It happened, 2018 turned to 2019 whether we were ready or not. I’m not particularly a stay up til midnight-er to see the New Year arrive. I figure it can arrive without my acknowledgment. And my guess is that when I went to bed, it had turned midnight somewhere in the world and the celebration I had was choosing to believe the sun would come up on Jan 1 of a new year and life would continue. Maybe that makes me a ‘bah-hum-bugger’, or maybe it makes me grateful for a reality where sometimes celebration is staying up and whooping and hollering and setting off fireworks and sometimes celebration is retiring to sleep grateful for another day moving into another year.
I may be the only one, but I’m not certain I’m ready for the Christmas carols to be done. Perhaps because I was gone the first 10 days of Advent and I didn’t hear them playing over and over and over again in stores and restaurants and on the Christmas radio stations. I’m choosing on this second day of January, 2019, to put in my earbuds and listen to my favorite Christmas album downloaded on my nano-pod. It reminds me of the January’s I spent the first two weeks in Washington D.C. going to school. I’d catch a couple of Metro subways to a stop where I’d catch the American University bus which would get me within a quarter of a mile to the seminary and I’d walk the rest of the way. I’d pop in my earbuds and listen to Christmas music while I road and walked my way to class. I was sorta isolated but not alone, if that makes any sense. The Metro subway would be packed at that hour of the morning and there wasn’t really a space-bubble of safety around your person when it came to getting on the subway to get where you were going on time. Yet no one really spoke. We mostly were touching shoulders, very often hanging on to the same pole to stay steady as the train started, yet everyone was eearily silent. I figured out pretty quickly that needed to include me. Silence is easier for me when I’m listening to something, so thus my nano-pod and my Christmas music. It’s interesting how the music brings back the feel of those days of class, the reading of the books, the discussing of the ideas of leadership and the church and our place as individuals in an educational cohort seeking to make a difference on the landscape of our particular faith communities. It’s now been a little over ten years from when the process started, much has changed and yet the calling is perhaps not so different. A deep desire to serve in ways that God envisions for faith communities and disciples to make a difference in the world in which we live.
Not too many of us would disagree that the big “C” church is in the midst of cataclysmic change. It’s across the board in Protestantism. Folk like Phyllis Tickle help us understand that the wider church and arc of the history of faith has done this every 500 years or so and knowing that is helpful but doesn’t make living through that kind of major change much easier. The last time is what we call now the Reformation, the nailing on the Wittenburg Door the 95 theses on which Martin Luther said he stood and could do no other. From that place the infrastructure of Protestantism developed and grew in stops and starts and experienced the ups and downs of new ways of doing and being faithful and seeking relationship with God for love and self of neighbor. I’m not certain what will be the marking point for the change we’re going through at this point in history. I do think there’s a whole lot of folks of faith wielding hammers but I’m not certain hammering written pages of new theses on a church door is that for which they are being used. We are in such disagreement around who decides the “correct” interpretation of scripture that our hammers are sometimes too much verbal anger pounding against one another whom we see as adversary. Will it stop? I do believe it will – I’m simply not certain how many people will be hurt, disillusioned, and choose to disappear from how we define faith community before a more peaceful resolution is reached.
Jesus was born into a world that seemed bent on destruction of faith as well I think. Under Roman rule, the church existed as long as it didn’t question the status quo and power of the Empire to rule every aspect of life. Jesus’ power didn’t attempt to compete with empirical power but rather invited the hearts of beloved community to love each other and the world into our best selves. He died doing it that way, and I hesitate to think what the world would have been if he had given in and given up on love, compassion, and grace.
2019 has arrived. The world needs the church – the body of Christ choosing to live and serve and open wide our arms to any and all who seek to live like Jesus. I fully confess I have no idea what form the community of faith will take as we live through the challenges that are ahead. I am convinced God has been in and through every transition we human beings both created and to which we have responded whether it’s every 500 years or more or less through the course of history. While that doesn’t mean it won’t be a struggle and there won’t be moments of pain and heartache, it DOES mean that the vision we move toward is one of blessing and grace. I’m going to listen to my Christmas music a few more days – with my earbuds on to not disturb anyone else’s peace. I think I simply need to hear a little extra hope and promise and a few more angels and starlight and shepherds and magi and a stable and a manger and a story that reminds us that God is timeless in a story that never-ends. Joyeux Noel!!