Wednesday, December 03, 2008

face to face

Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

I'd love to see Dan this Christmas. My best friend in (and after) college, it has to be 15 years or more since we have seen each other, and that was when he, Jodi, and the family had a layover at the airport here in Cincinnati. For a long time, whenever we would see each other after an absence, it seemed as if once we started talking, all that missing time of being apart just melted away, and we were back in the dorm, continuing a conversation we began 44 years ago when we entered college together. But they are out in Portland, Oregon, and that's a long, long way, especially for someone who would rather have root canal then fly. But, I'll bet if I got to look into his face, he'd look the same!

It would be a special Christmas indeed, if I could sit down around the dinner table with the Millers, even if they served corned beef (that's an inside joke, friends, don't sweat it)! To be with Robert and Nancy, with John, Margaret, Helen, and Francis, with their spouses and kids, what a joy that would be. Looking into faces lined with wonder and worry, comparing the gray and white hairs caused by kids and the kindness of God, to simply enjoy the comfortable silence that we can share with one another - that would be one of the best gifts I could have this year. But they (like so many families) are scattered, and with the economy the way it is, it probably wouldn't happen.

I'd like to look into my mother's face this year, to see it, as I always do, through the eyes of a child who thinks his mother is the wisest, the most beautiful, the most gentle person in the world (and she is, believe me). I'd like to sit down with my siblings and reconnect, to find out what has really been going on in their lives over the last few years, to behold them face to face. I'd like to see my nieces and nephews, especially Scot, who just got back, safely, thank God, from serving overseas. But we are scattered, we are busy, two of us have to 'work' on Christmas

But the boss who, when I said I was resigning in order to go to seminary, told me, "Well, those who can, do; those who can't do, teach; those who can't teach, go into ministry"? Not sure if I would want to exchange Christmas cards with him.

And the folks who made life such a hell for me and my family the last 18 months or so at my last church, who treated me with such disrespect, and spoke words no person, much less a Christian, should speak? I am not sure if I could sit down around any table with them this Christmas.

There is a long line of people, in my mind's eye, that I just would just rather not look into their faces this time of year. It would be too painful, too hard, too depressing for such a season.

Yet, this is the season when we celebrate that amazing grace of God, who was willing to come to be one of us. Who was willing to live with, to encounter, to eat with those who would ridicule and reject him, who would hurt him, who would even kill him. And God was willing to look at them face-to-face and simply say,

"I forgive you;
I love you;
I came for you."

Prayer: How easy it is to long to look into the faces of those we love or we know love us. Strengthen us to look into the faces we would rather avoid, and to be able to see your Child in them, even as we seek to show that he lives in us. Amen.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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