Our Christmas choice
It’s been an unusually mild winter so far. I probably shouldn’t put that in writing. When it’s still freezing in May, remind me not to say stuff like that again. And while there are gale force winds today for some reason, it’s still weirdly warm. The great part about it is how much we have all been outside, and I do love that part. Neighbors out putting up lights and decorations and low-cutting lawns for the winter and getting the last irrigation in, all of that. One Saturday I got up and was outside and my neighbor across the way was rolling his driveway with a paint roller. For a minute I thought how bored with projects have we all gotten if he’s painting his driveway. And because I’m “that” neighbor, I went over and interrupted and asked what he was doing HOLY-rolling his driveway on a Saturday morning in December, which I thought was pretty funny (they know I’m a pastor – I think it both gives them a little security and also wigs them out a little bit). So he says nicely with only the hint of an eye-roll, that he wasn’t exactly HOLY-rolling, but that he was rolling his driveway with this protectant stuff that will keep it safe through the winter highs and lows of temperature. That it keeps the pock marks, cracks, and the deterioration of the concrete where it starts denigrating into small pieces from happening. I guess the deterioration can start in one little area near the curb and then before you know it, it’s like scree on the side of the mountain. If you want my advice, I’d look into this for your driveway, and then even says he’d do it for me if I get the stuff. I know, right? How great is that?
I like him a lot, along with his wife and daughter and I have to admit, his driveway looks awesome. I wandered back to my own and there it was, a small crack out toward the curb. Upon closer examination, there were some small pock marks and yes, even a bit of deterioration that could quickly move toward a scree pile. I couldn’t decide if I wished I’d stayed in the house, if I wish I’d left my unsuspecting neighbor well enough alone, if ignorance truly is bliss until it isn’t, and whether a trip to Home Depot or the like might be on my list. Let’s simply say the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the wind wasn’t blowing small dogs or Auntie Em off the porch, so I saved the holy-rolling of the driveway for another day and proceeded to do something way more fun I’m sure . . . choosing to retreat back into blissful denial about deteriorating driveways.
How’s yours? Your driveways, your blissful denial, your decisions around what to do with beautifully warm days in December that, at least for Midwesterners, may make it a bit harder to get into the Christmas spirit than say, those living in San Diego?
I wonder if Mary asked herself a time or two how much better it was before that Angel holy-rolled into her reality to tell her she was “chosen”. I wonder if she thought the ignorance ahead of that might have been pretty blissful. Maybe Joseph too? Before the dream, before the whole you’re-betrothed-to-be-married fiance’ is pregnant but it’s from the Holy Spirit so it’s o.k. deal. I wonder if they both wanted to go back to when life seemed simpler. He would be a carpenter, she would be a maidservant, they’d have a few kids, get a house, maybe upgrade from a donkey to a horse if they saved enough, and just have a happy life. But here comes the angel of God holy-rolling right into their reality announcing Jesus, and their lives were turned upside down . . . or maybe . . . maybe . . . right side up?
That’s really the choice that the Christmas celebration brings if we spend some time reflecting on it beyond the standard Christmas carols and parties and decorating and family gatherings. All of which are grace-filled and joy-full. AND if the meaning moves deeper in our lives, do we ask ourselves if the birth of Jesus, the manifestation, the embodiment of God on earth in human form, has offered us a transformation we’re willing to grow into that might simply turn our world from upside down, to right side up? Does it turn us from the invitation to hate our enemies to love and pray for them as Jesus suggests? Does it invite us to welcome into our presence those who don’t fit and we haven’t really found acceptable before – like the tax collectors, gentiles (that would be us), and the rich as well as the poor – like Jesus does? Does it soften our view of our neighbor which in turn expands our passion to stand with strength for justice for those on the margins?
I believe that even with the pain and the heartbreak Mary and Joseph experienced as Jesus lived into his calling and did not turn back from that which was most painful, they would not have changed the gift of being his parents. They would not choose for the angel to skip over them and find someone else. Maybe that’s why they were chosen and maybe that’s not a bad definition of faith. The love of God for the world took actual nitty-gritty human form, and took actual human beings to bring God’s life to birth for the world. I pray our willingness to partner with God with just such courage, that God may bring to birth through us, the vision God continues to have for us and for every single beloved child in God’s world.