Who are these like stars appearing?
But I thought about the readings a lot today. I was glad that we sang "Comfort, comfort ye my people." It was a hard day and this is a day of hard readings, at least from the Gospel of Luke.
John the Baptist calls out rather unkindly to the people who are gathered around him, gathered perhaps because he is a novelty, perhaps because everybody else is going to see and hear him.
"You brood of vipers!" he spits. "Did someone tell you to run and hide from the Day of the Lord, which is surely coming soon? It isn't running and hiding that you are called to do.
The world is broken. And so we all need to change."
The world is indeed broken. And we need to change it. Hearts are broken. Lives are broken, systems are broken, communities are broken. We are a broken people and things need to change.
There is a reason why we celebrate God's coming to live among us year after year. And it isn't about presents or big meals or snow or Christmas trees and carols. We celebrate God's coming to us every year because every year we need God to come among us again. Every year we see again how broken our world is and how much we need healing and how much we need our wounds bound up and how much we need love that overflows and knows no bounds. Every year we need to hear again that God will destroy evil and the world will be made right in the fullness of time.
This year perhaps you are the one whose wounds need binding up. Or perhaps you are the one who is called to do the binding.
Perhaps you are the one who needs your tears wiped away. Or perhaps you are the one who is called to hold a hand or give a hug or provide the tissues.
Perhaps you are the one who feels as if you cannot go on. Or perhaps you are the one who is called to hold someone up and walk with them for a few steps.
Perhaps you are lonely. Or perhaps you are called to be a friend.
Perhaps you are hopeless. Or perhaps you are called to hold up a vision of hope.
To quote Mr Rogers, "In times like these, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Maybe you are called to be a helper. And if you are so called, then light your candle and step forward.
I think maybe the whole world is broken today after the slaughter of yet more innocents. And so - and yet - we live in hope, again, that indeed on that day God will wipe away every tear. And there will be plenty of tears to wipe away. But that is indeed our hope.
Don't run and hide. Light your candle and step forward. The world is broken. Help change it.
Who are these like stars appearing, these, before God's throne who stand? Each a golden crown is wearing; who are all this glorious band? Alleluia! Hark, they sing, praising loud their heavenly king. Who are these of dazzling brightness, these in God's own truth arrayed, clad in robes of purest whiteness, robes whose luster ne'er shall fade, ne'er be touched by time's rude hand? Whence comes all this glorious band? These are they who have contended for their Savior's honor long, wrestling on till life was ended, following now the sinful throng; these, who well the fight sustained, triumph by the Lamb have gained. These are they whose hearts were riven, sore with woe and anguish tried, who in prayer full oft have striven with the God they glorified; now their painful conflict o'er, God has bid them weep no more. Lo, the Lamb himself now feeds them on Mount Zion's pastures fair; from his central throne he leads them by the living fountains there, Lamb and Shepherd, Good Supreme, free he gives the cooling stream.
(Words by Theobald Heinrich Schenck (1656 - 1727); translated by Frances Elizabeth Cox (1812-1897).
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