I've been reminded in several ways this week that this messiah was not only known but eagerly anticipated, even by those who would ultimately play a roll in the story of his arrival. While I have a couple issues with "The Nativity Story" (2006), it does nice work in demnostrating how Mary, Zechariah, and others knew this should be happening, but could not easily grasp the logisitics. Jason Gray's beautiful song "Rest (The Song of the Innkeeper)"* speaks from a heart tired of waiting, desperate to be saved, and unaware that salvation is just outside his door. We are so often so certain that we will recognize what we are waiting for, and miss it because we're focused on the logistics--what is and isn't possible, when Jesus himself was pretty clear about the impotence of that word.
So as all this was rolling around in my brain, I wrote this out in the quiet early morning yesterday. It came both from biblical reading and personal experience, and so its voice is somewhere in between the two. It's already taken some revisions and will likely take a few more, but this blog doesn't advertise the polished, only the drafts...
So many beacons--like stars,
like voices shouting in the wilderness--
and still we did not know you.
Expecting, anticipating, we looked to lords and kings
but found only men.
We were waiting for a prince to lift us
over enemies and empires
and so we did not see the poor--
the eagerly, desperatey faithful--
who you saw with favor and pleasure.
Shepherds dancing in the street we dismissed as drunk,
astronomers from far away as academic.
We were so sure we knew where to look.
Within our own empires we waited,
in our own calendars we planned,
never understanding that a true savior
must come from something else
and take apart the world before saving it,
humbling our enemies but also ourselves.
That's why we were so angry:
you were supposed to show us favor,
to take our faults from us without making mention of them.
You and the men we hung beside you
were all rebels, and we were waiting for
a quieter messiah, a restful king.
[A note: the idea that "the men we hung beside you / were all rebels" is one that has stayed with me since the first time I read it, in a high school English class dissecting Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.Read the whole thing here.]
I hope you and your family--be they biological or adopted--have been renewed in thi holiday season. If you read that sentence with an eyeroll or a sigh, I hope you take a moment to stop and ask for that very thing, as that's the point of everything we celebrate: not to make us better, but to remake us entirely.
* Listen to "Rest" here. And while we're on the subject, I cannot say enough good things about Jason's Christmas album, Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy (or, ya know, Jason in general). "Rest" and "Man of Mercy" are my favorites, but his youngest son, Gus, taking lead vocals on "Christmas for Jesus" ("Is my heart the present He put on His list?") is the one that chokes me up every time. $9.99 on iTunes, people. Make it happen.