December 21, 2016
Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
(Song of Songs 2:10-13)
Well, our winter isn't really past. It's actually the first day of winter. Happy solstice! Even better, just remember that every day is getting longer from here on out.
Song of Songs is such an awesome book in the Bible; it's got something for everyone. For the romantics, it is the story of a beautiful relationship between two lovers. For the dramatists, it's Romeo & Juliet with 100% less suicide. For the fire-and-brimstoners (heh), God's love has a raciness to it that challenges our flawed perceptions of human relationships (ToB for you and me!) And for the downhearted, it's an allegory of God's doting, love, and pursuit of His people. That's you and me!
As I mentioned around Thanksgiving time, the holidays are experienced radically differently by different people. For better or worse, they call to mind family, friends, and recollection of the year gone by. For a lot of people, at least one of those categories is wrought with pain.
If you find yourself, for whatever reason in this Christmas season, firmly planted in the last group I mentioned above (the downcast), do you truly believe that this Song was written by God for you, personally? If not, do you at least want to? Great, we can work with that.
If you are going to celebrate Christmas this coming Sunday (and I hope you all are), you're proclaiming something to the world. It made not feel like a radical statement, thanks to Mariah Carey making sure that the word "Christmas" is in everybody's ear-holes right around this time of year, but to celebrate Christmas is to assert that God became man. God, in heaven, divested himself of his glory, and became a baby human. Don't forget how radical, how amazing that is. And if you believe that the eternal Word came down and took on flesh, you'd better believe that He did a few important things: 1) He gave us an example of a perfect life lived for others, 2) He fulfilled God's promises spanning thousands of years, and 3) He redeemed us, making us new creations and co-heirs to God's glorious kingdom.
This is truly life-changing love, and it's love that is willing to show it's excitement for us! Look again at the reading from Song of Songs. As the priest at Mass said today, "There's a lot of jumping around." In the allegory, God is dancing, peeking over walls and through windows just to catch a glimpse of us. To catch a glimpse of you.
Advent is a time of waiting, yes, but it's more a time of excitement! We're excited to celebrate Jesus' incarnation/birthday (and for presents, food, and fun, too). And God is excited for us to see Him, to meet Him in the flesh! He couldn't wait for us, so he burst into our imperfect reality just to be with us. To be with you.
Where are the "winters" in your life that you just won't let end? God is telling us today that the world is no longer grey and grim but bright and beautiful and full of Life. Let these hurts, these wounds, be winters that recede with God's rain of mercy, bringing forth flowers and vines of abundant joy.
It can seem too good to be true, to which I remind you of the end of today's gospel reading:
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.
Praised be Jesus Christ, our divine gardener.