Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let Our Hearts Be Light



The roads are slick, the pews around us largely empty. But the kids are keyed up over robes with rope belts.

I wasn't expecting enthusiasm over a throw-back Christmas pageant. I should really know better. I should know that most of my life operates with the gears in reverse. Lots of things don't make sense anymore, but the surprises are mostly good.


The kids and teenagers take their places on the stage. A few are at ease. Most are awkward, uncertain, their eyes trained to the floor. They falter and speak too fast. The skit is more real to them than a Christmas program was ever supposed to be and I hope we all just let our hearts be light. I hope we reflect peace to them, our gift back for all the ways they stand risky before us, their entire lives dangling from their faded shirt sleeves.

Their faces tell some stories and I can't help guessing at the details, but I don't get far with my wondering. I came from a different kind of place, one where every landing was soft and the soup was never cold.

Now, I know some things. I'm learning.

I know they lack and they try, they love and hope. They feel much of what I felt when I was fifteen and the world somehow seemed both uncertain and so *roll-my-eyes* mundane. I know they wear the very image of the Christ who came to walk with us. I know now that I don't get to decide where I see Him.

Their voices waver in the mic and I feel it in my chest, that low weight of truth - you can't really love something that you don't really know.

The ghost of Shannans past swirl, then settle as a lump in my throat. I used to be so much more uncomfortable around people who were even a little different than I. It made me fidgety, embarrassed by my doe-eyed innocence, my stubbornness, my pride, whatever it was that kept me from acknowledging our kinship, the fragility of our shared humanity, our frailties and fault-lines, all our edges, unevenly frayed.

I never used to see these threads stitched between us. I'm weepy with gratitude that in this moment, I'm a single step further from my blindness. I can't stop falling in love with this stripped-down faith where God is nothing short of imperative and nothing more than everything. I find that in these faces around me.

Our pretenses keep falling to the floor, smashing to bits, and there's just no way around walking in this everyday smallness. This is the greatness we were made for. This is our call. I'm teary, a tiny baby for all I don't know and all the ways I miss out on love.


It's the third Sunday of Advent. The shepherds are restless, the narrator's words are a blur, the angels are nearing revolt. Production costs run in the red and the sound system is lurchy and fitful.

But this is their offering - the guts to bare their sharp-edged story to the rest of us. They give what might look like very little and it changes who we are because we find our place in a story as raw as the birth itself.

They stand before us in bed-sheet angel gowns, a vision of Emmanuel, and it all makes perfect sense.

26 comments:

  1. How startled I am to see my nephew just standing there, all tall and shepherd like. Hey! Those shepherds sure are cute! Nothing better than church Christmas pageants. It makes the season right. :) Merry Christmas, Shannon.

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    1. Is N your nephew??? Ooooh, I love it! He and O are Silas's idols. And Calvin's. :)

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  2. LOVE the simplicity....I miss those days!

    THIS is beautiful...."I'm weepy with gratitude that in this moment, I'm a single step further from my blindness. I can't stop falling in love with this stripped-down faith where God is nothing short of imperative and nothing more than everything. I find that in these faces around me."

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  3. i love that he takes us one step at a time away from our blindness.
    i love that he makes us completely comfortable around people who are different from us, if we'll only ask him to and let him break down the junk in us that makes us uncomfortable in the first place.

    ps. i was a sheep in a christmas pageant one year. my mom took a pair of tight, white long johns and glued cotton balls ALL OVER THEM. i was standing in front of the whole {tiny} church and i passed out….as in HIT THE FLOOR.

    the cotton balls made the outfit SKIN TIGHT and HOTTER THAN BLUE BLAZES.
    beautiful moment for me. {and my mom!}

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    1. Cotton balls...didn't know they would hold in the heat so well!
      One year it was decided that I would wear my mom's old sheepskin (fake) truck seat cover as a sheep costume. I got so hot that I peeled it off in the middle of the service and sat on it in nothing but my hand-me-down slip. I was 5 or 6 at the time and didn't really think much of it. However, my older brothers and sister were horrified.

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  4. You're so right. We can't really love what we don't really know. And there was a time when I thought I knew and thought I loved...but I didn't. Not really. Perhaps most of us are "late bloomers." I can feel frustrated with my own kiddos as I'm teary and choked up over our Jesse Tree readings and I'm met with eye-rolling by the oldest and whining by the youngest. My hope and prayer is that I can live that which I know and maybe one day, they'll get it.

    Also, Angel Ruby? Be still my heart. She was made for those wings.

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  5. Gorgeous, beautiful writing. I am all filled up.

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  6. This reminds me of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. If you haven't read it, it's a must read, especially with the kiddos. I cry every year at the end!

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  7. Ruby radiates the love and Silas is so sweet! Nothing says Christmas better. This post reminds me of our own humble church that's taken me time to embrace... I come from a huge spectacular church in DC (where the Clintons used to attend), known for it's music programs... At our town church now there are few who sing and many in T-shirts... Still, I feel the peace of celebrating with neighbors and savoring the 200 y.o. church windows. Hearing the bells ring and watching the littles as they're encouraged to swing on the bell rope to "make a joyful noise" is the best!

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  8. ...oh how perfect this is...how sweet...how true...how right...i am so sick of big slick Christmas programs...that must grow bigger...and brighter...and louder...each Christmas...we cannot see Him for the too big stage...the too bright lights...the too loud music...we cannot hear the angels anymore...much less the cries of the Baby come to save us...we hear only ourselves...and we are a sorry substitute indeed... but here He is...loving us anyway...still showing us the way...leading us to Easter...every single day...blessings laney

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  9. I just love you and your writing. Thank you. It speaks a gentle whisper that booms inside my soul.

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  10. Their offering, and yours, is beautiful...

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  11. You said that so well, that my heart feels fuller. Thanks.

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  12. I'm trying to think of new ways to tell you I love your writing, I love that sometimes you reach in and rip out my soul and you challenge me and confirm me all at the same time.

    xox, jenny

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  13. I'm trying to think of new ways to tell you I love your writing, I love that sometimes you reach in and rip out my soul and you challenge me and confirm me all at the same time.

    xox, jenny

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    1. Girl, I've loved you for years!! Thanks for this. xo

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  14. Oh, Shannen. this is just plain gorgeous. Thank you for writing it so beautifully. And that picture of your girl with her feet rolling over to the sides?? PRICELESS and perfect. Merry Christmas to you and your remarkable family.

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  15. I don't know you, but this is beautiful and perfect. Yes and yes. Thank you for writing out the things that swirl in my heart at moments like this. I could never put it into words more perfectly than this.

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