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Calm and Bright?


I have dozens of pieces of artwork. All different kinds and sizes. They were carefully wrapped and packed and carted from Pennsylvania to Virginia... not a one damaged! I've been working on placing them in the rooms of the manse... some here, a few there. I've measured and nailed carefully, hoping not to cause any damage. And I'm down to the last three.

And then the roofers arrived.

Of course, I knew they were coming. But I'd never experienced being in a house that was being reroofed. Scraping, tromping, hoisting, pounding up above and all around. Half of the carefully hung pieces of artwork are now tilted. Askew. Sliding this way and that. Yes, it's an easy fix! But I had to chuckle to myself... just when I was beginning to feel really and truly settled...

It happens, doesn't it? Something careens into our calm and sends it spinning into chaos. Someone blitzes through our emotional barricades and bombards the bright of our optimism with the dank darkness of despair. So much for the settledness of sameness!

Interruptions are often disruptions. And we lose our focus. Our train of thinking is derailed. Our best-laid plans go by the wayside. And we usually don't like it. Only a saint like Henri Nowen could welcome an unexpected guest or an unscheduled call as an opportunity rather than an irritation. The "ministry of interruptions" he called it. Now imagine an innkeeper one night in Bethlehem with a weary couple at the door. And think of the young girl named Mary, angel-visited and amazed. But even more so, Elizabeth, advanced in age and yet with child! How can we really sing ever so sweetly, "All is calm, all is bright..."?

It would seem that God is in the business of disrupting the presumed saneness of sameness. God shakes and stirs when we earth-dwellers are in search of calm and bright. God flips when we prefer to flop. God surfaces on earth as a cooing baby when the world hoped for a cheering superhero. And nothing has been the same since. Are we ready to welcome and embrace a God who shows up and shifts down to up and up to down?

I am reminded of the words of Eugene Peterson in a piece titled The Holy Stump. He writes, "What we can be quite sure of is that the Holy, God's unmanageable but irrepressible life, is ever present and hidden within and around us. Unpredictably but most surely it breaks forth into our awareness from time to time: the bush blazes, the heavens open, the temple rocks, the stump blossoms. Holy, Holy, Holy. But don't expect to see it reported on the evening news."

Advent is yielding to Christmas. Holy interruption. Holy inversion. Holy incarnation. Praise God!

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