A long while ago now, I read an article about someone whose brother had died,
“There’s a phrase,” she says, “‘the situation is hopeless, but not serious’. That’s how I see life, and all these things that are just dreadful. If you don’t laugh at them, you would curl up in a heap and wail.”
I was struck by such a sense of loss that this was the truth of this woman’s experience, which is probably the reason that what she said has stuck with me all this time. For me, situations are serious, but they are never hopeless.
Friends, tomorrow we celebrate Christmas.
Tomorrow we celebrate that however darkly serious the situations this world presents us with become, they will never once prove hopeless.
Into the messiness of this world, our world now, the messiness of our lives now, into the serious situations in which we feel inconsolable, comes the message again that the Savior of the world is born to deliver us into hope.
It is a message that, through Christ, the world can be different, that our lives can change, forgiveness is possible, and that Love lived out in tangible ways can change us and the world.
This message of hope is one that we need to hear over and over again spoken over the times of our grief and hopelessness. John’s gospel says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” The Message says it in this way, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” God pitched his tent in our human world and lived in it, with us.
The Saviour of the world came not as a mighty revolutionary or conquering warrior to put things right by violent revolution or triumphant battle, but as a tiny baby. This life-changing event changed the world into before and after. Before Christ. After Christ. Forever changed. This baby grew up into a person full of grace and truth, who loved all those he encountered, especially those of no account, those who were marginalized or rejected by society. Through this baby the light of Christ shone into the world and nothing would be able to put that light out, not even betrayal or crucifixion or death. The light of Christ shines over two thousand years later, shines through you and me, through countless people who live out Christ’s love and light, day after day, in small and larger ways.
It started in this seemingly obscure event of a couple far away from home, on a journey, giving birth to a baby in a stable or cave around the back of an inn. Today’s poem in the anthology I’m reading is Ursula Fanthorpe’s ‘BC:AD‘ which ends, “And this was the moment when a few farm workers and three members of an obscure Persian sect walked haphazard by starlight straight into the kingdom of heaven.” It looked like a nonevent, the journey was haphazard, full of fear and uncertainty about where and what was going to happen. Yet the light shines and the darkness has not put it out. The journey of the shepherds and the magi may have been haphazard but it walked them straight to Jesus, the light of the world, straight into the kingdom of heaven. And the light of Christ still shines, and nothing can or will ever stop it shining.
Jesus was born in the midst of the muck and the manure, the dirty and the hopeless and the place of no-room. The light of Christ shone despite the much less than ideal conditions for the birth of a baby. The light of Christ shines and brings hope into all those places of dirt and hopelessness. The light of Christ shines into our world and shines in us and through us, so that we can shine Christ’s love into the hurting places of our world where hope is most needed.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus tomorrow, we are being invited to look once more within our own selves and out into our world, and to find hope, whether in celebrating and thanksgiving or in lament and grieving and shouting. Always we find plenty of shadows and gloom there, mixed together with light. It is into the darkest corners that the Saviour comes, the light of Christ shines, bringing light by the tender mercy of God. Christ shines light into our hurried, frenetic lives, our self-centeredness, our weakness, our frustration, our half-lived lives of boredom or apathy. Christ shines light to our desperateness, our shame, our fears, our despairs, our hopelessness, shining love and light into the deepest places of struggle. Christ shines light into the struggles and suffering of our world of seemingly endless wars and killing, our world of alienation and deceit, corruption and greed, unrelenting famine and grinding poverty. The light shines and the darkness will not put it out.
I wonder where you find yourself today, and what your thoughts are about tomorrow and what it represents. I pray that you are rested and well, but most of all that you have hope. I pray that just as the star shone over the baby in the manger, leading the magi on their haphazard journey straight to Jesus, that you will also see light shining into the muck of our lives and our world, and that you may be lead to the possibility of hope, and, at that, hope born into a manger.
May you have a restful and joyful Christmas.