In his work: “The Mood of Christmas”, Howard Thurman writes on “The Hope of The Disinherited” saying: “In the book it is written that Simeon was a Jew full of years, who had hoped so long for Israel that his hope created the thing upon which it had fed. He said, “This child is destined for the downfall as well as for the rise of many a one in Israel; destined to be a Sign for man’s attack— to bring out the secret aims of many a heart” (Moffatt). Simeon in a sense is the symbol of the disinherited looking for the consolation of Israel. He felt that the Christ child was the answer. Was he right?
In seeking to answer that question, certain facts are of profound significance.
Jesus was poor. He was not a Roman citizen like Paul and was therefore outside the circle of real privilege. He was a carpenter. He did not write a book. He did not travel very far from his home. He was tender with out being soft. He was kind without being sentimental. He was gracious without being officious. He refused to be made into a political leader and resisted the pressure to become merely a popular hero.
He came preaching a message of hope. It’s predominant note was not as eschatological. But he understood its meaning. He knew that the otherworldly hope is the cry of pain in the human spirit as it writhes in the toils of an overmastering frustration. He knew also that it gave relief to the human spirit— temporary but mighty. It is temporary because it affirms a complete and thoroughgoing dualism and affirms the ultimate defeat of God in the world of men. His faith in God could not let that pass unchallenged. He further that at the heart of such a hope there is not only despair but also deep revenge and the completest invalidation of the unity of life.
Eschatology deals in antithesis but scarcely in synthesis. The failure to see this is one of the profoundest illusions of the dispossessed. Over against that, Jesus insists that God is the God of the just and the unjust. Ultimately, this is God’s world and he can never be God in this world If he bowed finally before the swirling, seething cauldron of oppression and injustice in this world.
His message was one of love against hate and bitterness. He was never more of a realist than at this point. Hate is powerful; often his followers have been very sentimental in their shallow and un-thoughtout repudiations. Hate is apt to be for the oppressed a short but temporary form of validation. When the disinherited cannot fight, cannot even struggle, caught and trapped by the iron hands of unconscious or reflective injustice, hate crystallizes the personality and makes it possible for a vast defiance to be flung into the teeth of the destroyer.
But Jesus said that this finally burned out all the spiritual bearings in the life of the hater and left him a charred corpse, stranded on the shores of his desolate experience. He knew that love was the most completely persistent quality of which the human spirit is capable, because for its sake and under its aegis men will do gladly what no other power in heaven or hell could make them do without love.
Fundamental to all was his deep confidence in God. This is the heart of what he gives to the disinherited. Here is no superficial optimism, but a vast faith that reaches through all the dimensions of human life, giving dignity, worth, and purpose even to the least significant. In Jesus, all men may see the illumined finger of God guiding them in the way that they should go, so that high above the clash of arms in the conflict for status, for Place, for privilege, for rights, he can hear speaking distinctly and clearly to his own spirit the still small voice of God, without which nothing has real meaning, with which all the rest of the journey, however difficult, however painful, however devastating, will be filled with a music all its own and even the stars in their appointed rounds and all the wounded world of nature participate in the triumphant music of his heart.
Such is the faith he communicates, and in its presence even death becomes a little thing.
Contact Barbara A. Woods Washington by email at mustardseed firstname.lastname@example.org