Monday, December 12, 2016

Silent Night...?

I've been thinking a lot about chaos lately.

As anyone who's ever been even marginally involved in a church around December knows, chaos is kind of par for the course. Every single committee and fellowship group has a Christmas gathering (usually involving some sort of gift exchange), there's usually some sort of cantata or Christmas pageant that has its traditional place in Advent, and attendance usually increases by at least 50%. Not to mention there's often a high anxiety on clergy and "laypeople"* alike to properly convey the mood of the season--plenty of joy, but not too early (we are in Advent, after all); festivities and greenery, but without turning the sanctuary into an ode to Santa Claus; the most theologically rich yet accessible sermons of the entire year...and so on, and so on.

But I find myself much as we accept chaos as a given in December, do we embrace it as a part of God's plan? Or do we merely tolerate it as a necessary evil?

Now, don't get me wrong: I am absolutely NOT saying that over-work and over-busy-ness is what God wants for all of us. It's not like God's thinking, "Ya know, the least you could do is work yourself ragged...after all, it IS my birthday...and I'm KIND OF a big deal..." No, the type of chaos that I'm talking about is the kind that's inevitable whenever a varied people with varied expectations, varied hopes and levels of energy and commitment, come together and try to make something incredible happen. As much as we try to make every worship service, every fellowship gathering, every special event during Advent the MOST SPECIAL EVER, chaos is bound to reign at some point.

I found myself thinking this during our Cantata on Sunday, which was abounding with microphone malfunctions, miscommunications, nosily scurrying children, and missed cues (*cough* that one was me *cough). And yet (at least, from my perspective) it was still beautiful and holy. People of all ages and abilities and talents came together to offer something to God. And no matter how many things we count as "going wrong", I think that God saw every piece of it as holy and pleasing.

Every year, we talk about how the carols aren't exactly accurate--that a birth in a manger would have been a far cry from a "silent night". And yet, I don't think that we've ever really internalized it. Childbirth is messy. Animals are messy. Babies are messy. Lord knows traveling to a different city can be messy. Life is messy. And God chose to be a part of THAT. When we try to sanitize it, to neaten it up, to make it "presentable"..we're denying who we are--and who God chose to be right alongside us.

Our Advent theme this year is "In Living Color". We're exploring how God's story (not just the nativity, but the whole darn shebang from the beginning of time until this very moment) can be expressed using color and art and creativity. And how we are necessarily, by God's design, a part of that. One way we're trying to illustrate that is by coloring a piece of a poster (designed by the talented Rev. Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy) collaboratively each week, then posting the pieces up on a bulletin board.

Four out of the Five pieces...last one is added on Christmas Eve.
And here is the beautiful, horrible, holy, messy truth: when you ask 200-some-odd people to color a picture together, it's going to get chaotic.

There are going to be unnaturally colored sheep.

I, personally, love the creativity.
There are going to be colors that don't quite blend together.

Not that it matters.
There are going to be personal, anachronistic touches.

You do you, Rio. Rock on.
But there are also going to be beautiful testaments to God's Word.

Amen and amen.
And there are going to be creative, realistic reimaginings of stories that we've heard over and over again.

I'm fairly certain that the shepherds would have needed a little angel-yelling to get their attention.
And there are going to be rich, diverse, bold, colorful scenes brought to life by God's people together.

The first one we managed to color in completely! Woo hoo!
THIS is EXACTLY the world that Jesus was born into. This is the picture that we're painting together with God--and it's exactly the way God wants it. Not with colors matching and blended perfectly, but with shades crashing up against shades, and landscapes turning out a bit differently than we expected, and everyone adding a little bit of themselves--not who they SHOULD be, but who they ARE.

Maybe, when things go "wrong" during Advent, when our lives aren't a Currier and Ives print or a "God bless us, every one" scene, maybe that's actually when we're the most "right". Or at least we're not as far off the mark as we might think.

*Of course, we all know that there are no laypeople in the Presbyterian Church; we're ALL ministers and bearers of the Word of God to the world. Of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment