Friday, January 4, 2013

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five gold rings –  four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

Of all the exciting moments at my ordination service one thing stood out: a funny little duet for tuba and piccolo. “We are fools for Christ’s sake,” said Paul (1 Corinthians 4:10). Apparently so!

It is hard not to feel foolish celebrating the birth of One who heralds the world’s salvation. Sin and injustice are as powerful as ever. Despotic regimes are overthrown only to be replaced, too often, by rulers unwilling or unable to rule democratically. Hunger, poverty, and discrimination of all sorts remain too real.

Easy to miss is the courage and hope continually born and reborn, evident in so many lives, on the world stage or right at home – “light in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome” (John 1:5). Next to a tuba of trouble this can seem like a piccolo of good news. But it’s impossible to miss that piccolo! Its bright, clear sounds often upstage the tuba, making the tuba’s sound a bumpy thump, thump, thump, like the gasps of a dying behemoth.

It’s easy to feel like a “piccolo” next to the thump, thump, thump of trouble. We can forget what immediately follows Paul’s comment about being fools for Christ: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” We can’t receive God’s power if we’re looking for it in the devices and desires of our own hearts. Idealism and good intentions can become yet another thump – sometimes the thump of guilt because we’re forever falling short. But like the piccolo, “the still small voice of God” (1 Kings 19:2) won’t go away. It can’t be drowned out.

May the spirit of Jesus sound for us amid the burdens we carry. And like children, may we know something of playfulness amid it all – as in singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” G.K. Chesterton said the devil, a former angel, “fell by force of gravity”! That doesn’t have to befall us! God is by our side.

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