The Reverend Tasha Blackburn
December 25, 2016
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Perhaps you have read the book Out of Africa. It is a memoir that Karen Blixen wrote about the seventeen years she lived in Kenya in the early 1900s. It became famous because of the movie made about it starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
In her writing Blixen describes her daily life there. By day she ran a coffee plantation. She rejoiced in rain and worried during the dry periods. In the evenings she hosted a school for the people on the plantation who wanted to learn to read and write. Blixen wrestled with her own racism, overcoming it in some cases and falling into it in others. She was struggling with the end of her marriage and with her faltering business, which, ultimately, did fail. Blixen’s life, like so many of our lives, was a mixture of work and busyness sitting right next to stretches of boredom and loneliness.
During this time a young boy came to work for her. His name was Kitau. Blixen noticed at the time that he was observant and good at his job but she did not take any further notice of him than that. Until one day, three months after he’d begun working for her, Kitau came to her and asked for a letter of recommendation to take to one of her neighbors Ali bin Salim. Blixen was confused. She didn’t want Kitau to leave and so she offered to pay him more.
But he said No. He said this wasn’t about pay. Kitau told her, “I made up my mind before I came here that I would either become a Christian or a Muslim but I wasn’t sure which. So I’ve stayed here for three months in your house to see the ways and habits of Christians. Now I will go to Salim’s house and study the ways of Muslims. Then I will decide.”
To this surprising revelation, Blixen writes: “I believe that even an archbishop, when he had had these facts laid before him, would have said, or at least have thought, as I said: ‘Good God, Kitau, you might have told me that when you came here.’”
We do not get a notice announcing when people are watching us, observing how our faith affects our lives. But they are. People are looking to you and they are wondering what this faith means to you.
I share this story with you this morning because it is Christmas morning. And you don’t leave your home and change out of your pajamas this morning unless your faith is incredibly important to you; or unless you would like your faith to be important to you. I also share this story with you because I want to wish you a
Merry Christmas this morning but I want to wish you more than merriness for, as Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Jesus wants followers, not admirers.” May today make you merry but my prayer is that it also makes you transformed.
It is overwhelming and awe-inspiring to realize that our Hebrews passage describes Jesus as the one through whom God created the world. John begins his gospel telling us that all things came into being through Jesus. We read that LIFE was born today, LIFE and LIGHT; that, in Jesus, we see the very GLORY of God.
If we believe this, really believe that God’s glory was born today and, if we let that belief affect our lives, then we will be far more than merry today. We will be transformed. For Jesus wants followers, not admirers—transformed lives that show our difference to others. So, today, have a very merry Christmas and, more important than that, may you have a very transformative Christmas. Amen.