Of the soft, grey, gentle skies. Of the bare trees etched against those skies like the finest of pen and ink drawings. Of the dark evenings that, unlike later in winter, have always seemed more like graceful benedictions to our days than cold/black/suffocating. Of the geese searching for food on frozen ground. Of the church songs I love, deep in my being. Of lights and bells and the sound of my daughter’s laugh as she watches Elf for the 89th time. Of the story of a girl, because that’s what Mary was, just a girl, chosen for reasons beyond her comprehension to be the bearer (literally) of a story and a life that had (has) the potential to change the world.
I even love the way the word sounds, like a blessing the way it rolls off the tongue. And I love finding just the right gift for the dear ones I love most. And I love baking cookies. And the being together of it all.
Today is the first day of this most treasured month of mine. But instead of waking up joyful at the realization, I woke up mad/sad/heartbroken at…all of it. At all the world. At the way this godawful 2016 has loosed its wrath in a thousand vicious ways, as if mercy was forgotten long ago and hate and fear have now taken up permanent residence in the space it once filled.
We can be so damn cruel to each other, y’all. And we especially like to do this behind the supposed mighty fortress of social media. We like to summon the cruelty too, when we’re hurting ourselves, using it as a poor defense mechanism against whatever or whoever has caused us pain. “Hurting people hurt others,” I once heard a colleague say. And she’s right.
We’re angry, y’all. Collectively so anxious and strung out we can’t even be civil to one another.
Meanwhile the Smoky Mountains are on fire. And people’s lives and homes and livelihoods are wrecked in the flames. Meanwhile native Americans desperate to be heard are singularly and even violently ignored. Meanwhile we can’t figure out a way for every American to have decent and affordable healthcare. Meanwhile we continue to demonize, stereotype and assume the worst about both police officers and young black men.
And we paint into a selective corner anyone who disagrees with us politically or theologically. And we lock up young adults in prison instead of investing in treatment and therapy. And we pledge allegiance to the red, white and blue and then treat her bravest sons and daughters like they don’t even matter when they come home from war. And we point fingers. And place blame. And judge the whole rainbow of God’s children for everything from our parenting choices to who we choose to love to the color of our skin to our political persuasions to our houses of worship.
Meanwhile, there’s a baby trying to be born. Into the madness. Into the chaos. Into the utter rage of our lives. A baby who simply wants his life to bear witness to the truth that Love matters and that we can do better than this.
Meanwhile, my precious Curly Girl, despite what life has handed her, smiles and loves and sings and declares that that same life is still good.
Meanwhile, the story of my own faith speaks first, forgiveness. First, mercy. First, grace. Over and above any and all other things.
And with it the tiniest glimmer of hope. Persistent and determined and fierce. Gritty in its insistence. Perfect in its possibility.
The smallest sliver of hope. That all will, in fact, be well. Somehow. In the blessed fullness of time. All will, in fact, be well.
And so maybe the right response to this first day of December is to hold on to what hope we have available. And act out of it, even when it seems futile. And live out of it, even when it seems insane to do so. And speak out of it, even when words are hard to find. And trust that out of the mess we’ve either made or found ourselves in there is something good to be claimed from the wreckage. Something whole. Something true.
Something that will lead us into the graceful and holy light of a quiet December morning. To simply be made new.