This Advent, these weeks leading up to Christmas, I have been wondering quite a lot. In fact, I’m intentionally wondering about the hope, peace, love, and joy that Christ brings into the world. Here are some of my recent wonderings:
Angels appear only two different times in the Gospels: around the time of Jesus’s annunciation and birth, then again after his death.
Mary’s first reaction to the angel who visited her (see Luke 1:26-38) was, essentially, “huh?!” As the angel began to explain God’s outrageous plan, Mary asked a perfectly valid question: “How?” After a most unsatisfactory answer, Mary took an incredible leap of faith, and said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38, NRSV)
Mary Magdalene’s reaction to the angels at the empty tomb (see John 20:11-18) was much different. Like Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene was caught off guard, unable to absorb any further loss, yet confronted with the horror that her rabbouni, her teacher couldn’t even be given a proper burial.
I don’t know if you have shed tears this holiday season or if you’ll do so between now and the New Year, but I have. I found myself at a deeply moving memorial just over a week ago. More recently, I have learned of the separate tragic losses of a young father and elementary school student — both unknown to me, but cherished by people I love. It’s especially difficult to know what to do with that kind of sadness when everything around us says “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” It’s hard to recognize or embrace the joy through tears.
That is how the angels found Mary Magdalene: weeping. It’s also how Jesus found her. Mary Magdalene thought him to be the gardener; she didn’t recognize him at all. Sadness clouds our vision sometimes, too. Self-centeredness, busyness, rules, personal ambition, laziness, and overwhelmed-ness at the state of the world, and a whole host of other things can keep us from seeing clearly. Do we know Jesus well enough to recognize him disguised as the ghost of Christmas past or as the non-profit Santa who seeks out those who don’t always have Christmas or hiding in a piece of legislation that asks those with abundance to share with those who struggle?
No matter how any of us is experiencing the holiday season right now, I wonder what would change if we had eyes to see Jesus and if we had the capacity to receive him. I wonder what it would be like to hear him call each of us by name, individually. I wonder if we would respond by running through the streets proclaiming a truth that makes us sound crazy, that’s at once both true and too good to be true. I wonder what it would look like and sound like to do so.
We could literally run around shouting, “I have seen the Lord!” But we could also shout it with our lives by seeking a living wage for the poor. That’s the way Scrooge did it, remember? Bob Cratchit gets a raise after Scrooge’s eyes are opened.
We could celebrate the gifts of the season that can’t be wrapped or placed under the tree. That’s what the Whos do. They come together to sing and celebrate in spite of the disappointment in the Grinch’s wake. As they rejoice anyway, those nearby receive the lasting gifts, and even the Grinch’s heart swells!
We could take the time to explain to people the source of our joy, the underlying hope that comes from Christ and carries us through with abiding joy even when we are not happy. I heard an inspiring story of how a disciple from my congregation did this.
We could find ways to give life to others, whether that’s fair trade shopping or inviting those who have no family close by, or sharing that precious resource of time to serve others. I wonder how pervasive the joy would be then. I wonder if we are willing to touch the lives of others in such a way that they will say, “I have seen the Lord!”
May you be blessed with the gifts of comfort and joy in this season of holy days. If you do not have a place to worship or nurture your spirit, there are wonderful congregations throughout our community. If you’d like to join us at Living Hope~Kuna United Methodist Church, you are always welcome! We worship at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday. On Christmas Eve (Sunday, Dec. 24), services are at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.