It’s been a while – a long while – since I’ve shared some reflections with you. To be honest, it’s been a combination of a bit of “weariness,” along with “same-old, same-old.” It just seems like things aren’t changing much – and certainly not getting any better. Covid remains, but now another variant – Omicron. And as tired as we all are of this, there is another dark winter ahead.
All that is wearying, for you and for me. And quite frankly, not only does it wear us down, it’s hard to figure out what to say and do. What else is there to try? Ironically, the only thing that seems certain these days is…uncertainty.
But now, this week, it’s Christmas! The wonder, the splendor, the joy…and the memories! Maybe here, in the magic of the season, we might find some hope. Some hope in the midst of our weariness and the uncertainty of these times.
Of course, you probably know where this is going. The hope is there. But not under the tree, all wrapped and ready to be opened. Nor is it in the cookies, eggnog, or candies. Not in the decorations, the lights, or the music. Not even in the gathering of family at this “most wonderful time of the year.”
Nope. None of those provide long lasting, sustaining hope. That comes from something more, something bigger. The real hope comes from the child.
The child – the child in the manger, the gift of God, and really, the presence of God in our midst. The child born long ago, yet reborn again and again. The child who comes into our world amidst dark streets, crushing loads, and fearful times.
Yes, that child. The child, named Jesus!
So here we are, in tough, overwhelming times, and it just so happens to be Christmas week. Don’t you think the timing is just right? Just right, for a renewed “Christmas miracle?”
I do. It all lines up just right – a very broken, dark and troubled world…the gift of the Christ child…hey, God must be up to not something. And not just anything – this something is big, really big!
And so, I’m waiting, watching, and quite frankly expecting God to act, and to act big. Maybe Covid goes away, or climate change suddenly right itself, or world peace breaks out all over the planet.
Big enough for you? I’d be ok with any of those. Just wrap it up, and put it under the tree!
And then…yesterday…seriously…God acted! It happened. A renewal of hope. No, Covid is still around, the climate is still changing, and peace is still as elusive as ever. Yet, God acted. Yesterday.
I was shopping in a local store. There was only one register open, I was on a bit of a tight schedule, making some visits, and I was next in line, but the woman in front of me had a particularly full cart. I had two items. A “patience learning” moment.
After a bit another cash register opened. A line of folk were behind me. And then it happened. The woman behind me, who also only had two items, looked at me and said, “You were here first. You go ahead.”
OK, I know. It’s a simple little thing. Saved me a grand total of two to three minutes. And, of course, it was a bit of common sense and courtesy to let me go first. But she didn’t have to do it. She could simply have snuck over. Sort of a “finders-keeps, losers-weepers” opportunity. Instead, she invited me to go ahead.
No, that’s not right. She gifted me with the opportunity to go ahead.
As I walked out to the car, I realized that God had acted. No, God did not intervene on my behalf to let me go first, as if somehow my schedule was more important than anyone else’s. God acted, in a small part in her action, her invitation, her gift. Yes, God was at work there.
But more importantly God was at work in the moment IN ME. In me to help me see in a small act of kindness that there is still hope in a broken, dark, and troubled world. God’s big work was not to change her actions, but instead to correct my vision – to allow me to see that the message of the season – that in Jesus God is at work – is still alive and well. God is still at work!
Not exactly the big, earth shattering, life changing moment I was looking for. Or maybe it was. For me, at least. For me, as I look ahead to the few very busy days, it has reminded – and reassured me – that the birth of the child is not in vain. That in Jesus God is still very busy. That in Jesus there is hope. And that in Jesus there is the renewal and restoration of life. My life and yours.
And so, as I ponder this simple, small gift in the checkout line of a local store I’m keeping my eyes open for more of these little gifts – these moments of grace, when I can see again that God is at work, that there is hope, and that I have new life.
I invite you to do the same. Sure, we want Covid gone, the climate made right, and peace to break out. Maybe even a few more things are on our “big” list. But for the moment, keep your eyes open for the small gifts that remind you that God is still doing “God’s” stuff.
But I also invite you to imagine that you are the woman in my story. When can you be the person to share a small gift of hope? When can you be the instrument by which God acts, not just zip someone through a line, or give them a break, but to offer them the opportunity to see something much bigger. To see God at work.
And maybe for me, for you, for others, that will give us new meaning when we finally, on Friday, gather at the manger, and see right there, right in front of us, the child, the Jesus the presence of God. The presence of God, not only 2000 years ago, but right now, today, in the moment!
Now, one last thing…don’t forget to join us for worship this Christmas, either live, in the building, or virtual. Lots of opportunities are available. Check out our home page at oursaviorswestsalem.org for all the details, links, and other information.
Thank you all for your presence in my little corner of the world – you are gifts to me, and give God thanks for you!
Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and know that in Jesus God is with you always!