Today is the second Sunday of Advent – the Sunday of Peace. There doesn’t seem to be much peace in the world right now, does there?
Sometimes I think people regard Christians as delusional or perhaps simple-minded, especially during Advent and Christmas. We faithfully light the Advent candles, but even a casual observer could say – Hope? Peace? Love? Joy? Why are you ignoring the world’s reality? Just where are you discovering those precious commodities these days?
No wonder many people relegate Christmas to the fantasy column with phrases like, “Christmas is for children.” As if to say – we adults know all of this isn’t real or true, but isn’t this a lovely fairy tale to share with the little ones.
But here’s the thing
- Jesus isn’t Santa Claus.
- Bethlehem isn’t the North Pole.
- “In those days” is not the same as “’Twas the night before Christmas.”
The Christmas story is not a gently polished tale where everyone lives happily ever after. It’s a gritty story of survival. It starts with a baby born to refugee parents cast out of their homeland who couldn’t find a safe place to shelter on that momentous night.
Our story – the foundational story of Christianity – is about a toddler threatened by terrorists who committed a mass killing. If Mary and Joseph hadn’t run away to Egypt, Jesus would have been among the many little ones who died on that grim day remembered as “The Slaughter of the Innocence.”
Jesus lived – I wonder if he experienced survivor guilt because his father – unlike the other fathers in Bethlehem – had been warned in a dream about the threat that was coming.
Jesus – that Prince of Peace – never experienced a peaceful life. He knows what it is like to live on the margins, to be pushed aside and overlooked, to be mocked and criticized.
The gifts we celebrate at Christmas come out of his life experience.
- Hope because we know about despair.
- Peace in response to terror and fear.
- Love to call us back to the heart of God.
- Joy in the midst of sadness and tragedy.
Jesus – the Light of the world – comes to us who dwell in darkness.
It isn’t a fairy tale. These are very real gifts offered in response to very real need.
Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.