Matthew 10:34-39 is not normally a text that we associate with Christmas, but the Christmas sermon we heard tonight brought it to my mind:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law --- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (NIV)
We might lightheartedly take this as a reference to the inevitable family conflicts around Christmastime. But to me the external conflicts mirror the internal divisions within each of us, and I think the final part of the passage speaks to that. The sword that Christ brings separates each of us: bringing the old self to death and piercing our darkness with his light. In death and resurrection we will be separated (cut!) at last from the sins we cling to so desperately, losing the old life but finding something new.
What darknesses do I try to keep hidden from the light? What is it that I love more than the cross?
Have mercy on us, Lord, in this season when we celebrate your coming.