Candi Shelton hardly needs an introduction, but alas we will give her one. She is a wife, mom, sister, friend, author, worship leader, baker, teacher among many, many other things. We have dreamed with Candi and her husband Jonathan for months about what exactly this church will look like. We value their voices in our lives and the life of this church more than we could put into words.
As I sit curled up with my two year old on our sofa, staring at my Christmas tree that’s draining the power grid moment by moment, I cannot help but reminisce on the Christmases of my 33 years past. There is an undeniable wonder built into this season, where sensory memories and vivid stories are etched into our hearts, even within the consumer-driven, commercialized version of Christmas offered by the world. Truthfully, it’s something I’ve often struggled to embrace, this idea that the magic of Christmas isn’t created by and doesn’t belong to Christendom. Christmas and Santa and struggling power grids and wassail (mmmmmm), they own and administer the magic.
Now, the mystery of Christmas? That’s a different story entirely. As I have dedicated myself to the observation of Advent, there is a holy mystery that has enveloped these “magical” moments, this mystery of expectation and hope, the power of a promise amidst the mundane. Santa and stockings hung by the fireplace dole out plenty of magic, but how the anticipation of tearing through beautiful paper in search of a gift can transcend the literal and become a picture of God’s people? That’s a beautiful mystery.
This is the thought that permeated my reading of today’s Daily Office readings, this theme of anticipation and waiting, but seeing God in the wait as well as the destination. The anticipation of David for God’s deliverance (Psalm 40); the words of the prophet Zechariah to a people who had lost their way and were desperate for redemption (Zechariah 8); even the story of the master who left his servants in charge of his wealth (Matthew 25). There is a ribbon of anticipation laced throughout these scriptures. And the mystery for us is the reflection on such anticipation, such gut-wrenching hope, and how it fits with but drastically supercedes the magic of twinkling lights.
When I see my 5 year old jumping out of his skin to get his fingers into his stocking, when I sing Christmas carols and sip wassail, when I tie red string around brown paper packages on Christmas Eve, I can “enter the mystery” of the whole world in anticipation of Hope born unto it.
We tear into the paper, and we tear into the manger, wide-eyed and abandoned to the God who came to us, a gift. A beautiful mystery.