They celebrate Letter Writing Day and National Tree Week in England. Dean Robert’s taught me much about life here and there from his pulpit amidst roses and roosters in the gardens, patches and pens around the Canterbury Cathedral.
Yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, the Dean tenderly touched a tree. Then, he thanked God for the function and beauty of all trees. Odd. Wonderful.
In clerical garb, Dean Robert pats chickens and swine, calls some by name, like they matter, all while sharing devotional thoughts, laced with historic faces and facts for the rest of us. I’ll miss his hay bale pulpit, surrounded by grunting, snuffling pigs and squawking, strutting fowl. Holy incongruities gone, when something akin to normal returns and the church heads inside for safekeeping, perhaps. Churches infused with incense, sometimes too pretty and perfect for those who feel more at home in pig pens than pews.
And that is why the setting of Christmas matters. A stable is neither pretty nor perfect. It was no heavenly “whoops!”, like God should’ve thought to have booked the Bethlehem Inn months before to avoid “no room” and the baby’s birth in a barn.
Which is one more reason to love God. He knows us and delivered his Son smack dab in the middle of our messy lives. And heavenly hosts hung out a star studded welcome to come and see God’s gamble in a grain trough, Jesus.
So to all who cower in corners, frightened of more than the corona virus, there’s good news. Bethlehem beckons. A long time ago, someone felled a tree and used some to fashion a feeding trough for animals. And God blessed the ordinary , and a manger became a bed fit for a King. Jesus.
Maybe the next time we’re inside church, we’ll come closer, if we see the altar and holy communion as God’s sacred feeding trough. A manger laden with Christ’s manna of love, forgiveness, mercy and another shot at real life.
During this Advent season and for as long as we have breath, Bethlehem beckons.
Jesus waits while we wonder and wander, exhaling fear, inhaling hope.
God’s beloved and holy oddities.
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