Twenty some odd years ago I read a sermon by Edward Steimle, a Lutheran; a Christmas sermon. At this time of year, I can’t help but think back to that sermon when my life seems to be getting away from me. It was called “The Eye of the Storm.”
For those who don’t know exactly what the eye of the storm is, it is the place of relative calm that exists in the center of a rotating weather system. There’s an eye of a tornado. Or, perhaps better, an eye of a hurricane. I remember hearing stories of hurricanes, fierce winds crashing into the Florida coastline as a storm makes landfall. But, in the middle of the storm, the wind dies down. There is a relative calm. Everyone can catch their breath. But this “eye” passes, soon the winds start to howl again and the sky goes dark as the storm rages.
This has some bearing on how we view the birth of Christ - the Christmas day we are eager for. We are eager to get to the mother (and father) and child and the swaddling clothes, the animals not making a scene, and all the hustle and bustle of Christmas over with when we can sing, and really mean, "all was calm, all was bright”. It does our hearts good and life is just like a Christmas card.
But, it’s just the eye of the storm, that birth in the manger.
We know the tale before Jesus. We know about floods, Babel, pillars of salt, lots of prophets trying to call a wayward Israel back to faithfulness through a period of exile and return and oppression. Then there is a trip to Bethlehem, the City of David, with no room in the inn; not ideal conditions.
But the night was still young. Angels appeared to dirty shepherds and they ran to peek in at the child. He may have looked peaceful, but it had been a whirlwind.
And soon after the winds howl again. Herod massacres children; there is a flight to Egypt for the newborn king, and as he grows, so will the opposition. He will be thrown out of the synagogue. He will be accused and convicted and this little baby that we are so looking forward to will be put to death on the wonderfully named Good Friday.
The storms will come again.
Jesus doesn’t stop the hustle and bustle, the turmoil and tumult of the world. He comes smack dab in the midst of it all, in the activity of life.
And this is good news for us. It’s very good news for us. For me, there’s no need to escape into a gallon of eggnog, or the Chieftain’s Christmas album, or the children’s pageant. Instead, I can rest in the knowledge that we have a God who enters into the storms of my life, and into the storms of your life.
May you welcome this God who comes to you at Christmas.
Jim Doepken is pastor at Seward & Moose Pass United Methodist Churches.