Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

We are a Waiting People. Tonight we sit in the last hours of anticipation holding our breath and twiddling our thumbs, paused in a place of counting tick tocks. We are tending sheep only some miles and minutes away from all heaven breaking loose and spilling onto earth, half asleep in the middle of an ordinary life. We are sages, too, checking charts and following stars, listening to the clink of gold against saddlebags with fingers that smell of frankincense and myrrh, miles off still, but gaining ground. And we are a travel weary chosen girl, pregnant with salvation, and tired of God pressing against ribs making it difficult to breathe, eyeing a manger, longing for home and searching out clean hay.

And all of creation groans in this moment, and we, too, look about us and groan, because the waiting is sometimes more like pain than eager anticipation. And timing does not feel God-ordained and the sheep are going astray, the charts are unclear and Gabriel’s visit a confusing memory. We are easily distracted in the dark. The cold loneliness of three in the morning fills our stomachs with the lead of doubt while the rest of the world sleeps on. We are a waiting people and the wait is not an easy one.

“How long, oh Lord?” we all ask. “How long before we will be done with this bad taste in our mouths, with sorrow, with disappointment, with sin, with the bleak journey of one foot in front of the other? When, Oh Lord, will you save us from all the waiting?” But the clock ticks on and heaven, it seems, is unmoved.

But in the waiting, God sits, too. Containing and constraining himself within time and nature and natural courses of the heart. And God, it seems would wait for us in holy patience while leaders take thrones, stars move in their courses, shepherds buy sheep and an unborn baby grows a spine and fingers and eyelashes.

There was a time, just over two thousand years ago, a perfect moment when the stars aligned in reconciliation and a girl gave birth in a barn. The black night tore open and the very joy of heaven spilled over the upturned faces of sheep and shepherds alike and led them all toward the warm beating body of God in swaddling clothes. And the waiting gave birth to gift.

We are a Waiting People. We gather together tonight and celebrate our longing for the light. We burn candles, sing prayers and nudge each other awake from our three in the morning doubts. God is coming, we will remind each other. God came down. And for a moment we remember that God is here with us in the waiting, in the straining and the groaning, in the joy of anticipation that is almost over and beginning to fruit. We are only moments away, one sleep away from the first crack of light on the horizon, from anno Domini, from everything changing, from here on in, from the salvation that comes in the morning and falls asleep in a manger.

8 comments:

hendricks said...

Angela. thank you for this. Can I pass it along?

Angela said...

you're welcome.
please do!

Deanna said...

I love your sermons.

Angela said...

thanks, deanna. i wrote this for our christmas eve service at church and it was the closest thing to a sermon we had that night.

Cherie said...

Me, having no words to describe this, yes, true....this is really...magnificent. Reading and re-reading. It feels like a nice hot bath for my soul. Stimulating and soothing all at once.

Good job! Your church is lucky to have you.

Angela said...

thanks, cherie! i love my church. it's nice to get to share with them.

Cecily said...

Sigh. This is beautiful. I love your writing. (This and your troubling story of Casper (was he Casper... I haven't been back to re-peruse) which disturbed me and prickled me and made me want to be an agent of change)

Anonymous said...

Our church is lucky to have you!Thank you so much for doing this, it truly was the best Christmas gift I got. I appreciate you greatly. Thank you thank you thank you.

Karen