It is interesting how many of the Christmas hymns make reference to the birth of the Christ child being a time of "peace." Consider ...
- "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright."
- "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by"
- "What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping?"
- "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head; the stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay"
Don't get me wrong - there is something comforting and familiar and good about "peace." Yet, if we really stop to consider what was unfolding with the "birth of Jesus," "peace and quiet" may not have been quite as prevalent as we might think.
If I have experienced nothing else from the experiential "Christmas Worship in the Barn" at the Heinze farm ... it is that a "barn is not quiet." There is always movement and noise!
Then having a newborn baby around does not bring to mind rest and relaxation. Rather it suggests a life which is busy, active, noisy and chaotic.
And then there is the "incarnational element" of the Jesus' birth.
God did not bring the Messiah into the world to maintain the status quo. God came to bring life and hope and peace. And the only way to make these a reality would be "to shake things up." Matthew's Gospel, in the 2nd chapter, notes the unsettling nature of God's presence in the world - "In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? ... When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;"
Imagine it - the God who initiates the "chaos" and "disruption" is also the same God who makes "peace" and "hope" possible for God's people.
How can this be?
God initiates the "chaos" in order that God's people might be able to break free from those things which desire to keep us from seeing and experiencing the grace and hope and new life that God offers to us and to all the world. The prophet Isaiah, in reference to the Messiah whom God would sent into the world, writes of "the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light." God is at work to set God's people free from that which would inhibit or obscure or try to make irrelevant God's real message and purpose for us and for the world.
In the midst of this "chaos" God's presence and actions provides true "peace" because we can know and we trust that the God who sent the Son into the world - is right here with us in the mud and muck and messiness of our world and our lives.
That is one of the true messages of Christmas - God comes to shake things up. And God is right here with us!
So - Happy Advent and Merry Christmas - God upsets everything! And nothing will ever be the same again!