I find that I rather gleefully type Advent III almost a week too late, I find that there is freedom in letting go of deadlines.
I told you about the discipline of telling myself there is enough time, and I’ve transformed that slightly when needed into telling myself there is simply enough.
I sang tonight, quietly, as I the enough-water ran over my hands, as I soaped the dishes and rinsed them and placed them in the enough-dishdrainer. Now enough food cooks to feed this little household, enough forks are clean to eat that food. I sang I come to the garden alone, and I sang The old rugged cross.
And I wondered if what I’m learning in the course of this formation (that at times seems like it won’t ever end, and then like it will end too soon, leaving me naked and exposed), I wondered if the glory of God is everywhere – if the whole earth echoes back the love song of creation.
I decided that that is probably right.
There is glory in a Christmas card from a UK email address, glory in the desire to reach out across all these stars, across all of that water to say that this family is loved and thought of.
There was glory the other night, as I sat alone on the Parish Hall with a warm wet wash cloth and slowly bathed the keys of the grand piano, glory in the way each individual note flung its self outward toward the peaked roof.
There is glory in waiting and glory in being made clean.
Christmas is Canceled was the subject line of an email sent to a huge clan of Stewarts, as the patriarch of the clan sleeps in a different bed in a nursing home, as he eats good food and has pain managed and meets up with old friends he didn’t even know he’d forgotten. I don’t think Christmas has ever been canceled, though I’ve not been able to attend in many years. And I think, selfishly, that Christmas was canceled the first time I didn’t go home, that something changed way back then.
I’ve written to you of the crowded chaos of the house I used to think of as a castle, a fortress on a hill. I’ve written to you of the way my grandma would rock and sing in her chair, the way she would get up in the night and play her Clavinova.
And so tonight as I sang I didn’t pray. Tonight as I sang I tried to channel her. I tried to channel her faith and her devotion, the perspicacity with which she faced sorrow; her steadfast belief in the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I asked her to fill me up with gratitude and with abundant love. I asked in a quieter voice to look like her, but I don’t think that is going to happen.
I see that this is an aside, this is a small piece of what I needed to say that I thought was the whole thing, as often happens, I sat down and something else entirely was scratched out onto this page for you. I had a different message.
I was meant to tell you about glory, I was meant to encourage you in the dark of this eve of Christmas Eve, as the world heaves and groans, as the labor pains strike her to her core.
There is glory is the small group of mostly little girls that we are raising up, these children of the revolution. There is glory in a place that teaches our kids that not one person is outside of the love of God, not one person undeserving of welcome.
There was glory in the message they gave us last week, a story that was for us, an immediately personal story of salvation drawn for you like a family tree. Glory in the adults who came and sang for you, and with you, in all of those voices lifted in longing and praise and wonder.
There is glory in the way a Christmas Tree gets slightly crispy, tired of standing laden with baubles right about now. Glory in the many liturgies, the battle of words on printed bulletins and music notes on pages, the only mediums we have to convey our utter joy that yet again the world is saved, yet again we are given someone to walk with us as we reconcile and cry out for mercy and justice; someone to show us what it means to live peace and radical love.
Perhaps heaven is place that you go to when you didn’t mean to go anywhere at all. Perhaps it is a place with decent food and a soft bed, with people you didn’t realize you’d forgotten about as your years turned onward. Perhaps it is a place where Christmas is Canceled because you can’t be there, so beloved are you, so needed is your presence to create the holy magic we sometimes call family.
I know that there are already children there, and I know they are that holy choir of angels; I know they bid us welcome, that they throw open the doors and call for the faithful.
On Sunday night I will pull into a parking spot at church and the windows will glow with that stained glass glory light. I will choke my way through my favorite descant as the Christ child is carried to the creche, sing Silent Night while others weep. There is glory in sorrow. Glory because death is trampled down through the little child born to a family that no one would take in. Glory because God comes at us from the weirdest directions, in the most unexpected moments.
I love you still.
Look for it, would you? In the way the lights twinkle, in the voices of little girls who have rehearsed and rehearsed to sing for you, in the exhaustion of your clergy and lay leaders. Fling back with your own voice, your own tears that are a reminder of baptismal waters, send back the never ending song of love that was there when the world was breathed into being.
And just look.
I promise you it’s there.