Friday, December 24, 2010

The Melodic, harmonic, symphonic Incarnation

Luke 2.1-20

Christmas 2010

And so here we are, gathered together on cold winter night in a warm, beautifully lit and decorated church, again…for yet one more year…for yet one more time to hear the same story told yet again, to hear the beautiful hymns that extol the wonder and joy of the birth of child just like last year and the year before that. This story is the story that brings us together this night. This story is the story that causes the world to rush frantically about in the weeks and days trying cross every gift that needs to be purchased, every cookie that needs to be baked, and every decoration to be hung with the love and care that we seek to express as the snow falls to the ground and covers our lawns trees and houses in dazzling white blanket.

This is a time of year of giving, of sharing the love that we have for one another, yet it is the same story. It is the same act of giving birth to a child that causes us to do what we do. What is it about this story that it has the power to resound throughout the world for ages upon ages? What is it about that one singular night which has begotten so many nights of remembrance? Simply put, this story, this night that we hear about year after year in an unchanging manner is nothing less than the Lord our God who made us and gave us life come down to earth to live, laugh, love, cry, and die among us. This is God made flesh, born into the world.

Sadly this world that God is born into is not a world that rejoices in a symphony of music melodious and harmonious. Rather the world that Jesus was born into was filled with the cacophony of sorrow and unrest. War, sickness, poverty, and oppression afflict the people God so lovingly made, and perhaps saddest of all, the people God so lovingly made had so often visited these afflictions upon one another. Yet perhaps this is one of the reasons this story has resounded throughout the ages. For the same cacophony still rings out in our world. For Jesus comes yet again this year to redeem a world that still lives broken and afflicted to sing again the beautiful melody of love and forgiveness that mends the broken hearted and lifts up the lowly but not before bringing down the powers of discord that sin has placed high among us.

Now if you can’t tell, the musician in me has taken hold as I describe the birth of Christ as the beginning of a song that leads to the glorious resolution of God’s great symphony. Maybe I’m trying a little too hard to be poetic, yet I believe that this metaphor stands true. The world we live in is a world that is desperate need of the love, healing and forgiveness that God brings to us through the birth of that little child, “away in a manger, no crib for his bed.” Wars rage on as our brothers and sisters in Christ fight for their life and the lives of those around them. Diseases ravage places of disaster like nation of Haiti where 2,000 people have died as a result of an epidemic of cholera. The poor, the unemployed, and the underemployed still struggle with the fear and uncertainty in their lives as they figure out how to provide for themselves and their families. Some of us have lost people close and dear to us and grieve that they are not around to share their life and the love with us as they once did. But that’s why this old story, these old songs, and wonderful family traditions have lived from generation to generation to generation. This story is the beginning of a story that has the power to resound in 1st century Palestine. This story has the power to resound in 16th century Europe. This story has the power to resound in 21st century Taylor, WI. Because this story breaks into our lives and welcomes us with love, compassion and forgiveness even when our lives have become full of dissonance.

This story of Jesus being born in a stable and laid in a manger is the story of God’s love for the world that God created, and God has not and will not abandon God’s creation. And this story is a story for the whole world to hear. Just take a look at the setting and players in this story! God comes to a lowly virgin who has little or no power within her society and says, “You will be the one who will bear my Son into the world.” God comes to a simple carpenter and asks him to care support this young family trusting that this all is indeed good. God comes to shepherds, people who live on the outskirts of society who are told to go spread the good news. God comes in this setting to these people so that we just might see that this story, this song is a gift of faith and love given to the whole world and not just the privileged few. When Christ is born a melody ensues that challenges the way we think about our world and our place within it. When Christ is born a melody ensues that ends with a big, full beautiful, resonant chord of redemption and wholeness. Yes this is an old story and an old song, but bursts forth year after year showing us exactly who God is and what God does and that is that our God is a God who is for us. This is what begins with Jesus’ birth and is fully revealed on the cross.

There are so many songs that lift up this very foundational notion, and Christmas seems to have given us some very beautiful songs over the years. From the depth of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear which tells of how this story is a comfort for out whole lives to the clear and simple Silent Night which so perfectly describes the mood of this holy night, our Christmas hymns have been treasure throughout the years. But just four years ago I heard a song come on the radio that captures the clarion call of this night. It’s by the Goo Goo Dolls. Now, kids if you don’t know who that band isyou might try asking your parents, and for some of you older folks out there you may need to ask your kids who that band is, but in 2006 they released the single “Better Days.” I want to share a portion of the words of that song:

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

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