Yesterday we marked the twelfth and final day of Christmas. Today we take decorations down and pack stuff up until next year. It was a bit of an odd year with some things happening a little differently. Work schedules and travel plans flipped some of our planned days around from when we would normally do them. The perfect storm converged and we did not celebrate Christmas early with my extended family either.
The whole holiday season has just been rather odd this year.
But it got me to thinking about how we view things. How sometimes we think it is all figured out and then we realize that maybe things aren’t what we thought they were exactly.
Lately I’ve been thinking of mercy specifically.
And I am wondering if we’ve sucked all the life out of the meaning of mercy by making it this gentle soothing caricature of its true self.
At Christmas time we speak of the mercy of God arriving in the form of a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager…all is calm and all is bright. We tend to visualize this glowy moment without taking into account the violent and painful reality of birthing a baby into the world.
And the host of angels singing! I know I tend to see that in my head as this beautiful bright ethereal moment of joyous worship, which it was of course, but the angels we picture are these bright flowy gentle beings with beatific smiles. And I think given various descriptions in the Bible (think Isaiah six if nothing else) it was probably thunderous in sound and terrifying visually.
A few weeks ago Rob preached a sermon in which he remarked that God loves to tear things apart. In the very beginning of the Creation narrative we find Him separating thing from thing and making something else.
Light cracked the sky and invaded darkness.
In a violent act of mercy so that Adam would not be alone, God tore a hole in his side and broke off a rib, using it to shape and form his helpmeet.
Mercy is not gentle.
Have you ever had a moment when you thought you were drowning? When the water became a living thing that seemed to assault you? And you are fighting desperately to save yourself and in a bizarre and brutal act of mercy a giant fish swallows you whole? And then later vomits you back up?
Mercy is not gentle.
Mercy is a a vicious beating…a violent Roman cross…a sword piercing flesh.
Mercy is sometimes the brutal confession of sin on the lips of a loved one.
It is the strong rebuke of a friend.
We don’t need a soft gentle mercy. We need the kind of mercy that wounds and cleans our innermost parts. The kind of mercy that is equal in measure, even greater than, our sin. That’s the kind of mercy that brings healing to our bones.
I’m thinking mercy itself is not so gentle or tender but it yields a peace, a restfulness, that is and it far surpasses whatever our gentle pats on the back and kind words can contrive.
I think maybe we are to seek the hard mercies of God. Because His mercy produces life.