“I cannot save you. I can’t even save myself.” So goes the angry and hopeless chorus shouted by Christopher Hall, lead singer of Stabbing Westward.
The song begins hauntingly:
I know your life is empty
And you hate to face this world alone
So you’re searching for an angel
Someone who can make you whole
Unfortunately, no hope is offered in this despairing song in which the singer acknowledges he’s not the sought-after angel. In reality, he’s looking for a savior, too.
Such is the world in which we live
If you were to stand in the middle of the world and look around, you wouldn’t have to look far to see despair come to life.
- Yellow vest protestors in France
- The United Kingdom’s Brexit woes
- Unrest in Nigeria
- Ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Chinese oppression of its own people and saber rattling in the South China Sea
- Genocide in Myanmar
- Civil war in Syria
- Fighting between Israel and the Palestinians
- Economic collapse in Venezuela
- Millions of people fleeing their homes and countries all over the world
- The trade war between the United States and China
- The aftermath of Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Florence
- The destruction of California wildfires
- Recurring Ebola outbreaks
Despite all our progress, we don’t seem able to save ourselves.
Our countries are at war. Our economies are at war. Our cultures are at war. Our religions are at war. Our governments are at war. Our environment seems at war. Our bodies even seem to be at war with themselves.
‘Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared’
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’ ” (Luke 2:9-12, NIV).
I don’t know about you, but in the midst of endless trouble, I’m not looking for salvation in a baby. I’ve changed the diapers. I’ve stayed up through the night. I’ve been virtually helpless with a sick infant. And I’ve cradled that same helpless infant who was entirely dependent on a world of adults.
Our Savior is lying in a manger? A baby wrapped in cloths?
It’s almost enough to despair, and yet …
Unto us a child is born, who is the Messiah
The baby lying in the manger is the one the angels proclaimed to be our Messiah, the one appointed and anointed by God to deliver creation from sin and to restore creation as promised in Genesis 3, the one who would do for us what we—again and again—are unable to do for ourselves.
To see this scene as a hopeful one, we must look past the manger to see it for what it is: God coming to us as a powerless baby, entering the world with the same labor pains as us all, covered in afterbirth, vulnerable, dependent, subject to the tyranny of Herod and Rome, threatened by poverty and disease and marginalization, born into a world ablaze to live a difficult life and die an excruciating and humiliating death and to outlive all of it in his resurrection.
Let us, then, do what the shepherds couldn’t and see the story near its end. They could only see the baby as a baby and believe the promise that he would became someone great. We, on the other hand, have seen what he became.
Though we still must live in the same expectancy as the shepherds, who lived in a torn world looking for salvation, we have seen what they didn’t. Though we still must wait for our full restoration, we have seen the evidence of that baby’s resurrection, his winning over death that makes our full restoration possible.
And because we have seen such wonder, let our lives speak of it. Let the world—desperate for salvation, desperate for the end of war, desperate for the end of disease, desperate for justice and peace—let the world see the Lord’s salvation lived out in us.
And with our lives let us shout new words to the song of despair:
Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born
And God sent us salvation
That blessed Christmas morn
Go, tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!