07 January 2013
I’m noticing (from Facebook posts, emails and face-to-face conversations) a huge *sigh* on this first day of the green season following Christmas/Epiphany. Gone are the trees and lights and parties. Fully present are the blues, the bills and a kind of holiday hangover…the exhaustion that comes not just from our recent over-indulgence, but from the nagging sense that nothing is really different on this side of our celebrations.
In some ways, that may be true. Our families and friends are still our families and friends…warts and all. The solutions fairy hasn’t shown up and bopped her magic wand on any of the big issues of the day, which means that it’s still politics and business as usual. As for me (and maybe for you, too): I’m still the same guy I was before we sang Stille Nacht and feasted with the relatives and took a few days off. And now it’s just time to get back at it…to jump into the daily routine which always seems remarkably like the daily routine. So…what’s changed?
Maybe nothing …given the preamble above.
Maybe everything…but I doubt it.
Maybe just enough. That is to say: the effects of our feasting and celebration…of our remembrance and our worship…may not show themselves to be shifts of cosmic proportions. Small, even singular, events can create within us the hope we need and long for. Case in point: one line in a conversation yesterday in which a wise young woman suggested an alternative response to a difficult situation…a response that positively dripped with the Gospel as opposed to the “I’ll show him” knee-jerk reaction which seemed to have the favor of the crowd at hand. Hearing it, I knew that the incarnation of our God had made a real difference in this person’s life. And because of her witness, it would make a difference in other lives, too.
Consider: The one whom we have just been adoring, born in a manger, has also been born within us. Yes, it has happened in mustard seed size. But the deed is done. God has acted. And as we are faithful and open to that seed’s germination, we will be getting back at it…the everyday, mundane and ordinary…with something quite extraordinary working within and through us.
Seems to me that’s a good enough reason to replace that *sigh* with a *smile*.
19 December 2012
'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the place
every person was caught in the holiday race;
The stockings weren't hung; they'd not even been found,
and the cards were not sent, and nowhere around
were the cookies that should have been all baked and ready;
nor the ornaments made, nor the dinner plans steady.
And I with a sigh and Mama with a yawn
wondered how we would finish before Christmas dawn.
There we sat, not so nice, on the living room couch;
one tired and sad, and the other a grouch.
Perhaps we were snoozing; I don't really know,
but something or someone had startled us so
that we sprang to our feet to see what was the matter
while our hearts raced ahead of their usual patter.
When what to our wondering eyes should appear
but a village alive 'neath a night starry clear.
"Come this way," a voice seemed to lead us along
through a close, winding street towards the sound of a song.
There were people all over, crushed shoulder to shoulder,
so to stay with our guide we pushed on a bit bolder
until we were standing in front of a door
that was open, revealing a bare, earthen floor
and a rude, little room set with a straw and a trough
and a trio of doves cooing down from a loft.
"More water!" another voice hurried on by;
then a shout, "He is here!" and a woman's sharp cry.
And the song was replaced by a baby's first squall,
and a poor woman's tears from her nest in the stall.
"He is beautiful!" now a man softly exclaimed,
and his voice starting humming the song once again.
And taking his shawl, then the baby was clothed
in the prayers of his father and the love of all those
who had gathered to marvel at this long-waited birth
of a child and a promise and a hope for the earth.
"Yeshua is his name," soft the voice of his mother;
"God will save" was the murmur from one to another;
And the crowd backed away, and the babe fell asleep,
and the man looked to heaven and started to weep.
"Forgive me for doubting" he pled to the sky,
"all the words of the prophets from days long gone by
that you'd never abandon your creatures below."
And again came his song in a voice rich and low:
a simple refrain as his lullaby swelled,
"I love you, my child, my Emmanuel."
And then the dream vanished as quickly it came;
and we wakened to find most our things much the same.
Still the presents and parties and jobs to be done,
still the days over full and the work under fun.
But yet, in another way, subtle and true
this frantic-paced waiting is changed and made new;
Priorities shifted, and new questions raised:
Just what does it mean when the Lord of all Days
Comes to live 'mongst his people and take as his own
their sins to be healed, and their hearts as his throne?
While the motive behind all our busy-ness is
to do just what is right; still the holiday's His.
All our gifts and our getting can never compare
to the gift of the child and the life that is there.
So I think of the song; may it fit to my voice!
May there be no temptation, no darkness, no choice
that would keep my own life from attesting it well:"I love you, my child, my Emmanuel."
15 October 2012
Ben is three years old, and he is standing on his chair across the table at dinner on a recent Wednesday evening. There’s not a whole lot of food going in to his wiry, little body…but he is enthusiastically sharing just about every thought or idea that comes into his mind.
“Hey, Jesus! Guess what!” He is talking to me.
His parents, trying to convince him to take another bite of hot dog, are also reminding him that the person he is addressing is Pr. David…not Jesus. And I am also quick to add that, while I know Jesus well, I am not Jesus.
Ben is not easily persuaded…although he’s beginning to get the idea. Nonetheless, he still has important observations about his life to share. And sharing them with Jesus, having hot dogs with Jesus, going to see Jesus who loves him on a regular basis…all of this works in his world very nicely.
Two ideas spring to mind.
First: Ben helps me understand what Jesus is trying to convey to his disciples when he suggests to them that entry into the kingdom of God is impossible for those who cannot receive it like a little child. In his innocence and enthusiasm, Ben reminds me how marvelous it is to stand in unencumbered trust before the One who loves us so deeply. I long for such relationship.
Second: I’m beginning to wonder how good an idea it is to quickly correct Ben’s “mis-identification.” After all, when Ben sees me, should he not be seeing Jesus? Indeed, when anyone sees me or sees the Church (either as individual believers or the body corporate), should they not be seeing Jesus? Are we not called and sent to be (as Luther reminds us) Christ to one another and the world?
Ben’s very faithful parents (bless them!) have rightly taught him to be on the lookout for the Lord who loves him. If Ben sees that in me, it is both an awe-full responsibility and a deep, deep privilege. If the world sees that in us…in this rag-tag collection of broken believers called to be Christ’s body in the world…then perhaps we are, by grace, finally being the Church we are meant to be.