Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Laughter of Sarah...

from Tomas Halik's Night of the Confessor:

"The underlying mode of our faith, hope, and love is patience.  Only when we truly fall silent will we be able to hear once more the voice that says to us: Fear not.  I have conquered the world.  I am the resurrection and the life.  I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Fine words, but empty promises?  From behind the tent awning--and from deep within ourselves--comes Sarah's skeptical laugh.  How could that be possible, seeing that we are not only adult already, but also too old for great expectations?

'Why did Sarah laugh?'  Doesn't she realize that there is 'nothing too marvelous' for the Lord to accomplish?  And Sarah lies, because she is afraid.  Her laughter was also an expression of her fear of trusting.  'Yes, you did laugh,' the Lord insisted.

You did laugh, the Lord tells us.  But maybe He'll treat us the way He did our mother Sarah.  Maybe our nervous laughter of skepticism and mistrust will be transformed into the happy laughter of those who have lived to see the fulfillment of His promises."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Season of Advent...

It's been said many times over the past several days, but there is a very difficult tension at work in the recognition that we, as Christians, celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate, as the ultimate gift of grace, while also recognizing the immense suffering and evil that exists in our world, most recently made manifest in the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT.

I'll try not to repeat what others have said, and I don't want to offer any platitudes or easy answers.  But I do think that it is precisely this tension between grace and suffering (and let's be honest, people all over the world feel this, often much more often than we do in America, where we have so many material blessings and a great deal of security) which ought to remind us of the inextricable link between Christmas and Easter.

I don't just mean that they are both ancient pagan holidays that Christians co-opted for their own religious calendar.  I mean that you can't really understand the beauty of Christmas without Easter, and vice versa.  Which means that we can't really see the fullness of the gift of joy that God provides without also recognizing the extent of the suffering and evil that we face in the world.  Easter, after all, is a celebration of resurrection.  But it is preceded by two days in which we acknowledge death and its inevitability in the world of all created things.  It's a tension that apparently God Himself couldn't avoid, in that sense.

I don't know exactly what it means for God's essence and character that both Christmas and Easter must take place.  I don't know why we have to have birth, suffering, joy, death, and resurrection all together in the package of our existence.  But I have to believe in the hope that God's final word is resurrection.  Otherwise we are simply resigned to death.  And that doesn't seem to be a situation that leads to hope at all.  What's worth hoping for if death always has the last word?  I hope for resurrection!  If we're gonna be accused of 'wish fulfillment', let's at least wish big! ;-)

That said, I hope we all take time to remember the pain that is all around us during this Advent season, and that we step out and into the lives of others as agents of joy and resurrection, never forgetting the tension that we face in so doing, but trusting in the hope of Christ's incarnation.