At Christian Heritage Academy we seek to put Jesus Christ at the center of all we do. This is not just something we say; it’s routine. Every morning our CHA faculty gather for devotions, and this month we encountered two distinct but complementary Advent lessons that I’d like to share with you.
The first came as our faculty read the Word together. Psalm 46 is filled with incredible images of the fierce chaos that we encounter in our world: “the earth gives way,” “waters roar and foam,” and life is filled with “wars” and “shattering” and “burning.” But then the famous phrase interrupts this madness: “Be still and know that I am God.”
The past two years brought significant loss, confusion, and chaos for most of us; it has been a struggle to make sense of it. And in the midst of this, stillness might seem like the last thing we would want, for in true stillness, after all, we just might see the roaring waters in the fullness of their reality. But it is this terrible stillness that characterized the world prior to the incarnation. Mary and Joseph’s long journey to Bethlehem was in a world of weariness, silence, oppression, and longing.
Our second encounter came on a Thursday as our faculty sang I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, an old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem now put to music. In a beautifully written verse, Longfellow reflects on the irony of Christmas joy in the midst of the Civil War:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Christmas is not meant to be a time to simply paper over the cracks of a broken world with lights and tinsel and parties and pretend that all is well. We do not do well to ignore the hatred in the world around us. The solution, instead, is to know that He is God in the midst of it. It is only in our acknowledgement of this divine paradox that we can experience the true transformative power—the true joy—of what God has done in this broken world. We can marvel with John, who proclaims in the first sentences of his Gospel that “the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Longfellow echoes this beautifully in his final stanza:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
My prayer for you and for our CHA family this Christmas season is that we will rejoice in holy stillness—not turning a blind eye to the pain around us but honestly proclaiming the good work God is doing in and through his children to bring light into our dark world.