Angel’s song…

h

 

 Suddenly, the angel was joined
by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—
praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those
with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 2:13,14 NLT

 

These verses are so well-known to me, that it is easy to overlook them. To simply hear them as a part of the story, and not see the gold that is hidden in them. For there is gold here.

In this simple song of the angels is housed the ‘way it was all meant to be.’ Glory to God, they sing. Because God deserves the glory. Only God could come up with the plan for our salvation. Only God could send us Jesus. Only God could work a plan for humanity on so many levels – that Jesus would be our salvation…the one through whom we are made right with God; but also that he would also be God’s ultimate sign of love for us – He loved us enough to come here and live as one of us, so that we could never say “you don’t know what it is like”; and also that in the life and teachings of Jesus we would be given words of wisdom for how to live the good life, the abundant life; but also that through his Resurrection death would be defeated.

Yes, God deserves the glory. That is the way it is meant to be.

Peace on Earth is also the way it is meant to be. We are made for relationship with God and with each other. We are made to be at peace with each other. We are made to be at peace with the world around us. When we fail at peace (remember Shalom? – that is what I mean by peace), then brokenness occurs. When we don’t live holistically and sustainably within the world that God created for us, disease breaks out. When we don’t live holistically with our fellow man, violence breaks out. When we don’t live holistically with God, evil breaks out.

We need peace. We need not just an end to war or other violence, but an end to the way we exclude others, the way we poison our world, the way we try to fix things on our own and leave God out of the equation.

May the song of the Angels ring loud and clear this Christmas. May it remind us all of how it is meant to be. May each of us seek and find ways to give the glory to God and bring peace to the Earth.

Emotional complications…

h

With the tragic shootings a Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut have come a whole slew of different reactions. Some call for the banning of assault weapons, others wonder whether teachers should carry guns. Some find comfort in the thought of these children being united with Jesus in heaven, others cannot find any comfort at all. I read an article today that said this is not the time for dancing or celebrating anything. I certainly respect anyone who feels their grief too keenly to engage in any celebration at the moment, but I also know there are others who find that even in their sorrow there is cause for celebration…there are reasons to smile and laugh. Life never occurs in a vacuum, or in neat, compartmentalized boxes.

It’s kind of a mess, and things are mixed up together. At every funeral I have ever presided over, there has been laughter through the tears. And I believe that’s the way it is meant to be. A life lived fully is a life where conflicting emotions are experienced together. Where joy and sorrow meet. Where the cradle dwells in the shadow of the cross. Where defeat and victory are experienced in the same event. That’s what Jesus’ story is all about. We have a way of white-washing it, of making it all pretty and nice, but the mess always existed in the story.

Take the shepherds and the angels for example:

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:8-12

Do you see that little phrase in the center of the passage? “They were terrified.” All heaven is breaking loose, with the best news ever, but the shepherds were terrified.

Because life is kind of messy, and you don’t expect all heaven to break loose in the midst of the night shift. Terror in the midst of joy. That is the mess of life. These things go together, and make the story more beautiful, in the end.

Not to give tomorrow’s passage away, but the shepherds will turn from terror into rejoicing. They will find their joy.

But for me, I’m glad to read that little phrase in the center of this passage. I am glad to know that I’m not the only one who knows what it means to feel more than one emotion at once. I’m glad to get to live this messy, confused, crazy life. And to know that it doesn’t always have to make sense.

Joy and sorrow can coexist within us, because God made us to be emotionally complex beings. I hope you can find some joy, even when sorrow seems to be all around. I hope, like the shepherds, though you may feel terror, you will not dwell there indefinitely. I hope you can hear the good news of great joy that is for all the people.