Monday, November 29, 2010
There is something about twinkle lights. They are like very small bits of happiness- or maybe they just remind you of happiness. Each little lamp seems confident in its own bit of light, assured of all that is hopeful. One light does not compare itself to its neighbors, but does its own shining and twinkling in a bold though silent sort of celebration. That's how I feel about twinkle lights. Perhaps my feelings partially depend upon the fact that when I was a child, I pretended they were fairies hiding in my Christmas tree (what little girl does not delight in the idea of lovely small ladies with sparkly wings and gowns?). Squinting a little bit, it was as though I could see a vague outline of them, winking mysteriously at me from across the room. (This effect was especially good when the lights were different colors- which made it rather like Fantasia.)
Maybe it is a little unorthodox to perceive so much depth in something common like twinkle lights. After all, they are plastic and in actual fact, quite faulty. But even though abstract ideas about the simple and the tangible can stretch the truth, I think they often help reach toward the truth as well. In this case, at least, I feel this way.
On Sunday, Paul preached about Christmas. Sort of. His theme for this series on advent is "Not what we expect but everything we need." He built the message on the text in Isaiah 9:1-7 in which the author says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Lights make up such a huge part of the Christmas season, whether they decorate a house or a window display or a tree. Yet Christians remember the light of Christ, a light which is the centerpiece of our lives, not merely an ornament or decoration.
Though I have learned that before, Paul articulated a truth about Christmas which I have never quite formed in my mind, but which resonated deeply in me. First, he talked about how the first part of advent is focusing on the waiting, the anticipation, of a Savior. We have all waited our whole lives to be completed, to be made whole, and Jesus is God's plan to bring wholeness to our brokenness, light to our darkness. Yet we don't like to wait. During the Christmas season, though we wait until Christmas day to open presents, we "gorge ourselves on the holiday". That is so true. Ryan pointed out a couple weeks ago that Christmas decorations were out in our Walmart the DAY after Halloween!!! That's ridiculous! And who really remembers Thanksgiving when all their energies are channeled into waiting desperately outside a store the for hours on Black Friday, rushing around attempting to find the best deals first.
It's a frenzy, and some times the whole month of December is like that. What about the mystery? What about the wonder of God? Where is the hush that falls over a groaning creation when it is reminded of good news- tidings of comfort and joy? Paul compared the frenzy, the gorging, to driving on the road when the sun is so bright you can see almost nothing else. That is what Christmas becomes- not the real Christmas- but the frenzy, the desperation, the eating of sweets and the guilt that follows, the plastic, the office parties, the tense family get-togethers, the shopping, the debt, and then... the let-down. Who feels comforted when they are in the midst of such pouring out and filling up? No wonder people are depressed after the holidays.
And if the only lights you see are the baubles, the bargains, and the bright gaudy acoutrements of a season gone berserk, then of course you will miss the small light in the stable- you will miss Bethlehem, and you will miss the comfort and the joy. "If you expect merely what you've always had, you'll get it; if you expect the Christmas you've always known, that is what will come." This different kind of Christmas that Paul reminded us of, is what we need. We are the "Christmas people"; we are the bringers (or at least the spreaders) of Good News. I pray that this will fill you up this season, that you will feast on hope and joy- on the gifts of the Lord, and that you will remember what you are really waiting for.
"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:30-32 NIV)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
[Though I'm just now posting this, it's actually from last month.]
Music. Lots of music. Okay some music. A handful really... That's what's been occupying my mind for the past--- couple of weeks? I think so, yes. Firstly, I finally sought out and purchased the live version of Imogen Heap's "Just for Now" on iTunes, which just makes me happy and makes me think of "The Holiday" (which I also love). So that's first...
Secondly, I have recently (aka in the last month) been introduced to Mumford and Sons. They are well known in the UK and apparently everyone over here is just now getting into them. Or at least, now it is possible to not be cool if you haven't heard of them. Well, I have, and now I am not only cool but I own their "Sigh No More" album. I haven't even listened to it all yet- mostly "The Cave" and "Winterwinds" because I heard them first and they are wonderful. They are very ballad-ish sorts who play melancholy and bittersweet, hopeful and hindsightful- and they play all of them boldly.
Thirdly, I just bought the newest Brooke Fraser album, "Flags", on iTunes. Fraser consistently leaves me speechless and yearning- or she reminds me that I was yearning to begin with. Yearning to write songs that say as much as hers do. And the yearning for that reminds me of the yearning I have for so much that is silly, so much that is selfish, knowing that if I got those things, I would be yearning for something else. It's because I'm really yearning for the wholeness of the Lord- for His plan to come to fruition. But I still want to write some good songs if possible.
Speaking of singing, last weekend I got to perform at the coffee shop where I work! I have never performed my own songs in public (I don't count college as public). Unfortunately, I was on the clock, which meant I was running around waiting on table after table because the entire state visited the shop that day! There were other performers as well, including my friend, Erin Aubrey, whose CD art I did- she did a great job. Also, my boss's sister's group performed, which was lovely. It was a blessing that I got the chance to sing because my in-laws were in town, as well as a handful of my good friends from college who were back in town. (Both the in-laws and the friends were in town for Milligan's homecoming...) So they got to hear, but sadly, I think I inconvenienced all of my coworkers because no one had time to pick up my slack while I performed. No lasting damage was done- oh! wait. I take it back. When I had finished singing, I naturally went back to work, and picked up a dirty plate to take to the dish pile. Well, dish piles- we were so busy that it was overflowing! So, I set the plate ever so carefully on top of one such pile, only to watch it teeter- totter- then decide to topple over, hit the stove, and then shatter into a million pieces all over the floor! In front of my boss, coworkers, and 30 customers at the counter!! I was already exhausted from a crazy week that I just wanted to sit on the floor and cry. But- miraculously- I kept it together. We cleaned up the mess, but MAN that was a crazy day.
Even though Ryan and I both were exhausted and rather drained emotionally, we loved having our in-laws- who in fact decreased our stress!- stay at our apartment. I also enjoyed seeing my girls from out-of-town a lot.
And other things have happened, but all I can think about is now...