Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Even Pain & Division Can’t Steal our Merry Christmas

Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? be gracious to your servants. Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us and the years in which we suffered adversity. Show your servants your works and your splendor to their children. Psalm 90:13-16

A Reading: On December 28, the Church remembers with sorrow the slaughter of the male infants of Bethlehem. They were indeed the first victims of the persecution of Christians.

Herod was furious on realizing that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more. Matthew 2:16–18

So yesterday was full of disparate readings such as Ann Voskamp’s Christmas greeting and Christians, Muslims and Jesus and Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. And it was full of walking with Everette to the downtown library and pretty much engaging at some level with every single person along our path and also having quite a few of those hedged conversations one step past the “Oh, I am doing great and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” sorts into the fears and struggles and questions that the New Year is ringing in.

And this particular Christmas season was particularly marked by meditations on the slaughter of the male infants. Rachel weeping bitterly for her children and refusing to be comforted. Or maybe my tender heart just heard them this year. But I think that actually that we as a Church are grieving through the pain of the other this year with more sensitivity. May it be so. But also each one of us might echo in the quiet of our heart the lament of the Psalmist that rather than being a joyous delight, our years sometimes feel like an affliction from the hand of the Most High.

Last night I walked over to Falora and met some of the Monday night ladies for pizza and salad. And it has not been an easy year for any of us, and we walked through it together in prayer and expectancy. But in each story we can see the work of His hands and His splendor to our children. And we are His servants, part of His household, joined in both the sufferings and the triumphs.

And I am grateful for their steadfast presence. That is one more thing that Nicole and I sort of started yesterday. Writing thank you notes. And while neither of us exactly wrote that many, although Nicole did produce a stack of beautiful cards, the point is that both of us are so very grateful for and to the myriad people who have been present, intentional and full of kindness in their walking alongside.

And that word “tarry.” How long? Somehow this psalmist is asking God to make us glad in the affliction and adversity. And while we await the grand rolling up of the mountains and the sky and the arrival of the new heaven and the new earth, He has gifted us with His presence in so many ways: In His glorious creation that gives me glimpses of His majesty, His entrance into the open door of my heart, and yes, His presence in His each image bearer and even more so in that of fellow Jesus followers.

And Miss Everette is glad in affliction and adversity. There are very few things she likes better than climbing up stairs. The more the better, the steeper the better. Up and up and up she marched to all the library levels yesterday. Stomp, stomp. With a big smile on her face although each step was just a little too high and she had to give a little tug on the handrail. Glad.
Make me glad as well dear Lord.
Advent means “expectation” and hope is our expectation, peace is our anticipation, and He is our transformation, and everywhere right now, even amongst us:
In the midst of our lament & our suffering we will be the humble and the brave who “prepare  the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. And every valley shall be exalted & every mountain & hill shall be made low & the crooked shall be made straight & the rough places plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”-Ann Voskamp
Thus once again, I meet you in the morning and ask you once again to satisfy me by your loving-kindness; so shall I rejoice and be glad all the days of my life.