In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel recorded a song that speaks to the Christmas advent season we are in. It is the song “Silent Night”, but it is performed with a dissonant twist.
Hidden between the lines of this recording are questions we all must ask ourselves this holiday season. They are questions such as, “If God fulfilled his age-old promises by sending us the Messiah, why is this world still so messed up? Is God’s answer to humanity’s suffering, (that is, the answer of Christ’s birth) really good enough? If so,why?”
Seeing those images, we cannot help but be struck by the difference in the two worlds represented. On the one hand, Simon and Garfunkel’s recording suggests that apart from truly living in the spirit of Christ, this world becomes a very complex place, impossible to navigate. It is riddled with violence, politicking, lust and coercion. This was the state of the world in 1966 and it is no less characteristic of us in the twenty-first century.
It should also come as no surprise that these societal stains were just as common in the first century when Jesus was born. Yes, he too was born in a world tainted by violence, politicking, lust and coercion. Yet, on that night, in a world filled with sin and dominated by evil, the Messiah was born. And in that place, in that place, there was only peace, perfect love, joy, hope. If the cave was a complex place, it was not like the complexity of the world around it; it was only complex because it was filled with a mysterious kind of simplicity: a newborn baby, his mother and father, and worshippers from all walks of life, high and low. In that cave we see a vision of what this world needs. In that space, we see the promises fulfilled.
Until that day, when the entire created order will be renewed, may we continue to create pockets of heaven on earth where those enmeshed in the seemingly endless cycle of violence can see God’s promise of redemption fulfilled in their own lives. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you that you sent your one and only Son into this mess. We confess that this world is still messed up because we have failed to place our faith in you. Teach us now to understand the promises you have made in ages past; promises of watchful care, redemption and forgiveness. Show us how faith in Jesus applies those promises to our heart and world today. And remind us that there will yet come a day when all of your promises will be completely fulfilled in your second coming. Help us, until that day, to wait patiently, to serve you with our whole heart, to believe in your promises, to be a light shining in a dark world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.