Yesterday was the official end of Advent 2016, during which my friend Rachel and I have been blogging daily, using the suggested texts from the Revised Common Lectionary as a way to look more closely at the stories going on in our own lives and in our world. So for the last 28 days we’ve mostly been trying to write Advent “devotionals” that we wouldn’t mind reading, that would help us make sense of things here in this post election reality we’re currently living in.
To close out this blogging marathon, here are a few thoughts from me, Lenora, on this Christmas Day, 2016.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2: 10
Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him.
From 1 John 4: 17-18 (The Message)
I was sitting in a dark and beautiful little church last night about 10 pm, holding a candle, singing the classic Christmas carol, Silent Night, along with about 150 other people. Some of whom I knew. Some, complete strangers. And I thought:
What the hell are we doing?
I mean, really…this is absurd.
Why are we all here?
Why do any of us care about some obscure baby born over 2000 years ago in a remote little town, to people so poor they couldn’t even finagle a room at the Super 8?
I wondered if it has something to do with these words from Luke 2. “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
That’s what the angels who surprised the shepherds in middle of that night, promised.
That a child was born who would change everything.
Angels broke in to those shepherds’ regular go-to-work-do-the-best-you-can-try-to-make-it-through-another day lives to let them know that the way things are is not the way things have to be.
To let them know that there is something more powerful than hate, than guns and power and greed and pride.
As the words from 1 John 4 tell us, that something is love.
God is love. Love is why Jesus was born. Love is why we are here.
Ugh, really? We’ve been on this whole long journey through Advent, just to get to the “Love is the answer” answer?
That’s all you got for me?
Because last time I checked, love was hard.
I mean, couldn’t the answer be more magical…more like reindeer that fly through the sky…defying the laws of gravity and possibly several state and federal ones as well?
Because I look around at all the acts of hate in our world, the words scrawled on walls and shouted across rooms, the torture, killings, bombings, legislative acts of hate, the abandonment and abuse, and I think, how can love survive all this?
But, the thing is, it does keep surviving, someway, somehow.
It may be hard to find at times. But then it shows up. Sometimes as unexpectedly as those angels. Mostly with a lot less fanfare.
But as insistent and unforgettable as that child in the stable.
Like this week a friend showed up at the bedside of a former student of hers who’d been shot, another gun victim in Chicago. She showed up, to hold his hand and his mother’s hand and affirm through her presence that violence doesn’t get the last word.
This week, a family we’ve been friends with forever, showed up to check on a refugee family that has recently moved to our country from Syria. Their two families laughed together, shared some food, played hide and seek with the Syrian family’s baby, and our friends helped one of the immigrant women find a dentist for an aching tooth. Small stuff. Huge helpings of love.
And also this week another friend of mine sat beside the bed of her dying mother and sang her mom’s favorite hymn to her as she took her last breaths. This was a mother who was terribly flawed, who failed her daughter in deep, deep ways, and yet my friend was there. She still showed up. With all the love she could muster.
And all this week, lots of people I don’t know, all across this globe showed up with love in lots of different ways, in all kinds of different places. They showed up to protest in North Carolina. They showed up to help pack boxes of food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. They showed up with checkbooks. And petitions. They showed up in prisons. They showed up with songs and poems. They showed up with simple kindness, with much-needed forgiveness.
They showed up to say the way things are isn’t the way they have to be.
Just like God did on Christmas morning.
It really seems absurd, that love could be stronger than hate, love could be more generative than wealth, love could be more powerful that weapons, that a baby born in a manger could possibly matter in the grand scheme of things.
But that’s what I’m choosing to believe again today. I’m choosing to loosen my grip on fear, and listen for angels calling, calling me to go, to show up and see.
I choose to believe, absurd as it all seems, that God is love. Love is why Jesus was born. And love is why we are here.
And for all of us who, as the author of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear wrote, find ourselves “beneath life’s crushing load” on this wobbly, little, bruised and messed up planet, I choose to believe that is good news. And great joy.
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During Advent my friend Rachel and I decided to write a devotional-ish kind of thing every day. To learn more about that, read this.