The Great Reversal

Luke 1:46-55.     Erly Marsial was traveling with her husband, children and other family members from violence- stricken Honduras to seek a safer place to live in the US. She was full of hope for a new, different life for her family. And she was great with child, carrying a baby boy in her womb, hoping he would be born after she arrived in the US. But Baby Alvin had a different plan. He was born in Mexico City instead, making him a Mexican citizen and his parents automatic residents of Mexico with a path to citizenship.
Monica Curca is the founder and managing director of Activate Labs, a non profit based in southern California which seeks to build a creative force for peace and justice by activating and resourcing leaders and movements to create communities where everyone belongs and can lead their own transformation.
They have worked in Palestine and on the pipeline that threatened the Native American lands. They have created a rapid response to the migrant caravan, offering support and services to those whose footing on the road to safety and security is unsure, to those for whom there is no room at the inn.
Erly met Monica in Mexico City, where Alvin’s early arrival forced Erly and her family to be left behind by the rest of the caravan. Monica leveraged resources needed to get a bus to transport Erly, her family, and several other families to Tijuana, located on the border of Mexico and California. She helped the refugees to find shelter in a church called Iglesia de Todas Las Naciones, or The Church of All Nations, which has become a temporary safe place for the whole family, complete with bunk beds and food. Monica was able to return a short time later to Tijuana to organize a surprise baby shower for Erly at the church. Monica says: “So much is lost in the journey. We don’t know what the future holds but we know how to do baby showers. This helps give them their dignity back.”
I want to share with you two of Activate Labs’ guiding principles: 1. choosing empathy and hope even in the darkness is transformative leadership. This is not a faith based organization as far as I can tell, but we can recognize that principle as a statement of faith. We are a people who believe that the light of Christ can not be overcome by the darkness of the world. Even when times are full of division and your president wants a wall and your government shuts down, forcing many to be on unpaid furlough, even when your Christmas is blue and empty, even when your furnace is condemned as unsafe and you have to wait weeks for a replacement because you don’t have the funds on your own, we can still choose empathy and hope. And just the act of choosing empathy and hope brings transformation. It transforms our outlook, it transforms our relationships, it transforms our community. A second principle of the Activate Labs is this: Everyone has what it takes to transform power. This seems to echo Mary’s words, John’s words, and even the words of the prophet Isaiah which we have been hearing during this Advent. Power structures can be changed, and even those who you might think unable to have a voice do indeed have power. Look at Mary herself.
Mary is young, female, unmarried and pregnant. She is definitely pretty low down on the power ladder in her community. Yet she clearly is singing about the transformation of power, upending the rich and the mighty and lifting up the poor and the powerless like her. It seems like a human extension of what John preached about in the wilderness—lifting up the valleys and bringing down the mountains, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah. It is like the message is ricocheting off the hillsides, designed then to bounce into human hearts: this God is doing something new, something different, and it affects YOU! This God is about to perform the great reversal because this God is about justice and equity and grace and compassion. That means those of us on top have to share power with those of us who are on the bottom. History has proven that it is difficult for humans ensconced in powerful positions to give them up. Not everyone is willing to be a part of creating communities where everyone belongs. Not yet.
But the hope we find in Mary’s words, the hope we find in the birth of this child, the hope we find in the work of people like Monica Curca, the hope we find in our own belonging to the kindom of God, means that we do not give up. We insist there is another way, a better way. Baby Alvin’s early arrival made Erly and her family re-look at their journey. His arrival will change their future path. With people like Monica in their lives, Erly and her family have hope for a positive, healthy future in a new place.
Jesus’ arrival makes the world re-look at where we are headed. What direction are you going? His birth kicks off a whole new, upside down, topsy turvy world that is still God’s preference, still God’s choice. It is a world where everyone belongs. It is a world where power is shared, not hoarded. It is a world where voices are heard, and no one has to be described as marginalized. We are not there yet, but we can’t give up. It is Christmas, and the child has come. God so loved the world that God sent the Son in the form of a babe, in the form of one of us, to grow up in the neighborhood, to live right in the midst of the baby Alvins and the Erlys, the man begging at the stoplight, the clients at Healthcare for the Homeless, the Baltimoreans who live afraid of being deported, the neighbor with her power cut off. That God in the flesh comes to transform a world, filling us with hope and empathy, one heart at a time. Thanks be to God!

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