Who would think that what was needed to transform and save the earth might not be a plan or army, proud in purpose proved in worth? Who would think, despite derision, that a child should lead the way? God surprises earth with heaven, coming here on Christmas Day. (Who Would Think That What Was Needed, verse 1, written by the Iona Community in Scotland)
This morning, a newspaper article about Sudan caught my eye. In January, a referendum will determine whether or not Southern and Northern Sudan will become separate countries. The piece described the feelings of Sudanese Minnesotans, who are eligible to vote in the election, provided they can reach a polling place. Those who still wish to vote must reach Chicago within the next few days.
This vote is an element of the 2005 peace agreement, reached after twenty years of war and genocide in Sudan. Ladu Gubek lives in Bloomington, MN and is chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Task Force in America. Gubek reflects, “For me it’s a special moment, because although the majority of my adult life was spent in war and uncertainty, I want to determine this destiny for the children of my children’s children.” (Twin Cities section of the Dec 18, 2010 Star Tribune)
The world was full of violence and warfare at the time of Jesus birth, just as much as it is today. A little-discussed chapter of the Christmas story reports that the birth of Jesus triggered a genocide. When Herod learned of the existence of this”Prince of Peace”, he viewed him as a threat to his own power. He ordered his soldiers to kill all the baby boys under the age of two in and around Bethlehem. Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped the sword by fleeing to Egypt. While the historicity of this account is uncertain, there is no reason to doubt the truth it tells us about the ways of our world.
I am moved by Gubek’s comments, because, despite decades of watching armies slaughter innocents, he holds fast to hope for a peaceful Sudan, a country in which the children of his children’s children would lead the way. What of us? Are we prepared to rejoice when God surprises earth with heaven?