On the "long Love" of God

Last Sunday I shared a sermon about the “long Love” of God as symbolized by Mary and Joseph’s loving journey to Bethlehem and later to Egypt to protect Jesus from evil.  That evening at our Blue Christmas service someone shared a story about a time when they were able to be present for someone in grief.   She shared that a friend of hers had lost a close family member and asked if she could come along with her to the service.   It was a long trip down to California and the friend had a son, just 6 or 7, who soon grew antsy in the car.  And the mom just didn’t have the heart or energy to “entertain,” and so our friend stepped in.   And all the way to California she played “car games” with this little guy including counting all the way up to 10,000!

I asked this person how in the world she kept the kids' interest as they counted all the way up to 10,000?   And she shared that they did 100 in a British accent, and 100 in a French accent, and 100 like Scrooge, and 100 like Santa, and 100 really slow, and 100 really fast, and before they knew it they had arrived and the darkness had not overcome.

As I was listening to this story I found myself amazed by the many ways we can shine light amid the darkness.   There in the darkness of that car, one of our sisters in Christ, shined the light of Christ in as many accents as she could think of, just to keep a child from experiencing the cold of a winter’s grief.

As I turn my heart towards 2017, I must admit that there are parts of this year that I’m frightened by. I sometimes look out into where this world seems to be headed and worry about the hardened, hateful, selfish heart of this world…about a darkness that looms…about a fear that pervades and seems to win sometimes.  And in those moments, I ask the question: will love win, will peace prevail, will Christ reign?  

I sometimes feel a bit like the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. During the Civil War his son, against Henry’s wishes, had enlisted in the Union army and was tragically and severely wounded.  That year his wife and love of his life died in a fire. That Christmas morning, he got up and could think of nothing to live for.  The darkness of grief was the only lens in which he could see, and shadow of war pursued him wherever he went. He walked around doubting whether the world would ever be able to pull itself out of this tragic war where brother murdered brother in the name of honor.   

And then, suddenly, he heard the bells of Christmas ringing from a church.   At first, he felt like the bells were mocking him. A cannon of war sounded outside the city and it seemed to drown out any hope these bells had and so he writes, And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Ah but then the bells keep counting!   They kept ringing in the darkness, above the cannon fire, and Wadsworth ends his poem in hope: Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men."

Something tells me that as we head into 2017 the Bear Creek UMC is going to have to take on the mantel of peace and love and light.   We are going to have to be that friend in the car counting love in every accent and language we can think of, ringing peace with every instrument we have, and shining thousands and thousands of little lights of hope into this dark world.  And in so doing perhaps the very lives we save…will be ours, and our children’s, and our children’s children, and our neighbors, and the stranger, and the hungry, and the lost, and the broken, and the lonely, and homeless, and any everywhere living in darkness.  For as the scripture says: “ Those living in darkness have seen a great light." (Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16)

Your pastor, still counting…on Christ and in the Christ in each of you, Brook

Tim Schaaf