If ever there was a picture to explain why Jesus came, it was on the front page of the New York Times last Wednesday. A photographer caught the immediate aftermath of a suicide bomb detonated in a parade of worshippers, mostly women and children. A child stands where he stood moments earlier, in a circle of death and agony; mamas, children, babies. She wears a brilliant green silk tunic and she is utterly bereft.
It is a horrible picture, disturbing, inappropriate for conversation among decent people celebrating a happy holiday. Yet, it falls to the center of our faith. In it our religious language gains traction in our everyday lives. The deepest mystery of the incarnation being that Jesus came not only to comfort the bereft but to rescue the most broken among us, the perpetrator. Most likely, he was a hired hand paid well and promised eternal bliss while his client lives on to kill another day, and another, and another. And for him and his kind, Jesus came. He came that instead of damnation, they should discover themselves divinely loved and turn from their wicked ways.
In light of its deepest mystery, the incarnation is shocking, disturbing, begging the question, “Why God? Why forgiveness for evil so intentional?” Our theology cannot keep up with our questions. Its language is inadequate to the horror in our gut when we see such a picture. Regardless, the answer stands, “For love, for love so strange it overwhelms God’s desire to punish.”
In his memoir, The Pastor, Eugene Peterson labels the church, a colony of heaven in the land of death. Rather like the girl in the green tunic? We stand in this world, terrified, shocked, sick, angry. But we are not bereft, nor frozen in a snapshot moment. With the strength God gave us, we get busy binding the broken, burying the dead, comforting the grieving, confronting the evil and praying for peace to come quickly to the hearts and minds of those so far from the knowledge of God’s love for them.
May we be overwhelmed by the joyful mystery of the incarnation of our Lord this season, each and every one! peace & prayers, pastor annette