Christmas Day: Let all the earth rejoice

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.

Isaiah 55:12-13

Joy does not come readily to me. I am more comfortable with the solemnity of Lent and Advent than with the rejoicing of Easter and Christmas. I need these seasons to remind me that rejoicing should be part of my story – a significant part – yet I find seasons of waiting and longing easier to digest.

Yet the journey of Advent teaches me that, instead of accepting that this is as good as it gets, I should be longing with creation for all things to be made new. It also teaches me to see in Jesus the object of all our longing coming to make His home among us. And while I do not see Jesus face to face I can see Him in every face transfigured by His presence, and I can catch in everything that is exquisitely joy-inspiring the kind of beauty that He will bring with every footstep when He returns.

If I find it hard to rejoice, Jesus has space for me in His grace. Yet He also teaches me that I should rejoice nonetheless, if nothing else as a declaration that all things are being made new and that the old order of death is slowly dying with Life returning in its stead.

In a year of death, longing and waiting, we need this kind of deep, come-what-may rejoicing. We need it whatever lies ahead, because we need to train our hearts for the Joy that will one day trump everything else that has been.

Advent 7: Shedding

When the cry comes out – Prepare the way!
are we found listening, heeding or tending to
our own private laneways, our private gains?
If I am to hear Him when He should appear
and if my feet will be swift and fleet,
I must jettison all
that I hold yet holds me, and
throw off the loves that so easily entangle,
ready to run at the sound of His steps.

Advent 5: Last Things

Hospital room. While my uncle and I tried
to tend to my grandmother’s needs, we heard
behind the curtain divider
a granddaughter and grandson discuss
cremation plans
and how the west has avoided death
while the east (both fresh from travel) takes
the wiser path, rubbing
face and hands in body ash
and staring death’s immanence in the eyes.
“What a drain on public money,” they decried,
to describe their grandmother’s dying days.
I fetched pillows and poured water into
polystyrene cups (she never drank from those
when she had a choice)
and tried to stare my last enemy down.
Where is your victory? Where’s your sting?
All I could muster as prayer was, Come.

Parousia

                    In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger
(T.S. Eliot, “Gerontion”)
 
Still He bursts into our courts
Where our Pharisee-hearts change coins for doves
And the tables we man to show who’s in charge
Are upturned by His rage.
 
Still He comes with sword to divide
Soul from marrow and father from son,
Our many-tufted prickling weeds
From among the wheat.
 
Still He comes with light, with flame,
The ex-nihilo energy of singular force,
Moses’ bush-consuming-fire,
The fiery-bright I Am.
 
Still He comes to shake, to heal,
To wash in the waters of forty-day-flood,
To call frail Lazarus out of his tomb
And shake the rich man’s knees.
 
Still He comes like lamb, like lion,
A thief in the forests of the night,
An unblemished, bleeding sacrifice –
Mighty, grace in His mane.