Monday, December 24, 2007

The Risk of Birth

That was no time for a child to be born, in a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honor and truth were trampled by scorn– Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born? The inn is full on planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn– Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
-Madeleine L’Engle

We’re enjoying another year of living on Martha’s Vineyard. The familiarity that comes with the second year on the job has been nice. We both continue to write, Brett working on the final revision of his dissertation and me submitting more essays for hopeful publication. Brett’s job search is well underway with applications to colleges and universities in all four corners of America and beyond. Olivia, now two and a half, continues to be a source of profound joy for us both, teaching us new things whenever we choose to pay attention.
The Christmas season has been especially interesting this year as Olivia tries to grasp all that we tell her about this celebration. On most mornings, after she’s tiptoed into our room and woken us up, she drags us to her advent calendar to open the days’ flap and see what special picture surprise is waiting for her. Then before we can sit down for breakfast, she has us stand around the tree, hold hands, and sing “O, Christmas Tree.” We have joked about the possible undertones of idolatry this little ritual might be encouraging, but we figure they are countered with her insistent daily readings of the Christmas story and the numerous renditions of her current favorite, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” which she requires before her afternoon nap and then again in her bedtime routine.
As we read the Christmas story, Olivia is always bothered by a few things: that Mary had to ride on a donkey and not in a car, that they had to stay in a stable and not a bedroom, and that baby Jesus had to sleep in a manger (she calls it a horse’s bowl) and not a real bed. She says, “That’s not fair, guys.” We don’t stop and explain to her the unusually high level of comfort that we are accustomed to in our particular century and culture. Rather, we let her struggle with this a bit. Maybe it’s a good thing for her to connect Jesus’ entrance into an unfair world with his final solution for this unfairness. When Christ was born, circumstances were unfair, injustices were rampant, love was hard to find. And yet, Christ was born. And that incarnation solidified a permanent place for truth, love, honor, and joy.
We’ve chosen a quote from Madeleine L’Engle this year. She passed away this fall after years of faithful service through her words. Considering the ongoing influence she has had on our lives, it felt only fitting to include an excerpt from one of her Advent poems with our message. This year we pray that you will experience love being born all around you and that you will risk love regardless of the circumstances. We have reason to rejoice. As we sang in our advent hymn this past Sunday, “He brings God’s rule, O Zion; he comes from heaven above. His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love. Lift high your praise resounding for grace and joy abounding.”
Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Capote and Christmas

Truman Capote has a series of short stories he wrote surrounding the Christmas season. I just finished A Christmas Memory. A significant moment occurs at the end when the main character, a young boy is flying kites with his elderly friend. The friend says, "My, how foolish I am! You know what I've always thought? I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are, just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Be wary if he comes by ferry

We had to go. It's an island tradition. The big ferry comes into the dock, the doors open, and Santa is standing there with a row of elves behind him, heartily laughing, waving to the masses, ready to greet all the good girls and boys of the Vineyard. This event has been talked up all over the island. Apparently last year, as he took his first step, his pants fell to his ankles, and one of his elves fell over laughing. Still though, something worth bundling up to see. Olivia was so excited about it. His arrival was the first thing she mentioned this morning when she woke us up. She dressed in a red sweater and her red coat b.c she'd heard it was his favorite color.
So it was a little disheartening this afternoon when we layered up, ran down to the ferry, and joined a tiny crowd to welcome this guy. No bellowing "Ho, Ho, Ho," no confident strides, no elves, not even a costume malfunction. He just meandered off the boat and then had to practically find people who wanted to get their picture taken with him. Fortunately a number of our "young at heart" college students had come with us- our group alone doubled the crowd. Olivia shook his hand and said, "Welcome." After that she'd have nothing to do with him. She'd only agree to a photo if her college friends would join her. So here it is.