Expect It To Be Messy At Times

We have a phrase in our weekly rhythm which helps to set our conversation & behavioral guidelines for our gatherings, it says, “expect it to be messy at times.” We have adapted our two variant How We Set The Table lists from the wise Parker Palmer, and in the case of this particular phrase, Margaret Wheatley.

We’ve laughed when things don’t go to plan and it turns out messily when we gather in community to share our imaginations, hopes, fears, and vulnerability. We’ve giggled when my two year old daughter digs out more gluten free communion crackers to eat as we attempt to share in God’s holy meal because she's “hungee”. We’ve cried when a loved one among us is aching with loss or addiction or depression. We’ve cringed a little when a hard thing we were hoping to turn around, doesn’t, and actually gets worse. Community, life with God’s family, reality is a messy thing.

This is one of the things I personally hold dearest about the original Christmas time: it was messy.

It wasn’t clinical or sterilized or sanitized for that matter.

We’ve been leaning into the wisdom shared by our Canadian sister to the north, Sarah Bessey, this Advent Season as she has aptly and honestly guided us through the Carmelite Sister’s themes for advent: waiting, accepting, journeying and now - finally - birthing. This particular time in the calendar, as we contemplate Christmas and its implications in our world, we are drawn into birth, birthing and being born, anew.

(Image: With Us, Face to Face by Scott Erickson, available for purchase here.)
Mary, a vulnerable yet courageous teenage mother, said yes to God’s request of her because of an angel’s invasion of her privacy and sensibilities, gave birth to her first born child far, far from the comfort of her own home and support of family and trusted midwives. She ached and pained her way through labor and delivery, and the waters of her womb gave way to a slithering, bawling, vernix covered baby who depended on his Mama for milk and warmth and shelter. Joseph, a first time Daddy, likely worried and rejoiced in complete awe in the first moments after Jesus’ birth at the wondrous strength of his brand new wife, and in complete confusion of how God had trusted them with the care of the great Messenger of Light and Love.

Bessey reminded us in her advent blog series of the encompassing Hebrew phrase, tikkum olam. She says this phrase “translates as ‘healing of the world’ and it is considered the work of all of us. It is the work we are called to do, it is how we repair the world. In a way, I see the tikkun olam as the work of midwives and perhaps we are midwives for this new world waiting still - we’re healing the world, we’re midwifing the love, peace, joy, and hope into the world one small life at a time.”

And this is why Christmas time is messy. It’s about the physical labor and delivery by a terrified by courageous mother, attended by a nervous but willing father, and birth of a vulnerable little human who would so cooperate and align with God’s purposes on earth that he would divinely reflect God’s intentions for the world: tikkum olam. It’s about each of us being invited into this work, taking up our calls to midwifery among our families and friends, among our daily vocations and work places, amidst the aches and pains and addictions and frustrations of being human at the brink of a new decade in the 21st Century. It’s about each of us being cracked wide open in the transformation of re-birth, fresh chances and completely new eyes with which to see our world.

Thank goodness Christmas time and God’s work in the world is so messy. It’s reflective of human experience. It’s not sterile or sanitized or diagnosable. It’s complicated and fragile and destructible and hope-filled.

Around The Table we hold the kind of space that always makes room for one more. We tend to each other’s experiences with kindness and strength and presence and willingness. We learn to participate in God’s tikkun olam, as fellow healers and birthers. We trust the journey by learning to accept and wait for Light and Love to show up in our midst.

This Christmas, we celebrate the Light Eternal found in our midst because of the life and times of Jesus - a divine reflection of the heart of God brought to our earth in the form of a wailing, hungry and sleepy newborn. We commit to joining the work of midwifery in our town of Casper, to usher in healing and transformation and the chance of fresh-life in the year 2020. We give thanks for the courage of a tired mother and trembling father and the working class shepherds who announced the arrival of a different kind of sovereign to their curious and doubtful community.

Merry Christmas, one and all.
Tikkun Olam & Peace on Earth.
~ Pastor Libby Tedder Hugus

Beautiful alternative words to "Mary, did you know..."

Lyrics by Jennifer Henry (inspired by the popular song of the same name)

(Artwork by Anthony VanArsdale for the National Black Catholic Congress)

Mary did you know,
that your ancient words
would still leap off our pages?
Mary did you know,
that your spirit song
would echo through the ages?

Did you know that your holy cry
would be subversive word,
that the tyrants would be trembling
when they know your truth is heard?

Mary did you know,
that your lullaby
would stir your own Child’s passion?
Mary did you know,
that your song inspires
the work of liberation?

Did you know that your Jubilee
is hope within the heart
of all who dream of justice,
who yearn for it to start?

The truth will teach, the drum will sound,
healing for the pain
The poor will rise, the rich will fall.
Hope will live again

Mary did you know,
that we hear your voice
for the healing of the nations?
Mary did you know,
your unsettling cry
can help renew creation?

Do you know, that we need your faith,
the confidence of you,
May the God that you believe in,
be so true.