This past week has been strange and wild, full of hope and care. I have just returned from a week of teaching at the Moscow Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the faithful fruits of a Korean businessman named Elder Lee, or “Chiang No Nim,” by honorific. You will hear more about that body of experience on Sunday, November 22, in worship.
It was on our last morning there that news came of the terrorist strikes in France. We read, as did all of you, of over 100—and then over 120—deaths. Russia was in the midst of dealing with the growing realization that their flight from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt had been taken down by a terrorist attack over the Sinai peninsula. Then the figure came in that of the 300 wounded in Paris, 99% were in critical condition. Our hearts sank, and around a small round table where we had eaten most of our meals, we prayed.
These are strange times for our world. Every decade has its shadowed pockets; in fact, all we have to do is peek just slightly beneath the surface of any face of life to find evil, at any time. I smell war on the horizon, as we face the evil called ISIS or ISIL—in some twisted way, that evil even seems to want war.
Read the story of the man healed in Gerasa: Mark 5:1-20. Note how the man possessed with demons “is always crying out, and bruising himself with stones.” See in it how evil harms its owner; see how an army of pigs drowns itself in the despair of evil. Imagine the harmed, disfigured souls that can carry out acts of terror, and—in pity—fear not for yourselves.
This is a morose letter with which to open the Christmas Season, but remember: Christmas is the coming of Christ into a world of darkness. The darkness is not just the cozy, velvety darkness of a sanctuary at its Christmas Eve candlelight service; it is the scary darkness, the frightening darkness, the world-without-peace darkness that exists without our Lord of Light.
He was born in a stable, as a tyrannical power commanded that his people march to their birthplace. He was born under fear, as shepherds quaked and wise men refused to tell of a baby’s whereabouts. He was born into a generation slaughtered in innocence, yet saved.
Oh friends, let us support one another. The darkness is so real. Let us be hope and heart, audacity and daring, might and main, pluck and mettle for one another, as we seek to love in such a world; in Jesus’ name.