Can You Hear Me

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John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Luke 3:7-18

My grandfather was a very impatient person around the holidays. He wanted the story to hurry up and get here. He wanted the Christmas dinner to be enjoyed and the gifts to be exchanged. He imposed his impatient force upon my understanding of this season.

He would hum Christmas tunes as he paraded all 7 of his grandchildren around in his old Champaign colored, 4-door Lincoln. Feeding us secret meals prior to dinner from Pup ‘N’ Taco. Then he would taunt our parents with his desire to dish out the gifts before the 25th.

That was our tradition; grandpa would eagerly hand out gifts and empty the tree on Christmas Eve. The living room would be full of joy and wrapping paper and an excited old man that could never wait until Christmas. Miraculously, when we awoke the next morning there would be more presents under the tree. I never could figure out how anything was hidden in a three-bedroom house with five adults and seven kids living in it.

I found out later in life that his joyful exuberance was a reaction to his own personal experience with Christmas. He grew up in a Boy’s Home, separated from family and the Rockwell Christmas he so desired. His absence of good memories drove his desire to instill great ones in all of us. This mission to give us better was one he could not do without the excitement of a newly acquired puppy. So, he offered it to us early.

You add in a divorce, financial difficulty, and a fear of abandonment and you get the holiday cocktail that is I. The holiday season and I have a tumultuous relationship at best. I am a mixed bag of excitement, anxiety, humbug, and fear. I am also a hater of suspense and terribly impatient. I am a lot like my grandfather.

My wife has many pleasant holiday memories. For her waiting is part of the joy, the suspense surrounding this time of year only adds to the excitement. She has also taken it upon herself to rehabilitate my holiday anxiety. She is a miracle-working saint of God and her patience is contagious. I am not so bound up in anxiety and my humbug is fading. I am still not a fan of suspense and I am not less impatient. I still do not like waiting.

Waiting is what these days are all about. We wait upon the swaddled miracle to arrive. But waiting for that miracle seems like a cheap response today, as we face the tragedy that happened in Newtown, Connecticut. How can we ask those families to wait for Christmas? How can we wait?

The nation has donned the mourners cloak and has settled in with a terrible pain, hurt, and loss. Today, we want the Mayans to be right. How can we stomach anymore hurt, loss, or pain? We want the glory of God to be fully revealed, now…today. We’d rather be five days from an end than nine days away from celebrating the arrival of a tiny little miracle that we believe, that we trust, that we hope. Today, we need that tiny little miracle to transform this world.

So many questions emerge from this last week. There are no answers or proper responses today. We don’t know why evil visits us when it does. We do know that God did not will these days upon us. These days are not punishment, retribution, or wrath delivered upon the world so that we might turn our face to God. God doesn’t roll like that.

In this time of waiting we are called to prepare a place in our lives for the Christ child. How can we do this in the midst of this tragedy? The innocent veneer of “Happy Holidays” seems utterly insufficient now. What are we to do? Just waiting seems like it is not enough.

Where and how do we vent our rage and our anger? Where do we place our sorrow and our regrets? Where do we hold our hope? Where do we find hope?

Together. We vent our rage and anger together. We place our sorrow and regrets together. We hold on to hope together. We find hope together. Together is all we have today. Together we shall act. Together we will be light to the world. Together we will wait.

We live in a broken, messed up and fearful world. That world gets very bleak if we are not together. The beauty of days and the peace of night clings to our togetherness and that tiny little, swaddled miracle that brings us together.

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