After a lovely “Midnight Mass” (at 10PM–don’t get me started) at St. Joe’s I had a hard time concentrating. A friend is dealing with a horrible tragedy in her life that occurred just before the holiday—so please pray for her. After opening some presents and getting a restful night I awoke to the following story in the New York Times:
A series of apparently coordinated bombings struck three churches during Christmas services across Nigeria on Sunday, killing more than a dozen people and solidifying a recent escalation in violence by a radical Muslim sect that seeks to impose Islamic law.
At least five bombings were reported, including three at churches. The worst appeared to be at a packed Catholic church just outside the capital, Abuja, where at least 16 people were killed during mass.
The militant Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for several of the bombings and was suspected in others.
It’s times like this that it is easy to lose faith, even on a very faithful day–when many, even reluctantly head out for church services. Perhaps evil, which is all too real, wants us to lose faith? Perhaps we need to hold onto that faith that requires us to believe in things not seen–to believe that God is making all things new again. Can we believe that God can redeem evil and bring peace and hold the victims of this tragedy close today?
You see, folks, even on a Christmas day like today, bad things can happen–and often do happen. It’s up to us to stay faithful when others tell us that it’s not worth it.
People need a savior today. And when they find him they find him suffering with them. Those unkempt shepherds, who were hardly dressed for worship and probably wouldn’t have been allowed in the temple, find God in a feeding trough for animals. Homeless for a time, to a teenager who despite her fear, trusted God anyway. The angels came to these men and brought them good news of great joy. Men, who nobody else would have thought to bother with as they kept watch over their flock.
Perhaps that is our call too? We too, need to keep watch over all those who others wouldn’t bother with today. Aren’t there people today that we have forgotten about? Aren’t there people in our lives who at least deserve a phone call or a visit? Does God come to us in his vulnerability so that we might recognize that same vulnerability in others in the world?
God, as a little baby, changed so many simply by coming into the world. My colleague Br. Dan Horan, OFM stated today that the incarnation is necessary for the resurrection to happen. Indeed. And yet, this baby, born to us, in a manner most vulnerable, calls us even deeper. Beyond the manger are those who are also destitute. Beyond the manger, are the Kings who care for the poor baby and give him gifts so that he might be safe. Beyond the manger is St Joseph, who sacrificed to marry an unwed mother instead of divorcing her quietly or taken his right to stone her. Beyond the manger is the terrified teenager who said yes to God, not knowing what would befall her child one day as he faced a cross.
Beyond the manger still today, is tragedy, bombings and death.
We want a savior and when we look for one we find him wrapped in swaddling clothes, unable to even walk or talk. We’ll one day find that same savior hanging from a cross, helpless, dying.
Our savior is the suffering servant. Who cries for the poor and those who are going through personal tragedies today. Our savior calls to us from the manger to pay attention and to climb out of our cribs and suffer with others and to believe that no matter what—this baby matters. This baby redeems the world. And still does.
God doesn’t save us from tragedy, God redeems us from it and makes all things new.
If we believe that…than we’ve got the Christmas spirit. I pray you keep it forever.