Sixty-three years ago, a woman whom others would consider only a maid changed her seat on a bus and therefore changed the world. Rosa Parks’ simple act not only began a process that redefined policy but also challenged the way we think of people and power. We are all the beneficiary of Rosa Parks’ individual act of courage and faith.

Faith and courage are at the core of all acts of innovation.  As we enter into the Christmas season let us remember that the birth story is surrounded by small stories of people doing unexpected things because they opened their minds to a new insight about God’s presence and work in the world.

The Christmas story resonates so powerfully in every generation because it is not only about the acts of God but about the many acts of humanity. In fact, it is the story of a baby that is vulnerable to the choices of humanity. If Joseph “puts Mary away” (Matt 1:19), does she abort the child out of shame? If the wise men do not go home a different way, does the king find out the exact location of the child so that he can take his life while still in the manger? If the parents of the child do not flee to Egypt, does Jesus even get to live out his purpose? All of these decisions are in the hands of humanity – not God.

The power of the story is not that human beings have faith in God but that God has faith and trust in us. In an educational institution, it is sometimes hard for us to admit that knowing something is not enough. Believing something does not change anything. Having the courage and faith to risk doing something that may fail, that others do not understand, and that others may ridicule are the only things that change the world. Only in retrospect will we know if our choices lead to a triumph over tragedy. Only later, if ever, will it be known if we are an inspiration or a warning.

Believing in the historicity of the Christmas story is not necessary to understand it’s authenticity. For those who seek to respond to a deep seated internal or external call to try something new, improve upon something old or create a whole new way of doing things, this is a Christmas inspiration and a warning.

First the warnings:

  • God does not move for us. We have to move for ourselves.
  • You will have to take a risk. Resistance and complexity are a part of the process of any significant story of change.
  • We will have to take risk. Risks are an indication of significance and the impact on the world.

Now the Inspiration:

Without faith it is impossible to change the world. With faith all things are possible!

With faith and great courage all of us can have the impact of Rosa Parks. Otherwise, all we will have is a story for believers to be comforted and a myth that provides a holiday for those who do not believe. But, I believe that it was intended to be so much more.

Merry Christmas!

From The Center for Innovation in Ministry & The Applied Wisdom Institute