17 Dec All is Calm, All is Bright
This morning I experienced one of those magical moments of the Christmas season. It was dark and still in my house, no one stirring yet, and I sat on my couch, wrapped in a blanket with mocha in hand, mesmerized by the white lights and piney smell of the Christmas tree. In the blessed solitude and silence, all of a sudden it came to me: all was calm and all was bright, just as the carol says. And, what’s more, the carol’s message was true no matter what my day might hold, good or bad, fun or difficult, delightful or frustrating.
As it has turned out, I’ve had a lovely day, but the gift I received this morning was the reminder that “all is calm, all is bright” not because of my particular circumstances (which change day to day and moment by moment) but because of the gift God gave us in Jesus Christ. You see, this birth that we celebrate next week is the birth of a baby boy who grows to manhood, and that man’s life and death show us the depths of God’s love for us—a love that is so exquisitely perfect and pure that we cannot even fathom it, and if we could fathom it, I doubt we could bear it.
Scripture says that “perfect love casts out fear.” (See 1 John 4:18) Fear (and the insecurities that come from it) drives a lot of human behavior. Imagine what it might feel like to live without the need to defend, the desire to impress, the drive to protect our fragile selves. That’s what receiving the love of God can do for us. It really is that powerful—which is why God’s love inevitably changes us.
But, some will say, listen to the news! Clearly, all is not calm, all is not bright. There are far too many refugees, victims of violence, children who will go to bed hungry, and people gripped by addiction to believe something as syrupy and sappy as the lyrics to an old carol. That’s true. Our lives and our world are clearly not what they should be. It is rather ridiculous to expect peace in the world when we can barely keep peace in our own families long enough to slice the Christmas goose. It’s also rather unrealistic to think we can make a dent in global poverty while we stubbornly cling to the belief that our overconsumption has nothing to do with worldwide issues of hunger and want.
The problems we face today are serious and sobering, and they deserve and require the most intelligent, innovative, disciplined, and compassionate solutions we can bring to bear on them. The same was true of the world Jesus entered. He wasn’t born in a stable so that we could dress children up in bathrobes and tinsel halos and sing precious songs about a baby in the hay. He was born in humility and poverty to show us what love is—how it acts, how it speaks, how it thinks, how it lives.
The Good News is that CNN will not have the final say on how this world turns out. Jesus’ birth tells us that God is actively working for redemption, wholeness, and reconciliation for all peoples and for the world itself. We wait, we work, we pray and we sing, trusting in the God whose love is perfectly able to make all things calm and all things bright.
Don’t forget to follow our Advent Calendar!
We are also posting our sermons in PDF format, so if you want to read last week’s sermon, CLICK HERE!