But Christmas

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Gentle Reader,

Advent is my favorite season on the church calendar. I love reading the ancient prophecies about the Messiah. I love seeing how God arranged every little detail just so. I love thinking about the squalling baby, God in Flesh. I wonder how Mary felt. How Joseph felt. How the shepherds felt. How God the Father felt. I hope there was a Canaan dog in the stable, one who adopted the new little family, because every baby needs a dog to grow up with.

The extravagant grace of Christmas moves me.

That grace stands in marked contrast to recent events. Contentious mid-term elections. Riots in Ferguson. An ever-widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.” And in my own world, a truck in need of major repairs, a newly-finicky water heater that my husband and father spent yesterday fixing and upcoming surgery.

How do we make sense of it all?

This time every year my mind recalls the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Whatever his theological convictions (some assert that he adhered to the heresy of Unitarianism, others that he belonged to no specific sect or stream, still others that he was a born-again evangelical), Longfellow nevertheless wrestled with the meeting of grace and harshness. In the midst of the Civil War, he wrote:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Whatever his beliefs, Longfellow highlights the tension that a Christian walks in. We have lasting peace in a world where peace is but a hiccup between wars. We experience abiding love in a world where love dries up without warning. We are the reconciled in a world of broken relationships. We live in the reality of the right and the reality of the wrong.

There are times when we are tempted to despair. When the darkness grows and seems to touch everything. When we wonder if it really will turn out right in the end.

But Christmas.

But the first, bewildered cry of the Holy Infant.

The wrong shall fail. The right prevail.

My journey to faith. (15)


2 thoughts on “But Christmas

  1. Peace on Earth?

    “Aren’t humans amazing? They kill wildlife – birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

    Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative – and fatal – health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and then plead for ‘Peace on Earth.'” C. David Coates


    The good news is that anyone can break this cycle of violence. I did and you can too. Each of us has the power to choose compassion. Peace really does begin in the kitchen. Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: http://veganvideo.org & http://tryveg.com



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