It’s July but my soul has been thirsty for the Christmas story. My children tease me and are prone to fits of embarrassment and anguish right now —“OMG, really Mom?! Really?! Blasting Christmas carols in the car! In July?! Dad, get your wife, please!!” (Don’t worry, I’m not intimidated. I remind them that they can control their own soundtrack on the B49 bus and are welcome to hop that baby at anytime!”) But I digress…
I need a story to counter the heat of the world. I really like the one that begins with “Once, in Royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed…” It then goes on to introduce us to a poor baby.
Those of us who know the backstory also know that he loved his mom; that Joseph gave him protection and cover and life skills…and that this poor child probably struggled against rumors of illegitimacy within his faith community. (Ah, the back stories….!)
The last three verses of the carol arrest my heart every time I hear the words, and by the last word I am in tears. Not because of sentiment or melody, but because I can see the amazing arc of a human life that has made all the difference in the world.
We can be like him:
“For he is our childhood’s pattern
Day by day, like us he grew.
He was little, weak and helpless
Tears and smiles like us he knew.
And he feeleth for our sadness,
And he shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see him
Through his own redeeming love
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above.
And he leads his children on
To that place where he has gone —
Not in that poor lowly stable
With the oxen standing by
We shall see him, but in heaven
Set at God’s right hand on high,
Where like stars his children crowned
All in white shall wait around.”
(last three verses of Once in Royal David’s City)
I’m hungry for this narrative because I feel broken by the world’s story. It tells us over and over again that children and poor people are not worthy of our best work – they have nothing to offer us. Of course, we don’t come right out and say that. The title of the world’s story may say one thing – but the chapters are filled with policy decisions, budget decisions, community actions and legislation that tell other stories.
Here’s a counter to that.
This One broke into the world small, poor and helpless. He grew just like us and knew tears and smiles. His life was hard but meaningful, not because of what he earned but who he touched. He chose to associate with the vulnerable. He set children in the middle of one of his greatest lessons to adults. The “little things” he focused on were his generation’s greatest issues. In fact, those little things still matter to us now a few thousand years later.
His death and the new Life he offers to us – rich or poor – says “no more” to the ways human beings hurt each other.
Our work in giving witness to this poor child’s Way is not “destiny” — it’s laying claim to destination.
Let’s not just be on a merry-go-round of work-madness. Our lives are headed toward a crowning. We need to be reminded to live our lives like they matter – as if the obstacles, hardships, joys, troubles, fights, battles and victories….children…people…along the journey shape us for the coming ceremony where we will exchange the stained clothes of struggle for a new garment; one fitting that celebration that is taking place around the Throne. (Another digression – about that crown thing: I’ve not worn hats, believe it or not. Not that kind of first lady! But I will get my big head fitted for this crown I’ve been hearing about…sounds like you need it for the celebration!)
I need – we all need to be reminded, even in the dog days of summer, that this child has given us an amazing gift of redeeming love. Who would have thought that could be the outcome of that stinky stable story?
Christmas carols will be on blast. I don’t think these young people are going to be hopping the city bus. I am, however, hoping the story gets stuck in their heads and works it’s way into their hearts.
Yeah, Mom’s a little subversive….hehehehe…….