“I know what is wrong with the Church these days,” an elderly man said to me this morning, as we stopped and visited in the wet and wicked wind coming off the bay. Tears rolled down his cheeks, more from the wind than lament. But still there was distress in his voice. I was silent, and waited for him to finish. I was unsure
what might come next. “The people. They do not come together,” he said in his broken English and thick accent. He was voicing the longing of a thousand generations, “How long O Lord”, before you come, before your people will live as one, when the lion will lie down with the lamb? And yet there we stood, three people, shivering in the stinging, freezing rain, two in their seventies, one in her forties, two Pentecostals, one Episcopalian, two Hispanic, one Caucasian. Where two or three are gathered in his name, there He is among us. We say how long, yet He is here.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll put up with him” another said to me today. “I can make it on my own.” She relates a tale to me how hard this Christmas will be, bills are looming, bad marriage is getting worse. Her son lays his head on her shoulder as we visit. She strokes his face, and looks up at me as tears fill her eyes. We hug each other and I tell her she is not alone. That’s seems to be what she needs most to hear right now. But it is not just my presence, but the One who binds us together. The One who has come to heal and make whole.The One who comes to give us hope and a promise. He comes in the midst of our bleak mid-winter scenes, and says, “I will not leave you alone as orphans.” (John 14:18)
“How are you?” I asked the beautiful, gentle lady of a certain age. She is elegant in her simplicity and humility. Love always emanates from her face, so I go out of my way to greet her. “Okay” she replies with a look in her
eyes that says The concept of Advanced/Fleet what is defensive driving does not aim to encourage faster driving but rather safer and smoother vehicle control. it isn’t. I inquire a little more, because I feel invited. “We’re making it”, she says. She labors over her husband’s failing health, and suffers when he does. But there is a light in her eyes, along side the pain. She has lived long enough to know the Light shines in her darkness, persistently – unfailingly – faithfully. Light comes into her world, time and again. And the darkness does not understand it, but It comes anyway.
“You remind me of me,” I said to
the young mother after the Church service. Poignant memories flooded my mind, as I watched her juggle two small boys in her lap throughout the lengthy liturgy. She cajoled, coddled, cuddled and caressed them, pulling crayons and animal crackers from her purse, like it was a magic hat. I didn’t have to ask her how she did it. I knew. I had lived it. It wasn’t anything she did. It was what God did. Somehow, in the midst of all the distraction, the runny noses, the crayons under the pews, the jacket coming on and off again, and the one who can’t whisper, somehow in the midst of all that activity, God comes to her. It is a gift. Nothing she did. The little one falls asleep on her shoulder, and the older one colors on the program peacefully – and
the look on her face is joy. Not distress, not fatigue, just joy.
So I come home from Church today, my heart full. I, the one who showed up harried, disconnected, empty and alone. My heart is full. Not because of anything I did. It is just a gift that God gives to each of us. In the midst of all the distractions, in the midst of heartache and loss, in the midst of disillusionment and suffering – God
comes. This is the Good News. Not just this week or next. Not just on the 25th of December. But Today! He breaks into our world, and give us Himself. Love comes. Joy comes. Peace comes. Light comes, Life comes…when we least expect it. We have not understood it, but it is our gift.
“Praise be to the Lord God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Luke 1:68