Dec 17 2012

Trinity United Methodist Church Columbus Ohio: Rejoice?

Original post at http://trinityumchurch.blogspot.com/2012/12/rejoice.html

"Can anything separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love.  Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

     There are times in life when we come up against an evil so great, tragedy so unthinkable, that words fail us.  They seem inadequate in the face of such unimaginable pain. So it has been for most of us as watched the events unfold around the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut. It quickly went from being their tragedy to being our tragedy. We all grieved, and will continue to grieve for the loss of life. Small towns are supposed to be safe. Children are supposed to be OK. We all know how it works. Those are the rules. What do we do when the rules are suddenly shattered?

     As a pastor, father, grandfather I found myself wondering what would I do if I were in that town and had to lead worship that next Sunday.  Not just any Sunday. An Advent Sunday. Not just any Advent Sunday, but the Sunday we light that odd pink candle. The one that stands for ....joy.  What do you sing on such an Advent Sunday? Did any voices rise singing, Rejoice, Rejoice? "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen?" "Joy To The World?"

   I don't know that any did. Or could. I certainly could not fault them if the candles were not lit and the carols not sung. But I hope they did. I pray that at least one voice sang, one candle of joy was lit. While it may seem impossible to celebrate Christmas in the light of such tragedy, I pray they will. For it was for just such tragedies that Jesus came.

  Christmas reminds us in that on the darkest of nights in the midst of a broken, sin shattered , tear stained world the cry of a baby pierced the darkness.  He did not wait until all was right in the world to come, He came to make the world right. Christmas reminds us God hasn't forgotten us and that all will be redeemed in time.  The virgin birth of Jesus reminds us that hope and joy can come in the most impossible or situations. Even in times like these.

  The cry of the Christ child began to silence all the evil in the world. It is a reminder that evil will not win, that it cannot defeat the love of God. One day evil will be silenced forever.  As surely as the darkness is repelled when we light the Candle of Joy, so will the light of Jesus end the darkness of our world. And we will rejoice.

  Christmas reminds us that Jesus is our Emmanuel. He is with us. It is natural, I suppose, when one hears of such tragedy to wonder where was God? Our Scripture reminds us He was there in the school with His arms around every child. He was there next to every teacher. He is there and weeps with every parent and grandparent and friend who lost someone. Our God is not some dispassionate deity who watches from a distance. No, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God is with us. As our Scripture reminds us it doesn't mean we will not have incredible pain and loss in life. It does mean we are not alone. God does hear, and loves us.

  We have joy because Christmas in its own way reminds us of our true home in heaven. This evil world is not our home, nor is it the home of these children. They gather around the throne of God and for those who have faith in Christ, they will see them again.

  It is for this reason we should, even in our darkest moments, light the candle of joy. It's why we should sing "Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel has Come To Ransom Captive Israel".  So light the candle and sing the carols. And this year let us do it for those who cannot.

In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones

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Trinity Church

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