Dr. King's Christmas Sermon
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On Christmas of 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. preached the following words: "The next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God...Man is more than ...whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke .... Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such....And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody."
Christmas is a marvelous celebration. We both love the festivity and decorations, the music and the meals. Christmas celebrates the greatest gift that we receive, Jesus Christ, and should therefore be a season of great festivity.
But in receiving such a tremendous gift, we receive a correspondingly great obligation, namely, the duty to welcome. Christ comes, but he does not come alone. He brings his love, but in doing so, he brings us the burden of loving all whom he loves.
Christ comes to reconcile us to the Father and to one another. He does this in an unspeakably profound way: He makes us His Body. St. Paul teaches it clearly: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?" (1 Cor. 6:15). "In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Rom. 12:5).
All human beings share the nature Christ took upon himself, and every human being is called to be part of the Body. Christ excludes nobody from his love, and so neither can we.
Christmas, therefore, takes away the option of excluding people from our love. God has a face now, and in that face we understand the dignity of all who share human nature, including our brothers and sisters in the womb. They, of course, are the easiest to exclude. In her famous song "We are One Body," Dana includes the words, "See the unborn baby, the forgotten one, they are not forsaken, they are not unloved."
We also understand that all who share that human nature belong to the One who takes that nature upon himself at Christmas. This Feast makes it clear that no human being can own another, or oppress another. Now, one of our brothers in the human family is God. To claim to be able to own or oppress anyone who shares a human nature is, therefore, to claim to be able to own and oppress God himself.
In the documents of the Second Vatican Council we read these words: "By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being" (GS, 22). Hence, St. John Paul II wrote in The Gospel of Life, "It is precisely in the "flesh" of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ" (EV #104) and again, â€˝life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself" (EV #9).
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Christmas is about welcome; abortion is about rejection. St. Paul writes, â€˝Welcome one another as Christ welcomed you" (Rom. 15:7) Welcome means that we recognize the dignity of the other person and make room for that person whether that person was anticipated or not, planned or not, convenient or not. This stands in contrast to the concept of â€˝wantedness." When someone is â€˝wanted," they meet some need or expectation of somebody else, and the temptation is to think that their value rises and falls with their degree of â€˝wantedness." Welcome, on the other hand, recognizes that their value is intrinsic to them. They are welcomed whether we want them or not. While some (like Planned Parenthood) say â€˝Every child a wanted child," we say, â€˝Every child (and every person) a welcome child."
We welcome all he welcomes, and are to make room for all he loves, especially the most unwanted, marginalized, burdensome, or inconvenient. If we welcome the baby Jesus, we welcome every baby and we welcome his teaching that every life is sacred, and we live accordingly.
Dr. King, in his efforts to advance human rights and equality, taught about the Beloved Community, where all were welcomed. We have made great progress, but today all are still not welcomed, particularly the unborn. That is why we issued " and many leaders signed " a declaration called The Beloved Community and the Unborn. In January of 2011, Alveda's mom, Naomi Ruth Barber King (wife of Martin's brother A.D. King), proclaimed this declaration publicly in Washington, DC. The document references the Christmas 1967 sermon and states, "In our day, therefore, we cannot ignore the discrimination, injustice, and violence that are being inflicted on the youngest and smallest members of the human family, the children in the womb... We declare today that these children too are members of the Beloved Community, that our destiny is linked with theirs, and that therefore they deserve justice, equality, and protection." The full text of the declaration, furthermore, was included in the time capsule that was placed in the new monument to Dr. King in Washington.
And with God's grace, the task will be completed, because it is a task fueled by the power of love. Christ gives us the power to welcome all whom he welcomes. His yoke is easy, his burden light.
And that is one of the key lessons of Christmas.
-- Evangelist Alveda King serves Priests for Life full time as Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn; Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life.
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