Delusions of Grandeur, or Why I Like Ordinary

Another episode of “I am THAT Mom…”

Does every mom think they will magically become a lover of holidays when they have a child?  I felt sure that there was some switch in me that would flip, that would make me LOVE Christmas songs and Christmas candy and buying Christmas gifts and giving Christmas gifts, for that matter.

No such luck.  I am a super failure at all holidays – not just Christmas, but ALL of them.  I’ve had three full holiday cycles with my kid, and I can safely say that the everyday mundane craziness that lives in my house doesn’t need the holidays.

What I know is, everyday is about joy and love for us.  We don’t need epic busyness, long lines, and super saver deals.  What we need is each other.  We celebrate all the small victories, the potty-training, song-singing, spontaneous affection that happens when no one is looking, especially Santa and Elf-on-the-Shelf.

These last few days before Christmas have the two of us constantly in kleenex and taking meds for our awesome Christmas colds, and still we’re laughing at the ordinary.  And if the birth of Jesus teaches us anything, it’s that the ordinary shouldn’t be discounted.  It’s in an ordinary stable, in an ordinary manger, in the MOST ordinary town in Judea, where a young girl gave her fiance’ and the world a most extraordinary gift.

 

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If God has everything, where are God’s hands?

The National UCC puts out a Daily Devotional each day, a short meditation about something relevant or interesting. Some days are better than others, and I forgive that, because it’s only a few writers who provide a thought for 365 days a year. Today, December 16, it was written by Martin Copenhaver, who had some things to say about a paperweight he made for his parents as child, and they loved it because it was made by him, and by extension, God doesn’t need our gifts, but delights in our worship and love when we give it freely. You can read the whole thing here: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/daily-devotional/what-can-you-give-to-the-god.html.

Seriously, Martin? The Bible seems to be explicit about what God wants from us. Micah 6:8 is a pretty good Christmas List: do justice, love kindness or mercy, walk humbly with God. God probably doesn’t need or want our homemade paperweights, but standing up for the little guy, helping at and donating to our favorite charities, fighting for what is right, loving our neighbor in tangible ways, those are the gifts that God gladly receives. As a parent, those things that I love most are the times my kid is independent and strong or picks a bug off the sidewalk to move it to the grass where it’s safer.  I delight in her growing up and becoming her own person.

Maybe when you were a child, God gladly would delight in your crappy paperweight of simple worship and devotion, but when you are an adult, that paperweight isn’t really so cute.  When you’re a grown-up, it’s time to have a grown up faith.  When you’re a grown up, you can acknowledge God with your hands and your work, you can “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words (St. Francis of Assisi).”  When you are an adult, God demands more of you.

God’s only hands in this world are our hands. God’s delight doesn’t seem to be in our simple devotion, but in the re-gifting of what we have been given, or in using those gifts for greater purpose. My talented atheist friends show me that it probably doesn’t matter to God where our gifts come from, or that God is acknowledged, but only that we share those gifts with the world.

Dear Advent: You are easy to love.

It doesn’t get much better in the church than Advent. We know all the songs, we’ve heard all the stories. It’s familiar and comfortable. There’s nothing new during this time of year. Advent in the church is like getting to wear your spiritual jammies for four weeks. We get to snuggle down into the Book of Luke like a fleece blanket and pray to the Baby Jesus, like Will Farrell’s character in Talladega Nights.

During this time of year, we get to forget all the really uncomfortable things about Jesus.  We ignore that during his ministry he relied on the kindness and hospitality of strangers on a daily basis, that he challenged authority and often put his friends between a rock and a hard place and himself between them and the law.  We forget that he showed everyone that no matter Jew or Gentile we are all worthy of the love of God, that we don’t have to do anything to earn it, but that we shouldn’t take it for granted.    We have duties to each other and to the wider community where we live, more than just writing a check from our comfortable pew.  We aren’t supposed to live comfortable lives, and neither are our churches.  We are – all of us – called to reach out in faith, even during Advent, even while we’re sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas Carols and giving gifts, even when the snow is waist-high.  Even when we want to curl up in the pew in our favorite Jesus fuzzy slippers, there’s more work to be done.