Around Thanksgiving, a friend confessed that the thing he needed most this Christmas was some hope. His plea would not let me be: “Do you have any hope for me?”
I’ve been diligently looking for some hope to send him ever since. And as I read and re-read the Christmas story from Luke 2, I noticed the hope in the story and in our lives is mystical. You have to be open, and watch the sky, and be willing to pursue it even in the middle of the night.
Maybe you’ve had a night like that,
when you saw a shooting star…or twelve,
or you happened upon a bistro in some city you were visiting and everyone was singing together, songs you know by heart, and for a brief period, time stopped.
Hope is present the night a child is born, or a call is made at last.
It is the day when a treatment is finally ended
or the afternoon when you find yourself vigorously clapping and rising to create an ovation for someone you love and that fact that others are clapping and rising too only makes the moment that much more.
It’s when you hear she’s getting married, again, and you just know he’ll treat her right. It’s when you gladly walk the floors with him in the middle of the night.
It’s the play you watch over and over again because you still can’t believe he hit it the first time.
It’s freedom from a neck brace after wearing it for as long as it takes to carry a child.
It’s catching a perfect wave or catching the line drive or perfecting your technique
or waving repeatedly to a child because she has just learned how to blow a kiss.
It’s the delicious notion that love came down, put on skin, and walked among us.
It’s that those he called couldn’t do anything less than follow.
It’s the blind whose eyes no longer caused them pain
and the paralyzed set free from being a spectator
and the anguished now breathing-deeply the oxygen of peace.
It’s the children singing Away in a Manger wearing sheep-shaped-knit-caps
and the brisk chatter before the prelude between the snowbirds who treasure life in a way that leaves us breathless.
It’s the release of relief coursing through your veins when you get the text that tells you at last, he is on his way home.
It’s a people whose name is homeless being humbly fed by twenty-somethings who stop by the beach where they live with a few happy meals for the hungry because their tips were super-sized that day.
It’s a shout-out, it’s props, it’s thank-yous on monogrammed stationary and words with a crooked smiley face on a sticky note stuck to the lamp by where you read, that you find after he has gone to work.
It’s the photos on the fridge and the molasses-stained recipe and the puppy the size of a dog, sliding on the linoleum because she just has to be by your side.
It’s the way the flame of the candles move and babies yawn and cats jump back from an unexpected beam of light.
It’s haunting melodies that simultaneously render us mute and call us to join the song in its need to gather together voices in loving harmony.
It’s light shining in darkness and
light that is the life of all people
and darkness still not overcoming it by God.
It’s medicine continuing to give us ways to protect and nurture and make life easier to live.
And faithful nurses who deliver the healing remedies,
and it’s also life support finally going silent save for the whisper of mercy: take as much time as you need…
It’s hearing that a brother was set free after too long locked up for a crime he didn’t commit.
Hope is the Blue Ridge Mountains
and the Hoover Dam;
the Mojave Desert and
the color of the water flowing under the 7 Mile Bridge.
It’s a baptism, a paddle-out, or a wedding on the beach when all present, invited or not, pause to pray and give the moment its breath.
It’s when you laugh with a friend so hard it makes you cough
or you finally turn in your 50-page paper you’ve been working on hard for a month and worrying about for six.
It’s when you come to the sanctuary in the late afternoon when the sun pours through the jeweled glass surrounding the cross and you just can’t help slowing down and closing your eyes
and being still. And knowing.
It’s wondering how you’d get through that first holiday after…
and then looking around when it comes, to see the people who showed up to make sure you did.
It’s being with a grown-child or an old friend and not having to go or do because your hearts are so busy reconnecting you don’t even want to blink.
It’s the sky breaking open and the angel choir unable to hold back and the stars shining like a freshly polished chandelier or the moon on the water like a spotlight on a stage following a ballerina who uses her body to tell a story without words.
It’s a manger, and shepherds, and angels, and a star, and a story about love coming down and putting on skin and living among us.
It’s about fearing-not, and news of great joy for all people, and hope being born.
It’s about now. This moment. This place.
The man next to you, the woman behind you, the child snuggled into grandma sleeping in heavenly peace.
It’s about all those things we forget to notice when we are noticing the things we would rather forget
and it’s about remembering the endless moments in life too beautiful to ignore that reinforce the song of the angels.
For unto us is born this night: the son of God, love’s true light.