Sunday, December 25, 2011

evil at christmas

I've struggled to be happy this Christmas.
It was the Friday before Christmas that did it to me.

In the morning I try to absorb the news that an enduring and close friend has a brain tumour. Cancer is sinister, evil. At midday I attend a funeral for the father of my brother-in-law. A simple, small, short - and moving service. Hovering over the event is the reality of the way World War II so damaged a life. War is sinister, evil. The texts and conversation which flow through the afternoon cover just the one topic - more earthquakes in Christchurch. It is hard to fathom. Earthquakes are sinister, evil. In the evening it is news time and a leisurely read of the newspaper. Two horrendous stories of child abuse nudge into the headlines alongside the earthquakes. Violence and abuse, particularly towards children, is sinister, evil.

'Happy' is such a silly, superficial word. My Dad taught me to avoid the 'happy' in 'happy christmas' for this reason. He also taught me to avoid the 'merry' in 'merry christmas' as it carries overtones of the drunken excesses, another sinister evil, which so easily inhabit Christmas. He turned and tuned me towards joy at Christmas, that quality so deep and so secure that it moves up through life and transforms everything it touches. This Christmas I even struggle with joy - thanks to Friday.

The darkness feels more gloomy this year. My little mind has always been drawn to the verses about Napthali and Zebulun (reminding me of New and Zealand) in Isaiah 9. 'There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress' (9.1) ... 'The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.' (9.2)

Oh God, please, please have mercy.
Make those words real this Christmas.

May the son who has been given truly be a 'Wonderful Counsellor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace' (9.6) to those who need him most in the midst of the sinister evil in this world in which we live.

Paul 

5 comments:

robk said...

deoAlthough not having the same problems with the words happy and merry for Christmas Paul, I do think they are very superficial. For me the overwhelming sense of Christmas has always been awe - awe that God should bother in such a wonderful way but also awe at all the wonder and beauty of creation, of people, of the earth the stars the sea and the sky. While evil also inhabits the neighbourhood I remember that God says time and again that creation was good. Christmas needs to be lived in that light I think.

Josh Irving said...

Thank you for this, Paul. You've done well to put the last few days in perspective.

Barry Pearman said...

Thanks Paul. I have been very aware of just how much 'evil, sinister evil' has come to the surface this past year. It's more in our face, dictatorships toppled, economic greed bringing superpowers to a whimper, a child abused in a caravan in Tuarangi. It sickens me.

Increasingly battle lines are being drawn, people having to make choices whether to 'Come let us adore him' or to walk on by and follow the evil intent of their hearts.

I too have someone close to me on verge of death through the sinister evil of cancer. They love Jesus and I whisper to them that Christ has open welcoming arms for them. They find peace in this.

Perhaps this is the returning point for me in Christmas. I spoke at River Valley Baptist on Christmas day about looking into the eyes of the Babe of Bethlehem and having everything else melt away. What the baby gives to us and what it receives from us.

May you have a blessed 2012.

Paul said...

Not sure I can quite agree with you, robk! It seems a bit of an escapist perspective to me. Creation 'was' good and it got messed up by sin and evil, sinister evil. Now it is all hands-on deck working with God to see its restoration.

Isaiah 9 is fabulous with its darkness and light and I find 'the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight' also to capture something precious.

Thanks for your comments, Josh and Barry, as well!

Paul

robk said...

Well I'm delighted to be called escapist Paul. Given my rather well defined views on much current evangelical eschatology I would have thought the opposite was rather more likely and given that I believe in the resurrection, the restoration of creation and a rather more physical eternity its not as if I'm looking for some kind of nirvanic wonderland in the sky. Its rather more about an attitude to the material world, the physical spirituality which God has invested in us and put around us. Yes of course there is physical evil but I think we need to be careful that evil and physical event don't drift towards a kind of synonymous status which tends to be the case with the kinds of eschatology that floats around in the church. The earth was made very good and while it has been infected by sin its still good. Life is to be celebrated and enjoyed too. Wine and laughter as well as tears and mourning.