It’s always a wonder to me the way Christmas unfolds each year. There is often a moment that seems to freeze in my mind and I think this is Christmas. And my mind is full of those scrapbook pages of moments, the ghosts of Christmas past. There are lots of them that have that picture-perfect quality. The laughter drenched party with friends. The silent, holy night of Christmas Eve worship. The quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow. But, the moments that seem to be surfacing most these days are the ones that are much less tidy. I might describe them as the descent into chaos. It’s when the shine has worn off, when has headache set in, when packages lie eviscerated in a pile of torn gift wrap on the floor. Sometimes I look around and I think “This is Christmas? This place is a mess! My mind is a mess! My heart is a mess!”
And there in that mess, I see the babe of Bethlehem, and it begins to makes sense.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. (Gen. 1:1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1,2)
There in the formlessness and chaos before time, was God, holy trinity of Persons.
The descent into the chaos is the primal creative act of God. It is the persistent redeeming act of Christ. It is the all-sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.
What chaos, what formless void, what darkness is close to you now?
“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:3-5)
That descent into the chaos was always part of the plan. I know we talked a lot in Advent about preparation and being ready to welcome Christ today. But, the truth is, he was going to come no matter what state you’re in.
Mary hardly had time to say yes to the Angel Gabriel before her womb became the home of the living God. Joseph didn’t even have time to dismiss her quietly much less process his new role as surrogate father to God’s own son. But when that moment came, they said yes.
These days, I hear a lot of people are saying things like, I didn’t sign up for this. This hardship is too much to bear. How am I expected to handle all this loss, all this grief? And my heart aches for us, and God’s heart aches for us. So much so, that God descends into this chaos to meet us.
Whatever role you’re playing that you didn’t sign up for…the author of creation, by the blood of Christ, has signed your name in the book of life.
Whatever hardship you’ve been handed that you didn’t ask for…Jesus was willing to bear the same burden with you as he lived among us.
Whatever you have lost and lack, Christ gave up infinitely more to be with us, to be with you.
There is a particular moment I love to watch in the lives of new parents. After the giddy joy of finding out there’s going to be a baby, after the showers and the planning, when they get ready to leave the hospital and it sinks in…we’re responsible now? Where’s the instruction manual? To see a formerly cocksure young man’s vigor and swagger suddenly marshalled into singular focus on driving that precious, tiny, creature home defending them from all perils that have suddenly appeared. Monstrous potholes, and one thousand speeding cars that weren’t there yesterday. But now, there is danger all around and only he can protect the young child. The way a mama bear roars when her precious young one is threatened.
God who descends into the chaos, has entrusted himself to us in Jesus in deep humility and vulnerability. “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12) And the paradox of our faith is made known. Descending into the chaos, God chooses powerlessness in order that we might receive power. And, empowered by God, we bear the light of life in the darkness. “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Wherever in the chaos you find yourself, Christ has entrusted himself to you this day. To nurture and to bear him in the world. And he came to make us whole, and healed, and hale.
May the songs of the angels give you hope and courage this day. The author of all creation has written his Word into our hearts. The Holy Child of Bethlehem shines in the darkness. And the Spirit of God blows with power and might amidst the chaos. This IS Christmas! Alleluia! Amen!
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