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"Tony Robinson is one of the most active church leaders in the United States, greatly in demand as he teaches congregations and denominations about church life. His work has a deep theological underpinning, which many congregational-development gurus don't have."

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author of The Gospel and the New York Times and And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament

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The Shadow at Christmas

At Christmas we may be trying so hard to be full of peace and joy that the part of us all to which we exile our less admirable qualities -- our shadow in Jungian terms -- may now be particularly charged.

Into our shadow, beyond our sight and knowing, we consign our aggressiveness, our resentment, our bitterness, our deceitfulness.

We so want things to be beautiful and perfect. We so want to be beautiful and perfect ourselves -- "all is calm, all is bright" -- that our less admirable, less acceptable qualities can really go on a tear.

I remember the Family Christmas Eve services as telling in this regard. Up at the front a young mother, taking the part of Mary, holds her seemingly angelic newborn. Off to the side, just outside the circle of light, her other two children are raising holy hell.

Something similar takes place on the larger social plane. We want everything to be beautiful now, but then some terrible tragedy or crime shatters our longed for peace. How often that seems to happen precisely during the week of Christmas.

Just as we are set to rejoice and sing glad tidings, a plane is blown apart and falls from the sky -- the result of a terrorist bomb. Or a devastating winter flood sweeps away homes and hopes just days before Christmas. Or a ghastly murder shatters lives and mocks Christmas cheer.

When such things happen, we may want to declare the whole Christmas thing to be bunk. In one sense it is. Our effort to make everything -- including us -- look perfect is bunk.

But if Christmas means anything, it is not that we have finally achieved holiness or perfection. It is that though we are in so many ways broken and lost, dwelling as the prophet Isaiah put it ďin a land of deep shadow,Ē God yet comes to us. God enters our darkness.

God comes to us in the shadows, comes especially to those outside the light. God knows our pain and sorrow. God knows our failure and fault. And yet, God loves us, holds us, and says -- in the face of a newborn child -- there is grace, there is grace for you, grace for us all.

"Letís start over. Letís try again."

 

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