isaiah 9:6-7 seriously.
In Southeast Asia.
Or wherever we are.
Christ came not to sanction the economic growth of the righteous but to break the rod of the oppressor and to burn forever the boots, the armaments, the instruments and the uniforms of war. Including those that say: Made in USA.
Cleberate and get to know this Christ whose birth we proclaim. Get to know Isaiah first. Then be ready to unwrap the package of Jesus' birth by asking the question, "What does this call me to?"
The peace of Christ be with you all,
PS: The crooked cut on the bulletin? No, it wasn't done by the disabled person in Hanoi who ran the copies. Josh Butler himself took full responsibility for that.
Q: And where did the money come for this project?
A: Imago Dei's alteration of commerical Christmas known as Advent Conspiracy: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/