In 1969 while working in the X-ray department at the former Hawthorne Community Hospital (now known as the Robert F. Kennedy Hospital) in Los Angeles, I met a couple that was having a baby.
As I pushed her in a wheelchair down a hospital corridor to the X-ray department, the couple was engaged in a passionate discussion about the color of their expected baby's hair. She had red hair, while her husband was blonde.
"He's going to be a blonde," the man insisted.
"No, she's going to have red hair," exclaimed his wife.
Young, happy and in love, they were excited about the birth of their baby.
It was not long before the woman went into labor, but there were terrible complications. Sadly, she gave birth to a still-born child. The gender and color of hair no longer mattered. They were deeply grieved by the loss of their child. Their playful anticipation ended with tragedy.
Each year, the season of Advent brings thoughts about hope, peace, joy and love as we await the coming of the Messiah. The world waits expectantly for Christ's birth in hopes of liberation and healing.
As war and violence continue to wreak chaos around the world, and poverty sends families deeper into despair, we need the Messiah to come and make things right. But, it is not the historic Jesus that brings change and hope today. The body of Christ has the power—through the Holy Spirit—to transform conditions that make for peace, love, hope and joy. But, too often, the church is deadly quiet.
Lies, rumors, deceit, fraud, and schemes to further victimize the vulnerable and weak pervade all sectors of society. The church in the United States has acquiesced to forces fighting against God's creation. Silence during this special period of international conflagration gives rise to evil and fosters power's nature to devour. Complicity with parties that oppose justice for all people and defy Jesus' instruction to "love your enemies" and "do good to those who hurt you" aligns the church with the opposing side to righteousness.
The church's failure to respond to cries of pleading children and helpless citizens in war-torn countries results in a long period of anticipation that ends with a still-born Jesus. The body of Christ is called to stand up and speak out whenever and wherever required. We are called to be the alternative community that risks everything to proclaim and live the Gospel.
Christmas renews life and reconciles the most despised. Around the world, people are waiting for the church in the United States to stand up and speak out with courage, boldness and truth. The world awaits the birth of Jesus through the church, which is the body of Christ.
For there to be joy, Christ's body must come alive with acts of justice, mercy, righteousness and peace. If we do not stand up and speak out, then those who are most needy and suffering the ravages of preventable unjust wars, disease, poverty and alienation will awaken Christmas morning to this sad, tragic news: "The baby did not survive."
The Rev. Art Cribbs is senior pastor of Christian Fellowship UCC in San Diego.