Firstly, DirtySexyMinistry’s take on why Advent matters. Read that. It is a good centering place. And thank you for your patience in my getting this out rather late today; we are in the season of grading as well as waiting, and that takes its own time.
Next, I liked the doors that opened when I did the the series of four Christmas songs for Advent last year, so I’m bringing the idea back.
“What Child Is This?” is one I’ve known forever, and I still remember when my friend Skippy informed me that it was, in fact, “Greensleeves” with lyrics. It blew my mind almost as much as realizing that “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and the Alphabet Song are also the same.
Since that revelatory moment, however, I’ve heard the song a number of times, in a number of formats: classic, crazy film-trailer rock, operatic R&B, and many more. And yet it’s still the lyrics that grab me; there’s a book I read every year at Christmastime by Caroline Clooney called What Child Is This?, and it capitalizes on the main question. What child, indeed, is this?
We have utterly no idea.
It’s been a helluva week here in the Land of Pilgrims; I had my second-to-last class in Difficulty yesterday, and along with it the weird realization that I’m actually going to miss this city, miss this transit, these people I’ve met along the way. Far greater than that, though, was the accidental attendance of a church council in which I got to see, again, the painfully real underbelly of church administration, most notably in the form of the decision to terminate Help’s position come summer.
On so many levels, this makes me so very angry, and sad, and incredibly frustrated with my church. We demand that so much be done, that God deliver so much, and yet we often do less, and less, and less. The second verse of this song is much less chirpy than the first—a theme I’ve noticed in the old school carols that I quite appreciate:
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners hear
The silent Word is pleading.
We marvel at the miracle of this Baby born in an inn, and characterize the innkeeper as some cruel or incompetent fool who couldn’t handle the sudden influx of guests, who didn’t recognize The Important Couple when they shadowed his doorstep. In what room of our inn have we put Christ? I speak to myself as much as I ask the question of you, Reader; I am financially strapped. Pretty much all the time. It is not a pleasant place to find myself, at all, and I’m not in the least excited about the economic acrobatics I have to perform every month. Yet I hear that the Word pleads with me to quit putting Him in this mean estate—and not just finanically.
At the beginning of this season of waiting, at the very first intake of breath into the incredibly unquiet silence of the rebirth of the Church year, have I told God I cannot afford him? I have no room, no money, no time for what He asks of me. Am I even affording Him the stable, which is warm enough? When I see things like the continual downsizing of the staff at my church, when I think of all that we are going to lose when Help moves on to her next post—yes, I am upset. I know perfectly well that God will use her in wondrous ways wherever she goes, but that doesn’t stop me from being so very disappointed with my church, with the Western Church at large that seems to have told God that His programs, His outreaches need to see that there’s an economic crisis, that this just isn’t feasible this month, this year.
That’s not to say that everyone should go sell everything they have and give to the poor (although there’s a bit of precedent there); I realize that we need money, and that there’s not enough of it. Nor is there enough time, enough energy, enough, enough. I got an email from Interpreter this past week beginning with “I am just making sure that all of the ‘enough’ is in place.” I find this a fascinating phrase, that we should have enough of anything, or know where it is to go.
This is rather convoluted; it’s been a long week, and will stretch into a long month, in which there will be very little stillness for me. I ask for your prayers, Reader; this semester really is taking me to task, in quiet, concrete-shoe sort of ways. But as we open the Advent season, I would encourage you and myself to remember who this Child is—Christ the King. Haste, haste to bring him laud, this Babe, the Son of Mary.
And all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is near of kin to us. Why then be ye angry for this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s cost? Or hath he given us any gift?” (2 Samuel 19:42, TMB)