Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What are you waiting for?

One of my favorite Christmas songs was written by a friend of mine named Rob Mathes. It’s called, “Waiting for Love to be Born.” I have always heard and believed that Christmas is not so much about the presents as about the Presence of God, about the birth of Jesus, that baby in Bethlehem who has turned this world upside down. I know that many people don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah or anyone extra special. Many believe that the Bible is a book written by people for people about people in an effort to stupefy people down through the ages. I confess to having many moments when I have wondered if in fact it’s all a rather well-contrived hoax. Regardless of what anyone believes about Jesus, no one else has had a greater impact on the last 2000 years of world history than He has. Lives have been lost, found, changed for the better and, some would argue, changed for worse because of Jesus. Wars and rumors of wars have ravaged many nations and peoples both in defense of the name of Jesus and in an effort to eradicate His name. So when I heard Rob Mathes’ song about his take on what Christmas is all about, I stopped the CD, listened to it again, and found myself thinking of Christmas in a slightly new way. “All is set. I know my stocking’s downstairs, and the sky is smiling: there is magic in the air. I can’t sleep. I am so glad to be home on this early morning, I’m not alone. This is the season – this is the time. I see the face of a child and that face it is mine. I’m looking for starlight; I’m listening for angels. And the house is asleep on this Christmas morn, but I’m awake. I’m waiting here for love again to be born.” It hit me between the eyes: I too am waiting for something new to be born this Christmas as I have waited for something new to be born every Christmas for as long as I can remember. As a child, I waited for new toys and books and sweets that would make that day special. As I got older, I hoped for envelopes with that tell-tale soft spot in the middle. In college, I just hoped to be remembered. Then when love struck, I looked for small boxes under the tree. Even now as an adult in charge of putting packages under the tree for two growing young ones, I still feel the magic in the air. As I strolled through Target today, I marveled at the doll clothes, the games, the computer animated toys, all the glittery, noisy, colorful, cool stuff. And before I feigned offense at the excessiveness of it all, I looked at another woman evidently silenced by the grandeur as well as said, “When I wander down these aisles, I wish I were a kid. There’s so much great stuff to buy for our children, isn’t there?” She laughed and nodded emphatically. In my more sophisticated moments, I furrow my brow and say that Christmas is more than the presents: it’s the closeness of family, the feeling of wonder, the fantasies of the children and frolicking in the crisp, new snow. But I must admit that I am still a sucker for a pretty package. Books I have eyed for months, thoughtfully chosen journals with their gently illuminated covers and pristine empty pages, pretty little boxes with funky earrings and matching necklaces and my personal favorite - gift cards – all that good will and generosity just make me weak at the knees. Sipping peppermint mochas at Starbucks while slowly savoring their rich lemon pound cake – all on someone else’s dime - number among my greatest pleasures. As for priceless gifts: I confess to waiting for the thoughtfully penned note, the perfectly crafted email, the unexpected telephone call that boosts my spirits and assures me that I am not forgotten, that I matter in the hearts and minds of the ones I hold dear. Rob’s song goes on: “Bundled up – I know what’s waiting for me more than a pretty package next to the tree. Something else – a gift far greater I know: born in Bethlehem long ago. The sun is rising - I see the distant lights. Oh, what a glorious day will come from this holy night. To us is born every December anew, a love that’s unbelievable, given to me, given to you.” No matter whether or not we believe what the Bible says about Christ, all the frenzy of this time of year, the shopping, the travel, the days off from work, the baking and cooking and decorating and trees and wreathes and candy canes, it’s all because of that baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger. If He had never been born, then there would be no reason for all this fuss. For those of us who believe that the baby grew up to die on the cross because of His great love for us, then what we wait for every Christmas, is not the love letter of a lifetime. It’s not the all-expenses paid trip to the great cities of Europe and Africa or the 3 carat flawless diamond earrings or the thigh-length sheepskin jacket or the $100 Starbucks card – even though all of those would be greatly appreciated and enjoyed in good health. What we await, as Rob so simply and beautifully states, is for love again to be born. Advent season is the time of waiting, anticipating, preparing, and welcoming the Love that was born so many years ago. Every year I wait for Love to appear again, to bring peace on earth and good will for all people. I wait for the light to appear in the darkness, for the luminous full moon to rise above the cold, shadowy, frightful night that seems to persist in this angry and sorrowful world. What I await is an untamable love, an indescribable love. It’s a love that’s unbelievable. It’s peace that passes all understanding. It’s good will that cannot be hunted. Every December, I look forward to the tree, the presents, the cookies, the chocolate, the parties, and all the fanfare. And once the tree goes up, every morning I steal down to the living room, plug in the lights and stare at them for many silent moments. I shake the presents even though I know what’s inside most of them. I hope and wait for the perfect present every year, the one that makes me laugh and cry and shout and fall silent all at the same time; but I have never found it under the tree. I find it when I look at the miniature manger scene next to the fireplace and try to make out the details on the tiny faces of the miniscule holy family. I try to imagine what Mary thought about and felt and dreamed of in those last days before she delivered that miracle baby. She waited, and I wait. I turn on the stereo and sing along with Rob: I am waiting here for love again to be born. What are you waiting for?

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