Friday, December 23, 2011

The Interruption: a Christmas play (epilogue)

As part of the Christmas celebration this Sunday, the young people will be contributing a play. I had so much fun writing the script, and even more fun watching them practice, I thought I would share it here. May your preparation this Christmas be a merry one.


That was more than 30 years ago. I am an old man now. Some years ago, I met this baby -- the son of Joseph the carpenter, Mary’s boy. Well, he was not a baby anymore.

People told me about this Jesus by whose touch the blind could see, and lame could walk. There was nothing in the world I wanted more than to meet him, to hear him.

One day, I heard he was coming to Bethlehem. So I sat by the road and I waited. And waited. When I heard the crowd coming, I shouted as loud as I could: “Son of David! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

To my surprise, he stopped. He touched my shoulder. And he said to me, “I was born in Bethlehem, did you know? Like you, my father and mother were beggars at Benjamin’s door. I've come back for you.” My heart swelled with so much joy at the sound of his voice; it hurt. This stranger knew who I was, though I have never met him. He said he came back -- for me.

He then asked me, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” With all the hope that was left in my heart, I whispered, “Yes, yes I do believe.” And then, he touched my eyes. And for the first time in my life, I could see. I saw his face smiling at me. I saw the face of God.

Wherever he went, I followed. Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but Jesus and his followers laid our heads on stones.

Jesus became a beggar, to save beggars like me. Jesus became homeless, to bring us home to the Father. God came in human flesh, to live with us, to die for us – so that we may have everlasting life.

Come to him, he came for you.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

My cup overflows

Yohanan had diarrhea earlier this week. In those two days, I must have washed him every other hour. The poor boy was feverish at night. My lower maintenance child became a koala, a sweet but sick bear who wanted to be held at every waking moment. I was glad to offer him some comfort, as I imagine the pain was a little scary. I must confess, however, his chubby arms felt slightly constraining.

I was a lot younger than Hans when we first met. I still am. When he first talked to me about our friendship, he basically proposed a marriage. No, he did not utter the words "marry me" or anything that one would typically associate with a marriage proposal. But his words were hope-filled.

He talked of carrying my suitcases when we visit China, walking in the rain, and drinking cups of hot apple cider by the fireplace. His intentions were clear. With him, I never had to guess. Always secure, always safe. Nonetheless, to the twenty-two-year-old me, commitment to one person for the rest of my life seemed so -- narrow.

On this side of eternity, God's will can seem so constraining. His law seems so rigid, his boundaries so restrictive. Jesus -- the way, the truth, and the life? Why so exclusive? I am guessing this is the way Emeth feels about our rules.

This is far from the truth, of course. Life only seems constraining when we choose to see it that way.

We ask, "what is God's will for my life?" Though in reality, we've already decided which way we would prefer. "God's will," in our minds, would only lead to one place, or one vocation, or one person. When things do not happen the way we prefer, we "accept his sovereignty" with resignation, rather than with gratitude and trust. We despise his guidance and discipline; his rod and his staff do not comfort.

In the beginning, God drew boundaries. Out of nothing, he created everything. Out of chaos, he created order. He separated light from darkness, the sky above from the waters below, land and seas, day and night. Boundaries were placed to protect, to preserve, in order that life may flourish.

In one sense, God's will is narrow. After all, Jesus did say, small is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to life.

this narrowness
is the narrowness
of a birth canal.
There is an entire universe waiting on the other side.

In Hans, I found a universe.
It expanded with Emeth. And again, with Yohanan.

I used to be grateful for a cup of freshly ground, french-pressed coffee. But anyone would be. This week, my cup overflowed with instant coffee. In my universe of koala bears, time is a luxury not to be wasted on trivial things. And I'm learning to give thanks, and to love my new brew.

This is freedom and grace indeed.