Friday, December 14, 2007

What is it that we are waiting for?

This is a season of the year when there is a palpable energy among people who are eagerly awaiting really big things. For the very young, there is the interminable amount of time that still must pass until Santa comes, which in our church is mirrored by the "Get Ready, Jesus is Coming" theme. Our annual holiday Mission Fair was again huge success, with a throng in the church basement social room scooping up yummy Divine chocolate, LWR fair trade coffee, tea and cocoa, and fair trade crafts for gifts that they cannot wait to bestow on loved ones. There was a surprise visit by St. Nicholas, who distributed chocolate gold coins and candy canes while little hands industriously made gift bags for gifts lovingly, if chaotically selected for their families. And the ELCA Good Gifts table had a banner year as well. I bought my mother a goat and secured the "I've got your goat" card to send. And outside the church is the creche with close to life sized figures ( but not Baby Jesus yet!)and a large sign that proclaims, "Prepare for His Coming!" which is set up each year by our Men's Group. And this week the Chrismon trees will appear and we light my favorite candle, the pink one.

At home, now that all of my tests and papers are done ( brief moment of rejoicing),cookie baking has begun in earnest, and cards are flying out the door, because it all must be done! We are all, I think, carefully marking off the things that make for what we call "the holiday season."

What if ... Jesus came today?
Before our Christmas. Before we knew what we got in the work gift exchange. Before we got to do all of things we think we must to feel fulfilled?
I wonder if any of us, myself included, would be tempted to say, "can you come back a little later?" Michael W. Smith's Christmas song, "Welcome to our World" states it well," Hope that you don't mind our manger, how I wish we would have known.."

Two events are weighing upon my mind this season. My friend with cancer, who I have blogged about before, has received good news, and not good news. The good news is the tumor in her liver is gone and the tumor in her breast is smaller! The bad news is that they think the cancer has moved into bone. Instead of sinking into despondency, my friend is an example of how illness has given her greater clarity and purpose and unbounding faith. There is an intensity of purpose. Why is it that usually it is only when we think time is of the essence that we do the things we are created to do- to love deeply, to share meaningfully? Sometime ago, I had given her the book Praying with Cancer. She recently mailed me a page in which the author talked about how cancer was in one sense, a gift, because it brought her closer to God. My friend is going to get everything out of life until it is pried out of her hands, but she is ready to go. If Jesus came today, she has her party hat- she is ready.

Then there is my cousin, who died this week. At the age of 41, leaving a husband and three children. And there are those who say how tragic it is that she died "just before Christmas." Does mourning have a season from which we should be exempt? The truth is, my cousin was an alcoholic. For many years now, there have been hospital visits, and downhill slides, and starts in rehab, and failures. And children whose hearts have been broken, and a husband who wonders where the woman he married went. We were a contrast, she and I. Growing up in the 1970's, I envied her- she could get her hair to do the "Farrah Flip." From a wealthy family, she got to go see Peter Frampton live! She married her high school sweetheart. She got everything she wanted. What happened? She once said that getting everything she thought she wanted just didn't turn out the way she thought it would. Family tried everything they knew to avoid this week- everything but God. Christmas was the time to get all of the stuff you just had to have. If Jesus came today, he must be looking for someone else. Somewhere after baptism in 1967, there was nothing to wait for.

This past week, as I was studying for the last exam, I was searching for comfort food, and was feeling neglectful of my family, and decided that if I could spare 15 minutes, I could get a loaf of bread going in the bread machine. That night, my family, who had been feeling the coldness of my preoccupation with school, sat down to dinner of soup and salad with homemade bread! There were happy faces not just because the bread was so delectable, but that it was symbolic of our love for each other. I had thought of them, and I was taking a break from the slog, and they were telling me of their day, in animated ways- we had all emerged from our routine existence to laugh, and joke and share in a meal and prayer.

Magazines and ads exhort us to get everything on our lists, see everywhere we want to see, experience everything on top 10, top 100 charts. And if we don't, will our lives be unfulfilled? Will they fail to have meaning because they are incomplete? Will we be judged on whether we "did Christmas" or any other aspect of our material lives correctly? A simple meal and a prayer. Something that can happen anytime. Not something we do once a year to show we care. Not something that is on a magazine list. Not something that should wait until we are ready. Jesus burst into our midst, not in a flashy show, but in a simple, humble existence. Breaking bread and sharing a meal. Not when we were ready or worthy, but when it was so desperately needed. Not in a one-time performance, but for an eternity of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Will we tell Jesus to come back a little later, when we are ready? Let's hope not. And let's not delay in sharing what we are created to share- love for one another- NOW.

Prayer: Loving God, we rejoice that you so loved us that you did not wait until we were ready or worthy, to send your Son into our midst. We rejoice that your love for us far exceeds our ability to fathom. Help us to stop waiting for just the right time to show others we love them, and to tell them of your unending love for us all. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.


David said...

Very nice post. Having "neglected" my family in order to do school work the past 3 1/2 years, I can tell you that they probably understand. My family lets me know often that they realize how much I have to do, especially since I have such a long commute (as you do too).

The feelings I have that I'm neglecting them come from my own missing out on family time, just as much as I know they miss it too. But in the end, it has all been a gift. Our family is much closer for the fact that we have had to work hard at staying close. There is blessing in that. My prayer is that your family will have the same type of experience while you are in seminary.

Enjoy the down's all too brief.

Diane said...

condolences re: your cousin, and you are right: jesus comes to us right now.

Gannet Girl said...

Welcome home! So glad you have time to enjoy and reflect, despite the reality of some of what you have to reflect on.

Still a full week of school here, and an extra drive home and back for a session meeting in the middle of next week. I am finally giving Christmas preparation at least some thought today.