Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Real Picture

Weeks ago when John the Baptist showed up on center stage, everyone wanted to turn off the spotlight and get on to the scene where baby Jesus appears.   However, those who put the Advent lectionary lessons together would not allow him or his hard-to-listen-to message be ignored.  Our anger about his appearance is nothing compared to what was felt on this Sunday after Christmas.  We went anticipating more of the manger story and found ourselves encountering that lectionary lesson about the massacre of innocent children in and around Bethlehem.  It is a story no one really wants to hear or think about anytime, but certainly not when the sounds of angels are still echoing in the air around the child Jesus.  It seemed so out of place.

But, the truth is exactly the opposite.  As surely as the shepherds are part of the story, so is this tragedy.  Life is always a mixture of things good and bad, things that give hope and things that seek to take it away.  Unfortunately, it even happens during the Christmas season.  At worship today someone ask that we pray for a family grieving from the loss of a loved one on Christmas Day.   A few weeks ago I came up on an automobile accident in which a 46 year old man lost his life.  Six days before Christmas when I was seven, my father left home one morning and we were weeping over his death before night.  There is nothing out of place about the story of the massacre of the children.  We might like for life to be filled only with the sweet romantic stories about a child born in a manger, but such is not a true picture of life.

As we finish up these days of Christmas, there are great memories to cherish, but as we look around us we see hurting people whose stories compel us to fall on our knees with broken hearts.  There are the refugee children of Syria.  There are the grieving mourners who will always remember Christmas as a season of loss.  There are those who are out of work, out of money, and out of hope.  There is great joy.  And there is great loss.  It is that way today and every day.  And so we pray about unthinkable situations that are impossible to understand, "Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy." 

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