The darkness chills. The evil seems unimaginable. It numbs. The inhumanity tingles the hairs on the back of our necks. We feel that primal urge to flee or fight as our eyes widen. Anger flashes up, quick and hot. The desire for justice slips easily over to our rawer taste for revenge. Unconsciously we look around for someone, somewhere, some way to cast blame. Seeing the horrors of evil we grind our teeth and risk creating more pain. Hurting and confused we kindle hateful fires. We grab pitchforks and look for monsters to slay. We wound each other trying to address lurking evil. Some escape with drink or distraction leaving the evil unchecked. We rationalize seeking to make distance between ourselves and such terror. We hatch grand schemes. We may build walls, hire more police, install metal detectors, move, put up gates, strap on holsters, fire someone, of take other evasive action. None of these end the evil, or even slow it down. The only answer is a risky one.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it”. So John 1:5 introduces Jesus. How will God shine in this dim world? How will the Light of the World come? God hatches a risky Christmas plan. The Creator comes to us a baby. God sleeps on Mary’s belly to keep warm. The One who spoke the stars into space lays swaddled in a feedbox cradle. Salvation clings to Mary, taking nourishment. Joseph’s dream preserves the Everlasting King from the murderous plots of Herod the Great; even as Rachel weeps for her lost children. The Creator depends on the created for life. Christmas comes as a grand Divine risk- God sends the light of the world as a newborn child.
God’s risky Christmas plan offers the solution to evil in this world. There are many false solutions. We can build barriers, placing our light safely under the protective warmth of a good stout basket. We can concede the field to evil, letting our wicks grow cold. We can lash out setting enumerable fires with our tongues, posts, sneers, and guns. Or we can step out into the night and lift our candle aloft. Christmas lifts the light.
At times we must light a candle and weep. The second beatitude is mourning. We must weep for innocence lost. Our tears soften the hard places and wash away the jagged edges of our souls. We, wired for fighting or fleeing, must learn to stand our ground and acknowledge the sadness. Our tears somehow plant healing seeds. We who weep learn to console each other, to take hold of each other’s hands, to prop each other up, to lean into one another’s embrace. How inhumane to weep alone. Once we help each other to stand straight again- we must venture into the cold night with love.
Entering the shadowy darkness holds risks. The chill of evil clings to us and strangers weep for innocence lost. How will we overcome the darkness? If we who hold lights do not step away from our comfort and enter the darkness, how will others find their way out of the night of tears?
The Christmas Child took a risky path: laid in a cow’s crib, taught love, crucified between thieves, buried in borrowed tomb, and raised in Easter’s glorious light. One flickering candle dispels the night. One hand held at a funeral brings hope. One child sent squealing in the delight conquers a thousand midnights. One kiss on the forehead can make our world better. One child taught their soul’s beauty learns to teach other to love. One word of forgiveness can release a thousand hands chained together in bleak brokenness. Patiently teaching one teenager thankfulness may turn a generation. Warmly welcoming a stranger grows our neighborhood. Swallowing one mean-spirited remark fosters peace. When gossip ends on our ears, the world hears more clearly. Unclenching our fists opens our hands. Love lavished on the unlovely expands love’s range. Justice co-mingled with sorrow leads to redemption. Hurt and anger baptized in prayer can sprout creative solutions. Hope instilled in a child grows a new world.
So I say dear friends let us take the risk to love. Let us hold each other up even as we weep. Let us step out into the darkness, light a candle, say a prayer, forgive, reach out, put our children on the bus, and risk love. We have no alternative. There is no grand scheme; only small actions bring light, dispel darkness, and remake the world. It is risky- it is Christmas: the Creator vulnerable.