Yesterday my daughter asked me why the song talked about the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Like most people, she thought Christmas was just one day.
We’ve all been there. When the diagnosis comes back positive. When your position doesn’t survive that latest round of downsizing. When your spouse gives up on the marriage. When your teenager calls from jail.
Because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen. But of course this doesn’t make it easier to deal with the bad things that happen to us! Often our response to bad things only compounds the problems! How can we respond in a way that opens the door to healing and redemption?
Jesus sure had some shocking, gruesome things to say sometimes. For example, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 6:54-56).
(This is a brief, meandering meditation on John 6-7, btw…)
Seriously, for devout Jews to hear something like this would be akin to showing a clip from The Walking Dead in the middle of a lecture to fundamentalist Christians in the 1950s.
But of course Jesus isn’t simply going for shock value here, he is seeking to help people understand and embrace something crucial about himself. Earlier he proclaimed (after multiplying bread to feed a massive crowd), “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…”
As he sat across from me in my office, I tried to listen patiently, but it was the third “great idea” he had presented to me in only a few months, and I knew it would never work because it was birthed in immature passion rather than a strong sense of God’s leading.
On the other hand, another person I had been working with at the time had such a clear, beautiful word from the Lord. A promise from God that she could rely on and step out into. But for some reason she wasn’t taking action on it, and simply kept coming back to talk more, uncertain of whether it was really God speaking to her or not.
One person was all too willing to take action, but couldn’t wait for a word from God. The other person had heard from God, but was unwilling to take action. Two people with very different kinds of problems, but ultimately they both got the same result: fruitlessness and frustration.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7
In the past, whenever I would come across this verse, the quiet, unexamined assumption of my heart was that “walking in the light” had something to do with behaving well. Correspondingly, walking in darkness had something to do with behaving badly.
But that’s not it at all.
Walking in the light has nothing to do with perfect behavior and everything to do with being known. Walking in the light means that we are willing to be known for who we really are (warts, sin, and all). It doesn’t mean we have perfected morality, just that we have stopped hiding.