He Did Not Wait

12 months. 365 days. An anniversary.

Today, here in our home I hear the laughter and giggles of little children. They  paused the in their delight of Christmas season with a sense of being stunned that a year has passed since the shooting at Sandy Hook

Yesterday another shooting. I learned of it when a friend posted on FaceBook that her child was okay. I hadn’t heard anything because rarely is the news on in our house during the day.

The debate will turn to gun control and to safety and to…well, all the things we can focus on which we can feel some sense of control over.

Here’s the thing. We can’t control evil. I am not one to engage political debate on these pages, and surely not when I am trying to focus on Advent and the turning my attention, and hopefully bringing you along with me, on a journey toward Bethlehem. However, on the Anniversary of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, we have to pause for a moment and reflect.

These tragedies remind us that there is evil. There is right and there is wrong, and there is terrible, terrible evil. And it is beyond us to control it. We cannot sanction laws to make evil behave. We cannot, because we know in our own lives we do not behave the laws ourselves. The laws against pride and selfishness. We do not love as we should. We lust, we sin. And even in our very best moments, in our most generous moments, in our most true moments…we know that we are not completely true and good.

There is brokenness that betrays us when our minds do not allow us to think properly. Brokenness which causes our emotions to turn upon us, bringing depression and fears and anger.

In that brokenness, in that tragedy and in that sin…in that mess is where God stepped. He did not wait until we cleaned it up. He did not wait until all was at peace. And although we all have our own pain and our own unsteadiness, and our own imperfections…now is the time for us to share our song.  The tragedies are still around us, and all oh we need to weep with those who weep and acknowledge that pain. And yet…we have the hope to share, we have the One who stepped into tragedy and overcame.

Now, in the midst of this season especially, is the time for us to rejoice and share and say that God has come…and he has not asked evil to behave, he has overcome. He has healed, he has made the way.

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 dined 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!

Madeleine L’Engle  First Coming

The Babe in a manger who will destroy the terror.

Can you believe it has been almost a year since the atrocity of Sandy Hook shooting? December 14th. We are almost at the one year anniversary. In some ways it seems like it has been so much longer…this year has been filled with much activity in our household. This anniversary has snuck up on me in some ways, and yet the awareness of evil and that nearness of tragedy is a sense that does not go away. I wrote this post last year a few days after the shooting. This was my way to work through the events, and also to understand in light of Advent.

How do we place horror alongside the wonder of Advent? Well…how do we not?

This Babe in a manger will stand between us and the roaring lion who would seek to destroy us:

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!

-First Coming

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 sin that we cannot overcome and 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