My favorite Christmas carol is ‘In the Bleak Mid-winter.’ My husband thinks this is just what’s wrong with me. In the season of peace and joy and hope, who sings about darkness, poverty, howling winds and a frozen earth? This is the time when we are supposed to be celebrating the light of God coming into the world. Jesus is the reason for the season, you know.
And it’s unfortunate, isn’t it, that another Grand Jury released its finding? It’s unfortunate that we have to see that video again. It’s unfortunate that we all saw a lynching. It’s terrible timing. Makes it rather difficult to get into the holiday spirit. But I’m sure there is some sort of reasonable explanation. Obviously, I don’t have a right to an opinion. Police Officers deserve the benefit of the doubt—always. It is disloyal to the many very good police officers to spend any time questioning whether some officers have made terrible tragic mistakes. Eric Gardner must have had it coming. Michael Brown must have deserved it. Tamir Rice should have known better. Don’t bother listing the names, there’s nothing to see here. Look—they’re lighting the Christmas tree. Joy to the world.
I saw Eric Gardner die. I saw it. You did too. And that has to matter to us every day. But it especially has to matter to us as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior–Our Lord who was publicly brutally executed by those who had every legal authority to do so. Just as, apparently, Daniel Pantaleo had every legal right to strangle Eric Gardner. You don’t want to read about it. I don’t want to write about it. It’s ugly and tragic and divisive and this is the most wonderful time of the year. But this is happening now–we can’t hum jingle bells and look away.
When Mary heard God’s plan for her, after she said yes to birthing God into this world, she sang a song. She sang over her unborn child. She sang the meaning of his life. She sang He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. But those words are so pretty—maybe we don’t really hear how dangerous they are. Eugene Peterson translates them this way: He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold.
There’s a reason people wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus’ coming is not good news if you’ve made your peace with the world as it is. Jesus came to change things. Jesus came to change us. Jesus came into the dark places, the hopeless places, the frozen places. I’m feeling pretty hopeless about my country right now. I need to remember that Jesus first came into a terrifying world. I need Christ incarnate in our world, in our country, in our neighborhood—right now. I need to light another candle in our Advent Wreath and watch the light overpower the darkness.
I don’t need to see them light the damn tree in Rockefeller Center.
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