Of Give and Take…
This Advent, the Innkeeper has been on my mind a good deal– there was no room at the Inn and yet he found some. Likely, with some inconvenience and some criticism.
And, I imagine there were some unrecorded people who helped with the birth — who experienced this young couple in dire straights and whose plans were up-ended and expectations went unmet because there was someone else in need.
It’s what happens in a community — or a family — or in a time when something greater than ourselves re-routes our personal GPS and the inconvenience isn’t calculated because something shifts and it’s almost as if the decision-making disappears. It’s called faith — and sometimes we give it and sometimes we receive it, but in either case, it doesn’t happen alone.
I much prefer to be in the position of giving than in the vulnerability of receiving. I love having the chance to help someone else, especially when it’s invisible to the naked eye. Like the wave in a stadium of disconnected strangers, the infinite becomes possible when we are forced to stop the idolatry of isolation, and trust.
I love strategic direction. I like process and problem-solving and the clarity of tactical planning. I find it exhilarating to move from brainstorming to goal-setting — but that hasn’t been my journey this Advent.
Instead, I have found myself in need — not in control of the outcome, without a good strategy for Plan B, and finding myself needing to ask for help — with the consequential opening of Pandora’s box of doubt and criticism, but willing to walk the path of uncertainty because something more important hangs in the balance.
I have longed for the hushed tones of Silent Night and instead have felt as if I was in a rock music recording studio with dissonant rhythms and not much space between the notes. With stark clarity, it has been an Advent of knowing that this event that I know as Christmas — the arrival of God’s answer — was not a solitary event, but one that happened because a community decided to listen to the whisper within, to believe in the promise of hope that was inescapably present and to act
It was regular folks like the innkeeper, and the shepherds, and the hundreds of by-passers who became stoppers-by-to help as they played their small unheralded role, along with the unnamed women who undoubtedly surrounded Mary in her hour of need. It was the men who encouraged Joseph with gifts from afar and small gifts of sheep and companionship that were the seeds of his courage. For it is when need is greatest that our hearts open to receive as well as to give.
I am a great believer in the ‘school of life’ and the lessons that present themselves — and to have found myself in need, I have been given the lesson of being willing to open my heart to be the receiver. For here, in the middle of give and take — of being willing to both give and to receive, God arrives. In the moment of being willing to give life in the profound testimony of love Mary gives and Joseph receives.
Into the empty stable, we place the givers….
the sheep who gave of their warmth that the cold world might know the fire of love
the shepherds who left behind their work so that we can receive the gifts of the work of others
the innkeeper who found room behind the closed door that we might know the courage in spaces that have been “too full”
the bearers of gifts that we might have example of how to receive when we want to give
the women who surrounded Mary without name or notice that we might just make the next right choice as they did
the angel who refused to let fear override faith
Bless our stable….as we await wonder.
Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts
Which we are about to receive
Into the empty stable,
we place the receivers ….
Into the empty stable….we place ourselves
…if there is room