House Churches

One of the hard parts about our time of social isolation because of the coronavirus is, well, the isolation itself. We can’t go to church or see people, or even share communion and this leaves a big social hole in our life.

We can grieve for what we had that is not, and long for a return of how we were. We can even look forward in anticipation to the day when we may again meet. The key problem with all of those things is that even though healthy and normal, they are taking us away from the possibility of now.

True, there is little about now that is “normal” and “normal” is mostly whatever we’ve adjusted to most recently but we do long for some kind of normal. This can however blind us to the possibilities of today. It can also have us wasting effort trying to make today like yesterday or tomorrow instead of exploring how other people have dealt with similar issues.

History is filled with people who have found ways to grow in grace in spite of social separation. Two of the main ways they have are found in the monastic life and those of house churches.

Monastics come in two general flavors, communal and hermetic. We’re most familiar with the communal folk, usually shaped by the Rule of St. Benedict and living in community. Everyone has their own room (called a cell) but they eat in common and work in common. The other variety tended to live in cells farther apart from each other and met together only infrequently.

Both groups found strength to live an often silent life (communal monks were generally required to be silent during meals for instance) with minimal contact by praying what we call the Daily Office. This fancy term describes a series of daily prayers at morning (matins), evening (vespers) and bedtime (compline). There are more periods of prayer including the middle of the night (lauds) and at three hour intervals during the daylight hours. The ones which have persisted in common use however are morning, evening, and before bed.

These prayer times, services for which are in most of the hymnals and prayer books of liturgical churches, keep the people of faith grounded in their connection to God in or out of direct community. They can be as simple as saying the Lord’s Prayer and as complicated as a half hour service with cantor and hymns. But they are ways to keep contact with God in our life outside of the gathered community.

Another thing people have found to help them grow in faith during isolating times is the house church. On one hand, this can be as formal as a semi-official church where people gather in a home and use hymnals. It can also be as simple as a shelf in a corner where a bible and candle are kept. Some communities with a tradition of iconography would have a corner with an icon or two and candles. Regardless of exactly how it was set up, these houses had designated a space for the sacred in the middle of their living place.

The benefit of the Daily Office to the monks, like the sacred corner in homes, was to show God present in our world. Part of what makes life so challenging during isolation is we can feel abandoned by God. The fundamental point of sacred times and sacred places in our life is to show that actually, God is present. We show that the one who promised “I will not leave you orphaned” actually meant it.

In praying during the day, even just the Lord’s Prayer at times set by an alarm, reminds us that God is present to us in each moment of time. Having a place to both pray and remind us to pray in the physical space of our house is an incentive to see God present in every place. We may feel isolated and even alone but God is truly present in our houses as well as our churches.

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Who’s to Blame?

John 9.1-41

It’s a natural sort of question. We see a bad thing happen and want to know who made this bad thing happen. In part, this is because of the silly notion that if we understand why what is happening is actually happening, it somehow won’t be happening. And often times there’s a level of wanting some form of ‘revenge’ for what is happening. If such and so is to blame, they can be punished after all.

And so the disciples see what has happened as punishment for something and more or less want to know if the blame is being apportioned properly. Did he sin? Did his parents sin? Who sinned that this punishment was set out?

John Chrysostom made one of the best comments on the foolishness of this when he pointed out that if the man sinned and was born blind for it then he must have sinned while God was making him in the womb, in other words, before he was born. And that is logically stupid. If his parents sinned, he goes on, why would the child be punished for this and not the parents? In other words, if blindness were a just punishment for sin then the parents should be blind too.

Thus the disciples question is stupid from the start. It either depends on an unborn child sinning in the womb or parents sinning and not being punished for it at all. Both of those notions are utter nonsense theologically. While it is true that children often do end up paying for the sins of their parents, carrying in their small frames the result of adults who have not actually grown up, this is a very different kind of punishment for parental sin and this too is not going to result in kids being born blind.

So if this is not a case of blame, is it God showing off? That can be one reading of the case. One could read John 9.3 “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” as a form of divine flexing. ‘Yeah, he’s adult now and has lived his whole life blind but that’s OK because God made it this way in order to show off.’ That is flatly not a god worth following. “I did it this way for kicks, like those people who start fires in order to be the hero for putting them out?” People do this, and it’s dumb and sometimes they don’t put the fire out and it burns a lot of people. Now we’re going to say that God does this too? Turning humans into his very on crash test dummies to show off what a great healer God is? No.

Another reading of the Greek pays close attention to the ina clause that is the hinge of the sentence. “This man was born blind with the result that God’s works might be revealed. The “with the result that” is a valid translation of ina and it takes the blame right out of this game. This man was born blind. The result of his being born blind is that God will reveal God’s own work in (location) him.” That (location) bit is something else Greek does. One particular declension (set of endings of nouns) is used to mark that ‘this thing is happening located in X.’ So God’s work is revealed located in this man born blind.

All the blame games are gone, all question of the whole thing being a set up are scrapped. What’s left is ‘this thing happened to this person in their earliest life and now God’s work will be revealed in the transformation of that same life.’

In a sense, there’s a real disjunction here. The disciples are focused on the past, what happened and can they be sure that the punishment (revenge?) is falling correctly. Jesus seems more focused on ‘it’s a thing that happened, look at what’s next.’ And yes, this does connect with our current arguments about the coronavirus and our general fear over the future.

Some folks want to blame this group or that country for ‘causing’ the virus. I’ve had people tell me with a straight face that this is a plot by Big Pharma, population control advocates, vaccine makers (who are apparently different from Pharma), George Soros, and the Chinese Communist Party. All the blamed groups are, entirely coincidentally, the very people that the blamers blame anyway. But that keeps our focus entirely on the past. We focus on ‘who to blame’ and try to pile up all the blame we can to justify our rage against group X.

Jesus comes into this and essentially says ‘well, isn’t that interesting. Now watch what’s next.’ He ignores the past focused blame and looks to what God will do in this moment. In the same way, we can bog ourselves right down with arguments about how the thing is someone else’s fault and keep our attention on what happened back then, or look and see what God is doing forward in life.

Jesus is at work in the people of God. We tend to think of ‘church’ as the building or the people who meet in that building, but church is the whole Body of Christ gathered and sent throughout the world. We also tend to think of resurrection and eternal life as things that will come ‘in the sweet bye and bye’ instead of phenomena for days like these.

And yet the church is people, touched by God and gathered into Christ. Our strength is not in our individual selves but in the community we share. I am not as good at sewing as some but I’m a fair hand with words and ideas. I can explain and make connections between seemingly barely connected topics (like history and economics, two favorite fields). But don’t ask me for help with sports or opera. If I had to be all my own strength, how far would I get? But in the church I know people who can sew better than I can, who know sports AND opera, and also want to learn how ideas connect. If we needed to be perfectly capable in all fields, we’d all be in trouble. Since we can rely on each other’s strengths, we are quite a bit stronger.

Part of what I believe God is doing to bring good out of the evil of these days, is reminding us of our connection in each other. “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together” is both a fun children’s song and a real story of God’s kingdom in the world. Resurrection is not just life after death, it’s standing up from the dead parts of our life, the lightless depths where shame lives, and walking away leaving them in the tomb. And all of this comes to us, comes in us, as a result of Jesus’ work.

Thus it is not important to ask ‘who is to blame.’ What is important is to see what God is doing through what has already happened. What is the result of God’s work through our situation to bring grace out of shipwreck, to open eyes born blind.

The disciples are looking backwards, trying to figure out whom to blame for the mess. Jesus is looking forward to what God is doing in the world. We are now at a space where we can join the disciples looking for someone to blame or join Jesus in looking for what new thing God will be doing.

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Into Your Hands

One of the real challenges I have faced in spiritual life is the process of letting my life go into God’s hands. Sure, we sing the song about “He’s Got the Whole World (In His Hands)” and talk admiringly of the saints who trust God with everything they are. We even laud the woman who “put in her whole bion (life).” The prospect of putting our life in on the other hand makes us very nervous.

This nervousness is in a sense like the vulnerability of going to sleep. Part of the psychological resistance kids (and our eldest) have to sleep at night is because we know we’re vulnerable and hate it. In fact, we can get quite panicked about sleep and this is part of why night lights remain a common item in homes. The fear of the dark and our loss of control can become deeply existential and we don’t always have a way to speak of it.

One response is to diminish these fears, “pooh pooh-ing” them as ‘irrational’ and ‘nonsensical,’ the sort of things kids do but not Real Adults. This shaming can be quite effective but it is also a bit inhumane. Telling people who are afraid that their fear is pointless is pretty much a guarantee that they will ignore you and anything else good you might say.

The church has taken a different tack though, one which I find more humane and in fact a road toward extending grace to others. We see it most clearly in Compline, the bedtime prayer of the church.

For those who have never participated in compline before, it is one of the four daily prayer times of the church (Matins: morning, Sufferages: noon, Vespers: evening, and Compline:bedtime). Each type of prayer can be found in most hymnals, although some skip the noon prayer and they are shaped differently given the different approaches each group has to the daily prayer of the church.

They are interestingly, a holdover from the prayer times of the monks, a group of people living a difficult life in small community in the midst of larger, often chaotic, society. In order to deepen their spiritual life and continue to remind themselves that God was in all aspects of life, they would break up the day with prayer and one of them was the prayer before bed.

Compline, as this prayer is formally called, is focused on the process of handing our life over into God’s hands. There is often a mutual confession of sin as we set aside the things we have done and failed to do during the day, a reading that emphasizes God’s power and protection and then a responsive prayer in which we commend ourselves into God’s hands, and a closing prayer which asks blessing on those who will continue the night’s watch while we sleep and guard us in our sleeping.

And there it is, the spiritual moment we so need in times of chaos. We commend our life and our hope to God and rest knowing that we are in greater hands than our own.

This is one of the harder parts of spiritual life, trusting God enough to put our lives into God’s hands. This is particularly difficult as the culture we live in insists that we must control everything. And yet, when situations are out of our control (and truthfully, they usually are) commending our lives and the lives of those we love into God’s hands is really and simply the only thing we can do.

It’s hard to do and at times deeply scary, this giving our life into God’s hands but at times like these specifically and all times in general, we really do commend our lives into other hands. And those hands hold us up as a colleague (Heidi Neumark) related.

She was serving in the Bronx and did visits to the local hospital that was treating the burn survivors from 9/11. There was one hospital chaplain there day in and day out among broken lives and torn hearts. I’ll let her tell the rest of this story:

One day when I saw her in the hallway, I asked her how she was holding up. She looked at me and gave voice to my worst fears: “I’m not holding up,” she said. Then there was a pause, as she took a deep breath. “I’m not holding up,” she repeated. “I’m being held up.”

When we put our lives in God’s hands, God holds them. When we surrender our strength (which is actually pretty weak) into God’s strength, we are held up by the life of the one who called light out of darkness, created dry land out of stormy sea, and rolls stones from graves.

And thus the church, in its daily practice of compline, gives us a chance to day by day put our lives into God’s hands. This daily practice becomes then a reminder that our lives are indeed in bigger, trustable hands. That the God to whom we pray in Matins “Almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us in safety to this new day” is the same God “into [whose] hands we commend our spirit” at night.

So with disease stalking the land and fear becoming our regular companion, take the time each evening to pray the bedtime prayer of the church. If you have a hymnal at home, it’s probably there. Otherwise the Episcopalians have the whole service available in a readable format online. And regardless of the source of the words, the prayer that closes the worship is important and tender for all of us as we face these days.

Be present, merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of life may find our rest in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

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Holy Leisure

A somewhat viral reflection

As more of the nation settles into what may become an extended period of self-isolation in the face of widespread disease, it’s worth considering what we can do to ‘redeem the time.’ There are already quite a lot of ‘busy nothings’ floating around the world, urgent or amusing, or interesting things to draw our attention away from the world outside. The challenge in that is twofold. First that the busy nothings can become Jeffers’ famous “sirens” drawing us away into isolated little inward focused pockets. Second that when we’re in our metaphorical cave inside ourselves, we’re left alone with our own company.

An antidote to both is an old concept of the church named Holy Leisure. The meaning behind this is that during our rest, our time away from the madding crowd, we have the leisure to reflect and grow. To an extent this is what we are supposed to do on retreats and similar events. We go away from our home and our phone and all the distractions in order to dig deeper into a topic. A lot of times we end up just vacationing (I know I have) but there are those sudden moments too where something happens.

Now we are at home for an extended period of time. It may even turn into a months long process of life in semi-suspension as we wait for the medical folks to find if not a cure at least something to slow the spread. We can spend our days ‘amusing ourselves to death’ as the book explained, more or less substituting online connection and entertainment as a series of empty calorie snacks to keep us full but not fed. Alternatively, we can spend at least some of our time considering who we want to become and working to become them.

We might even consider that part of our desire in life is to deepen our connection with the holiness of God. I am understandably in favor of this idea.

One of the common things people say is how much we wish we had more time to do X. Well now we have the time, the leisure if you will, to do those things we put off for ‘when I have time.’ Well now we have time (that “leisure” thing I mentioned) how do we make it holy?

The most basic way to make our leisure into holy leisure is simply to pay attention. While culture has sold us on the notion that the best solution to any problem is the most complex one, it really isn’t. A brilliantly obvious example of this is our whole focus on hand sanitizer. Sanitizer is a complex thing made up of “special ingredients” and “scientifically formulated” therefore to our advertiser entertained minds, it must be better than soap and water. The thing is that soap and water are actually better at dealing with a virus than the anti-bacterial sanitizer, not least because a virus is not just another kind of bacteria.

Just as soap and water used on a long mechanical cleaning of the hand is superior to sanitizer, simple attentiveness is better than some flashy technique. The saints who have left us written records attest to this. Attention to God, present in life, is key.

To make our leisure holy, we use the practices which our ancestors have found best help in drawing God to our attention. Reading spiritual classics, prayer, fasting, a daily practice of examining our ‘spiritual day,’ and asking Allen Paton’s question “what work of mercy have I done today?” are all practices of the faithful. Each practice, and so many more, by orienting ourselves toward awareness of God in our life are ways we make the day a holy day.

They are also ways we turn this leisure time into an holy leisure. A big part of our work in this time is going to be pulling our awareness outside of ourselves and toward others. This both breaks our own inward focusing tendencies and engages us in active work. It is easy to amuse ourselves into somnolence, watching movies until our eyes fall out and our butts root to the couch. But our neighbors our out there too, along with the wider circle of our friends and family.

One spiritual practice at which we are relatively bad at in this culture is reaching out to the people around us. While now is not the time to go have a hug fest with strangers, bending some creativity toward connecting with people is also a key part of holy leisure. Attending to others and attending to God at work in the world are both ways we can take this gift of leisure and turn it into holy leisure, into a gift for God.

So watchfulness, attentiveness toward our spiritual life in action and an outward focus on contacting others are two important ways we can take this difficult gift and find grace in it. That, lastly, is the simple way the saints have showed us leads to deeper life. The more we find God in our attention, the more we extend God in the gift of our presence to others, the deeper we can grow into knowing God in our life. This leisure period then becomes holy leisure, a deepening of our life in grace and ultimately a gift of grace to others.

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Holy, Innocent

Matthew 2.16-18

This little story is one we tend to avoid at this time of year. After all, we’re making happy noises at the baby or sleeping off the feast, or even wrestling with our new toys. Bringing up murdered children at a time like this seems so… rude. And then there’s the obvious hook into government power justifying atrocity by claiming ‘defense of the nation’ and do we really want to get stuck in that morass?

Note that it is entirely appropriate and right to have this story as an occasion to reflect on the serious question of government power and its misuse, particularly in situations where evil is called good. The challenge we face in doing so is that politics are personal and we need to be clear about how much of our position on how the text connects to the modern day is driven by biblical scholarship and how much comes from our personal position on the person in question.

That said, there’s so much involved in this story from agency to theodicy and the Will of God that whole volumes could, and should be written about it. This is however a blog, not a global publishing empire so I’m going to focus on the atrocity and the bereaved.

Although Herod may well have justified this as a practical defense of the nation against a destabilizing force, depriving ill-wishers of a rallying flag (this “King of the Jews”) who would justify their plunging the nation into war, the fact is he ordered the death of children. And then his troops carried out those orders. No counselors are recorded as speaking up against this, the better angels of Herod’s nature did not prevail agains the order, and well.. the troops “just followed orders” to the point of hacking up toddlers.

At no time did anyone in power intervene and nothing was brought forth to stop this evil, it just happened. One of those ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ horrors happened, just as it does in our world again, and again, and again. People are shocked, and horrified, and then find a way to go on just the same. We grieve, we rage, we do something as we can, and then we survive (somehow).

Folks are left with a tender spot that will hurt from time to time but with the exception of occasional anniversaries, we go on. The church certainly understands this need for the survivors to keep living, but she also remembers that grief is not a ‘one and done’ proposition. We grieve, we survive, but we always have that gap where our loved one should have been.

The church, in her wisdom, commemorates these children on the Feast of the Holy Innocents (28 December). On one hand, it serves no practical purpose. All the people involved and all those who grieved over it afterwards are long dead. Nothing in the commemoration will “fix” their deaths and declaring them martyrs doesn’t make their death “OK.” For that matter, loads of preaching on this day will either skate past the children or (even worse in my opinion) try to explain this as ‘part of the plan’ or ‘God’s will.’

In fact, if someone tells you “God just wanted another flower in his garden” you have my permission to punch them, in the face, as hard as you can, because NO God doesn’t kill babies because they’re pretty or because God is some sort of bug collector looking to “add to my collection” or any other asinine reason.

So if the commemoration isn’t to ‘fix’ something, or lift up a noble life or death, what is it for? It’s to remember horror, grieve for loss, and to say that ‘no this is not right.’ It is, as one book put it “the refusal to cease suffering” in the face of Mandatory Happiness. We take the time as a church to sit down in the dust with the parents of these dead children and say ‘this is not right’ and ‘we won’t go away.’

Sometimes, this sort of stubbornness “pays off” as it did for Leymah Gbowee in Liberia where her gathering of women opposed to the Liberian wars eventually drove Charles Taylor from power. Sometimes it doesn’t, but “paying off,” or “gaining success” has never really been a theologically interesting goal in a faith which claims that the crucifixion of a certain Jesus was actually the triumph of God over evil.

Think about that for a minute. Jesus came into the world, was crucified, died, was buried, and then a resurrection. None of this, not even the resurrection, made the local papers. No one won a prize for this, or got a triumphal parade. He dies, his disciples claim resurrection and then… well that’s it.

Now we do believe in resurrection and that resurrection transforms life and gives power but it isn’t the plot line of a Hollywood Epic Adventure and it doesn’t make those children any less dead. For that matter, the resurrection doesn’t make our trauma any less real either. Those beaten kids are still beaten, that abused spouse is still abused, the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean we all get a ticket to ‘happy happy land’ where nothing bad can happen because we’re “too blessed to be depressed.”

Nope, not at all. But the resurrection does change something. This is because for Jesus to rise from the dead, he had to die. This is the real, authentic death thingie, not some sleight of hand bit of flummery. He had to die in order to “descend into hell” for a little jailbreak caper he had in mind. And while the descent is theologically significant as he broke the bars of hell and triumphed over the grave, his death should not be skipped past too quickly.

Jesus died, the real authentic condition. He walked all the way down the road those children did, dying a nonsensical death at the hands of the governing authorities. He died an obscure death that would have had no meaning except that he is the Son of God who was raised up from death.

This means that while those soldiers of Herod were killing those particular children in Bethlehem, Jesus was holding those kids in their fear and agony. He was on the cross with them, dying for the sins of the whole world. Jesus was with the screaming parents (though they could not hear him) suffering with them on their cross of agony. And Jesus was shouting in those soldiers’ faces, saying “I didn’t make you to become this kind of person!” He was wrestling with the consciences of the atrocity-mongers, banging on the moral fibre of Herod’s counselors, and screaming at Herod to “stop this evil and grow into the person God made you to be!”

But mostly, Jesus was on the cross with those children. Not stopping the suffering, but sharing it. He was grieving with the parents and, because grief doesn’t just ‘end’ because it’s inconvenient, he kept grieving with them.

In fact, part of why the church commemorates those innocent lives is because the death of a child is not like the death of their parents. It’s a wound that never really closes, a long, seeping injury that colors life, even resurrected life.

So the church makes sure to sit down in the ashes with these grieving parents, not to fix it or make it go away, but to be in grief at the absolutely vile, evil, and horrible thing that has happened and to be ‘not OK’ with these people who are ‘not OK’ and, ironically perhaps, to be OK doing that because the Jesus who holds us, holds them, and held their loved ones every step on the walk into death.

And because he walked into death himself, and walked through it in the power of God, Jesus walks through death with these Holy Innocents. Thank God for mercy even in the hardest and most awful things.

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Babies Make Messes

Christmas Day

Part of our cultural trouble with the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord (aka “Christ Mass”) is that we can get a little too… “baby, baby, baby” in our preparations. For our sisters who cannot have children, have lost their children, or for any of a number of reasons do not have children, this season can be quite horrible. Church gets a bit goopy talking about the Happy Event and anyone who hasn’t had the experience is left out in our rush to the manger and angel choirs.

No matter how kind we try to be about the baby in the manger, folk get left out of the story and subtly told this is ‘not for you, dear.’ This in itself is a disturbing mess the ‘insiders’ fail to feel while our ‘outsiders’ know it far too well. But even more than the inside/outside problem of Happy Baby Time, the image we’re hoisting high is really the culturally approved ‘sanitized baby’ image.

We put a doll in the manger because real babies are messy, and noisy, and generally don’t do what we want them to. They won’t sleep through the night. They will spit up on our best clothes. And even with our best intentions and plannings, babies mean we’ll be up to our elbows in ewwww very quickly. And yet the church rarely mentions this stuff in our rush to the happy, cooing, nativity scene.

In a real sense then, our rush to the baby is culturally approved but reality dumb. As an antidote to this foolishness, let’s talk about what we really face when Christ is Borne (and Born) into our hearts on Christmas.

Newborns take over our lives. Until the birth we can remain pretty much as we were. We get up, go to work, get the news, and talk with friends. There’s a certain amount of ‘preparation’ work we do and our physical routine might change a little but up until the birth we can by main force and effort make the world keep going as it did before. Then there’s the birth (which is a Big Deal in itself thankyouverymuch) and the immediate endorphine rush coupled with the family sugar high of congratulations.

But then, well you go home. And there’s this Being who wasn’t there before. Suddenly all the neatly balanced relationships we had go all to pieces. Our friends give us that “you must be kidding” look when we gush about What Baby Did and try to be polite about our every photograph (“yep, that sure is a baby.”) New parents suddenly worry about things they never thought of before. And even their nearest and dearest can get a bit… frustrated.

We are all at once a long way from the bassinet and the happy picture time. The angels have gone into heaven, the shepherds are off shepherding again, and we are in the mess with the baby. And then baby starts making physical messes in addition to emotional ones. Our lives have to readjust and simplify in order to receive the complexity of this being who will not stay where we put them or sleep when we want them to.

While culture tells us to get all gaga about the baby and focus our life on giving presents For The Children, the real baby Jesus is messing with our lives. It is that mess which actually is the start point for our life of faith in Christ.

Jesus will ask us to understand how forgiveness means dropping our claim ticket against the universe. He will tell us to put down the cape and care. His work will demand that we renounce our diabolical heritage and make our whole life into an offering. He will wake us in the night with his tears and smother us with kisses for no discernable reason. He comes to feed us with his life and to demand that we pay attention to our neighbor. He will even, when we get cranky at all the questions, point out how big our neighborhood really is.

Plastic Jesus in the manger is inert, unable to challenge us to live. Hallmark Jesus in the Cute Picture is a two dimensional image. Cultural Baby Jesus is a perpetually cooing infant, warm and sleepy. All of these are simulacrums, subtle substitutes for the raging, living, powerful, mighty Lamb of God who is Seated on the Throne, Dying on the Cross, and Rising Forever.

Now that we’ve seen a bit more of what it really means to “bear Christ to the world,” how’s that enthusiasm for the Cute Little Baby coming? Now that we see the ‘birth’ is something that takes place in each of us: old and young, women and men, partnered and single, are we really excited to sing “O Little Town?” Are we prepared to “Let Our Gladness Have No End” and sing Vom Himmel Hoch? Or would we prefer the nicer songs of ‘gimme stuff’ like “Santa Baby” or the upbeat cuteness of the “Jingle Bell Rock?”

Oh for the Happy Days of Yesteryear when we didn’t have to deal with this messy, noisy, uncomfortable, uncontrollable infant. But this is part of what we do face this Christmas Morn. He is Born and alive in us. He will work his life into the world through us. And his power will give us power.

Oh, and we have a whole bunch of other “new parents” who are also in this mess. Each one bearing Christ in their life and their place to their neighbors. It is far too easy to assume that it’s New Parent Against the World, a solo (or at best, single partner) exercise in shaping the cosmos for this child. The reality of the life of faith is that it is all of us helping each of us to be transformed by this child and to simultaneously transform the cosmos around us.

And that, my messy, messed up, hopeful, worried, courageous, thoughtful friends, is what Christ’s Mass really means.

He is Born!
(God help us)

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