King of Peace or Warden of Prison

I don’t want Jesus to come.  He looks like He knows something.  Even Mary seems worried. I don’t.  I want Jesus to stay away.  In heaven, where he belongs.

These are hard words to think, let alone to write down, and place out there in public, even as a priest writing these words. My publicist, were I to have one, would strongly advise against such a statement made public.

One of the things we learned from the congregation through the surveys of Renewal Works, which exposed how people really feel in our congregation – what they really want – is that they want the clergy to be less royal, less pretending, less protected, and more real and vulnerable.  Well, be careful what you ask for.

I’ll admit that I do not want Jesus to come to be with us because Jesus comes as a friend (John 15:15.) I know anglo-catholics who hate that these verses exist in the Bible.  And they are right in that there is no other “possible translation.” Jesus comes as friend.

If Jesus comes to bind the brokenhearted and reign as Prince of Peace then I do not want Jesus to come.  I do not really want peace.  I want it in the world, yes.  I want it for those I love, yes.  I want it in the homes of others.  I want everyone to lay down their weapons and cherish each other and this planet and sing Cum By Ya.  But I want to reserve the right to loath one human being who hurt me precisely because I let them so close that they could.  And now I hate them with a white, hot hatred hard to imagine I would ever, could ever feel.  Hatred had never entered my life before September when my best friend betrayed me.  So before September, it was ok with me if Jesus came to earth as Prince of Peace.  Bring it on. Wonderful.  Break out the cosmos and the Egg Nog!  Let’s welcome Peace in all our hearts.  But can bespeak openly about these things so that we heal or must we all hide such thoughts under a veneer of ribbons and bows?

When one is deeply hurt for the first time, there can so easily be a closing off.  There can exist an unwillingness to allow that kind of betrayal to ever happen again.  The doors are locked.  The windows are bolted.  The Indian Shutters are closed and latched and the room is dark, still, silent as a tomb.  And in that dark, closed room there seems to be peace but it is not peace, it is only stillness.

I know.  I could, and probably should, write some Hallmark meditation today about the joy of the coming of Jesus.  But can we, in these last three days before Christmas night, allow ourselves to acknowledge that Jesus comes into a real, of real pain, a world in which there is real hatred and real betrayal.  And worse, betrayal by those closest to us which is why that kind of pain is so searing, so throbbing, so different than being hurt by a stranger?  Can we take just one, untidy moment to look down the darkest hallways of our lives – the back alleys, the dark bathroom in which the toilet overflowed after that bad rainstorm  and was never cleaned up in the back corner of the basement of our “house with many rooms.”

Can you and I get real just for a moment?  We can go back to being elegant, polite, Anglican, in a few days.  We can go back to “How are you?” and “Just fine.” in a few days but for this one moment, two or three days before Christmas, can we acknowledge that the dark blue of Advent is not just “hope” but also the despair inherent in the need of a Savior?  Or shall we pretend and thereby make the birth of Jesus just a delightful accessory to a delightful life in a delightful gated community?

Maybe you, gentle reader, are a more pious, more holy, a more moral person than I am.  In fact, probably.  And perhaps you need me to remain holy and on a pedestal so that “the priest” in no way pulls back the curtain in the Oz of church to display that we too are mere mortals.  But I am not sure that is our job.  I believe with all my heart that we clergy are chiefly charged with being real and present, not impressive and enthroned.  I am convinced that I am not alone in that resistance to the in-braking of Peace.  I think all of us have a wound deep inside us that we are nursing like a vampire on an old corpse, still containing a bit of blood.

So no.  I do not want Jesus to come and set me free.  I want more time to hate.

But I NEED Jesus to come.  That I will admit.  I need The Prince of Peace to come and set me free from the prison for which only I have a key.  I need to set that corpse away, even though it may yet have a bit more blood in it for my fangs.  And I believe that most of us have some wound we are nursing.  Most of us, especially we older humans, who have had more time on this planet, have some betrayal that has happened or some wound or some grief and loss, or some sadness, or something taken or even something we ourselves did that we cannot now undo.  We all have something we wish were “not”  – and it is for that one deepest, darkest thing that Jesus comes with a broom and a dustpan.

Jesus is not coming for our pretty churches.  Jesus is not coming for our lovely living rooms filled with decorations.  Jesus is not coming for our pristine Christmas outfit or our fantastic menu for Christmas dinner set in a world in which a billion people will ache with hunger while we gorge. No.  Jesus is coming to gently take from our hands that one thing we clutch like a mother clutching her grey-blue-black dead baby.  Jesus is coming to take from us that one hate, that one resentment, that one loathing, that one loss.  Jesus sneaks in while we are sleeping, clutching it in the night and asks, us ever so gently, if He may remove it so that there might be Peace on earth.

It would be so easy if all this Christmas stuff were about joy when everything is lovely.  It is not.  Christmas is about the darkness being dark but not so dark that the light is overcome.  Christmas is about darkness getting very dark but then, slowly lightening again because something has been healed.

Before the trumpets and crumpets of Christmas morning, what is that one thing you resist Jesus removing from your pocket – that one resentment?  That one hurt.  That one loss.  That one sin.  That one addiction to being right.  Because Jesus is coming for that.  And now is the time to let go of it so that Jesus is the King of Peace and not just the Warden of cease-fire.

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