Somehow we missed a big, annual Christmas party hosted by one of my favorite church families in Bloomington. Didn’t realize that until tonight when at a meeting with the host he said to us, “We missed you Saturday night!” and I asked, “Why?”
Sunday morning, I meant to get to church early, and leave the house early because of the snow, and wanting to find decent parking. Aaaaaannnnnnd…we left the house ten minutes after the start of the worship service. Which means we walked in sooooo-not-quietly in the middle of the call to confession or prayer maybe. Mostly disheveled, sweaty, and as per usual juggling a big baby, bag, jackets, keys, iPad, and bulletin. Thankfully the children were strangely well-behaved and – dare I say it – quiet. Attentive. Friendly, even (miracle of miracles, Desmond didn’t scowl at anyone). And cute. But, I still felt discombobulated.
The scripture passage focused on the familiar portrayal of lions and lambs, wolves and yearlings, leopards and kids, and a child. I think I’ve messed up the pairings, but you get the drift. It’s the scene – strange vision – of fierce beasts and vulnerable beings sharing in table fellowship, and really striking – where a child – the lowest of the low – is the one who leads this odd assemblage of creatures. I kept sitting with these images transposing Dezo, Anna, and Ozzie onto them simultaneously horrified but in awe of such a wonder. And so, we continue with this theme of being unsettled and getting a glimpse of that baffling, yet undeniably necessary peace.
It’s that agitation along with the anticipation of this season that makes me see anew. I’m reading Jan Richardson’s Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas with a small group of college-aged women. We read through Door 2 together, and her words so jolted my hunched-over-shoulders-kind-of-weariness self that we came to the end of it and I exclaimed, “Man! That was incredible!” I clapped my hands, too. It’s been a while, I think, that I’ve read something that engaged heart, mind, and spirit. It spoke right into the place where my shuffling feet have landed lately:
“Jesus calls us to attend to the signs around us, to look beneath the surface of the patterns of relationships and rhythms of life…This passage challenges us to give up our usual sources of illumination, to let go of our habitual ways of knowing, to question our typical ways of seeing so that we may receive the God who comes to us in the dark.”
The sun, the moon, the stars falling out of the sky in the images of Mark’s version of the Little Apocalypse doesn’t have to illicit fear and despair, but a faithful watchfulness. A peculiar kind of trust. A delicate hope. Delicate like the precarious treaty between the lion and the lamb, but a hope that cheerfully whistles in the dark (in Fred Buechner’s words).
I’m longing for that hope. There was a little taste of it on Sunday with the music – songs and anthems that were unfamiliar, and yet weirdly familiar because they resonated in an inexplicable but genuine way. Some of the music sounded really difficult, and I heard later that the time signatures for the last piece changed almost every two bars, but the energy behind it, and the energy necessary to listen carefully was transforming. A soprano who had been out sick for a while was back and sang a solo and it was all I could do to not cry like a blubbering fool – a voice that rang clear like church bells, one that soared above the rafters and windows, one that seemed to carry all my prayers and hopes so effortlessly to the God who felt particularly near to us even in a season of darkness and mystery.