The Day After

Paper crumples. Cinnamon roll crumbles. Boxes and bags, ribbons and tags, smashed and bashed, are tucked into the corner for now.
The bed isn’t even made. A morning routine chore as routine as brushing teeth. Come to think of it that didn’t happen either.
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It is The Day After.
The day after The Day we’ve all been running toward for the last four weeks.
The day after the angels heralded and the sky hallelujah-ed.
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All is calm. All is quiet.
Angels and shepherds have gone home.
After birth clean up is done.
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Has our Adventus journey come to an end?
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What now…now that the story itself has gone silent? With the exception of Jesus’ parents wanting to put His face on a milk carton when he was twelve, the narrative of the gospel does not pick things up again with Jesus until He is thirty years old.

Why the sudden silence?
Why, God, do You not speak at times?
You must know that so many of us are afraid of the silence.
It is hard enough when we don’t see.
But, when we don’t hear…
One feels…so alone.
One feels…obscure.
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This, society dictates, must be avoided.
It is why so many of us grip the device to stay wired and connected
All The Live Long Day.

We fill the silences with pings and dings and buzzes and vibrations because we cannot, we must not, be kept out of the loop. We forget that God is so different from us. We forget that when God goes silent it does not mean He has pulled the plug. We forget the He is still so very connected.

It is in the silences, in the obscurities that He sometimes does His best work.
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It’s all right there in one little sentence:

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Jesus was growing into the very thing God had promised from the beginning. What the angels proclaimed, the shepherd’s saw, the magi witnessed and what Anna and Simeon declared, took root and roots do their best work in the dark.

Thirteen little words expressing a life time of growing and favoring.
We forget the power of little words, therefore we can so easily forget the majesty of The Word.

Imagine Jesus in the silent season of His life.
Imagine living as the Son of God in obscurity.
How fantastically ordinary.
How fantastically brilliant.
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I cannot see what is happening in the dirt underneath the snow blanket in my backyard. I cannot hear the seedlings pushing pushing pushing toward spring when at last they will be revealed in all their flowering splendor.  

But I know.

I know that it is a matter of time….that time matters….silence matters….even obscurity has its good work to do…that in the fullness of that time I will see and hear again.

My Adventus journey has not ended with the lighting of the last candle. It goes underground for a season and I go with it, hopefully to grow in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man.
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Are You A Sign Of The Times?

On the fourth week of my Adventus journey I have discovered there are always signposts.
Signposts that declare who He really is in such a way that we must decide where we will put our feet when it comes to following Him.

John, the Baptist, a bolt of lightning on the earth with all his thundering about baptizing and repenting because a kingdom was nearer than anyone thought. All his pointing and beholding the Lamb that would away the sins of the world…all that baptizing and beholding to end in a beheading. A sign post, he was.

Paul, a man of bruised up, bashed up, bound up longevity always pointing pointing pointing to The Love That Came Down In The Flesh. He, too, lost his head over it. A signpost, he surely was.

When Love Incarnate was just eight days on the earth two sign posts stepped forward. Leathered and weathered with the longing and the waiting. What was written there…aged and faded.

Two signs of the times hidden away until it was the time.

Two people growing old and becoming acquainted with a quiet urgency, simmering, percolating until…..the Spirit whispers, “Now! Now is the time to go do this thing.”

So, the old man Simeon goes. There in the temple, this Simeon the signpost, speaking, declaring, pointing out that what he had been waiting for, the Consolation of Israel and the The Light of Revelation for everyone else, was right there in his arms.

This Jesus, all power and majesty and glory and the Savior of the whole wide world held against the breast of an old man who never gave up in the waiting was right here. Right now.

Then, for Mary, for all of us, the sword. There is always a sword.

“Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed- and a sword will pierce even your own soul-to the end that the thoughts of many will be revealed.

Anna, a woman in the twilight of her days comes forward at this precise moment (how does she know?). She, a signpost of gratitude and declaration. She is launched on a trajectory of thanking God and telling everybody that the Redemption is here. Right here. Right now.

And so, Jesus.
He came as a sign, our Sign.
A sign that says for God so loved the world.
A sign that declares God is in the business of making everything right.
He was pierced so that we can be pierced with a Love Everlasting.
Jesus, our signpost that says, The Way to the Father: I AM.

Look Up

The third week celebrating The Coming, The Visit, is here.

My Adventus journey began this week with a question.

“So which candle is it?”

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Some say we’re supposed to light the Peace candle this week.
Others say it’s the Joy candle.

Pink? Purple?
What if I light the wrong one?
Will I miss out on something if I don’t celebrate….correctly?
What does this little detail matter if I end up with a greater measure of peace and joy in the long run?

‘Tis the season not to be derailed by the details.

Is the tree straight?
Did the wreath get hung on the front door?
Where is that recipe for the latest, trending cookie?
Is this the best little Christmas card ever?

I’m checking my list and checking it twice.
Three, four, five more times. Check. Check.Check.
Must. Get. Everything. Done.

The candles may be lit, but it is peace and joy that goes up in flames.
When we are derailed by the details it is peace and joy that are snuffed out.
Ashes, ashes….we all fall down.

It is the only time of year that we strive to bless someone with the perfect gift, try new recipes, re-decorate the whole house, shop ’til we drop, and put on plays and pageants and productions, all at the same time.

It is here that peace and joy can get lost among the packages all tied up with string.

Getting derailed by the details has its root in this one thing:

Forgetting.

Just simply forgetting that peace and joy are a Person.

We cannot and never will be able to conjure up peace or joy or real love or hope in anything else, no matter how beautifully it twinkles, no matter how heavenly it smells, no matter how many loved ones made it home in time for the roast beast.

The only way to know joy and peace and love and hope any time of the year is to know Jesus. To know Him is to hang out with Him.

A friend did a teaching once about losing Jesus.

She referenced the story when Joseph and Mary are making their way home after their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the annual Passover celebration. Three days into the journey home, Joseph and Mary realize they cannot find Jesus anywhere. At this time Jesus is around twelve years old and presumably didn’t need to be under the constant watch of his parents. However, three days without checking in proved disconcerting for Jesus’ parents, so when they discovered he was nowhere to be found, they did the smartest thing they could do:

They went back to the place they last saw Him.
In the temple. Hanging out with the smart guys talking about God.
About His Father’s business, like always.

This Jesus…is our peace. Our Prince of Peace
This Jesus…is our Joy…the tidings of which the angels heralded to shepherds one night.

Losing Jesus does not mean He is lost to us forever. In our humanity it may take a few days to recognize that we are joy-less, peace-less. We need to go back to where we last saw Him

When we’ve said yes to Jesus, we are never really without Him. He never leaves us, but like the shepherds watching their flocks by night and taking care of the details, perhaps we need to look up from what it is that we are doing.

When You’re In A Tight Spot

It’s close in here.

Re-arrangements. Re-groupings. Sometimes it fits…other times, not so much.

When life shifts the view changes. And that can make for one tight squeeze.

In the early morning hours sleepy bodies do the awkward dance between polite and annoyed. It’s easy to get bumped in tight quarters. One needs breakfast, another needs to make a lunch, and a third is trying to make their way to the laundry room to get a jump start on the piles building up in the hamper. A fourth, the littlest, needs a reminder to brush his teeth when the fifth one gets out of the bathroom.

It is a juggling, jostling, why was that left there; there are no more eggs….again; who’s turn is it to do the dishes, kind of place.

Words can be sharp here. Faces can frown quickly here.

It is a place where the pressing and the squeezing become a refiner’s fire that can sharpen us only in the best of ways if we let it.

We just have to be willing to go to the flames.

It is the second week of Advent and I am thinking of Joseph and Mary and their own re-arrangement, their own displacement.

So often their journey to Bethlehem looks so….pretty.

The holy couple, the two of them traveling alone against a tranquil desert backdrop seemingly lost in their thoughts about the baby about to be born.

No other travelers.

No one to share the road with, no one to whisper why must we go back to our birthplace to be counted by a paranoid despot?

No Roman Soldiers in the background showing their muscle. No one is doing the awkward dance of politeness and annoyed because everything is Just. Too. Close.

Yet, the narrative hints that Bethlehem was teeming, a town so full that there was no room in any of the inns.

Perhaps, then, the journey looked more like this:

Long lines of strangers piled up under the glare of soldiers making sure they tow the line.
Stuff everywhere.
On backs, on donkeys, on carts, and on wagons.
People smells.
Animal smells.

A woman who is nine months pregnant knows the pressure of her unborn child pressing down into her pelvis. To sit on the bony back of a donkey for miles, every bump and snag in the road sending spasms of pain through her body is not pretty. Did the pressure of her circumstances bring forth any sort of harshness from her lips? Or do the paintings of her have it right, instead? Ethereal. Blissful in blue. Immune to the human condition?

A man who wants to do the right thing, who allows himself to be caught up in a drama he did not ask for…does this man ever succumb to the frustration of not being able to secure safe lodging for his wife and unborn child by crying out, “Are you kidding me?”  “What is going on? This is so…..stupid!”

They were, after all, just a couple of humans carrying the divine.

Was the NO ROOM AT THE INN the last straw?
When all is said and done, straw for straw…when you’ve done everything you know how to do…when you’ve said yes to the hard thing…is this where you end up? In the back of a cave…tucked into obscurity? How is that for a tight squeeze.

It is what I am trying to hang onto when I light the second candle.
When I am squeezed it is an invitation to let go.
To submit to the refining work of God is an invitation to be who I am really supposed to be.

All the impatience and frustration comes to the surface and I get to decide.
Will I deny the work that needs to be done in my heart or will I give in to the flames and embrace the forging that brings me….just another traveler on this planet closer to being a human carrying the divine.