Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
These words from 1 Peter are familiar to most of us who have been in the church for any length of time. I think I’ve had them assigned as memory verses a few times. They are part of the make-up of my identity as a believer…part of the truth of His Word that are placed in my memory. They have been pushing ther way to the surface the last few days as I, along with all of us, try to process the events in Connecticut. Trying to process the horror and the sorrow, and the politics of how we prevent these things, and the deep, visceral emotion that desires revenge or justice or some way to make things right.
They won’t be made right.
What has been pushing its way into my thinking is the fact that in this broken world there is evil. It is easy to ignore sometimes, depending on where my focus is for the day. It is there, though. The list of horrors in our world are long: Hitler, Stalin, Khmer Rouge. The horrors of Mexico or Rwanda or so many other places. Child molesters. Murderers. Rapists.
The events in Connecticut move us emotionally and violently because they are such an affront to our senses….completely unprovoked attack upon innocent children and teachers. In a place that should be safe. Maybe that is the key…maybe that is part of what enlarges this in our focus. I’m not trying to minimize, but trying to articulate that this horror is placed in the context of a multitude of horrors. Because there is evil.
Sometimes we make God’s love a vapid, hard-to-grasp thing by making it without any justice or truth. If God simply loves everyone with no qualifications…no call to holiness, to repentance, to belief…that love is rather meaningless. Well, sometimes I think we also make evil rather vapid and hard to grasp…we make it vague.
God has told us, though, that it is not vague. That there is evil that seeks us out to destroy us. There is an evil one and he is not compassionate or vague. He hates all that is good and he hates all that is innocent and he rejoices in the horrors that bring us to confusion and tears….but that same evil that would seek to destroy us does something else. It illuminates our deep need for help. That same evil that would destroy us drives us to the redemption of a savior.
I have to repeat the poem from Madeleine L’Engle I posted Friday night because it summarizes Christmas so well for me:
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He died with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait
till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Christmas is not just about a babe born in a manger. It is part of the story. The story did not begin there, the story began when we chose to turn away from God and He began to redeem us. Christ coming to earth, the Word made flesh, the Maker of the stars born….was God dealing with evil. This babe in the manger, this tiny one, was an unimaginable response to the one who would try to destroy us. This babe in the manger, this God who would enter our pain, will restore and redeem and conquer.
This does not make the horror less easy to understand, it does not make the mourning softer….no it makes the mourning louder and the cry for justice stronger. We know that the evil is wrong. We know that it is beyond gun control laws, beyond marshals being placed around us to protect us….we know that there is one that hates us, but we know that there is one that loves us more. There is one that loves enough to suffer with us to redeem us and that is the only thing that can bring hope in the midst of a broken world. We are part of the brokenness, our sin is part of the pain and the horror. We have to not let the Santa cheer and elf-on-a-shelf cause the enormity of the Incarnation be softened.
God came to earth as a man to deal with the evil that would prowl around as a roaring lion seeking to destroy us, and with the sin that would choke us and destroy us without fanfare. Rejoice! Rejoice!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5