This is the message I gave at our recent College Christmas Candlelight Worship Service –
A number of you know that I have been struggling with knee issues for a while, and had a partial knee replacement a few weeks ago. I feel fortunate to have access to the surgery, and to the follow up physical therapy. I also am very fortunate that my parents are in good health and were able to come and stay with me during my first week home from the hospital.
My mom had a full knee replacement a few years ago, and is a retired nursing home administrator – so she really understands knee issues and the therapy required to heal from the surgery.
In my first few days post surgery, as I struggled with the pain of doing everything the physical therapist instructed, my Mom offered these words, “Well, Amy, maybe something good that is coming out of this is that it can help you be more sympathetic to those who struggle with physical issues.”
I laughingly responded that I thought I was already sympathetic enough. My mom was right – as she normally is. I am a fairly sympathetic person, but going through the pain I experienced for the months before the surgery, and then the challenges of recuperation – including using my departed grandmother’s cane every day – has certainly given me insights I would not have had otherwise.
As I am hobbling into this season of preparation for the Christmas celebration, I have been thinking about what it means to be broken. No one wants to be broken. We all want to be healthy, whole, strong, independent.
A central part of the Christmas message is that God chose to enter this broken world through the life of Jesus. A tiny baby was born into poverty on a cold, dark night in the backwoods of the mighty Roman Empire. His family soon had to flee their home and seek asylum in a foreign land due to a political tyrant. This baby would grow up, and would love others so much that his heart and body would be broken.
Jesus experienced a broken world. He witnessed people ostracized, alienated, harmed, rejected, demonized. He saw hate and fear oftentimes dominate love and compassion. And he understood that when one of us is broken or hurt in this human family, it breaks the entire body.
And it was into this brokenness of the world that love and hope were born.
My knee now has a piece of titanium in it. It is perfect – the muscles around it are still adjusting – but I know this right knee is the strongest physical part of my body. I keep hearing the words of the pop song, Titanium, in my head. I’m sure many of our students know it –
I’m bulletproof – nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium…
Now this song is fun to sing, but the truth is that our real power and strength come through our brokenness.
When our hearts are broken by the pain in the world we see around us, that is our strength.
When our arms are tired from reaching out a helping hand, that is our strength.
When our hands hurt from holding tight in solidarity with the oppressed, that is our strength.
When our legs buckle from trying to lift up others, that is our strength.
When righteous anger over the harm done to others keeps us awake at night, that is our strength.
The Christmas message is not that we are called to be titanium. We are called to be broken – and in that brokenness, we know the very best of humanity. In that brokenness, we are connected to others – every other person we will ever meet, and every creature throughout this world. We know that each person we encounter is our sibling. The connection to others and the world around us is our strength.
Leonard Cohen’s beloved song, Anthem, has a line that speaks to us today. It goes – “There is a crack in everything – that is how the light gets in.”
The light can’t get in when we are titanium. The light only shines through what is broken and cracked.
As we see the Moravian star before us today, and as we light the Moravian beeswax candles in a few moments and see that soft flame – Let’s think about the light that comes in the darkest, longest night of the year – and let’s remember that the light we need only comes through what is broken. Being broken is not the end – it is the beginning. When we are broken enough to open ourselves up to others and to love and to grace and to compassion – that is when all of us together become as strong as titanium. Amen.