Notes from Jan

Bethlehem Bound

November 29, 2022

Oh, to be sure, I still have some leftover turkey to eat and words of gratitude to express. But Thanksgiving, as an official day, is over until next year. So are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, thankfully. And while I love Thanksgiving, I’m so ready for Advent. But not the ‘holiday” rush that rattles nerves, and depletes financial, physical and emotional resources. It’s the season of Advent, I need, a time filled with wonder and anticipation of some One, not some thing.

This year the First Sunday of Advent slipped in between the two biggest shopping days of the year. Kinda like a couple of thousand years ago when God showed up in a barn in Bethlehem. The innkeeper pointed to the NO VACANCY sign and suggested they head to the shed. He’d provide clean hay for a nominal fee, of course. So it came to pass …well, you know the rest of the story.

Last night after lighting Advent candles and reading the Bible passage from Luke 1:26-55, I sang, O Little Town of Bethlehem. Just me. And yet, maybe not. God only knows who sings along, prays with and for us, then cheers us on from heaven’s porch. Still, it’s those familiar words that catch in my throat. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Fear’s rampant. It’s easier to fear, than hope, for most of us. But yesterday as I set up a small nativity scene, I chose hope. The washing machine sloshed, the dryer pinged when time for me to fold another load, and into the stuff of an ordinary Monday God showed up in a simple creche. One teenage mama, seated beside a manger, where the Messiah slept. Joseph stood nearby, while some animals stared at something unusual in their feeding trough. God’s risky choice to enter this fear-filled, messy world as a baby. As Buechner described, ” a baby about the size of a loaf of bread.” Manna for the masses. Hope for our deepest dreads, sensed or sung reminders to “Fear not.”

And then Annie Willis, the other grandmother in the Carlberg-Willis family, sent me an email. She ended with, “turning my face towards Bethlehem.”

Bethlehem bound.

What’s there to lose?

Or gain?
NO VACANCY?

Or?

O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emanuel.”

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