There are seasons when Christmas comes swooping in…bringing with it, goodwill and cookies in the oven, preparations for festivities, and goofy photos of big dogs in little holiday hats…
And then there are seasons when Christmas comes trudging in…bringing with it, hesitation and heaviness, unfinished projects and when by December 19, we feel lucky to have ornaments on the tree because we’re too tired or too sick or too grieved to do much else…
Perhaps that has been this season for some of us. A lot of us. Maybe even most of us.
A season of dreary grey. And taking other peoples grief and making it our own. A season of brokenness and wilderness or disorientation. A season of heartbreak and breathlessness, with an underlying anxiety that’s hard to define, but even harder to calm.
Perhaps that has been your season.
So it seems just a tiny bit scandalous, to sit in the warmth of sanctuary, sing songs of adoration, and anticipate the retelling of the ancient story of new life being born in the night. It seems at odds with the muck and the distrust and the riot, to welcome a newborn and expect new life to spring forth, when there seems to be so much about life, that is death dealing and weight bearing.
And yet we dare to gather this night and hope…pray…speak to a light and a life that might transcend this moment.
It’s what we do, as people-of-faith. Or people of almost-faith, or I-wish-I-had-faith people. We gather; singing, hoping, praying that the promises of God mean something.
And in turn, we are assured, that when God chose to be made manifest in the least of these, the weakest, most dependent of these, God was reminding us, that even in our most vulnerable moments, God is there…that there is recreation happening in our midst and that death need not be the final word.
For when God becomes a child to us, is born for us…and we are in the presence of a newborn, it gives us all a bit of wondrous, optimistic delight…a sense possibility.
For just a moment, we get to peer into the eyes that hold all the potential in the world. We get to insert our oversized finger into the tiny but tight grip of full-on faithfulness. And we get to embrace with abandon, the sweet and tender possibility for humanity.
But it requires something of us. Have no doubt about that. “It requires us to be present to the Child, and attentive, generous, loving, protective, caring. All the things newborns are not, we must be. We must bend ourselves to the child’s survival. Making, in the midst of the world, a place for joy. A place for hope to thrive. A place for a future to grow.”*
So we gather this night, to make space for the newborn. To make space for the possibility of joy and hope, even in spite of what the world might show us, day in and day out. We make space for peace and love, not because it’s easy or some sort of cliché, but because we trust that when a newborn is in our care, that it might actually be so.
We hope that God’s constant task of re-creation will include us. Because it does. And we hope that this season, will pass. That the ache and the anger and the hopelessness will pass. As they do. And we anticipate that there will be new life that will shoot out of this charred stump of time. Because it does.
But maybe most of all, we pray that God isn’t done. That joy and peace and love remain.
And even still, God answers us, in the still small cry of a baby, lying in a manger…
Let us go and tend to him. And in our attentiveness, let us dare to be changed by the light, the new life, that is before us…
*This is an absolute, direct quote from…somebody. Many weeks ago, I wrote it down in my large legal pad, word for word…but failed to declare who the original author was in my note taking. When I find it again, I will make amends. But until then, know that these are wise, wise words.