I. All This Has Happened Before; All This Will Happen Again
A. So whispers the world as it looks on all events, great and small, good and evil, light and dark. All this has happened before; all this will happen again. As if we are caught in a neverending circle of history repeating itself over and over. Yet a glance at what’s happened with humanity over the centuries seems to prove this true. An endless cycle of wars, poverty, famine, violence intermixed with a little be of love, light and goodness. The atheists and secularists have had a field day lately pointing out the absence of God through our great tragedies this fall–Hurricane Sandy and the slaughter of the Innocents in Conneticut. A famous Christmas Carol echoes that sentiment: even though you can hear bells on Christmas day, hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.
B. But I wonder if they are right. Many years ago, wise men from the East looked up at the night sky and did not see darkness; they saw only hope gleaming from the light of a shining star. Don’t you want to know; don’t you want to believe; don’t you want to see that maybe there is a God who really loves and cares for us? Come with me for a few minutes, and let’s travel the years back in time, century after century, and let’s go to the noble country of Egypt three thousand two hundred years ago.
C. There on the banks of the Nile, Pharaoh made a momentous decision. The foreigners in his land, the Israelites, who he had made slaves were becoming too numerous. He worried about his power. So he commanded his soldiers to take their horses, their chariots and their charioteers to the land of Goshen and there slaughter all the male children two years old and younger. And so it happened. Wailing and loud lamentation in the Israelite homes that night. Innocent babies slaughtered at will. And the world whispered a little more loudly: All this has happened before; all this will happen again. Evil had full sway; darkness overshadowed the land of Egypt.
D. But, that was not the end of the story. As the Israelites tell it, and it has to be the Israelites because the Egyptians are too ashamed and confused to say more; as the Israelites tell it, the One God stretched forth his hand, entered human history, and saved a baby boy who would save his people–and that baby’s name?–Moses. In later years he faced down Pharaoh, freed his people, and took them to the Promised Land. Out of the ashes of that terrible murder of children, God made history go in a different direction and set his seal on the hearts and souls of the Jewish People to do God’s will on earth. The crossing of the Red Sea, the entrance into the Promises Land, said that though it looks like history just repeats itself, every once in a while, God steps in and makes all things new.
E. But no, say the atheists and secularists. Evil did not disappear, violence did not diminish, hatred was not dead. Look at your feeble Christmas, they say. The very first one was shrouded with hatred, scorn and death. No room in the inn for the so-called Christ Child, and much more real than the fantasies of angels and talking beasts was the rage of a mad king, every bit as evil as Pharaoh. Two thousand years ago, it happened. Shadowy soldiers mounted on steeds, horses blacker than the blackest midnight. Riders in the night.
F. Out of the dark night they came, riding, riding, silent but for the pounding of horses' hooves–the horses of Herod. Soldiers rode those steeds, soldiers of the king, and they rode towards Bethlehem at the command of the king. The king had a rival to the throne, so said Herod, and that rival must die. But the rival was only a tiny child, and because he did not know that child's name the king decreed that all the baby boys under the age of two must die, so that the king might feel safe and get on with his life. And so the soldiers rode, rode down upon a sleepy town when blood red streaks of dawn were just appearing in the eastern sky. They ripped the babies from their mother's breasts, took them from their cribs, snatched them from their homes and murdered them. The mothers who cried out, they died too. It was over in less than ten minutes, and when they had gone and a single wail of an anguished woman pierced the shocked silence, an old man, a prophet he was walked the streets of Bethlehem crying, "A voice was heard in the city, weeping and loud lamentation, it was Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more." And the world whispered a little more loudly: All this has happened before; all this will happen again. Evil had full sway; darkness overshadowed the City of David. And looking back on that event the atheists and the secularists say, "Where was God? Stuck at the manger looking at his so-called Son? Pushing Mother Mary and the elderly Joseph to flee? So puffed up with pride and selfishness that he couldn’t save those Holy Innocents? No higher power rules earth–surely we should be able to see that." That’s what they say as the refrain grows louder–All this has happened before; all this will happen again."
G. But that’s not really how the story goes is it? As the Jews said of Moses so now the Christians say of Jesus: God reached into history and through his power gave us his Son Jesus who is the Savior of the World. Herod’s men slunk the in the shadows of the night, but our God walked the pathway of the stars down to us to give us Christ the Light of the World. That was his answer to horrific evil. The bodies of the Innocents would not be raised on earth’s soil, but because of Christ and salvation he brought, they would not die they would live in glory forever. Herod’s own fury, his own evil personifying the evil present in the world, is a testimony to the power of Christ. The Child should be feared by all dark powers and all people who have shadow in their hearts–he really is powerful enough to destroy death forever. The little martyrs for Christ who died so long ago simply passed through death’s door to live forever in glory.
H. But the atheists and secularists bluster and say, "The world went on didn’t it, and violence, terror and hatred, greed, lust and pride still hold sway. Can’t you people see?" they ask. Look at what your impotent God has done. One and half weeks ago, a mad man young in years but with an ancient evil in his heart, carried out his own slaughter of innocents. Tiny children and their teachers. Who didn’t weep when they were told of teachers cradling children in their arms as the shooter killed all of them. Unspeakable evil. Where is your God?" And as they speak, their voices are drowned out by the cry of the world, "All this has happened before; and all this will happen again."
II. The Spirit Lives
A. And I think in our low moments we have thought like this over the past week. How can we celebrate Christmas in the midst of such sorrow. But I tell you this, If God could stretch out his hand and enter history, raising up Moses to save his people so long ago, if God could become flesh, incarnate as Jesus Christ to save all humanity, what will God do now to counteract the evil we have experienced?
B. That very first Christmas was fraught with danger and confusion. Good and evil mix it up that way in real life. No one knew for sure that the Child in the manger was God’s answer to the problem of suffering. There was hope, but Jesus was not ready to grab a sword and fight Herod. He could only reach for his mother Mary. Only now in hindsight do we see the power of his death and resurrection, the power of his Church which does so much good, and only now can we turn to the world that says looking at the massacre of the Holy Innocents in Conneticut, "All this has happened before and all this will happen again. Only now can we say, "Silence." Listen. The world no longer speaks.
C. Want to know why? Because it is Christmas again. Just as the Christ came to us 2000 years ago, so because of the power of his Holy Spirit he has come again into our hearts. And he has bid us to be his hands, his voice, his eyes, his arms, his strength, his love to the world. We are to do deeds of glory now, in his name. We are the ones to fight the darkness. We are his Chosen who proclaim Jesus Christ as Wonder Counselor, Father forever, Prince of Peace. The world and the skeptics would like to say that history just goes round and round, but we know better. Jesus Christ has made his Church his presence in the world today. Each of us must fight, each of us must battle, each of us must be Jesus to everyone we meet so that the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall never overcome it.