As 2021 sputters it’s way to a disappointing end in most categories, I think it’s safe to say that we all hope 2022 turns in some new directions. I’m hoping for some sort of pandemic progress (I’m past wishing for a resolution). I’m hoping that people somehow stop being divisive, silly, and just plain mean. These are beyond my control, of course. There are traditions to observe, however. “Good-luck foods” like pork, black-eyed peas with greens, cornbread, grapes, and pickled herring, should then be on the table New Year’s Eve. Good luck is sure to follow!
For me, one of the most moving songs about the Nativity of Our Lord was popularized in 1955 when Mahalia Jackson recorded a song by Robert MacGimsey called Sweet Little Jesus Boy.
Sweet little Jesus Boy --
They made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child --
Didn’t know who You was.
Didn’t know You’d come to save us, Lord;
To take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see,
We didn’t know who you was.
Presence has taken on a new dimension for me this Advent. As we approach Christmas Eve worship, I have memories of last Christmas. At the church, we were filming videos of our worship services ahead of time so that they would be available to the congregation to worship at home on Christmas Eve. We had a presence with each other during worship, although it was virtual. I am grateful that worship could be made available in this way, and I am grateful that we can continue to stream live worship. However, when I think about being totally present to each other when the faith community gathers for worship, there is the stark reality that something is missing when we worship virtually.
The church became very real to me when I was about nine years old. My mom had cancer and was in and out of the hospital, often for long periods, for the better part of a couple of years. During that time, my dad had three young sons to take care of (I was the oldest) while he worked a demanding job. The church became real in the faces of people who picked us up on weekends so my dad could be with mom. The church became real in meals dropped off at the house. The church became real in the way we were all embraced and supported by people who cared for us. The body of Christ was alive and moving in our lives. The beloved community was active and sharing God’s love with us.
Discontent is part of the fabric of our lives. A life centered on the acquisition of “things” is driven by discontent because appealing to our desires is more fun than thinking of our basic needs. Diamonds capture the imagination in a way that chicken soup does not. Having a roof over our heads is not nearly so inspiring as acquiring the home that inhabits our dreams. This is especially true in this most hallowed season in the marketplace.