For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
In Guatemala, where I do much of my work, a Maya friend begins prayers by invoking our “Creator and Former,” a rendition that reminds us that we are called into being and shaped only in relationship with others and with the creation itself. We are not self-made, and the Maya articulate a cosmovision in which balance, harmony, and equilibrium are crucial components of our being in community with other humans and our being in the cosmos. As well, we are shaped by the past, not only in the presence of those ancestors and siblings we carry in our memory but also in the knowledge that the words of the Creator will not return empty in the lives of the faithful. The snow and the rain fall, often in unequal portions in these days of human-induced climate change. Yet we find constancy in the possibility of an expectant return from exile and the renewal of lifeways that may yet enable us to transcend enmity between peoples and the estrangement between our species and the creation from which our shared being cannot be separated.
What if Christmas, then, represents a sign of constancy on the horizon? What the liberationists refer to as an “in-breaking”? A new reality emerges out of our expectant waiting, our longing in THIS year punctuated by so much loss, anxiety, and fear. The Creator speaks a Word, and with that presence in our midst, we read the signs of our times and remember the promise of the tree of life that stands beside the river of life and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelations 22.2). Instead of normalcy, we look for renewal and restoration, a hope that watered by snow and rain and our own commitments will break forth in the redemption our times.
God of life, you call us into being as our Creator; you redeem us in your words spoken throughout history and in your eternal Word that speaks to us through the generations; you sustain us with the constancy of your presence in the face of all that threatens. Teach us so to live that in our living, like the snow and the rain, we might water the earth with steadfastness and loving kindness.
Matt Samson is an associate professor of anthropology and chair of Latin American Studies at Davidson College. A graduate of Austin Presbyterian Seminary and the University at Albany, his research and teaching are centered on religious change, ethnic identity, and human-environment relations in the Americas. Matt enjoys introducing students to ethnographic approaches, and currently serves on a PCUSA study team on Central America under the auspices of the Advisory Council on Social Witness Policy.
Water photo by David Kepley