Tuesday, December 16, 2014

joy in chaos.

I was asked by the Children's Pastor at church to reflect on JOY in Christmas. I had the opportunity to share my thoughts before our annual Children's Program, appropriately titled A Super Christmas where all the little people donned facemasks, crowns, & muscle suits (& sometimes a combination of all three) & sang about our ultimate Superhero, Jesus. 

The season seems rushed this year, doesn't it? Thanksgiving was yesterday & now this: Frenzied shoppers, thick traffic, Yuletide Greetings on recorded repeat that narrate the tree trimming & turkey basting; it feels so chaotic.

I tried to plan Christmastime activities for our two-year-old this year. His favorites are the Chocolate advent calendar & moment of wonder at the first tree-lighting. He is terrified of the Abominable Snowmonster, thinks candy canes are “disgusting”, & can suck our joy up with a straw when his famed bedtime habits have us waking & pacing at all hours of the night.

In the midst of the fruitcake & mistletoe, I feel chaotic too—the inside of me, that is. Adding the hustle to an already-bustling life certainly doesn’t feel very merry. But I call out Holiday greetings anyways, & I sing off-key Jingle Bells & enter my name in Secret Santa’s & raffle baskets,  & bring my 4 dozen cookies to a sugar-exchange because I think I need more of this in my life. And besides, COOKIES.

We flip the calendar pages, pop out new chocolate shapes each day of December, & it seems the anticipation rises with the numeric date. Like every juxtaposition in life, the Christmas we, as Americans, celebrate tends to spread on the guilt like thick peanut butter. Or maybe Trader Joes Cookie Butter, because, COOKIES. Matching the rise of anticipation is the breaking off of thrill for this thrashed season; each day that passes slicing off small pieces of my Holiday happiness until, just like the December moon, only the tiniest bit is left on December 25th when I give in & exhale my last exultation.

Isn’t it ironic that the Anniversary of anticipation for the dawn of a New Testament leaves me frantic, frenzied, & emptied?

And isn’t it ironic that the very season that feels so rushed, so hectic, & so diluted took  many slow centuries of God-making & mixing & matching & molding. The roller coaster of daily chaos aside, the history books point to a very different holiday, sans the cookies & certainly sans the hurried expectation.

You see, the tale woven throughout the shroud of history tells a tale very different from the frenzy that fills my December. The story is slow, stretches across centuries & finds itself on the fringes of foreign lands & families with Aunt Gertrude’s taste for the dramatic; it weaves a colorful tapestry of obedience & simplicity, always showing up on the edges of cultural popularity & always falling back to the promises of God.

From the heartbeat of Moses to the crown of David, straight through to humble Habakkuk & finally landing in the womb of the young blushing girl called Mary, God’s tapestry is painted heavily with slow brushstrokes & missing every hue of hurry.

Habakkuk 3: 17-18 says: Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, & the fields lie empty & barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be JOYFUL in the God of my salvation!

Your cry might be different this year. You might feel that your health is failing and there are no gifts under the tree. Maybe your scans came back positive; and the bank accounts are empty. Like Abraham’s Sarah maybe your womb is barren. You might be tired of studying & these tests cannot be over soon enough, and the heart-hearth is low & the debt is high and the smiles on our faces are fading and our stress is rising and even though it feels so chaotic, I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be JOYFUL in the God of my salvation!

You see, the golden glue in God’s history book writes love-notes of JOY. JOY in the mundane, the miniscule; in the MERRIEST of all seasons. And of course, God’s history book sings a slow song of JOY in the simple mantle & the humble Manger.

He converts our chaos, relieves our rush, & gently nudges in the expanse of stars & the expense of Starbucks that He is who He has always been: a God of reprieve who fastens miracles to dysfunctional family trees & sends smiles and salvation to YOU, His love.

The forever-song of God, the one floating through Eden and whispered to Jesus, is that of HOPE: hope that He will keep his Isaiah-promise & send a savior to bring slowness & salvation to a broken & bustling world. And it is one of JOY: that in the most unexpected way with unbridled compassion he sent Jesus to be tenderly loved as a child.

In just a moment over 75 little feet will walk out here on stage. There will be cameras & Grandmas & tears & waves and predictably, there will be chaos. But just like the rest of history, each of these little souls is part of the tapestry of Christ. The same God of rest that calls us to slowing for this season also wants to teach us to savor his Creation. Closer to the womb than the World, these little lives are going to sing forever-songs to Jesus.

And although there will be chaos, OH WILL THERE BE JOY.

So this season, one draped in commercialism & immersed in chaos, we invite you to slow for JOY. This season, which for so many is stretching & sorrowful, we invite you to the crux of the God who sends love notes to YOU. And this season, the one that is celebrated & anticipated & filled with so many cookies & the echoing songs of centuries past, we invite you to experience JOY unbridled, unkempt, & uninhibited.

Find JOY in these little voices. 

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