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.

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