“Peace, peace, but there is no peace”, protested Jeremiah.
I was reminded of this driving my daugher to Guelph. She has a retro playlist, those heady songs of the seventies that seemed so fresh then, now rediscovered for a new generation. Peace Train by Cat Stevens came on. It was so hopeful. C’mon everybody, ride on that peace train… I can remember feeling in my blood and bones that the world was changing, if enough people believed it together. She is as optimistic now as I was then. New generations are a hope machine.
Wars and rumours of wars. Well, those didn’t get any less last year. Seemed like every second day was an outraged protest somewhere. There was a lot of angst from groups who felt marginalized, economic hardship and the burden of unfair taxes. There were corrupt governments, despotic rulers, and general confusion over matters of truth.
It’s sounding an awful lot like the world of the original Christmas story to me. No peace to be had anywhere. Two thousand years ago it was holy disorder, the story reminds us - and that makes all the difference. Who could guess in the troubled world of Jesus’ birth, that great things were coming together behind the scenes? There was a sub plot behind it all, everything was converging at the right moment to fulfill what was foretold of the Messiah’s birth.
For those looking for a little peace at Christmas time, holy disorder is the only way some people will have it. Go to a Pentecostal church and sit on your hands for half an hour. They will tell you to stand up. It’s time for a bit of holy disorder. It’s also part and parcel of the Black Church experience as extrapolated by Cleophus LaRue. He notes that every sermon brings up the troubles they are all too familiar with, but ends in celebration and clapping, with everyone calling out their part. Holy disorder is of a happy kind that reminds us that God is still in his Heavens, doing his thing.
It’s Christmas. Don’t be dismayed when you read the papers. None of this is new. In fact Christmas is the time for holy disorder, more than any other season of the year, when God irrevocably altered the timeline of human history with a plan for salvation…For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
As Isaiah also foretold, the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. That’s us by the way. Never mind that it has not yet arrived. It’s what the Church is waiting for during Advent. It’s something to get excited about - the same thing that made Mary burst forth into song. We call it the Magnificat, in Latin, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” - My soul magnifies the Lord. It’s the reading that comes with Christmas. It’s a salient reminder for those bogged down by bad news, that all of this injustice has a limited shelf-life.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
It’s time for some Holy Disorder. Why? Because it’s coming on Christmas. Don’t worry. God is doing his thing. It might not end up being a silent night after all. If you were sitting on your hands waiting, it’s not too early to celebrate.