These are the seasons where trying to stay "ahead" of the lectionary is hard. Writing about Christmas in the final hours of Advent, especially when I hold the Christmas Eve candlelight service as the line of demarcation, crimps my sense of right and wrong. Ha!
I am captured in these readings by the role of helpers. Hannah has dedicated her son to God's service, and the 1 Samuel text gives us a glimpse of her dedication to his formation. Each year she makes him a new priestly robe, so that each year as he grows, he grows into his priestly role. Surely there was a lot more at work in Samuel's life -- God was with him. But his mother, his caregiver, his daily nurturer, his snot and bottom wiper if you will, was also dedicated to his formation as a child and servant of God. The Christian educator in me surfaces this week as I check my reactions to parents standing mid-aisle during Christmas eve, blocking the back half of the congregation's view of the altar or table, to capture on video the priceless moment that there little one croons "Away in a Manger." That is precious -- most precious if you are presenting that child in the sanctuary as a child of God dedicated to God's service. Note in the text that Hannah and Elkanah were in the Temple to make sacrifices and to worship. We know Hannah had a deep gratitude for this sweet boy who was a gift to her from God. (OK. Enough...rant over.) Are we really attending to praise and thanksgiving and dedication in this season? It is oh so hard in the search to make a warm memory or feel something other than overwhelmed.
The psalmist calls us to praise and thanksgiving. The line "he has raised up a horn for his people," calls to mind working with Rev. Lou Piel, who blew the shofar to announce the birth of a King at each Christmas eve service. After the presents are unwrapped and the Christmas dinner consumed, my prayer is to find space in my own life to give thanks for the gifts that Jesus, our Emmanuel, is in my own walk with God. In the wake of a busy season of worship upon worship, maybe it feels good to gather in the sanctuary and sing joyfully - Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and my favorite - Go Tell It on the Mountain.
The passage from the letter to the Colossians seems once again a timely reminder - to both thanksgiving AND the extra dose of love and care everyone needs. The image of clothing ourselves (which harkens nicely back to Hannah's lovingly crafted robes for Samuel) with compassion, kindness, humility and love (I probably should have visited that before the rant about 1 Samuel and worship, right? Yes. I should have.) is somehow deeply helpful after the rush and crush of the season. How can we imagine ourselves equipped and ready to be a source of love and mercy in the chaos of emotions that is the space between December 1 and January 6?
And finally, from Luke, there is the retelling of Jesus departing from his family's caravan, his parents discovering him missing, and finding him after three days in the Temple...at which point he turns to them and says, what are you worrying about -- I am in my Father's house. (I am a parent of adolescents and young adults. I get to say, "Isn't that just like an adolescent boy.") There is so much in this passage. For me this week, the deep and abiding question is about where I end and my children and their identity and life as God's creation with free will and their own call and gifts begins. Highly contextual reflection in my life right now.
Our life as Christians can be shaped a great deal in the next 72 hours if we are living in the moment, waiting, watching, wondering and then receiving and giving thanks. And on the other side of God entering into life with us, we are also called into walking along side others, shaping them by our example, our deed, our own exploration.
Complicated week. Complicated season.