Imagine a small school gym and in that gym: five rows of chairs, an aisle, a cross, a tree of twigs, four lamps, a cello and guitar, and maybe fifteen people--our Blue Christmas service. The service was comprised of the call, complaint, and answer. We remembered that this time of year is not always fa la las and not always warm and cozy we remembered those that we grieve, and ultimately, the world we grieve for. "Things are not fine." "During this time, being sad is called being a scrooge--the sadness is just a problem in your head--but, really, things are not fine." And it's true. That is the reality. There is pain that surrounds, there are addictions that suffocate, and grief that seems endless. This, again, is the reality, but this is what the season of Advent was and is all about--waiting and hoping through the darkness and scarcity. But we are given an Answer. The answer is the Child--the child that was born, the Light that entered the world on Christmas day. Through Christ we are not guaranteed an easy, "fine" life, we are to be sure of hurting, sadness, loneliness, and pain, but through the humanity of that poor child who lay in a bed of straw (!) we see our own suffering and we are given a hope because of his life, death and resurrection of the Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
There is a poem that has been appearing over and over and over throughout this season. It is Wendell Berry's "The Slip" and (taking this directly from Seth:) it "captures well the nature of hope and longing in this glorious season:"
The river takes the land, and leaves nothing.
Where the great slip gave way in the bank
and an acre disappeared, all human plans
dissolve. An awful clarification occurs
where a place was. Its memory breaks
from what is known now, begins to drift.
Where cattle grazed and trees stood, emptiness
widens the air for birdflight, wind, and rain.
As before the beginning, nothing is there.
Human wrong is in the cause, human
ruin in the effect--but no matter;
all will be lost, no matter the reason.
Nothing, having arrived, will stay.
The earth, even, is like a flower, so soon
passeth it away. And yet this nothing
is the seed of all--the clear eye
of Heaven, where all the worlds appear.
Where the imperfect has departed, the perfect
begins its struggle to return. The good gift
begins again its descent. The maker moves
in the unmade, stirring the water until
it clouds, dark beneath the surface,
stirring and darkening the soul until pain
perceives new possibility. There is nothing
to do but learn and wait, return to work
on what remains. Seed will sprout in the scar.
Though death is in the healing, it will heal.