By any reckoning this has not been an easy year. Whether we are embittered by the conflicting feelings over the war in Iraq or we are just beleaguered by the constant pounding of nature as symbolized in Rita and Katrina, things have not been easy.
Then this weekend we learned that Time Magazine did not choose a “Person of the Year” for 2005, but instead a trio: rock star Bono, and Bill and Melinda Gates. Though I haven’t read the article yet, I understand that they were chosen for their humanitarian efforts. The Gates’ were chosen for creating the largest charitable foundation in our world, and Bono for bringing attention to the plight of the poorest of the poor. At first I thought Time had abdicated its responsibility to help us think about what’s really important in our world. Then I began to wonder if I was too hasty in my judgment.
I like the story about the well-dressed man who appeared at a poor widow’s door in a village where many went hungry. The stranger knocked on the door and asked for food. “I have nothing I can share,” she replied.
”But I have the magic soup stone,” he told her. ”All I need is some water.” The woman set a large pot of water on the fire. She was so fascinated she ran to tell her neighbors. Soon others gathered to see what this magic soup stone would produce. The water began to steam, and the man gently placed the stone in the pot. He asked for a spoon and tasted it. ”Very good,” he said. ”If only we had a few potatoes, it would be perfect.”
”I have some potatoes at my home,” said one woman who ran to get them. The potatoes were added, and the man tasted the soup again. ”Even better,” he said. ”If we had some meat, we would have a fine stew.”
”I have some chickens,” announced another man, and soon some meat was added. And so it went. Vegetables and herbs and spices were contributed by the neighbors until only one thing was missing: bowls for everyone. Each brought their own and they all ate to their fill, and as they ate, the stranger left quietly, leaving the magic soup stone behind so that the people of that village would never go hungry again.
That’s who Jesus is. He brings us together, leads us to share, to give of ourselves, and empowers us to behave like subjects of the kingdom of God.
And when that happens, the kingdom of God is not ”someday” rather than ”today.” Nor is the kingdom ”heavenly” rather than ”earthly.” It is here and now, or at least now and then. The kingdom is here in our hearts, and here among us, and out there wherever we carry it, wherever we carry him.
Soon we will celebrate his coming to us as the babe of Bethlehem who became the Christ of the Ages. May we be as generous as the Gates’, and as persistent as Bono in sharing the heart of Christmas with those around us.