Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Is Christ enough?
What a sad story to hear in the shadow of Christmas and all its joy! But there it is. Christmas is for this, for grieving moms and dads and wounded children and broken people, tested by suffering, wondering where God is in it all.
The Magi had the star to guide them. The priests of the temple had the Scriptures. The people had the voice of John the Forerunner. Herod had them all. But the weeping mothers of Bethlehem were lost only with their grief, loss, and pain. And with the same questions that nag us. What kind of God cannot or will not intervene to prevent the innocent suffering and death – especially of children? Where is this peace on earth and where this good will toward men?
The grieving parents of Bethlehem had only what we have – faith in the promise of God to comfort and console them. The question is not whether there is more but whether this is enough? The ways of God are mysterious to us. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. It is a sick idea that our grief can be comforted by explanations. It is false comfort when we are told that the hurtful things of life happened for a reason. What kind of reason could there be for allowing the death of the lost boys of Bethlehem OR for any of the tragic sorrows of our own lives? The ways of God do not satisfy our desire for a reason for what happens, or an order to the seeming chaos of life, or some way to predict God.
The ways of God are mysterious to us. They do not allow us to explore God's wisdom as if we could comprehend Him or His ways, nor do they allow us to meet somewhere as equals to discuss or resolve the issues we face. The ways of God are mysterious to us. They do not explain the injustice of the world around us and they do not explain His seeming silence before it.
We sing about the mystery of God and His ways. "God works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform..." but it is not a consoling hymn to those of us who seek reasonable explanations or carefully thought out explanations for all our questions, doubts, and wondering thoughts.
No, the ways of God are mysterious to us. Only one thing is plain and clear. That is Christ. God is hidden in mystery except in Christ where He unfolds His heart, His purpose, and His will. And this is what we meet in the Christ of the manger. He gives Himself to the violence, suffering, and death of our mortal lives. He allows Himself to be the victim for us of every wound, pain, sorrow, and hurt we face. And this is what saves us from our wounds, pains, sorrows, and hurts.
He appears weak before the world's enemies only because He refuses to fight fire with fire, to become evil to overcome evil. He insists upon meeting wickedness, evil, and sin in the humility of a man, born of a woman, like us in every way except sin, in order to redeem sinners from the prison of their sins.
His strength is His humility, self-control, and willingness to serve even if sacrificial death is the cost of service. That is what still confound and confuses us - who still try to make love self-serving and who fear giving up anything for anyone. No, the ways of God are not our ways and our ways are not His.
He offers us comfort not in safety from every adversity or pain of life or ease from every cost or sacrifice. No, He offers us comfort in His victory born of suffering and His life triumphant in death. That is why the only approach to Jesus is by faith. Reason cannot bring you to Bethlehem and intellect cannot come up with the cross. Only faith.
The lost boys of Bethlehem and their grieving families cried out to the Lord and He answered by setting them free. Too early for us they died as do our loved ones. But in their death is a witness. They received the eternal reward Christ alone can prepare.
They will never suffer disappointment in life that does not live up to expectations; their hearts will not break because of friend's betrayal, their hopes will not be dashed upon the rocks of injustice and evil, and they will never have to stand at the grave to bury their sons or daughters or moms and dads. When in death we surrender our loved ones to Christ we are giving them not to an end but a beginning beyond imagination. Only faith finds comfort in this even though nothing can explain away the hurt.
For us Christ lived. For us He died. Whether we live or die, we belong to Him. The Lord gave. The Lord has taken away. And faith still insists: “Blessed be the name of the Lord”. Friends, this hard Christmas message reminds us, that our hope does not lie in crude explanations or pious platitudes or imaginary fairy tale endings but in Him whose suffering has won us hope. . . for sins forgiven, for wounds to heal, for sorrows to find joy, and for death to give way to life.
The question is not whether there is more to answer our questions or soften our hurt but whether this is enough? Whether Christ is enough. We come here to the manger acknowledging the wounds of our hearts and hands and lives. We come here painfully reminded that here on earth we walk not by sight but by faith. And that is enough. It is not all we want, but it is enough. For the wounded parents grieving over the lost boys of Bethlehem so long ago. . . for the wounded who still grieve, who still hurt, and who still sorrow. . . It is not all we want, but it is enough. Christ is enough. For the grieving parents of Bethlehem. For you and me. Amen.