We know about the recent events of Newtown, CT and the depths of darkness we see in such a tragedy. It make me ache to think of those whose lives were snatched away. It seems difficult to celebrate with joy the coming of Jesus when the world looks so dark.
Sadly, that is just the sort of world to which Christ came. It is why he came. This place is not as it should be nor is it as it was created to be.
When Christ came, did waves of goodwill roll out from Bethlehem enveloping the whole world? Sadly no. Immediately the dark powers of this world were in full force. Jerusalem was distrubed, but the king–the man with power and power to lose–escalates the situation. Hate takes hold, fear drives him on. And so soon after Immanuel, Jesus Christ is born, children are slaughtered by Herod to protect his place as King.
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
How can we even claim to be a people–a world–worth saving? From his first to his final breath, we see how the world reacts to its savior. Jesus comes to bring peace on earth, to make peace between humanity and God. Yet Herod seeks his life at his birth, and the crowds are calling to crucify him before his death.
It is terrible. And this world can still be terrible. It can terrify us. But that is why he came. And that is why we need his peace. Only Jesus has the power and authority to say in John 14, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
But it is hard to live with his peace, especially in trying times. I am reminded of the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and this stanza:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Hate is strong. There is evil is this world. We can’t ignore that. We can’t deny it. The events of the world do not make sense if there is no sin. It is a powerful force pulling and pushing us. But there is more. Hate is strong, sin and death are powerful, but they do not have the victory.
It may appear that they do, but we are to live according to what is unseen. We are to step out in faith and believe that Christmas does mean peace on earth and Jesus has come to save. It does not always look like this has happened. But by faith we say we will not live according to the darkness. We won’t live according to the ways of the world nor the values or this world. We, by faith, seek to be children of light and live in light of God’s rule. We live as followers of a new way.
He did not design his people for hate and fear. He called us to love and service. We are called to live in a way that is a great ‘yes’ to God and his ways, and is a resolute ‘no’ to the evil we know tries to overwhelm the world.
Christ came into a world not unlike what we see now. Full of fights for power, with greed, fear, and hate. A world with sin. The fight looked to have been lost to all who knew him for those powers had won. The powers had put him on the cross. It looked like the day was lost–that love had lost. But we were wrong. Christ defeated such powers and did so through sacrifice, humility, love, and obedience. The cross looked to become a sign of the victory of all that is wrong in the world, but appearances can deceive. Hate was strong, Christ was mocked, there seemed to be no peace. Despair seemed the only option for his disciples.
But the truth of God can go unseen for a time. Sin and death were no match. We were wrong. When it looked like Christ had failed and God had died, he had won the victory. The Christmas carol concludes:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.
By faith we hear those words and sing that song. There still is hideous evil in this world and we mourn. But we Christians are called to live out our hope. We live unlike those who believe hate gives strength and power prevails. We follow a savior who had power in humility and submission. Our savior died at the hands of evil, but he died for us, and he now lives. At this time of year we celebrate his birth, but every Sunday we celebrate his resurrection, and the resurrection is victory over the powers of sin and death.
Jesus Christ came to a world created good, a world that fell–but did not fall from grace. God’s grace endures. Christ came to this world bringing grace, making peace, and doing so because it is a place in the greatest of need.
Today the world needs Jesus Christ. We need him. Only he is our peace, and when we place our faith in him, look to him for our hope, and live in his love, then we make a stand. We draw a line and say ‘no.’ We will not let sin masquerade as sovereign on earth. We will not forsake this world to evil. God is not dead, nor does he sleep. Christ rose and we will carry his name into a world in desperate need and live according to his rule, anticipating the day when he will come again.