December 13, 2020

“Do You!”

(From John 1: 6-9, 19-28)

     On a hot Afternoon in July, my car ran over a nail and the tire went flat within a few miles.  Stuck on the side of the road, I called my Father to come and help me.  He showed up on the scene within minutes, took the car jack out of my trunk, and began to raise the car so the tire could be changed.  Then, he took out the lug nut wrench and began to loosen them in order to remove the flat tire.  One or two of the lug nuts would not budge, no matter how hard he torqued the wrench.  I even recall that he tried to step on the wrench, but the lug nuts still did not move.  We were stuck!

     Suddenly, a rag-tag old black pick-up truck pulled off to the side of the road just ahead of us.  Out of the cab popped a young man my Father later described as a “Hippie” when telling this story.  He had hair below his shoulders, a scruffy beard, and wore a red scarf tied around his forehead.  The sleeves of his shirt had been cut off, so that it fit the young man more like a vest. His jeans were old and well-worn, and his work boots had definitely seen better days.  He walked up and immediately assessed our situation.  “It looks like you could use a hand there, mister,” he said to my visibly frustrated and exhausted Dad.  He pulled a heavy-duty lug wrench from the bed of his truck, torqued it down—and, “voila,” problem solved—tire removed.  He proceeded to the open trunk of my car, and he pulled out the spare tire, put it on and torqued it in place.  Then he placed the flat tire, jack and lug wrench back in my trunk, closed it and brushed off his hands.  “There you go, all set,, he said to us.  My Dad stood in awe for a moment and then thanked the young man very sincerely.  He took 2 twenty dollar bills out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, who looked as if he could probably use it.  “No thanks, sir,” the young man said, “My gift to you—glad to help.”  My Dad asked the man a second time if he was sure he would not take the money.  “No, No,” he said, “it is my gift to you.”  He picked up his own wrench, placed it back in his truck bed, got into the cab of the truck, and off he went—smiling and waving as he left us.  Several cars driven by “average-looking” guys passed us by, it was the untraditional looking young man that stopped to help us.

     John the Baptizer was quite an interesting character.  His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, dedicated him to the Lord as the angel of the Lord had instructed them to before his birth.  John lived in the wilderness, and wore a cloak of camel’s hair with a leather belt tied at his waist.  His wilderness diet consisted of the locusts and wild honey he could scavenge from his surroundings.  Today, John might be called a hermit.  He certainly marched to the beat of an unconventional drummer for a man of his day.  Some may even have thought him to be a bit off as he emerged from his wilderness domain proclaiming the word of the Lord that the scriptures tell us he was given.  “Repent,” his message instructed his listeners, “for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2, NRSV). 

     Odd as John’s outer appearance was, his message was compelling, and people came out to the Jordan River to be baptized by him, confessing their sins for forgiveness.  John openly admitted to all of the people before him that he was not the promised one—the Messiah.  He understood himself to be the one sent to prepare the way of the Lord—in the Prophet Isaiah’s words, to “make his paths straight.”  John knew Jesus, for their mothers were cousins.  His experience with Jesus had convinced him that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  John would emerge from his wilderness refuge with a purpose.  That purpose was to deliver a divine message of comfort and hope, a message of preparation for a people about to experience “Emmanuel,” God with us, and among us, in the person of the man named Jesus.  John was true to both himself and his message.  These traits prompted Jesus to say of his cousin John, “Among those born of women there is no one greater than John.”  (Luke 7:24).   

     I did not have to look far to find a contemporary example of “doing you.”  This week, a young man named Trevor Wilkinson was suspended from his high school in Abilene, Texas, for wearing nail polish to school. Nail polish worn by male students is a violation of the dress code of Clyde High School, the school at which Trevor is a senior student.  Trevor is arguing his suspension on the grounds that this is an antiquated and gender biased dress code, one whereby female students at Clyde are allowed to wear nail polish to school, while male students are not.  Trevor is defending his right to be true to himself, and to be allowed to wear nail polish as a part of his unique self-expression.  In the “you do you,” and be who you truly are, spirit, Trevor seeks the freedom to do Trevor—his way.  I applaud this young man’s courage in the face of such adversity. 

      Church, we are living in the 21st Century.  We claim the right of the individual to engage in self-expression, yet even in these modern times, our tolerance for freedom and diversity seems to be limited to living within established boundaries and societal “norms.”  When we dig deeper, we most often find bright, caring and creative minds behind the diversity of individual expressions.  So, let us look beyond the obvious, the surface, that we may find the inner beauty that lies within each of God’s children.  Like my Dad, you may be surprised by the goodness and generosity of the person under the hair, makeup or nail polish.  We are all wonderfully created by God, unique in our personal gifts and our way of expressing them.  This Advent, this year, let us learn to show one another God’s grace, so that I can do me, and so that you are free to do you.  Amen—let it be so.

“Star Child”

(words-Shirley Erena Murry, music-Carlton R. Young) 

                       Star-Child, earth-Child, go-between of God, love Child, Christ Child, heaven’s lightning rod,  

This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes to everyone, everyone alive!

Street child, beat child, no place left to go, hurt child, used child, no one wants to know, 

 This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes to everyone, everyone alive!