...Bring your past, the joy, the sorrow, all your hope to find tomorrow
And hear the words again, fear not and know that God is near.
-- Steven Curtis Chapman The Miracle of Christmas
(Yeah, I just used an SCC lyric to begin this post. Geez, it's Christmas, cut me some slack.)
A couple of weeks ago while Jude, Sutton, and I were eating Sno Cones, one of them asked if we could call Harris, who was in California. So we called Harris and they both talked to him on the phone.
Harris is in Waco now and came with me yesterday to pick the boys up from school. They were very surprised, and happy. Immediately Sutton's questioning began, and here is my jumbled recollection of what all came out of his mouth. All of this was said within two minutes of us leaving the school parking lot. (Note, the word uh-member is translated from Sutton into English as remember.)...
Um, uh-member Harris, um, um, when we were eating Sno Cones and we called you? Uh-member that? And, um, um, um, uh-member when you came to our school, um, um, um, with Craig and, um, you came to our school and picked us up? Uh-member that Harris? Uh-member that?
Well now we don't have to call you!
Yesterday a good friend preached at the funeral of a five year old boy.
One of my co-workers just had a baby girl, who has spent the past week in ICU on a breathing machine.
The death of a grandfather has brought two people I love home to Texas, one from Seattle the other from Thailand, leaving another one I love on the other side of the world without family for Christmas.
Last night we gathered around Lindsey's rapidly-expanding stomach and talked to Roy Carney, all excited and expectant for they day we will see him.
There are candles lit very near the place where my friend lost his life, each signifying a different aspect of the entry of God into our world.
All around we are calling each other and telling each other, "Hey, let's get together."
The chorus of O, Come, O Come Emmanuel is floating all around the air,
and I am singing it with an ache in my soul
because across the street and across the sea the bullets are flying and
as my friend said the other day, we are all going to keep dying
We all leave each other, sometimes to go home for the day, or just out for lunch, other times to go across the country to attend school. There are times when our leaving takes us across the world, either to serve our country or the poor or God, sometimes all three.
And then there is birth, when the person we want near us is near us, but not quite.
And then there is death, when the person we want near us is near us, but not quite.
And then there is God, who we all feel at times has left us alone, defenseless orphans fending for ourselves.
And this is the message of Christmas: Emanuel. God-is-WITH-us. God has not left us alone. A baby in a manger with a star pointing the way tells us He is near. His being here makes it possible to hope for the day when we will all be here or there, together. Leaving will end.
We will no longer have to call.
So regardless of what anyone tells you to the contrary, Christmas really is all about presence.