Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
Neighbors Go Home: The New American Way
I remember overhearing a man pitch his house to a potential buyer: “If you’re like me and you don’t like neighbors, you’ll love this location. The neighbors leave you alone.” The pitch worked.
As an overly busy introvert, I get it. I don’t like interruptions. Unexpected visits consume excess energy. If I take too much time to hang out with folks, when will I get to my long to-do list?
Just give me peace and quiet in long stretches. Indeed, unless I honor my need for quiet time alone, I cannot give my best to family, co-workers, and clients.
But withdrawal can go too far, and it seems we become ever more isolationist as the years pass. We build fortresses in the suburbs. We trust “different” people less and less.
Americans and Europeans are leery of folks coming from across the tracks or the border with needs we have resources to meet. We want our privacy, our culture, our status quo.
Peacemaking Jesus’ Way
I could blend right into that western way except for this Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Search in vain for Jesus demonstrating peacemaking by recommending that people build privacy fences and run out undocumented immigrants. He crossed waters and touched lepers and affirmed the faith of religious outsiders. He called them neighbors. That was peacemaking to him.
At Christmas we celebrate his coming, we who want to exchange gifts and keep it all within the family. No strangers please.
But we do not celebrate that way because we are Christians. We celebrate that way because we are Americans who harbor the loneliest metaphysic in history. We see reality as a collection of seven billion private movies played in seven billion heads, and I can only count on the movie playing in my inner theatre.
I can only know and trust what I experience, how I see things, what I believe. My life is what I make it. Meanwhile, nobody mess with my stuff.
Jesus loves me too much to let me get away with that. Jesus interrupted the fishermen, tax collectors, wayward women, and pious priests of his day, and in his mercy, perhaps he will interrupt me too.
A Christmas Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, child born to a couple on the road whose star drew magi to the middle of nowhere and whose angels led shepherds from the fields in the night, interrupt me this Christmas. Bother me. Mess with my stuff. Don’t let me snooze as you pass through my parlor.
For my heart waits for you always even when I have no idea what I want. As richly as you have blessed me, I want to welcome you more than anything. And I know what it takes to be present for your presence: Teach me to welcome my neighbor.