Revelation 11:15 “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’”
I would venture to guess that those of you who are up to date in the Daily Walk readings don’t really find a lot of the Christmas spirit in the passages before us this week. Shrieks of cataclysm from Revelation, chastisement from Haggai and Zechariah, and even most of the psalms are plaintive and full of violence. So much for Silent Night and cooing babies in mangers.
But there are other things. If we took the book of Revelation out of Scripture entirely, as Martin Luther wanted to do, we would be bereft of some of the grandest music ever written. I can’t read the passage above and hear a spoken voice. I can only hear the swelling strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus…beginning ever so softly with “the kingdom of this world,” then the crescendo on “is become” only to have the full forte on “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” before the men begin the refrain that will take us through to its glorious conclusion of God’s reign for ever and ever. As much as all the bowls and plagues and apocalyptic horsemen make me crazy, I can’t do without the book of Revelation. I need its music.
That does seem like a Christmas message of sorts, because the beauty and splendor of Christmas is often buried inside violent, perplexing realities. Sanctions imposed on Iran today. Rumors of more soldiers, not less, headed to war. Prayer requests from those who have received horrible reports from doctors or who have had loved ones snatched from them too soon and too quickly. It makes you want to shut the book and stop reading. But, if we do, we’ll miss it. Buried in life’s harshness is the song of God…starting so softly that maybe you don’t hear it coming. But then, suddenly loud and clear, it is there: “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” Christmas comes right there in the middle of plagues and wars and prophets. And once he comes, he’s never going away. He will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation was meant to be a book of hope for a people oppressed, abused, and weary. It gets pretty bad. Human beings seem bent on war and destruction. But it won’t be forever. God will interrupt our violence…starting softly…in a way you might not even notice…a baby in a manger. As the baby moves from God’s promise to God’s fulfillment, the “becoming” starts to be noticeable. Transformation in a tomb. A risen Lord. The world began to pay attention to the extent that the way we mark time was re-oriented around that quiet birth. And at last…in the midst of wars and rumors of wars, famines, disease, and pestilence, we have the promise of the glorious fulfillment. There will come a day when the madness is stopped and “he shall reign for ever and ever.”
So, keep reading the book of life and listen for the music. And may the promise of Christmas be yours this season.
O come, O come, Emmanuel! Amen.
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