‘Come, Lord Jesus, come into this weary world. Oh, how we long for you to come, Lord, come.’ (Robin Mann © 1976 20ATN) It’s easy to sing this song when we’re looking at the news. I dare say that has always been the case but each year the litany of terror or tragedy seems longer and longer.
We have seen the destruction of both people and historical sites in an attempt it seems to recast the world into a particular world view. The world and all that we observe is about the story we tell of it. Science is about a changing story as new theories replace former ones. History – or should I say histories? – are stories of the past that form around specific events or persons. Our own lives are not fixed as such – we can change and grow as can our relationships – as it is sometimes said of us that our story is not yet finished.
For cohesion – familial, social, political, scientific – we like people telling stories that are roughly ‘on the same page’. We don’t mind variety but radical change or rebellion (a rejection of the story or status quo?) is always threatening. One thing that has come from the Renaissance and Refor-mation time of the 16th century is the ability to live with different stories – points of view – so that ‘the other’ does-n’t have to be ‘destroyed’.
I think we’ve come to see iconoclasm in any form and the use of violence to try and maintain the story as essentially signs of weakness. It might be easy to point the finger today at religions and groups in this regard but Christianity is not immune to such charges. And of course it is easy for me to type such thoughts in England where my story – my view of life – isn’t threatened. But what do people do when persecuted and threatened? Stay or flee? I don’t know! Both are valid and proper options with no guarantees of personal safety or ‘success’.
I was intrigued to read recently that Canon Andrew White – the ‘Vicar of Baghdad – who has worked for decades in mediation and invites enemies to a meal now reluctantly advocates for a war and the killing of Isis. For White, a line has been crossed and such action is the only means to minimise the horror and loss of life to come. It has been pointed out that St Francis of Assisi and the Sultan met for dialogue and is not that still the better way forward? I would agree – unless one or both sides would kill the other before you could say a world or serve the meal! It is so hard to work out what to do. How do we determine God’s will?
One thing that remains important for Christians, however, is that while our story has geography in it and history (of course), it fundamentally is more of a news report which introduces us to someone and what he is doing. We’re not tied to location in the same way as other religions. You can be a Christian and never set foot in Jerusalem. The point is that our God is with us – through words, wa-ter, bread and wine – thus Jesus walks with us – at the same pace – by our side.
Jesus lives up to his ‘Christmas name’ of Immanuel – God with us – because his grave is empty. His presence does-n’t make the bad things go away – there is still suffering and death – which can challenge our faith as few things do – but it is this story of him – then and now – that changes the world – no matter where or when we are on the planet.
We pray for those for whom life is tough. We work for justice in this world. We try and be nice and serve those around us. And we say ‘come, Lord Jesus, come’ – knowing that he is already with us and one day we’ll see him face to face. — GS