I write this in the predawn hours sitting beside Linda’s bed as she drifts further into the darkness of dementia. Personal grief hovers like a foreboding storm cloud.
The news is dominated by a dysfunctional government caught in the tug of war over a border wall. Political instability is spawning authoritarianism here and around the world and tribalism is shattering the common good.
Reports of a plummeting stock market compounds uncertainty and anxiety. Will there be enough in pensions and savings to meet the escalating costs of basic needs?
Accounts of more violence in our local community have become part of the daily news, and this morning is no exception.
While I read these news reports and ponder present and impending loss, Christmas carols play in the background: “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “What Child Is This,” “Away in a Manger.”
The dissonance is palpable! All is not calm and bright! Peace and goodwill seem an idle dream.
The surrounding darkness, widespread discord, and lurking danger seem to render images of a babe lying peacefully in a manger and a heavenly choir harmoniously singing to lowly shepherds a fanciful escape from the real world.
But, no! The Christmas story as told in the Gospels IS THE REAL WORLD! The infinite and eternal God enters the finite and temporal. The Word has become flesh and dwelt among us.
In the midst of political oppression and economic injustice of the Roman despots Herod and Quirinius, a baby is born to a peasant teenager.
Made homeless by governmental decree, Mary gives birth in a stable in the dark of the night in the remote village of Bethlehem.
Fleeing brutality and violence, the vulnerable family migrate to Egypt as an insecure emperor cruelly slaughters innocent children. The wailing of grieving mothers pierces the silent night.
Grief, poverty, homelessness, migration, violence, dysfunctional governments, power hungry politicians! We know these realities all too well!
Christmas, however, speaks of another reality which beckons us toward a new world where
- the least and most vulnerable birth God’s presence and purposes
- the power of love supersedes the love of power
- the poor and powerless have access to God’s abundance
- bridges of hospitality replace walls of exclusion
- the grieving are not left alone with their tears
- forgiveness erases vengeance
- kindness blots out cruelty
- peace and goodwill supplant war and hostility
Here is the Good News of Christmas: God’s reality wins! “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it!” That’s the gospel truth!