Ironic Joy, Unwelcome Hope
Christmas is about Joy, but it's an ironic Joy. It's Joy against all odds. Christ's illegal birth came in the midst of sorrow, of struggle, when it seemed that there was no room for hope, when all the evidence pointed toward sorrow. This is the world into which God has been born. The contradiction still stands. Our hope is still against all odds, an unwelcome hope. The light shines in the darkness. Let us receive Joy today, as a grace which precedes us. And let us dare to hope that something New has entered the story.
I think Walter Brueggemann's Christmas prayer speaks well to some of this:
"We give you thanks for the babe born in violence. We give you thanks for the miracle of Bethlehem, born into the Jerusalem heritage.
We do not understand why the innocents must be slaughtered; we know that your kingdom comes in violence and travail. Our time would be a good time for your kingdom to come, because we have had enough violence and travail.
So we wait with eager longing, and with enormous fear, because your promises do not coincide with our favorite injustices.
We pray for the coming of your kingdom on earth as it is around your heavenly throne. We are people grown weary of waiting. We dwell in the midst of cynical people, and we have settled for what we can control. We do know that you hold initiative for our lives, that your love planned our salvation before we saw the light of day.
And so we wait for your coming, in your vulnerable baby in whom all things are made new.
This Christmas Day, may we be interrupted in our sorrow by the overwhelming hope that all things are being made new, in the scandalous particularity of a child from Nazareth. May light invade our darkness. And may we respond with gratitude to the reality of transforming love.