Sin and Error Pining

Advent has come and gone. Christmas was yesterday. Our presents have been purchased, wrapped, given, and opened. Perhaps they’ve been returned. We can throw out the Christmas cards and updates we’ve received. The hype is over – until the next cycle.

2016 has been another insane year. We might start with the election cycle, the news that went on for forever, the debates, the un-friending, the new reality. But we have to add in Orlando, Berlin, Nice, Aleppo, Dallas, Istanbul, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and volcano. In fact, snow fell in the Sahara Desert for the first time since 1979.

Closer to home, we’ve gained and lost jobs, we’ve buried friends and family, we’ve been in and out of the hospital, we’ve gained the weight we tried to lose, we’ve slid down instead of grown up, we’ve lost our way, we’ve been trapped/lonely/used/abused/depressed/kicked out/asleep at the wheel…

In the midst of all of that, the message of Christianity is that God is with us, and that he came near. It’s a bit incredible, except that we’ve grown used to hearing about it. God came all the way down. In fact, so far down that he was conceived, was a fetus, was growing inside of Mary, was born with all of that pain, blood and screaming. He nursed. He cried.

This doesn’t feel very dignified for a god to do. It sounds a bit, well, ordinary or perhaps even beneath him.

But I take great hope that Jesus didn’t walk down from the mountains or out from the desert or show up from no where. He was born in a stable in Nazareth. I don’t think this was the way we would have figured it. The angels did announce is presence – but to lowly shepherds.

So somehow God himself knows what it’s like to be born, to cry, to nurse, to form words and thoughts, to learn how to talk and read, to skin his knee and listen to his mom, to put away the dishes and go to school. He knows what it’s like to lose, to cry, to wonder, to grow.

So I think he gets it. He’s not above it all.

In “O Holy Night,” we get at this when we sing about Jesus’ birth:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining  Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees

The world lays in sin and error. It waits and waits for redemption. I know I do. I’m a miserable sinner. What hope is there? We’re weary with the sin and misery all around us, inside us.

So we need hope. We need peace, love and joy. Jesus has to be real. He needs to have come. The good news is that he did!

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,

Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

He knows our need! He’s not a stranger to weakness! He’s with us. So we can look backward to his coming, his life and death, and we can look forward to his return to set all things right.

As we take stock of the world we inhabit, we can easily get depressed. It doesn’t feel like it’s getting better every day. Moral and social progress aren’t achieving the gains that were promised.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim.
This Christmas and New Year’s lets pause to consider the greatness that came to the earth as a baby. He overturned the world that way, but to set things right. So we can be loved by him, and love each other in love, and gospel peace. We can work with him to break the chains of oppression as we sing hymns of joy and praise.
Maybe it is all true. We don’t see it in fullness yet, but perhaps it’s all real. We need it to be, that’s for sure.
O Holy Night, when our souls felt their worth.

Doug Serven