Last night I had the opportunity to take my girls to take part in Lessons and Carols at a local college. This worship service began in 1918 at King's College in England. It is a journey through the Bible that teaches of Jesus' coming - beginning with Genesis, including the prophesies of Isaiah, the accounts of Luke and concludes with the Gospel of John. In between each prayer and reading of Scripture, a choir and orchestra take part in the telling of the Christmas story through song and music.
It was quiet and candlelit. The lady singers were dressed in Christmas finery and the men in handsome tuxedos. I was entranced by the stringed instruments - they seem to sing the sorrow and the joy we all feel all at the same time. I was thankful to sit in beautiful place and be quiet for just a moment, it was calm amidst calamity.
Just as I wrote the other day, it is important to remember what exactly Jesus was born to do. It's important to maintain calm amidst the calamity of this season. While I focus on Christ, there will still be presents to wrap and there will be a tornado of unwrapping on Christmas morning. There will be groceries to purchase and prepare. There will be car rides to visit and share with family. There will be cranky kids in the back seat. Last night, I was given the gift of peace and I pray I hold on to that peace.
The readings from Genesis, Isaiah, Luke and John were all familiar to me. But last night John 1 meant more for some reason. In the wake of the wave of terrorism that has washed over this planet, I heard the words more clearly than ever. John 1:1-5 began the reading:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Our country and our planet feel very dark to me right now. I am tired of seeing my country's flag at half mast over and over again because of terror. I am weary from the arguing and infighting among countrymen and even among the church. But the Word came. Jesus came and He is light. The darkness will not overcome the light even though all we see is darkness.
Finally, I heard these verses louder than ever. 1 John: 9-11 says:
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
The light offered to everyone was not received by everyone. The peace and life offered to all men and promised for thousands of years was rejected and continues to be rejected by the very people He came to set free. I felt sad as I heard this final passage read in the Christmas story, how could there be rejection of such freely given love? The consolation is that this is nothing new and God knew from the beginning of time that His son would not be received by all - yet He continues to reach forth and draw people toward Him.
The calamity is not just the shopping and baking and decorating. The calamity is the death and destruction that splashes across our news feeds. The calm is the baby that came two thousand years ago, Jesus - the Word of God made flesh who walked among us. The Word of God loved and accepted sinners and embraced hypocrites and died for every last one of them and promised to make a place for all of them.
The lessons read by candlelight fell on me fresh and new. I recognize the weight of God's gift more clearly now than ever. We all crave the calm and peace and are invited to sit and partake, not just for an evening or a season but for an eternity.