Wednesday, December 07, 2016


I admit it.  I more minor than major when it comes to this holy season.

Me, I'll take the simple Advent wreath instead of the Christmas tree.  I'll take the purple and pink candles instead of 40 thousand lights timed to gaudy songs flashing from every house.  I'll take the silence over the din of commercials; I'll take the waiting over the wandering from store to store for just the right gift/card; I'll take the sitting in the shadows over the stress and strain of the season.

For some folks, it isn't Christmas until they sing or hear 'O Holy Night,' 'O Come, All Ye Faithful,' 'Joy to the World,' or the overly used 'Hallelujah Chorus.'  But for me, it has always been the minor key pieces that speak to me.  I could sing 'In the Bleak Midwinter' every time in worship.  Part of it has to do with the incredible moving words of Rossetti.  But it is also the musical dissonance, which reflects the tension which hangs in the air as we celebrate the Child born into poverty with opulent gift-giving, the tension which exists within us as we live in a culture which throws away more food and stuff this time of year, while so many lives grow emptier and emptier.

Perhaps that is why, in this season where every time we gather for worship we hear from Isaiah, I turn to the minor key prophets.  Folks like Habakkuk, who don't get the glory, the recognition, the honor of being read every Christmas Eve and Day, but who use moving words to speak of that time we should await, not all the hectic moments which assail us; who remind us of the God whose one desire is to love us, even when we think love is a commodity to be bought and sold, not offered unconditionally.

A professor in seminary told of the Presbyterian pastor serving a church in the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War.  An area which was utterly devastated as battles raged, and changed sides over and over again.  After a particularly tough time, when one of the armies moving through had taken all the food, the crops, the livestock, leaving the people of the area with practically nothing to their names, the pastor stood up on Sunday morning and read from Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree does not
   and no fruit is on the
though the produce of the
         olive fails
   and the fields yield no
though the flock is cut off
         from the fold
   and there is no herd in the
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
   I will exult in the God of
         my salvation.  (3:17-18)

In every bleak midwinter, Habakkuk reminds us, God is with us.

Prayer:  May we rejoice in every moment, Timeless God, recognizing that you are with us always.  Amen.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

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