Your kingdom come…
Just when you think you have seen evil at its worst, man at his most depraved, you see something like Sandy Hook and you realize, no, there’s further it can go.
For the past five years, we’ve been involved in a little house church experiment called Catalyst here in Lawrenceville. We will be bringing it to a close at the end of this year, on Sunday, December 28, to be specific. It certainly has not been a failure or disappointment. Over the years, we’ve grown into a solid faith community that supports and prays and cares for each other. We’ve been able to reach out with support to people who’ve needed money for medical procedures, lost a house to fire, needed shelter, or suffered injury. We even celebrated a wedding in our midst. But there comes a time, especially for a smaller, more intimate group of people, when life change happens and people need something different. Perhaps we have become a bit of a stagnant pond in need of some fresh water. It is time for a new thing. We all feel it. But this morning, we did what we still do best. We came together to talk and laugh and weep and pray with each other. It is hard to celebrate Advent in the midst of such senseless and unexplainable tragedy. My friend Chris wisely said that a thing like this either proves that there is no God (who would allow such a thing?) or that there must be a God (there has to be a meaningful flip-side to such meaningless evil).
If there’s anything for us to take out of this, maybe it is the reminder that Christmas is not about warm, fuzzy feelings and lights and gift exchange. At its core, it is about a dark and fallen world crying out to a silent, unseen God. It is about God hearing that cry and entering that world to redeem it, announcing a new way, a new love, a new kingdom. We can forget that when everything is going rosy and we get lost in the rush of holiday busyness. But a thing like Friday stops you in your tracks and causes you to reassess.
In the Episcopal/Anglican tradition, they don’t sing Christmas carols until Christmas Eve. Before then, they only sing songs of longing. “Joy to the World” has less meaning when you haven’t spent time lost in despair and trial. Put another way, you can be joyful when you wake up in the safety of your bed on dry land. But how much more joyful are you when a lifeguard plucks you out of the raging sea? I would argue that the joy is greater following the despair. Jesus has come and gone, but we still cry out for His kingdom to come. And in the meantime, it is through each one of us that He longs to shine His light in the darkness. It is in the community of loving and caring for one another that God shows Himself. In that vein, these are the Scriptures we read this morning. They may not mean anything to you, but as we read them and talked about them, God seemed to minister to us.
“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”