Thursday, December 30, 2010

He Comes to the Chaos: A Final Christmas Meditation


 Our church had a Christmas Eve service, and I was looking forward to and hoping this would provide a sense of haven in the midst of hectic activity and obnoxious  shoppers and angry drivers en route to shopping.  I was already on edge because I was responsible for memorizing a significant portion of the second chapter of the gospel of Luke, which contains the birth narrative of Christ.  I was the narrator as various children re-enacted the nativity scene.  I was anxious about being able to recall my lines while the kids were acting  like shepherds slamming down Red Bull.  Well, I did lose my place and forgot several lines and attempted to re-insert them, and I doubt that many listening could tell, but I knew I screwed up and I had so badly wanted to nail it without flaw, and, ironically, found myself silently cursing before we all sang Silent Night.  

The kids were squirming and restless and fussing and ruined a Norman Rockwellian Christmas Eve service.  After the children's program our pastor shared a meditation and while he's talking people are hacking and coughing.   A pew over, Marge is wheezing.  Shortly into his meditation, a number of kids are by now whining.  An occasional "Mommy, she pinched me!"  It slowly is reaching a crescendo and one child begins and continues screaming his lungs out.   My first reaction was, "Merry freakin   Christmas!"  And then it hit me:  This--and much worse--is what Chrst enterd and still enters.  Chaos.  Christ was born in a setting wherein King Herod was slaughtering innocent children.   Christ enters the the chaos of a Christmas pageant, as trivial as that level of chaos may be.  Christ enters our chaos at our core level.  That's why he comes to us--to bring order to our chaos, to bestow forgiveness for our sin, to eradicate the darkness with light. 

I avoid the chaos; Christ enters my chaos.  I do not have to fear getting lost in the chaos and the seeming senselessness; Christ finds me in it.  He does not merely embrace my darkness by entering it, but he transcends the darkness and, in time, will dispense that darkness with his light.  The gospel of John, in reflecting on Christ's birth puts it this way:  "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not (and will not) overcome it."  Even in the throes of my emotional chaos, even at the height of my angst, there is always hope because Christ was born and is born into all of this mess.  He enter our chaos.

Adrian Plass composed a poem that captures what I'm trying to say, and does so with more eloquence and poignancy than I will ever muster.  i invite you to reflect on these words.

And Christ Will Be Born 

On Christmas day the world will turn once more towards its end.
But Jesus will be born.
A woman who has tried once more in vain to re-create the morning
Will find her spirit crushed at last by failures and defeats
Her grief will trail like tattered ribbons
Through apocalyptic streets
And Jesus will be born
A little child who cannot waste his tiny reservoir of moisture
On a thing as purely pointless as a tear
Will puzzle at the burning skies
Blank and empty as his mother’s eyes
And wish beyond the point of fear
That darkness would descend
And Jesus will be born
And in some cold, sad cell a man will dream of blessed ordinariness
A walk, a meal, a smile, a book, the chance to feel
A trusting hand in his
Small and soft and folded like a flower in the night
Devastating innocence that promises redemption and has never lied
But will not save him from the morning and the hour
When heavy boots come marching down the corridor outside
And Jesus will be born
At the corner of the street the image of the living God
Will hug herself against the cold
And smoke a friendly cigarette
And be prepared to greet success with weary resignation
Feebly lit by one of yesterday’s recycled smiles
And struggle to forget what she was told
When someone was in charge and choices could be made
And there was hope
And Jesus will be born
Yes, Jesus will be born
Though the night enfolds like a black shroud
And the liar’s lies drive us from our peace
And take us from our beds
And bring us to our knees
On the cold stone tiles of the kitchen floor
Jesus will be born
Yes, though the skies crack
And the heavens sway
And the heat dies in the earth’s core
And the last stitch in the last ditch appears
When all is lost
A child’s hand will reach out from the manger
A wounded hand will catch our tears
For Jesus will be born on Christmas day.


Zach said...

Looks like I was censored:(

I didn't think I said anything THAT bad.

I'm still curious...can I mark you down as a Adrian Plass fan?


Ed Lawrence said...

Great experience you had! Keep up the good job!

Steve said...

Zach, you weren't censored; due to my computer savvy and technological acumen I accidentally deleted your first comment. Don't even ask how; I would be the last to know.

If that is typical of Plass you can regard me as a fan. Thanks for pointing me to him.

Zach said...

Whew...I'm relieved!

I figured something was going on when the justification and color of the text in this post kept changing:)

I enjoyed your description of the Christmas Eve service. Sometimes I think a little chaos keeps everything down to earth in church.

Bongo said...

Ohhhhh now come on ....I did manage to save a bit of your first comment Zach... Please allow me to share it here :

Zach said...
Steve, you cast yourself in the role of the grumpy old man really well. I was cracking up imagining you muttering "Merry Freakin' Christmas" under your breath after silently cursing during "Silent Night."