It Came Upon A Mid-Day Clear

Posted by Melvin Bray on December 25th, 2005 filed in Village Half-Wit

Once for Christmas, while most churches chose to focus on the manger-birth, the since defrocked Rev. Sentinel St. Common, now better known as Revelations, chose instead to focus on the untimely death of Jesus. Beginning with a video reenactment of the crucifixion, the camera catches a glimpse of the different groups standing at the foot of the cross just before lingering on muted scenes of Jesus hanging there in ever increasing pain. From somewhere out of view, Revelations’ voice narrates the moment.

“His was a fate not uncommon for the would-be revolutionaries of his day. His was a cross upon which undoubtedly countless other so-called Messiahs had hung. Nonetheless, his followers had believed that this time would be different—that he was truly the Messiah, the Anointed One, sent from God to deliver Jewish people and to usher in an irrevocable transfer of power. On the other hand, his detractors had prayed for the day his blasphemous attempts to undermine the authority of God (as they understood it) would be brought to an end. For them, the day had come, and they were finally relieved. God would be pleased now, they thought. For the moment, the Romans did not care who he was, only that no one would be permitted to challenge Roman dominance, even if his only so-called crime were upsetting the peace.

“But these are not the only ones who watch with interest the scene that unfolds this day just outside Jerusalem at Golgotha. There are those who move about unseen by human eyes. They are not flesh and blood, but principalities, powers, rulers in high places, emissaries of disparate kingdoms. They share not the narcissistic concerns of either Jew or Gentile. Theirs is an epic struggle, graver and grander than most can imagine. They are opponents in the great clash between good and evil, light and void, life and anti-life. Yet in this seminal moment the two camps seem to wrestle toward parallel opposites, rather than colliding purposes.

“In an act of appalling self-destruction humanity had allied itself with a bent and sinister dominion, severing ties with God, the source of light and life. Yet by infiltrating humanity in the person of Jesus, God had re-established a means through which all who chose could partake in life once again. And by embracing through Jesus the worse that sinfulness could lead men to do, God seemed intent on extending his grace even to the nether regions of humanity’s depravity, thereby making new life available to all, no matter their condition.

“On the other hand the forces of darkness seem content only to mock, pervert, or frustrate God’s efforts. Sure, there they are, prompting the worst from their human allies, but it’s in a way that almost seems to abed inadvertently God’s purposes. Even now they stand by smirking in amusement at the demise of Jesus as if unaware of God’s ultimate plan. But as it was spoken by the prophet Isaiah long before, ‘For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will [finally begin to] understand.'”

At this point sound for the video comes up again, and listeners hear Jesus cry out in complete anguish, “Abba, Abba, why have you abandoned me?”

“My son, I know you cannot hear me in this moment. You cannot see the hope just on the horizon. Still you call my name, hoping against hope that I hear you, that I care, that my intentions can be trusted. How I wish I could comfort you. But how could you receive it? How I wish I could remind you of my unfailing love. But, in this moment, how could you believe it?

From this point on in the narration, the images on the screen shift to mirror the memories to which the Father alludes.

“I know, in your anguish, it seems so long ago when your devotion caused realities of a future with no sorrow, sickness or separation to explode into the present. With every miracle, my dreams for humanity—dreams I’ve had since the very beginning—became more apparent. How I wish that in this moment you would be reminded of those glimpses of my kingdom. It is nearer than it’s ever been.

“It was not that long ago when I satisfied your need for companionship by leading you to those you’ve since come to hold so dear—Peter, James, John, Mary, Martha, Lazarus and the rest. They longed for the kingdom of which you dreamed and taught, even though they have yet to truly understand it. Still they’ve caught the vision and are willing to follow in your way as it unfolds for them. It is for the love of them that your journey has led to this. And it is the love of them that will bring all to its rightful end.

“Son, if only you would remember. It was not that long ago that you began to respond to my call upon your life and had to grapple with how that would change your familial accountabilities. You were not always skilled. Your timing and inability to explain yourself were a source of pain to many. You had to learn from me even as you learned to work with wood under Joseph’s strict tutelage and learned obedience to virtue under Mary’s watchful eye. You learned from them both as well as from many others. And I was there just out in front of you each step of the way, calling, coaxing you into the future I had prepared for you.

“No part of your experience has been for naught. It has all served to equip you for the plans I have for you in the days yet to come. Every act of cruelty you’ve witnessed. Every sorrow you’ve ever known. Every moment of loneliness you’ve ever endured. Every encouraging word you’ve received. Every tear you’ve shed. Even in your youth. Every game of tag. Every scraped knee. Every fight. The inescapable shame of growing up in Nazareth. The childhood heartache of having to leave Egypt and all your earliest friends to return to Galilee. The destabilization of having to flee to Egypt in the first place. It has all worked together for the good. If only you would remember, then you would be assured of my good intentions, even in the mist of your torment.

“Remember now, my son, your mother’s stories. The story of the Arabs who followed a star from their home in the East bearing gifts to celebrate your birth. Remember the story of Simeon and Anna who understood your destiny even before Mary did and prophesied of it to her at your consecration when you were but a month and a half old. Remember also the story of the Bethlehem shepherds who visited you on the night of your birth with their tale of angelic hosts and heavenly songs and the night sky lighting up as if it were day. Remember even the story of your mother and father seeking shelter in a barn that night just to have a soft, safe place to deliver you. Mary’s stories would remind you of just how significant this moment you find yourself in will prove. And if you would dare to listen, you would hear her praying over you now, even as she did that first night in Bethlehem, praying of promises she has yet to fully understand, praying of promises that are only beginning to be fulfilled. The story neither begins nor ends here.”

At which point, the Jesus on the screen shutters and dies.

“So sleep now, my son. For in the morning when you awake, we will be that much closer to full reconciliation.”

Walking out of service that day one of the congregation was overheard saying, “What was that? A Christmas service or Easter?”

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