a holy hush did not hover

IMG_8272The advent wreath is uneven – dried eucalyptus folded and woven around a green foam ring with four purple candles sticking up like smooth royal towers in a bramble patch. My grandpa made the wooden base that holds the large, white pineapple candle in the center. And the bulky tradition sits unceremoniously on our table, on top of a feast-speckled fabric runner and underneath long eucalyptus branches leftover from a chandelier I couldn’t throw away.

The irreverent transformation of our antique gateleg table did not have all the feels of spiritual renewal. No mystery hid in the clinking of cider and whiskey glasses. A holy hush did not hover above our bowls of butternut squash soup.

We ladled out seconds and then reclined to read the liturgy for the first week of Advent. Tam struck the match that lit the first candle – the candle of Hope – and Grace read from Matthew 13,

35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows,[c] or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

I heard my soul saying the emotions are spent. We are dead broke on emotions so I don’t try to wrestle more out. I just say, “Ok, soul.” And then I heard the words from this passage and thought, but at least let’s stay awake.

The neighbors must have opinions. Our windows were open, on the first day of the first week of Advent, to let the last cool breezes of autumn hug our shoulders. While the good folks next door were high-fiving touchdowns and shaking fists at referees, we were singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” … all the verses. And then we sang the first verse again to layer some harmonies under the skillful conductorship of our friend Jeremy. The prayer of confession sounded the most Monty Python – all nine of us confessing out loud, with the same words, how we have strayed and how badly we need to be rescued, forgiven, and restored.

It’s the 14:39 mark in Bach’s Cantata 140. After the soul pleads salvation’s quicker coming for six minutes, Zion hears the watchmen calling… and I say to my soul, let’s stay awake for this.

Wake up and don’t sleep through this. Be awake to plead and to grieve and to joy and to see and to fail and to receive and to hear. Be awake to anticipate the song of a Savior.

Be awake for Advent, I say to my soul – all the irreverence of it… the leftover decorations and the mess of it. Be awake and at all costs stay awake. Invite enough shoulders around your table that elbows touch your side. And when you get sleepy, soul, light a candle. When your eyes droop, soul, read Scripture. When you have no ceremony, soul, raise a toast. Stay awake, soul, because there is a song after the song you are singing and you will want to hear.

God, please help me stay awake.

grappling with treasuring

This is not about knowing.
The very idea of treasuring is cheapened by suggesting it is only about knowing.

When the man found out there was a treasure in the field, he was not content to know about it. He was not content to go about his days the same, knowing what he knew about a treasure. He was not content to know about the treasure. He wanted to have the treasure – to hold it in his hands and delight in it. He wanted it so much that no sacrifice was too great.

I’m grappling with treasuring.

I know that I know that I know Christ is my treasure. The beauty of this day, the gifts of grace in this moment, the promises that make my future secure – all these treasures are found in the person of Christ.

Christ is my treasure – statement of fact. So, why is it so hard for me to say with certainty: I treasure Christ. When treasure becomes a verb – something I do with the benefits of knowing Christ is my treasure – I am not quite sure I am doing that.

I can’t help but think a child treasures best. When they discover something beautiful, they hold it in their hands gently and rush around whispering its greatness to anyone who will listen. Their excitement flickers across their eyes and the treasure goes everywhere with them. They present it to visitors, explain it to their parents (again and again), and hide it under their pillow so it’s the first thing they see in the morning. They might put the treasure on display, but it will always be within reach because even the sight of it brings joy.

This, this kind of treasuring is not merely about knowing a treasure exists, but about living like we have in our hands the source of all delight.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

“Then, in his joy…”
This is what it means to treasure beyond knowing a treasure exists.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

If you would like to dig deeper, these thoughts came out of a sermon by John Piper called, “Quest for Joy: Six Biblical Truths” and I highly recommend you check it out!