Friday, December 20, 2013

The Last Year Santa Comes to Visit

I have several friends with elementary school children of varying ages.  One of them said recently, "This may be the last year that Santa comes to visit."  There was a wistfulness in his voice; I felt that sadness too.

It's such a quick season, childhood.  Many of us spend the rest of our years trying to re-enchant our lives.  We have the poets like William Blake who would remind us of the dangers of that enchantment (see Songs of Innocence and of Experience), but I understand why we miss it so much.  I suspect that one of the reasons that many people have children is to experience that enchantment vicariously again--and to have the joy of creating that enchantment for the next generation.

These thoughts lead to thoughts about the church. When we first find a church that seems like a good fit, it can seem downright magical:  we love the sermons and the people feel so familiar and the building inspires us.  Maybe we sign up for all sorts of programs and events.  We volunteer.  But then, what happens?  I've known many people for whom the enchantment has worn off--and then the hard work of creating a mature relationship begins.

Of course, many people leave at that point.  They go from church to church, hoping to find what they feel they've lost.

We see this dynamic with all sorts of relationships, from marriages to best friends--even in our relationship to God.

Many of us want the Santa Claus.  We want the lights and the cookies and the expectation. We want the jolly guy who swoops in once a year.  We don't want him to move in with us.

Our God is not Santa Claus.  Our God wants to move in with us, and our God is not likely to take our "no" as our final answer.  Our God will show up in a variety of desolate places.  Our God will share our grief as well as our joy.  Our God is happy to see us, no matter what a mess we've made.  Our God will sleep in the stable, if that's what's available.

The prophets promise us again and again that God is coming.  It may not have the same festive feeling as a visit from Santa, but God's presence will nourish us better than any Christmas cookie can.

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