Thursday, December 25, 2008

He came with Love

First Coming
by Madeleine L'Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!"

Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Wishing all a joy-filled Christmas and a most blessed new year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Schmaltzy and a tad melodramatic, as Josh Groban is often wont to be. But this was one of the songs that came on (out of the 146 shuffled songs on my iPod's Christmas playlist) as I drove home tonight. We just had our annual Christmas party, and a wonderful time was had by all: Amateurish mucking about in the kitchen – food made with lots of love, not skill; Marks & Sparks minced pies that reminded us of England; boisterous singing with accomplished (grand) piano accompaniment. Laughter, lots and lots of laughter.

Thankful. I’m thankful.

There’s so much to be thankful for.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see
It's up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more
There's so much to be thankful for

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A deep and terrible mystery

In the face of great suffering, oftentimes we want so very much to be able to give people an answer, to give ourselves an answer. I do not know if there is an answer to be had. In the face of the deepest and most terrible of pain, I do not know if there is an answer. Why? Why did this have to happen? I believe that ultimately, there is a reason - but we might never know what that reason is, at least not on this side of eternity.

Suffering is a mystery as deep as any in our existence. It is not of course a mystery whose reality some doubt. Suffering keeps its face hid from each while making itself known to all.

I keep thinking about what Locke said about the limits of human knowledge: The divine creator gave us enough light to traverse the oceans, but not necessarily to plumb all its depths.

There is a deep and terrible mystery about suffering.

To love is to suffer. There is a deep and terrible mystery about love. To love, to really love, is irrational. The Bible tells us that God loves us. He loves us so much that he left heaven for us, gave himself up for us, endured infinite suffering for us, went through hell itself, for us. Why? What did we ever do that was deserving of his love? Why does God love us? How can he love us? Does he not see the utter darkness within each of our souls? Does he not see what we do to each other? What we do to him?

Jesus Christ looked down [from the cross] and he saw the people he was dying for - some cringing, some snarling, all of them clueless. And in the greatest act of strength and love in the history of the world – he stayed.
Attributed to Spurgeon

God does not give us an answer for suffering so much as share in it, and ultimately defeat it, defeating death itself. Because he loves us. And to love is to suffer.

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.

But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.

That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered out world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.

There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ… is God’s only self-justification in such a world’ as ours.

John Stott in The Cross of Christ

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Cure for Pain


I'm not sure why it always goes downhill   
Why broken cisterns never could stay filled   
I've spent ten years singing gravity away   
But the water keeps on falling from the sky   

And here tonight while the stars are blacking out  
With every hope and dream I've ever had in doubt   
I've spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away   
But the water keeps on falling from my eyes   

And heaven knows... heaven knows 
I tried to find a cure for the pain   
Oh my Lord! to suffer like you do...   
It would be a lie to run away   

So blood is fire pulsing through our veins   
We're either riders or fools behind the reins   
I've spent 10 years trying to sing it all away   
But the water keeps on falling from my tries

I've been listening to this song again and again. I remember when I first heard it. On an episode of Grey's Anatomy. I was so thrilled that they played a Christian artist's song on a major network TV show. I remember when I last saw you. At the Switchfoot concert earlier this year. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you were a fellow Switchfoot enthusiast. I wish so much that we had met again under happier circumstances. But it was not to be.
We are one in suffering. Some are wealthy, some bright; some athletic, some admired. But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. If I hadn't loved him, there wouldn't be this agony. This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer. God is love. That is why he suffers. To love our sinful world is to suffer. God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. God is suffering love. So suffering is down at the center of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For Love is the meaning. And Love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history. Nicholas Wolterstoff, in Lament for a Son
Oh my Lord! to suffer like you do...
It would be a lie to run away