We do, after all, live in a culture where the Christmas merchandise hits the shelves right after Halloween while the meaning of Christmas is erased from "Winter Holiday" programs in most public school settings, where the newspaper's thickest annual edition is the Black Friday advertisement extravaganza, juxtaposed oddly with a national holiday supposedly focused on gratitude (Really? I mean, how grateful can we all be, heading out to outspend last year's overindulgence?) yet without reference to God. Who could blame us for being a bit confused and befuddled about what it all means. And our children? If we're sending them a hodgepodge message, we can't really blame them for not understanding.
And so the tradition was begun. Most years, we've invited one or two other families to share a Shepherds' Supper with us, early in the Christmas season. We encourage everyone (including adults!) to dress the part, or some part, of the Christmas story. Bath robed, sheeted shepherds have been the main participants, although we've had our share of small angels, a Mary or two, and the occasional Wise Guy. And there is the Baby. In a male dominant household where I have always been outnumbered something to one, doll babies have been in short supply, so we ask one of the visiting families to bring the Baby for the manger.
Take time for quiet whispers, says the quote above my desk,
for God whispers and world is loud.
And so it is.
The world is loud with hawkers calling from every media form – buy, buy, buy, more, more, more, now, now, now.
The world is loud with boisterous invitations to come, laugh, eat, watch, drink, shop, experience. (Just do it!)
The world, even my Hickory Lane world, (yours too?), is loud, loud with expectation – get busy, buy that, go here, do this, do that, do it all. Or at least try.
And the Whisperer says something different.
And somehow, in a funny paradoxical way, the Shepherds' Supper, all that chaos in the barn, helps me to hear.
When the girl asked this year, as we headed to the barn, "Should we take the Baby?" I smiled and nodded.
What I wanted to say was, "Of course, of course, of course, by all means, Take. The. Baby. The Baby is the whole point."
But she wasn't sure, and sometimes I'm not either, when it comes to all the hullabaloo of the holidays…these "holy days…"
Should we take the Baby? And of course, we too should take the Baby, but maybe there's something even better.
at least for a little while, to a quiet moment where we ponder the reality that what many of us are celebrating without any comprehension at all is what we all, the whole noisy clamoring world of us, need most:
"Emmanuel. God with us."
God. With. Us.
God. With. You.
Thought about that lately?