This morning, my daughter’s class was talking about the people in our community. They brainstormed a list of people they know in their communities, and the jobs they each perform. Firefighters and police officers topped the list. Beyond some of these more prominent, public figures, there was a lot of brainstorming. While some listed the professions of their parents, others seemed a bit bewildered about the roles folks in our community fill, which I suppose is not surprising for a group their age.
It did prompt me to create a mental list of the many folks in my own community with whom I interact, but might overlook:
As I stepped out onto our front stoop this morning, to grab the milk from our milk box, it was still dark and cold—milk still nestled in ice. I was greeted with a Christmas card from the man who delivers our milk and his family, and I remembered that our milk man makes his deliveries each week while we sleep.
Each Christmas we have received a very specific, thoughtful note from our mail carrier in response to the artwork, cookies or other goodies we leave him for his conscientious work.
In the mail today I got a letter from our new pediatrician, introducing herself as our old one had taken a job in a new clinic.
Volunteers prepare lessons for our children’s’ religious education each week.
One of our favorite librarians comes to visit with us and asks about our bees.
The woman at the bank drive-through has the same name as two of our children’s friends AND she gives us suckers. There is much jubilation over calling Ruth by name in our car.
At school this morning, the woman who runs the elementary school front office remembered which class my daughter was in as she checked me in as a volunteer.
Whether or not I am conscious of it, my life is spinning around, orbiting others whose paths I may or may not ever cross, directly, and yet whose presence, however small, is invaluable. Maybe they are insignificant relationships, but the fabric of our lives (and the practice of our faith) is made up of these encounters. Besides, whether we find ourselves on the giving or receiving end of noticing/being noticed, it imparts dignity by recognizing a relationship where one was not: It helps to ‘put a face to a name.’ In short, relationships humanizes us.
The Christmas story is chalk-full of these hum-drum relationships. Any other day of the year or time in history, they might have been insignificant--inn keepers, shepherds, cousins, wise men, census-takers, etc. Nothing spectacular. Dignifying human relationships, it turns out, is one of the Christ child's most spectacular revelations.
Last Sunday as we were having a family discussion about waiting to open gifts until Christmas, we talked about the way that this tiny wait can remind us of those who waited until they could scarcely remember what they were waiting for, anymore: Emmanuel. Our giddy march toward Christmas is a peek at that, but it can serve as a reminder too, to look everywhere for the One who is to come—to suspect that anyone has the capacity to reveal the Christ to us. The only thing we can know with certainty is that God is Mystery and that we can expect nothing short of mystery as the Word becomes flesh.
Wandering in Wonder: This is the only way I know to describe Advent.
Come Lord Jesus.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
“We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.