So Now What?
The post-holiday blues hit hard sometimes. It was a frenetic journey to the celebration of Christmas, but now the lights don’t seem so bright and colorful, and the music grates on our ears. Or worse, things have fallen apart, and the family closeness lasted only a minute or two before the rivalries and resentments returned.
There is certainly no basking in the Christmas glow in Matthew’s Gospel text this Christmastide Sunday. With a dream of warning, Joseph and his new family become refugees, fleeing an oppressive ruler who wants to kill the child. For Matthew, it is a fulfillment of a prophecy; for Joseph and Mary, it is a moment of terror. For the little town of Bethlehem, it is a tragedy of historical proportions. Any time disaster strikes, natural- or human-originated, questions arise. No doubt between your pronouncement of peace on earth on Christmas Eve and this Sunday’s worship, something tragic has happened in your world. Maybe something personal and local, maybe something on a larger scale: another shooting, another fire or flood, something: it is almost inevitable. Your congregation isn’t looking for an explanation or a “take back” of the promises you recalled on Christmas Eve. But a “so now what” is in order.
Isaiah gives us a hint of how to go forward when the world doesn’t fit the destination we have in our minds and hearts. And that hint is simply to tell the story. We will tell what has happened to us; we will tell our story, our testimony of how God has acted for us and with us. We will tell the stories we read and the stories we live. We will tell them to one another, and we will tell them to the world. And as we tell them, we will remember what God has done and is doing. Despite living in a world that doesn’t look like what God’s reign should be, we will see glimpses of it here and there, in us and beyond us. And we will tell that story too.
Storytelling, or testimony, isn’t just a way of whistling in the dark to keep the fear at bay. Testimony is reliving the moments of salvation; it is reclaiming the presence that seemed so real – because it was real – in the dark of our Christmas Eve service. Testimony is relighting those candles that we held into the air as we sang “Silent Night,” except now instead of wax and wick, we bring stories and memories to light the darkness in which we live—until the darkness begins to resemble the light.
So now what? Now we keep going, moving on to the destination of God’s reign, of an eternity in God’s presence.