Wednesday, December 21, 2016

christmas in crisis

The terror attack this past week at the Christmas Market in Berlin took place right across the street from a famous memorial church called the Gedachtnis Kirche.   

It's a cathedral that was built on the site of a series of earlier churches. The church was badly damaged in WW2 when the dome was hit by a bomb and collapsed as the rubble fell all the way down into the church's crypt. After the war, as residents went about cleaning up all the ruins, they made a decision not to tear down all the bombed out buildings, but to save some so that they would always be reminded of the horrors of war. The present buildings, a new church and a bell tower, were placed right along side the old bombed out cathedral. The damaged spire of the old church has been retained and its ground floor has been made into a memorial. A shiny new church stands in the midst of the ruins of an old blown up cathedral. 

At the center of it all is a charred cross, where Jesus offered his sinless life for all our sins. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated the powers of sin and death and hell and has claimed us as his own. And not only has Christ died and risen for us, He also holds our lives in His hands and rules over us in grace and mercy and love. We have His promise from Romans chapter 8 - “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Although we are immersed in a ruined and rotten creation, for a brief moment this time of year we are able to see and to hear God's wonderful promises for us in Jesus. It is an experience that gives us comfort and hope this Advent and Christmas season.

Hope is a hard thing to get a handle on sometimes - kind of like that old cathedral in Berlin. After the church had been bombed, it would have been easy for the people to do one of two things. They could have looked at the ruins and fallen into despair. They could have given up and walked away. Or, they could have cleaned up the ruins, erased their memory, and built a new church where no one would even know the difference. One option lets the destruction triumph and denies any hope of a future. The other option lets the future glory triumph and denies that there is suffering in this world. What they did, however, was something different.

They held the suffering and the glory together to form a new reality. They didn’t just walk away from the church - they built a new one. But they didn’t clear away the ruins and build on top of them. Instead, they left them as a reminder of the suffering of this world. The ruins and the church stand together as a visible reminder that in the midst of the fallen creation, God continues to rule and reign over His people.

Living out the Christian life in this world is really a paradox – a strange combination of glory and suffering. We are certain of the glorious future that God has in store for us. We know and trust that all things work together for good. But we also see the reality of suffering in this world around us. Though we live in the midst of this ruined world, we do not give up hope. And, though we see the hope of the future, we don't deny the suffering of this world. No, instead, we live in both worlds – in the reality of suffering and in the certainty of hope.

So as Advent hope turns to Christmas joy this week, even in the midst of the ruins and rubble of this fallen world, we are reminded of the true reason for the season. Our Savior Jesus has come from heaven to earth to take away all of our sin and sorrow, suffering and loss. He has come to give us Christmas in the midst of crisis. 

This is His gift to you today and always - "Nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ your Lord."  - Romans 8:28


1 comment:

Alvin said...

Christ is always there to bless in each new crisis. Glad you had the privilege of experiencing both die alte und die neue Berliner Domkirchen.