Chronicles in Ordinary Time 60: Wounded

I came to Christ in college; I had no religious upbringing. Christmas was ALL about Santa Claus and presents. When it came to the historical event that divides our time and space into BC and AD [yes, I know CE is more politically correct], I understood Michelangelo’s image of The Pieta [above left] before I understood the image on the right– Michelangelo’s The Bruge Madonna. I understood the Cross before I understood the stable—but that isn’t entirely accurate, because after 40 years of study, I can’t say I understand either very well. Jesus was killed by the people He came to save…although it is more accurate to say that Jesus chose suicide by crucifixion rather than execution by religious zealots. There were 10 legions of angels waiting to protect Jesus, had He desired for them to be called up.

Raising my three children at this time of year was always an exercise in trying to reconcile the two images below; the two men in the red and white suits:

We parent-types make Christmas a magical time for children, a time of lights and parties and presents. I have no real complaint against the concept, except that the concept we experience today was mostly created by Madison Avenue; and has little to do with Jesus of Nazareth, born in a barn to a homeless couple named Mary and Joseph…

Granted, the Christmas tree my wife and I no longer install nor decorate is an old tradition; supposedly the work of ancient priests attempting to bring the pagan tree-hugger world closer to the Christian world. Saint Nicholas was a real man [at least as real as any historical accounts are believed to be, in this skeptical world]; a bishop who was known for giving presents to the poor of his congregation. I talked about Saint Nicholas and explained that Santa Claus was a mispronunciation of his name; that Christmas was about giving; and that the celebrating the birth of Jesus was intended to be a year-round event; not something that only happened in December.

I still remember the Christmas morning when my kids discovered a pair of grooves in the slush on the driveway, and a number of vaguely circular depressions. It really did look a lot like the remains of a reindeer-drawn sleigh having landed on our driveway, and I swear on a stack of whatever, that I had nothing to do with the illusion. I believe in a Creator who has a strange sense of humor…

And then there’s the idea that Jesus was probably born in the Spring, according to those who study such things…

My first Christmas church service happened when I was 22 years old. I had planned on going to a candlelight service at First Presbyterian Church, downtown. A beautiful sanctuary filled with carved wood panels that I can’t imagine being built by the carpenters of today [I was one]—truly a labor of love by skilled craftsmen that probably won’t be duplicated again in the future. I’ve carved wood; the amount of time invested in such work could not really be justified in today’s economies.

I had missed the bus [it happens a lot, in my life]. An African-American woman at the bus stop invited me to come to her church [in a part of town that I had been trained was dangerous for white folk to go]. A joyous multi-racial celebration; but as the service was going into its second hour, and showed no signs of stopping, I excused myself, vaguely unfulfilled. The experience hadn’t been what I’d hoped for.

I had by this time experienced a Presence appearing in my life. Sort of like a door was being opened in a stuffy building—suddenly the environment was fresher. Nothing outwardly different than the moment before, but I became aware that I was no longer alone in the environment I found myself in. Of course, there was absolutely nothing I could point to, for someone else to see. It was an experience. These experiences don’t happen often, and rarely at the times I hope they will. However, they have happened for 40 years… These experiences prove to me that there is a Life beyond the one I live, and beyond anything I can imagine. These experiences tell me that words in books about the Creator are True…

…and, I believe in a Creator who has a strange sense of humor…

The opening words of the Book of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I have a music collection that I label, “Songs for Broken People”. Songs about surviving, about enduring, about overcoming; about Peace. I play these songs every day as a way of training my mind. Voluntary brain-washing; my brain needs continual washing, and it has little to do with germs. Several years ago I read these words of Tim Hansel:
“Most people who live with chronic pain or chronic problems have a hard time being happy. That is to be expected. Although there are moments of laughter, nothing seems to stay.
“Joy, on the other hand, is something which defies circumstances and occurs in spite of difficult situations. Whereas happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude. A posture. A position. A place. As Paul Sailhammer says, “joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.”
“If we are to have this kind of joy in our lives, we must first discover what it looks like. It is not a feeling; it is a choice. It is not based on circumstances; it is based upon attitude. It is free, but it is not cheap. It is the by-product of a growing relationship with God. It is a promise, not a deal. It is available to us when we make ourselves available to Him. It is something that we can receive by invitation and by choice. It requires commitment, courage, and endurance. –Ya Gotta Keep Dancin’

Christmastime has come once again, and once again I find that I’m out of step with the society in which I live. There are a bunch of people outside of the United States of America that have very little reason to celebrate, this December. Celebration becomes a difficult choice when there is nothing material to celebrate—death by disease, death by soldiers, death by drones, death by the people down the street; homes flattened by war or natural disaster. Much of the world is having the stuffing kicked out of them, and we Americans complain about the stuffing in our Christmas turkey—we consume in one evening meal more than many consume in a week. Each day we dispose of enough food to feed most of the world—because it’s no longer ‘fresh’…

I’m not sure if I never learned how to celebrate, or whether the ability to celebrate was removed from me by the life that wears me down. Not sure that it matters, since the result is pretty-much the same. My kids provide me with reminders about the importance of celebrating. I am thankful for my kids, because they have taught me so much about Grace, and love, and courage and endurance. I’m still learning.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.



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