Wednesday, December 21, 2016

this fellow

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."  Luke 15:1-2

For some, it is the exchange of Christmas gift lists among family members, even after they have become adults.  For others, it is the baking - the cookies, the pies, the fruit cakes.  Many cannot wait to go caroling with the folks from the church; there are those for whom the yearly gathering with neighbors does it.  Perhaps it is the late night, candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  But for all of us, there is something - a moment, an activity, a carol - that says to them, "Now, at last, it's Christmas."

For me, it is the movies.  Not the overly violent ones that 'count' because they are set at Christmas; not every single schmaltzy one; not every animated ones.  Just certain ones, mostly older but not always.  And there's one common thread to them (and no, it is not Christmas!).  It is the common thread of brokenness.  There is the single mom working in the corporate world ('Miracle on 34th Street), the retired general who feels forgotten ('White Christmas'), the husband who thinks that he is a failure ('It's a Wonderful Life'), a divorced dad ('The Santa Clause').

Yet in the midst of all this brokenness, in the midst of all their self-doubts, in their lonely struggles, and into their shattered hearts, something happens.  A community is formed.  Maybe it's the love of the fellow in the flat across the hall, maybe it's a village coming together, maybe it is a reunion of old buddies, maybe it is discovering that at the heart of all the Christmas hype and stress and worries and fears, it really does come down to relationships. 

This is the secret to the miracle of the One whose birth we celebrate.  He recognized that each and every one of us is broken, and longs to be repaired; he knew that loneliness that walks with each of us in the midst of crowded stores; the fears that we all have that we have not achieved what others think we should (or worse, that we think).  And he takes those worries, those fears, that loneliness, that longing, that brokenness, and creates a community - the family of God.  His brothers and sisters aren't the religious leaders, the power brokers, the wealth and the mighty (though they are welcome).  It is the little and the least, the worriers and the weary, the tax collectors and sinners, you and me.

A community we can find for real, not just in the movies.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

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