Christmas Eve, 2022
Most of you know, if you read the newsletters, that I am not always an accurate typist or proofreader, either.
In today’s short newsletter, I almost made an inexcusable error.
I typed, “The shepherds went with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the child lying in the anger.”
Only a missing “m” – but what a difference it would have made, had I sent it out like that.
But look. He really was laid down in anger.
The world was no happier or more peaceful then than it is now.
Herod soon became furious that a boy was born who might challenge him as king of Israel – and sought to have him murdered.
Herod’s anger resulted in the deaths of many innocent children.
Ever since then, the little Lord Jesus has been laid down in somebody’s anger –
War and violence have always been part of the Christmas story – and they are part of it right now in Ukraine, and in all places of violence, degradation, suffering and despair.
The anger of the powerful, when they see others doing well, leads to selfishness, greed, jealousy and a twisted desire for even more power – and that is part of our story, too –
Anger at those who were supposedly different led to Christians battling Christians in Rwanda, and it has happened again and again – when Christians have attacked Native peoples, Muslims and Jews – and enslaved others – and we have seen Jesus laid down in somebody’s anger over and over throughout our long history.
And in our own lives, too – Jesus is born and laid down in our own anger – our depression and despair at our unhappy circumstances, or because of someone else’s decisions, at people who have hurt us, at our past, even at our own continual mistakes, sins and inability to be the people we want to be.
And he is laid down in all our places of sorrow, too – in grief and loneliness, in death itself. And in the anger that comes when we can’t control any of that.
And yet, here’s the mystery.
Jesus is laid down in our anger – and in a simple feeding trough – and in the depths of darkness – and in our own lives – everywhere. Even when Jesus is laid down in our weariness and disgust at God – and forgotten, still He is there.
And when he is laid in that manger – made of whatever we have, whatever we know, whatever we offer, even in whatever place we choose not to give him – or in somebody’s anger – He remains in the midst of it as Light and Love and Life.
He comes and is content to be placed wherever we please to lay him down.
And it is right there that the miracle happens.
Listen to me, it doesn’t matter how you feel tonight.
I hope you are having a happy time already with your family and friends.
Bur you might not be.
No everybody’s families are happy places to live.
Not everyone who says they love us, actually do.
And we don’t love as well as we wish we did, either.
So going home can be a miserable experience – not at all like the Hallmark movies.
And some people have no where to go – There are many in the streets of our cities tonight – and many who will be tomorrow, too – and every day.
And there have been many losses this year, for many of us.
Not everyone is glad and cheerful tonight.
.But we will sing songs of joy tonight anyway. Songs of wonder.
And we will remember that for Christians as for Jews, joy and hope are NOT optional, but required. And that we can give then to others.
It takes effort to hope in the midst of darkness.
It takes hope to sing songs of joy when so many are suffering.
But hope and joy are muscles we need to exercise – for the good of the whole world where so many know nothing of either.
Listen. Hope is the truth – and joy is the truth, too – and it is our privilege to witness to that which is bigger than we are – bigger than our experience, bigger than our times – to God himself.
Who is with us.
The world has always seen Jesus laid in “the anger“.
But we have a choice – to lay him down inside of ourselves tonight – and in our lives – willingly, gladly, joyously – We have the choice to welcome Him. We have the choice to BE the nativity, to BE the place where he is born again and again and laid down, to be places of beauty and goodness – We can BE the nativity.
not simply to see it from afar.
In the midst of the world’s anger, we can make for him a manger – where shepherds and anybody else who cares to come and find Him can be amazed.