Saturday, December 27, 2014

Songs in Exile

People ask a lot how Oaks is going. I don't ever know how to answer that question. But here's a little snapshot of my own thoughts as we have journeyed through Advent and Christmas.


There has never been an Advent in which I understood so well the words to O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We sang that hymn the week following all of the riots and protests and racism demonstrations. I realized afresh the depravity of my own heart and that of the world around me. My heart was already broken by the world I live in - the world my kids live in - and then we sang.

    O come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
    that mourns in lonely exile here
    until the Son of God appear.

Oh God, come and save us. Save us from our brokenness. Save us from our sin. Save my kids from the path that our twisted world has laid out for them. Save them from the expectation of poverty and discrimination and prison and death and abuse and drugs and violence. Put right the wrongs that are done to them, whether physically or mentally. Put right our thinking and our society. Bring justice to our class divisions and our city divides and our racial biases. Bring your love and your peace to our streets. Bring fairness to our police and courts. Break the death that inhabits our streets. Bring your kingdom - bring us back from exile.


The next week, someone threatened some of our kids with a gun while sledding.

The next week, my friend died.

The Sunday before Christmas, I ended up preaching a sermon about exile. The readings were about David and God's promise to build him a kingdom and a house that would last forever. And while that is a message of hope, it is also a promise that seems to be in stark contrast to the world around me sometimes. Terrible things happen. Cancer kills. People get shot on the corner. We are in exile. Waiting for our king to come back.

 That Sunday, we sang these words:

    Though I am small, my God my all
    you work great things in me.
    And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
    to the end of the age to be.
    Your very name puts the proud to shame
    and to those who would for you yearn
    you will show your might, put the strong to flight
    for the world is about to turn.

    My heart shall sing of the day you bring
    let the fires of your justice burn.
    Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near
    and the world is about to turn.

God is not done here. He will come. He will put things right. He is doing it.


But now, I understand our exile more. This year in North Central, Christmas was a celebration. It was also a raw cry to the living God to come and save. Come and break death.

36 kids and adults worshiped together - families whose members have murdered one another, who bully one another, who have maimed each other, who were baptized together. And we all acted out the Christmas story together. And we all prayed together for God's kingdom to come - for God to come and save us. And they all clapped and thumped and stomped a beat together as we sang:

    Rank on rank the hosts of heaven
    spreads its vanguard on the way
    as the Light of Lights descendeth
    from the realms of endless day;
    that the powers of hell may vanish
    as the darkness clears away.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

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