Peace in the Eye of the Storm
My favorite passage of Scripture. It means “God makes his face to shine upon you”. God draws near to you. God wants the very best for you. You are beloved. And you may be feeling sick right now, full of grief, lonely, worried about your job, scared that you don’t have enough to make ends meet, disappointed in your family or your spouse. God loves you and beams out love to you this season.
Soon, we will witness a miracle of sorts, as we collectively change gears. There is a mad rush here for the next couple days as people scramble to find a last minute gift, work extra hard to get everything done, rush to stock up on food for the holiday. And then sometime on Christmas Eve, our great metropolis will start to really shut down. Every single business will start to close. All of us will find a home and gather to be with each other.
I light a fire just after midnight, wrap a present or two, pour myself a couple fingers of Scotch that a friend gives me and look at the tree with Kate. And it keeps getting quieter, more peaceful, quieter and more peaceful…
Someone told me that they signed up to serve breakfast on Christmas morning at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan. Her kids were grown and moved away, her husband had died. So she saw this as a window to do something creative on Christmas Day. Only she didn’t realize that the trains don’t run, so she drove into New York on Christmas morning at dawn. It was snowing that year. She was the only car on the Lincoln Tunnel. The snow was coming down hard. She gets to Broadway, there is not a single car driving in either direction. She parks and starts walking up the middle of Broadway with her arms up in the air. It was completely quiet for a moment. She said, “It was like a miracle”. Peace in the City that Never Sleeps.
We know that it is only a moment, like being at the eye of the storm. We were at the beach one year when a hurricane hit. The winds kept picking up speed- 60, 80, 100 miles an hour. Stuff was being torn off the sides of buildings flying down the road. Everyone was under cover, then under deep cover. Water was blowing into the house from the tiniest cracks and the sand felt like bb’s hitting you. Even small objects like hunk of wood became lethal weapons flying that hard. All you could do was batton down and hope for the best.
Then it all came to a sudden stop, an eerie stillness. The sun even came out and shined a bit. People started emerging from their forced shelter. They came to say ‘hello’ to their neighbors, to check on each other and compare notes about the danger. Kids were spontaneously just dancing around with each other like a party was trying to break out. And for about 15 minutes this kind of supernatural calm settled on us, with smiles, relaxed hugs, smiles and mirth. It was the eye of the storm.
Christmas is a lot like that. Collectively, the storm pace of events swirling around us come to a halt, a short respite. The gun violence, the threats of terrorist attack, the over-hyped rhetoric of presidential politics, the machismo of a Russian dictator, Scandal ridden hedge fund managers being arrested, Iranian chaos making Ayatollahs- all these threats to our world, some very serious, some just seriously annoying- all of what collectively makes up the swirling maelstrom of our wider social background… It just comes to a stop.
And for a moment, we rest. For a moment, we just relate to each other as family, as friends. We share the morning. We eat, we go back to bed. We remember the child like perspective of mystery, wonder, and expectation. We are simply present with each other. Everyone gets a gift. And for a bit, we are fulfilled. We take care of each other. We bless each other.
The howling winds will return shortly, we know that. But for a moment, l hope that you will be in peace with your people. For a moment, I hope you will engage your expansive self, the one that gifts others, that hosts others, that makes room and includes those that need someone to reach out to them. I hope you can release yourself from the things that drag you down and you can recover your higher self.
And remember, it is all a gift. Our lives are not long and we really are grateful to be alive. We are grateful for those that have loved us. We are grateful for even the quirky, odd, eccentric people in our extended family. Even with nutty Uncle Jim, it is all good really.
God draws near to you. God blesses you like God blessed us all with the birth of the Christ child. Words alone will not do. May you be filled with song, the deeper joy of song, quite in spite of the maelstrom of the world and all of the tangled problems that will be there to solve when the winds return. Maestro, cue the Angels please…