“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” (Haldir of Lothlórien)¹
Today we come to an occasion of remembrance and celebration that has shaken the world for at least two millennia. For 2000 thousand years this glimmering light of wonder and joy comes to us in the dark and dreary hour of winter. Indeed the world is full of peril and indeed there are many dark places. Sometimes it seems that these dark places reach their ugly tentacles out far enough to knick or wound us in our daily striving. And yet this celebration endures. Christmas persists, even in the lives of those who want nothing to do with the Christ.
Our wise elf-friend notes above that though the darkness spreads to all the land, everywhere we look, we see the hope filled evidence of love that is mingled with the grief. A love that does not let go. A love that perseveres. Though there is darkness, yet there is persistent and undeniable hope. And for those who are able to see the light of this hope, there is given this ability to navigate the darkness with purpose and meaning.
Today we find the world as immersed in darkness as ever. What do you see when you look around? Do you have a genuine and unbending reason for hope? Yes we all celebrate and rejoice. But not all of us do it all the same. Our elven friend above spoke with the confidence that he did, not because he had nice songs bouncing around in his head. He spoke as he did because when he looked at the world, he saw its true story down to the very bones, and therefore, he had hope; therefore he could sing when the shadow hung overhead.
This is the core of the original story of Christmas. The christian message is that yes, indeed this world is in decline. And yet the love and light of Jesus shine into this world from another. The story of Bethlehem tells us that there is reason for hope because there is indeed much more to life than the immediate here-and-now physical experience that we see. It tells us that the deep longings for a fuller and more complete life are implanted into us for a very real reason. It tells us that God has entered into this broken world in a very real sense to open the door and let us in to that which we long to see. He has come into the darkness so that we may come into the light. Jesus entered into space-time reality. And Jesus was not from this world. This is a historical fact as factly as any historical fact can get. And I dare you to go look it up.
If that is true that we have arrived at something grand. There is indeed reason to celebrate. Celebrate down to our very bones. Some day it will be far more than merely a star in the sky, or even a host of angels. No. The story of Jesus’ birth tells us that some day God will roll the sky back as a scroll and his new world of beauty and love will consume this world and all the darkness that it contains. He will put an end to this winter. The true Christmas will come. It will melt the ice and usher in the everlasting spring. The sparkling light of the star of Bethlehem will extinguish darkness and forever be the one and only reality that we know. So celebrate now. Love all the more. Have a very merry Christmas, and draw your hearts and minds to the reality of the one who will once again split the sky and come back to take what is rightfully his.
1. Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (p. 375). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.