Katie Ness '08
|Musicians harmonize with the peaceful twilight at the tree lighting ceremony at Eisenhower Campus Center.
Why is it that I always feel this expectation at Christmastime to get organized and send out a yearly update for my friends and family? Just at the busiest time of the year, I burden myself with this social obligation and feel that I will carry guilt all year unless I add this project to the list. By the time I’ve finished writing the letter, updating my mailing list, printing address labels, buying stamps and envelopes, printing all the letters and then writing a little greeting on each of them, stuffing and sealing them, I’ve invested a good two days in the project!
The Christmas season is too busy, and I could do a much better job with less stress in May. Unfortunately, May doesn’t bring the same peer pressure to actually get it done, so May turns into June, which turns into August, which turns into November, and I’ve gone another whole year without writing something to let my far-flung friends know I’m still alive. This time, I went three years before the guilt finally got to me and I cranked that letter out.
The problem with silence is, in the absence of the real thing, people start to imagine their own versions of what is going on. We talked about this at a recent Bible study I was leading. Imagine 400 years of silence from God from the time of Malachi until the angel appears and speaks with Zechariah in the temple (Luke 1). What had the Israelites come to expect in a Messiah by the year 7 or 6 B.C.E., and how did it line up with the clues God had given? We decided we would have probably been way off the mark, too. The grand prophecies of a ruling Prince of Peace hardly seem to stack up to a squalling peasant’s kid born in a barn.
It’s a lesson in humility for all of us. God gives us clues about what he’s up to, but no blueprints. In the end, and in the middle, God is one of surprises. That squalling baby turned out to be the Prince of Peace, but if I’d lived in Nazareth in those years, I don’t know that I would have guessed it. And when I’m honest, I would much rather have it that way. Any savior I could dream up would be a far cry from the one I really need, even if the image comes pretty close to what I want. When there is room in my heart for a God who shows up in the Nazareth carpentry shop, it means that he could show up in a Dillsburg garden or in an average student’s concerns or in a busy office. A God of surprises gives me hope for the ordinary all around me.
Evie Telfer is associate college pastor.
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