We sometimes will speak about “scars” that we have within ourselves ... that is, lingering evidence of wounds we have sustained in our living and loving.
I have some scars within ... some knotted and twisted “places” that you cannot actually see, but I can “feel” at times. I also have a pretty fair collection of scars on the outside ... I have scars that were inflicted upon me by doctors who needed to get inside my body and fix things.Other scars were accidentally self-inflicted ... you know the fascination boys have with sharp, dangerous things ... and fire ... and stuff that goes “bang!”. It’s a pure wonder that I’m alive and have nearly all my “parts”. But the thing about all of my scars that amazes me and is worth noting is that they are all evidence of healing. The scar is the symbol and the sign that my body has amazing powers of recovery and regeneration. And so it is with you ... and so it is with our earth and all of creation.
Broken things can become whole ... wounded things can heal ... empty things can be filled ... sadness can become joy ... uselessness can become new purpose ... loneliness can become belonging.
We live in a world where hurt and brokenness is all around us. Some of the hurt and brokenness is very personal ... very close. I ache to think of some of the sadness I know that has touched each one of us here. Who has not known loss ... disappointment ... emptiness ... failure? This week we received the annual Christmas photo and letter from my late best friend’s family. The photo of this dear, dear family shows three members, now, instead of four. Jan wept to see the photo. I did my weeping while writing these words.
We cannot escape the wounds and brokenness that come by virtue of being alive ... or by loving and caring for others ... or by the accidents that can sometimes befall us ... or by the occasional cruelties of others ... or sometimes by the enormous cruelties that are the part of unjust and oppressive systems.
And yet, remarkably ... and we might even say “miraculously”, our inner and outer wounds and brokenness are most often graced by healing ... remarkable healing ... by the knitting together of broken bones and broken hearts ... the return of stability to our inner systems and balance to our ruptured emotions. We can know healing ... and restoration ... and renewal. And God’s grace and gentle love is a part of every healing ... every restoration ... every renewal.
We live in a universe where healing and renewal are a part of the natural process. And yet, we might say in this setting of faith, that at the very heart of this universe, we understand that the Spirit of our loving God conspires and works tirelessly to bring healing and wholeness to every heart and hearth and nation to where it is needed.
Healing is a mysterious blend of God’s divine Spirit and the natural powers of creation and our own modest efforts. And it is not always a “cure” that results from our efforts and nature’s influence and God’s “healing.” Sometimes the healing is an inner one that cannot yet stem the tide of illness or difficulty that has beset us. And in this life and this world where we know we are mortal, sometimes that is just the way it is. And yet in the wider circle of God’s love and care, and surrounded by loving community, let us be encouraged to find peace in that ... and great joy while we live and with each living breath we draw.
We have been standing at the threshold of the stable ... the edge of the manger for several weeks now ... like expectants parents waiting for the contractions to begin. But this “birth” that gets hinted at in Isaiah is more like a re-birth ... the conditions out of which this re-birth is occurring is not what we hope for ourselves or this world ... brokenheartedness ... captivity ... impoverishment. These are symptoms of things that have gone wrong ... symptoms of a body or a world in need of repair ... a new start ... a new life ... healing and restoral.
For all of the difficulty that the “occupy” movement has had to find traction and a focused message, it is, at the heart, a cry that speaks of things that have gone wrong, a system in need of deep healing and change. It would also be fair to say that it’s not just the U.S. that needs an “occupy” movement, but the world as a whole.
Isaiah stands among people who have reoccupied the land of their ancestors, but can see no hope, no healing, no future ... all they can see are ruined buildings and ruined lives in need of restoration. They are a brokenhearted people in need of a fresh start and to these people Isaiah speaks God’s healing word: “The creator of this universe, whose breath shaped this earth and spoke life into existence, will heal and restore you. And this is “good news” for all people, all earth. The birth of Jesus is, for us, a grand fulfillment of Isaiah’s hopeful and healing words. God’s decisively entering into our lives and our world “from within” ... love encased in human flesh, the Spirit clothed in our human condition, and from within God’s healing and restoration comes, not in a great show of power, but on the wings of every breath and with every newborn baby’s cry. And this is the word and message of “Christmas” that is beneath every cry of “Merry Christmas” ... this is the word and message beneath and within our seasonal celebration. It is a word and message of hope and healing and new futures.
And we are at the same time, people who need to hear this the “good news” of this healing word ... and people who need to pronounce the “good news” of this healing word. And so, while yet standing at the threshold, with seasonal bustle and twinkling lights and merry songs all around, we come into a time of prayer for healing ... healing of ourselves ... of nations ... of this earth.
We open ourselves to this time of hearing and speaking the healing heart of God by singing together: “Come and fill our hearts ...”. Let us sing together as we come together in prayer:
Come and fill our hearts with your peace.
You alone, O God are holy.
Come and fill our hearts with your peace.