Sunday, December 16th, 2012
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Words calling us to rejoice may seem very hollow today. When Zephaniah calls us to “sing aloud,” and “to rejoice and exult with all our hearts,” and when St. Paul proclaims “rejoice in the Lord always,” we find that we simply cannot stir up within our hearts such exultation. The news that twenty-six people were killed on Friday, in a school in Connecticut, twenty of them young children, makes us seriously question what cause have we for rejoicing. At this time of year when rejoicing abounds, when celebrations are taking place, when families come together in joyful thanksgiving for the bounty of this life and for the love we share as families and friends, I suspect that each person that celebrates will feel their joy restrained and indeed their hearts weighed down by the incomprehensible tragedy of what has taken place. Words cannot capture our grief nor can they express our sorrow for those who will never embrace their child or loved one again. And when we seek to allow our imaginations to drift into that place of empathy we find ourselves reeling back, unwilling to even entertain what that horror might be like if we were in the place of those parents and family members today. This act of violence will not only have repercussions for those who lost those dearest to them, but it will have repercussions for years to come on that whole community and those who will forever bear witness to that event. Our prayer can only be, “Lord, have mercy.”
The Christmas narrative into which we move, has ever been one in which our shouts of joy have been met with deeds of darkness. Angels proclaimed tidings of joy to shepherds; shepherds shared good news; priests and prophets sang songs of salvation that they were witnessing their salvation – songs we continue to sing today – yet, as those songs were sung of old, as they are sung today, sin remains at work in the world. Wise men came from the East to worship the newborn king. They came to bring him gifts, but inadvertently, they alerted Herod to the location of the child and Herod feared that his precarious grip on power would be loosened. The powers of sin and darkness gripped Herod and he sought to kill the child. He did not succeed, but he slaughtered many innocents. Wise men came seeking the light, but instead, in their error, they left behind a trail of innocent blood.
In every generation, we seek the light. During every Advent and Christmastide we proclaim the once and coming king whose light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome that light. But still, in every generation, until all things are gathered up in Christ, sins persists, and the brokenness of one person can lead to the brokenness of a community, a nation, even a whole people. The darkness threatens to overcome us and it will do us no good to tell ourselves that darkness does not exist, that sin does not exist, nor must we ever delude ourselves that we are not a broken people. In these moments we need Jesus more than ever. In these moments we need to trust in him and hold fast to our baptismal covenant to resist evil and sin in whatever form it takes, in our systems that allow such violence, in our human desires that drive us to despair, in the senseless forces that drive us to violence. We must resist such things, with the help of God. In these moments we must do as Mary did, and cling to the Christ child with all our might. It does not mean that we will not be hurt, that our hearts will not be broken, that we will not know fear or sin or brokenness, or violence. In the Temple, after the circumcision of baby Jesus, old Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, too. And so it did when she stood at the foot of the cross and beheld her wounded, bleeding, dying son.
Good news comes into the world; light comes into the world, and darkness seeks to overcome it. Mary and Joseph fled the wrath of violent king, and many children died. Truth came into the world and we nailed it to a tree. Light came into the world and in its darkness the world failed to see it. The Holy Family knows the pain that the world feels today. Jesus knows the pain that the world feels today. God the Father knows the pain that world feels today. And God in Christ helps us to bear what we cannot bear on our own. Thus, we can do nothing else but cling to the Christ child, and cling to the man who hangs on the cross, that in his resurrection, the works of darkness might finally be cast out, and in the fullness of time, that mourning and crying and pain will be no more.