I was zooming around getting some last minute shopping done last night and headed to the Strip District. I got distracted for a moment, took a wrong turn, went over a bridge and wound up in the morass of Route 28, where it grinds down to one lane at snail-speed and takes you on a detour through Nova Scotia before you can finally cross the river again at 40th Street.
I was not pleased. I grumbled and muttered and cursed. I went over in my mind how much later this would make me, how complicated my evening had just gotten. I was mad at myself and feeling sorry for myself at the same time.
Then I remembered Newtown. I was reminded of the difference between inconvenience and suffering. So I blushed. And then I began to pray.
The recent dire events there continue to cast their shadow over us all. We come to the manger of the Christ Child fully aware of the twenty empty beds in that community, and of eight other lives cut short. We are painfully aware we can do little for them but pray, and hold the grieving in our hearts. In the face of such horror, worshipping the mystery of God who comes and lives among us in Jesus of Nazareth has never been more relevant.
Any desperately wounded heart understandably cries out to God, Why? Why does a good and merciful Deity allow such things? Some religious systems have elaborate answers to this cry.
God's answer is a Child.
Silent in the face of this Why?, the Child Jesus, God-Made-Flesh, comes to redeem the sin and suffering in the world that lie at the root of the question itself. He grows up in the midst of the agonies and losses of the world. He moves with infinite compassion and mercy amidst the worst that we can do to ourselves and others. He forgives, blesses, and heals. He declares His righteous judgment upon the forces of wickedness that corrupt and destroy His creatures. And He offers Himself in weakness through the Cross and in power through the Empty Tomb to bring Life out of death, Light out of darkness, blessing out of curse.
If you are seeking, in this dark time of the year, a reason to keep going, an answer to your cries, a meaning for your life, seek Him. His hope is sure and His mercy is more than enough. Whatever the pain or the doubt that is pulling at your heart, offer it as your own gift laid at the feet of the Christ Child. Then see what He will do.
And if you rejoice in this season, because of the blessings that God has poured upon you, then turn to others, especially those who suffer, and let your words and deeds be for them the life, light and blessing which Jesus Christ embodies and bestows.
May all the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you and those you love.
The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell
Photo: Adoration of the Children, Gerard van Honthorst, 1620, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy