One Day More

What if it were true?

What if Christ really were coming tomorrow, God on Earth, only this time we were all forewarned?

I write this in the United States (I know many readers are British) and here the whole past week the chatter has been about Phil Richardson, a man who plays himself on the popular American television Duck Dynasty, or did play himself, until he made some anti-gay and racist remarks in an interview published in a magazine, and his television producer fired him.

In the States we have people who are pro gay-marriage–17 of our 50 states have legalized it–and people who are anti gay-marriage.  Many of the antis cloak their opinions in a mantle of religiosity, claiming that they have to speak out against gay people, because the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.  (This side of the argument also tends to believe that homosexuality is a choice, not something you’re born with.)

Many people on the other side don’t think that Bible is all that clear about homosexuality.  The Leviticus verse is somewhat vague in its original language.  It is perfectly clear that Leviticus bans eating bacon, and also shrimp, but somehow we’ve all become okay with ignoring those restrictions.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter.  And also, it does.  It matters because, at least in the States, a whole lot of people are telling other people that God doesn’t love them.   It matters because, at least in the States, gay teenagers are three times more likely to commit suicide than straight teenagers.  It matters because someday someone who spoke out harshly and emphatically against homosexuals is going to have a beloved child confess that he or she is gay.   It matters because there’s no reason to believe that any one sin is bigger than any other sin, that someone else’s gayness trumps my vitriol, that it’s bigger and more important than my lack of charity or love.

And yet.  All the newsprint devoted to this one issue, to one man who said that homosexuality was a lot like bestiality and that black people were happier in the days before they had equal rights.   When yesterday, 19,000 children died of preventable causes.  Abigail/Aisling/Amanda/Amata/Anne.  That’s five.  Jacob/Jafta/Johanne/Jordan/Justin.  Ten.  18,990 to go.

What if Christ came back tomorrow?  What would He find us fighting?  What do we ignore?

Gaudete

My friend Father Who, a Catholic priest, has a teeny bit of an issue with the vestments used on the third Sunday of Advent.  They are, according to him, not pink.  They are roseBecause he would not be caught dead wearing pink, mandated by the Church or not. 

 

Last year I told him, “Rose by any other name would look as pink.”  He was unamused.

 

Gaudete Sunday was always my favorite part of Advent, growing up.  I loved the pink candle.  I loved how it told me we were almost to Christmas, but not quite.  I loved the idea that suddenly, in the midst of preparation, we were supposed to celebrate joy.

 

I didn’t really get it then, of course, or for a long time afterward.  Children who’ve been through trauma often emerge with a rigid need for control, because if you can control everything, then you can make sure bad things never happen again.  Not being in control means that bad things are right around the corner, waiting.  Don’t turn the corner!  You can imagine, holidays tended to make me a wee bit anxious.  The only way to stave off the anxiety and desperation was to get everything exactly right–the best presents I could find, perfect cards mailed early, all my ducks in a row and cookies baked and i’s dotted and tinsel and lights.  I loved Christmas but I couldn’t enjoy it.  I had to be ready.  I had to be prepared.  Also, if I quit preparing and started feeling, I would drown.

 

Gaudete.  In the midst of preparations, remember joy.

 

Of course being in control is a myth.  We could claim that God is in control, except then, does God bring the bad things?  Instead we learn the harder lessons, of trust and empathy and love.  Emmanuel, God with us.  God walking beside us, not metaphorically but actually, in human form, divine.  We will never be in control.  We will never be alone.

 

Gaudete.

The Word was God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I am seven and a half years old.  On Christmas morning, after a flurry of gifts, and cookies for breakfast, my mother and I go to 9:30 Mass.  We leave behind my brother, who’s only three and doesn’t have to go to church every time, and my father, who’s not yet Catholic, and a boy named Roger, who is fourteen.  He is a foster child and I am supposed to call him my brother. He terrifies me. 

I wear my best dress, and the tights I hate but my mother loves, and my black shiny shoes I adore.  It’s a special day, because our brand-new church is open for the very first time, and when I skip inside it seems vast and magical, candle-lit, glowing.  The pattern in the carpet looks like puzzle pieces.  I tap my shoes against it.  The overhead lights reflect off the patent leather.  I am happy to have left behind the tree and the presents and half my family, happy to be in this sacred place with my mother, alone.  And I am only ever safe in Roger’s absence.

In the beginning was the Word.

I don’t always listen to the Gospel.  I am only seven.  I’ve made my First Communion and I am supposed to listen, but the second reading–Paul’s epistle–never makes a lick of sense to me, so I tend to drift off.  I make a tent with my fingertips.  Here is the church, here is the steeple.  Open the doors, and see all the people.

In the beginning was the Word.

It startles me.  In the beginning was the Word?  The Word?  In the beginning God created light from the darkness.  I know my creation story.  But Word?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

Now I’m pushed backward against the pew, eyes wide, mouth agape.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Understand that my life, happy on the surface, was filled with darkness. Horrible secrets threatened my soul. I escaped into books. I read constantly. I pulled my entire self into fictional worlds in order to survive.

In the beginning was the Word.

Words were the only thing I trusted. Not words spoken out loud, but words on the page.

And the Word was with God.

I might be okay, then. I might have latched onto something true.

And the Word was God.

It was like a great wave of light pouring over me.

In the beginning there were stories, and the stories were with God, and the stories were God.

If I could count on stories, I could count on God.

God could make the darkness light.

I was not alone

Open Our Eyes

There’s a woman whose blog I greatly enjoy and have followed for years. It’s mostly a knitting blog, but every year she writes so movingly about Christmas that I was astonished to discover, last year, that she’s an atheist.  She doesn’t believe in God.

Christmas without Jesus is Santa Claus.  Christmas without Jesus is Rudolph instead of Joy to the World, crowded malls instead of silent nights, “a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The blogger would disagree, I feel sure. She would talk of Solstice, of the ancient customs commemorating the return of the light, or of the importance of celebrating family and friends.

And I think, but that’s not Christmas. That’s easier.

On the other hand, many of my Christian friends are advocating doing away with Santa Claus entirely. Tell the kids that it’s baby Jesus’s birthday, and he’s sharing his gifts.  They can still have presents–just remember the Reason for the Season, and leave out the fat man struggling to get down the chimney.  Make it real.

For most of us, that’s too hard.  There’s a reason we all talk up Santa Claus.  It’s not that we, as Christian adults, really believe the jolly bearded guy has anything more important to offer than the Savior of all humankind.  I mean, of course we don’t. The problem is that it’s very difficult to grasp the Savior of all humankind, even as an infant, even in a stable. We can’t wrap our small brains around the Word Became Flesh. We lack the capacity to really understand God manifest in the infant Jesus. We tell our children about Santa Claus because it’s easier for them to think that a crazy old man breaks into their house once a year, leaving behind plastic toys, than it is for them to think about the creator of the universe distilled into a child. It’s also so much easier for us.  Santa is mythical the way dragons are mythical; most of us find dragons easier to understand than saints.  And saints are easier than God.  And God, the bearded Guy in the sky, is so much easier than that tiny, vulnerable, venerable child.

Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!”  Help us, oh God, to see you clearly.  Open our eyes to your wild, difficult truth.