Countercultural, Counterintuitive Christmas

Fourth Advent CandleHenry Wadsworth Longfellow was in the midst of despair. His wife had recently died in a fire, and against his wishes, their son enlisted in the Union army during the American Civil war and was severely wounded in November 1863. On Christmas morning Longfellow heard ringing bells, “their old familiar carols” playing the message of “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” His response was like our own during these 2015 chaotic times:

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, goodwill to men.”

Did he weep before going on?

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the right prevail…”

To believe that, to have deep faith in that truth is countercultural and counterintuitive. Everything within us wants to wail that if God is alive, if he is awake, he would do something to stop the chaos, the killing, the despair. One skeptic screams, “An all powerful God would be able to get points across and teach lessons and improve our character without placing us in a world of such tremendous suffering.”

On a dark Bethlehem night, with chaos reigning supreme, the unbelievable happened and was announced by equally unbelievable heavenly messengers. First one angel’s proclamation to shepherds:

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.

 Then, almost as though the news was too profound to be limited to just one herald, a host—a throng—of angels joined the song:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.

Yesterday morning in our church we didn’t sing Longfellow’s words. Instead, the modern words of Travis Cottrell rang out:

Freedom’s calling
Chains are falling
Hope is dawning
Bright and true
Day is breaking
Night is quaking
God is making all things new
Jesus saves.

It goes against our skeptical culture, it confounds our conscious reasoning, but when we believe that Jesus came to save, that Jesus still saves, that “God is making all things new,” we light the candle of peace and God’s countercultural, counterintuitive peace reigns in our hearts. And we pray and work toward peace on all the earth.

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