As with most of us, my heart is full and cannot shake the shocking and overwhelming news of the Newtown shootings last week. Such darkness. So many unanswered questions. And every single day in the news, there are more devastations from around the globe of atrocities my brain cannot quite grasp. And I look around and see such inner turmoil that can go unnoticed far more easily – but can be just as dark.
Although not on the same level by any means, I have also been thinking about a man, whom I did not know, who walked into our church offices about a month ago and stole my computer from my office with little hesitation after I had stepped out of my office for a few minutes – he has not yet been found, but he has been identified as a husband with children who is addicted to serious drugs, and when he relapses, he begins stealing for drug money – and this makes my heart ache – not so much for my computer or the violation of space (although I would by lying to say those emotions are not present) – but as one to whom God communicates most directly in story, I think of what his story must be – of how dark his interior world must be. And as I have been the lead-worshiper at church these Sundays since he stole my computer, I wonder if maybe he is in the congregation – not in fear, but in hope – of course I would love to have my computer back and know that no personal information contained on it was compromised, but more than anything, I also believe God is unafraid of entering and redeeming any darkness – and the Lord has begun to soften my heart for the stories of those filling the church every week – what brought them through those doors – what shame and questions and fears and darkness they may be carrying around – and more than ever, I am realizing that the beauty of Christ colliding with earth is… hope. And as I lead the songs, I believe that somehow the truth of the Gospel can penetrate any heart the same way it continues to pierce the deepest darkness in my own world – the same way it pierces me in such a way that I understand the capacity for all of the “levels” of darkness are within me as well, and I am not above any act – it pierces me to a place of grace – a place of grace with myself and with others – and all of the sudden, light begins to flood that very darkness.
Within this same vein, Luke 1:78-79 remains thick on these thoughts this Christmas season…
…because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Perhaps the concept of dark and light has been on the forefront for me this year because for the first several months, I felt a deep darkness over me – and I don’t fully know how to explain it besides the word “dark” – and yet, it wasn’t due to anything circumstantially and it did not feel like an evil darkness – I don’t have adequate words to express it – but I almost sensed the Lord needing me to be unafraid to sit in a place of loneliness and unanswered questions and almost a state of sorrowfulness. As I spoke with my counselor, who is an incredible Godly man, he noticed that I had mentioned feeling led to pray “Jesus, acquaint me with thyself” throughout 2011 – and he reminded me that Isaiah describes Jesus as “one acquainted with grief” – and that this season may be an opportunity for me to “descend to the cross” – to descend to that very place of loneliness and sorrow and waiting and humanity – that place which makes the light of redemption more potent than it could ever be without that descent (and I am still unpacking this concept).
So often our churches are afraid of that descent because it involves the grit of life, which rarely produces neatly packed answers. And yet as my Pastor, Dan Scott, describes…
The cross is not the ultimate symbol of detachment, but rather of involvement – involvement with the humanity of life – involvement in temptation, involvement in the times when it seems you can’t go on, involvement in the cloud of unknowing. We will not become like Christ if we detach in isolation from the world, but rather, the way to become like Christ is through that very involvement with humanity.
And so I sit here wrestling with these concepts of light and dark and the cross and redemption – of divinity colliding with humanity – and I am not left with easy answers as I return to the initial thoughts of this blog – as I return to the darkness of tragedy thick in our world. But there is some comfort in the fact that Christ continues to enter our stories involved and not detached from this grit of life. And I think that is the picture of example for us – we enter into the darkness of this world and even the darkness of stories (our own and others) knowing that somehow the “sunrise shall visit us from on high” – trusting that somehow light will collide and pierce and reshape – we enter willing to descend to the cross in which sometimes the three days of waiting for redemption are agony and feel like they will never end – but we cling to that hope that defies logic.
This Christmas, I feel this deep burden of awareness that many greet it with overflowing joy while others greet it with overwhelming grief – but I trust in the very way God chose to collide with humanity – through a simple birth with no place for the Savior to lay His head but a manger – for the realization this brings that there is no place we can go where God has not been – He entered and left the humanity of this world with a profound example of His willingness to involve Himself with the grit of life – and no matter how impossible redemption might seem, “the sunrise shall visit us from on high…” And hope’s echo begins to whisper life in the midst of the darkness.