The last time I wrote was Thanksgiving Day. I was listening to Christmas music, eager to celebrate the holidays. Today as I write, I’m a bit weary, but joyfully satisfied, from all the celebrating. We had more company this year than we’ve had in a long time, perhaps ever. I worked harder in the kitchen than ever, keeping in mind that I hardly ever work in the kitchen. I absolutely loved every minute of it. I loved having the house full of people, full of voices, full of life. I loved it. But Eloise, my 22 month old granddaughter, loved it even more. She, with her mom and dad and baby sister, spent much of the holidays over at our house visiting with the out of town company, and she became better acquainted with cousins, aunts, uncles, and her paternal grandmother, all people who love her and hold her roots inside of them. She would grin with glee when she entered the room and constantly and consistently wanted to be sure everyone felt included in her joy, even her tiny baby sister, Avery. To watch her appreciate each moment was a reminder to me of how important it is to live in the present. As trite as it sounds, I was reminded of the gift of the present.
Eloise would go like the Energizer bunny (for those of you too young to know the Energizer bunny, well…I can’t help you but just think go go go) until she could just go no more. Several nights she would spend the night at our house in the crib that is in the “grandkids” room. I try to stay stocked with diapers, pj’s, toys, books, and blankies and pacifiers. I figure one small gift I can give my daughter is for her not to have to load up the house before coming over. Of course there is a method to my madness. If I make it easy as possible to come over….
Most of the time Eloise just falls to sleep in this home away from home room of hers, content to be secure with her blanket and pacifier even when the fun continues downstairs. But as the holidays wore on, she became keyed in to the fact that….the fun continues and if she’s upstairs the fun is continuing. Without her. And the more she became clued in to this truth the less willing she was to call it a night quietly. Last Saturday night we were all sitting around the backyard fire pit talking, telling stories on one another, and generally acting as people who have known and loved each other a long time. (By the way don’t you love how beautiful people look in the firelight? And don’t you love to be with people who know you? And love you anyway?) Eloise was upstairs and her dad was trying his best to get her to fall asleep as she was practically incoherent from all the playing she had done with her cousins. But she would have none of this sleep her body so desperately needed. You see she knew she was missing out on something special, and in her mind the most important thing was to get outside to see what was happening in the firelight. That was more important to her than sleep for her little body. More important than the comfort of her “paci” or blankie. More important than anything. Finally, her dad brought her outside and let her see the fire and soak up the moment with everyone before they then left to go home where she would fall fast asleep in the quietness of her own bed.
Now, I didn’t think too much of this at the time, and before long the fire was down to embers and we had all retired to the quietness of the night. I knew I needed sleep in order to be able to preach the next day. Bright and early I would preach to the congregation I presently serve on Matthew’s account of the wise men traveling, following the light of the star, to see the Christ child, born in a stable. I had poured over the text, consulted the scholarly commentaries, and prayed to God for fresh insight that would bring forth a word of encouragement and exhortation. That insight came to me unexpectedly when I reflected back on the absolute resolve Eloise had shown in her refusal to miss out. And I realize now that this absolute refusal to miss out on something that is sensed to be more important than anything else was the true wisdom of the wise men.
I really don’t care if they were kings or not. I really don’t care if there were three of them or a hundred of them. I really don’t care what their names were or that their gifts mysteriously foreshadowed the royalty, divinity, and suffering of Christ. What I care about, and am grateful for, is that they had some sense and yearning that, no matter what, they refused to miss out on the opportunity to see and “pay homage” to this wee one who would change the world. Change everything. Change me. And that they would have the courage to look beyond what they knew in order to follow the light that would beckon and lead and protect them in the process. The light that continues to beckon and lead us even today. It’s there for us to experience if we will only have the courage to be open to the yearning.
It’s sad to me that the religious scholars, the ones consulted for directions where to go to find the reason for this light, had every bit of knowledge they needed to know that something world changing was happening. But they apparently didn’t have the yearning for it. Maybe it was the comfort of keeping the status quo of their religion. Or the fear of the unknown. Or the dullness that comes from overdue expectations. You know, when you expect something to happen in just a certain way and when it doesn’t you sort of fall into shut down mode because, well, it didn’t happen the way you expected it to. I think that’s the saddest part. We miss out on the yearning and the excitement of what’s happening because it’s not what we expect. And if it’s not what we expect, it’s not what we can control. Eloise had no preconceived expectation. She just knew she wanted to be a part of the joy she was hearing outside. Part of the light she could see through the blinds on the window. She didn’t have to know what we were doing exactly. She wasn’t trying to control or understand it. She just wanted to be a part of it. Eloise yearned, as the wise men, who followed a yearning to be in the presence of something, someone, who they sensed held the key to wonder, and to joy and to something beyond what they had experienced in the limitations of their own royal knowledge.
This year I pray for that kind of wonder and I pray that kind of wonder for you. I want to yearn for God in a way that moves me beyond my expectations. Moves me beyond the need for control or certainty. I want to lift my head from own little self-confined thoughts in order to catch a glimpse of what God has prepared for me, for us. Because I sense that it is far more fulfilling and life-giving than I could ever imagine, hope for, or expect. And I want to participate in that! This year, like Eloise, I refuse to miss out. What about you, what are you yearning for? Something to chew on….