Normalcy means we are all basically in the same boat, and that boat is not particularly exceptional. We can talk about hope as we should, hope in something better and grander. But that lies outside this middle time, and only by crossing the threshold of the bookends will hope emerge in its fullness.
We are caught up in a will to destroy day by ordinary day. The crazy man in the synagogue is not crazy. He’s just the one who sees that there is a reason to scream. There is a power for evil, and it grips our own lives too. His scream is true. He sees the darkness in the ordinary day; he feels it in the anguish of his own distorted soul. And he sees that Jesus has come precisely into his darkness, to overturn it, to cast darkness out, to say in the place of anguish, let there be light.
And in the night, a child’s voice rises. In the night a baby crying, a mother singing, a father full of wonder standing by. One small family and a few shepherds in the quiet of the night—and in this ordinary, an explosion of light, the night sky lit by the angels of God, the armies of heaven singing glory to God and news of peace on earth. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. It is here that it begins—not with Caesar and his power, but with a mother who heard God’s word and said “Yes,” with the father who stood by her, and with the child who was born.
Repent, because there is a problem, because there is a power of sin in your lives…And if we think that we are innocent—as, increasingly, the finger-pointers seem to think; if we think wrong is something only other people do, think again.
We must decide to love even when our circumstances are not in favour of us. We must decide to love even when we do not agree with the other person. We must decide to love no matter what. We make a judgment to do what is best for those we decide to love, and we promise to stay in love unconditionally. Such a love is an art, making time to share the burden of the other person, creating space to see the inner beauty of the other person.
Like Babel, the Church today lies in ruins divided between different families. Unable to communicate with one another, we are not a great nation. And that’s because Christians are no less tempted to “make a name for themselves,” like the Babylonians, rather than receive a name like Abraham.
Joy is so elusive when we seek it for ourselves, when we seek it in ourselves, when it is something we try to make by our own efforts. It doesn’t last; it doesn’t satisfy. So we buy another car, or a bigger TV; we get a better job, a bigger job. Joy as product, something that we should grasp. This joy does not last.
We are saved as we are found in Christ, as we forsake our security, our achievements—all that we have and all that we are—to know Christ because they are worthless before him. Suffering comes with this recognition first because it invites us into the truth about ourselves and then because it invites us onto the self-sacrificial way of Christ.
We are called out every bit as much as the Israelites were in the days of Pharaoh, called out of bondage to gods that are no gods, called out of the pagan city, into the worship of God. By the great grace of God Israel’s salvation has been made ours too, so that we too may worship the one God, Lord of all. So that we too may be God’s people, grafted in Christ Jesus into the chosen people. And that means being God’s people. It means leaving behind the old gods, discovering a new home.
If we would love God, if we would try to speak God’s love in this world as it is, the cross is the only way. It is the necessary shape of our lives…For all of us, this is a word of hope. The cross—wherever it meets you, is the good thing. Never forget that. The cross is the good thing.