December 11, 2008
by Patrick Lafferty
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Early in his quest to return the ring of power to the place where it was forged and there destroy it, Frodo is deeply wounded by one of the minions of evil who seeks to return the ring to its original owner, Sauron, the Dark Lord of Middle-earth.
Frodo, a diminutive and unassuming creature of the hobbit race, nearly succumbs to that wound but is saved by the medical wisdom of the race called the elves. He lives to continue his and his fellowship’s quest.
Yet even after he completes the momentous task appointed for him, he often feels pain from the blow he took a year earlier. “There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,” he is told by his wise, avuncular friend, Gandalf. He longs for a rest his wound will not permit. The elves invite him to a place where he can find enduring rest, from the burdens of his wound and his wearisome way in the world of Middle-Earth. And so he departs from those he loves, to find rest in the Blessed Realm.
In The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien wove a majestic fantasy that resonated with humanity’s unfading hope of a rest for those wearied by this world. Our hearts lift whenever peace and rest are rumored, yet they also steel themselves against disappointment, should those rumors be unfounded.
Every Christmas we find ourselves in a similar setting where those “rumors” of peace and hope are rehearsed.
The angels who appeared to the shepherds when Jesus was born assert many buoyant promises which, just like Tolkien’s work, evoke our seemingly innate interest in a joy that cannot be quenched. Yet, such promises also evoke inquisitive and incredulous questions from a world drained of the sacred and supernatural:
Why are the tidings the angels bring gladdening? Why is such news destined to bring “great joy”? Why shall “peace” come to those who hear the news of a Savior born in Bethlehem?
Gladness, joy, and peace attend to this news because whatever wounds this life inflicts, whatever losses we take which cannot be replaced, His coming meant a new, bright, and more bounteous hope than had ever been disclosed before. Now, a rest really does await those who trust in Him?a healing balm for those who take refuge in His unparalleled work that began in a manger and was fulfilled on a tree.
Hudson Taylor, a missionary of 51 years to China, and a father who’d lost three children of his own, once wrote: “Love gave the blow which for a while makes the desert more dreary, but Heaven more home-like.” He believed that “there is a homecoming awaiting me which no parting shall break into, no tears mar.”
The hope of Christmas is too easily buried beneath the trappings of Christmas. Yet the wounds we bear, or the wounds we shall bear, require us to dig down deep for where the true hope of Christmas is found.
As the “rumors” of peace, joy, and eternal life are rehearsed for you this Advent, may you pause and ask for the grace to unearth the hope designed to sustain you on your sojourn.