Friday, December 18, 2009

On Christmas, Waiting, and John Lennon by Gregory McArthur (4)

Every Holiday season is rough for me. I have numerous falling-outs, family problems, money problems, big changes, and in the midst of it all, somehow or another, John Lennon becomes my soundtrack to this season.

Now...that seems like an odd choice. To me, at least. As the one doing the listening and as an outside observer, John doesn't seem...Christmas-ey. His songs are filled with pain, hurt, regret, bitterness, and strife. But they're also filled with hope, love, peace, and a call to action for all of us to make something out of this screwed-up planet.

But wait a minute. What does this have to do with Christmas? Well...everything. Absolutely everything. You see, there is one season the greeting card companies forgot about that also occurs this time of year, possibly just the very thing that makes Christmas the most wonderful and magnificent day of the year.

Advent. Something not many people talk about or think about. If you're Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopal, or Methodist, chances are you've known about this season since you were little. For those of us not brought up in these streams of Christianity, Advent is something foreign to our language. It is a strange concept at first, yet the very thing that makes Christmas really Christmas.

Advent serves a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for the second coming of Christ. It is a period of longing, of straining forward to better things. We know that the waiting was eventually paid off by the first coming of Christ, thus also we know that all our suffering will be paid off by the second coming. Not only that, but every tomorrow that God gives us is an opportunity to become people of peace, love, compassion, justice, understanding, grace, and mercy. To be a part of God's seemingly insane approach to redeeming the world, and to become more like Him.

Christianity is and has always been about being transformed by the light and love of Christ and spreading that transformation out to others. God didn't just leave us in the dark to wallow in our misery. He promised us abundant life, made possible by the coming (and suffering, death, and resurrection) of His Son.

But back to John Lennon. With songs like "Hold On," "Gimme Some Truth," and "Watching the Wheels," he talks honestly about his frustration with the world and with people who try to give him advice but never take the time to honestly get to know him. I feel like that most of the Advent and Christmas season. Things never go right, and I wonder what is so wrong with the world that it is full of hypocrisy and lies and hate and gossip. It makes me weep, and rifts between myself and other people are caused.

But on the other hand, I cannot deny the fact that I serve a God who came through on His promise in a most miraculous way: by becoming one of us and dying to conquer death so that we may have life! So that we may be a people grinding against the status quo and the empire, and spreading a community of love and peace all around the world that cannot be gotten rid of.

On the flip side for John, he has songs like "Imagine," "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," and "Give Peace a Chance." All of them songs that reflect the hope that Christmas gives us. Yes, war CAN be over if we want it! Peace is the way! Put aside all of your differences (religion, race, social class, economic status, continent, health, age, hair color, eye color) and make this world a better place. God has given us the tools to do so, so let's get to the doing.

He won't leave us in the dark. After all, that's what Advent and Christmas are all about. The Light of the World piercing into the darkness, illuminating our hearts and the world, and showing all of us that God is good and wants what is good for us, His creatures, even if it sometimes means we have to wait for the miracle. But if there's one thing to learn from history, it's that God is worth waiting on. You will not be disappointed.

The Jews waited thousands of years for their Messiah. Two more days until I move? Nothin.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men." -The Angels to the shepherds, Luke 2:14

"War is over if you want it." -John Lennon

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Rom. 5:1-5

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