The dysfunction of this world will be tangible, again and again. We cannot escape it—though we desperately try—it will sneak in amidst the safety of our carefully crafted worlds. Because this place is not our home and has not fully been restored. But Advent reminds us God did come and he will come again. Until then we are called to live in the tension of the brokenness that is now, with hope for what is yet to come. So we faithfully proceed: hoping, praying, comforting, mourning, seeking and obeying God’s will as we prepare our hearts and our world for the coming King. In so doing, we bring light into the darkness and God’s kingdom bursts through. Even now, even here.
The only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today — besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow — is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains. That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild. The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.
While there was a time when you could count the number of broadcasters on one hand, we are all broadcasters now. A tragedy like the Newtown massacre becomes not just a media event, but also a social media event. As the journalist Alex Massie pointed out in his trenchant essay this week, silence is not an option in social media. Not to tweet or post or blog is not to be silently present—it is to be mutely absent. He suggested, fully aware of the futility of his suggestion, that perhaps we all could have simply posted one-word tweets on Friday, using the hashtag #silent, and left it at that. But we didn’t, nor are we likely to during the next tragedy. #silent will never be a trending topic on Twitter.
Why do we continue in our work of God’s kingdom, if we know things aren’t going to change overnight? Because we know, we trust, that God is coming. We are waiting expectantly for Jesus to return, as he promised. We take action, we move through our daily lives, in the hope and knowledge that God has overcome the world, and is returning. And in Advent, as we experience waiting for our Savior, we continue on in doing His work in the kingdom because we have a vision beyond our own barricade of sin of the Savior who loves us, who comes to save us from that oppressive government of sin.
5. The wild grace of Christmas
A Christmas excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s wonderful book, Whistling in the Dark: A Doubters Dictionary:
The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.” Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.
Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!
[Photo credit: mordachai71.deviantart.com]