Monday, December 12, 2016

singing in expectation

I bribe them to go caroling with our church group. If they behave and sing, we will get Slurpees when we are done.  Slurpees in the winter- weird to some, but not to us.  It is enough to make them attempt to keep their hands to themselves.  Just please don't knock down any old people.  And try to smile. 

A group of elderly people have been coaxed into the living room, and they await our performance. One is asleep.  Another is definitely not impressed with any of this tomfoolery, but we smile at her anyway.  We gather in front of these dear people, full of years, and they wait.

Waiting, the theme of their lives in this season- they sit in quiet expectation.

The night will soon be ending, the dawn cannot be far
Let songs of praise ascending now greet the morning star

"Would you like a song book?" I said, and she reached out hear hand and said in a broken voice, "Oh, please help me." I took her hand, "I'll help you, sure. What do you need?" She held my hand tight for a moment, and then looked off to her left, to a distant place of memory or suffering or fear that I couldn't see.  She seemed to have forgotten I was there, her hand in mine. I do not have the help she needs.

Angels we have heard ...

Singing is not my gift.  I sing quietly, sliding behind the stronger singers around me.  On this day, it is my daughter Aggie.  Her song is confident, joy-filled, and even after all the time, she is a miracle to me.  I can't help but smile at the way she is just so loudly, confidently herself, and as I smile I meet the eyes of an elderly woman who seems to know exactly what I am thinking- she winks at me.

My daughter held out her hand to a skeletal woman who did not respond.  As she stood their awkwardly, I reached down to the woman's hands folded on her lap and gave a gentle squeeze. I felt the feeblest squeeze back, and it seemed to me to be a grateful one.  She simply hadn't had the strength to reach out for my daughter's handshake.  Her body was bones with the thinnest layer of skin on top.  She must be close, even at the very door.

All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain
God's radiant star now brightens and bids you sing again

After we sing, I encourage the kids to shake hands with each and every person in that waiting room. Some make eye contact, smile and thank them.  A man says he wants to "eat up" my littlest one, ruffles his hair.  The little one puts his hand out for another man, and his little "Merry Christmas" is met with strange noises, intended to be words.  But the smile that came after was something he understood, and the little boy smiled back.  Then he grabbed my hand.

Be near me Lord Jesus I ask The to stay close by me forever and love me I pray
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and take us to heaven to live with Thee there

After shaking hands with everyone, my sassy son shakes my hand too and says, "You're an old lady too, so, Merry Christmas, HA!" And the other brother says "Old lady! haha!" and they seem so horribly loud I tell them to stop using the word OLD.  Yes, old is everywhere in this place, but it will not always be this way.  Our God is making all things new.

Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings

"Merry Christmas!" I say again, and from her wheelchair she smiles a broken smile and says "b- b- beautiful. You all are ... beautiful."  I look in her eyes and say "You are beautiful, too. God bless you." Her tears come and I wish had time to tell her what I meant by that, but the line keeps moving and the moment has passed.

And we leave these dear saints in their hard season of waiting.  We leave their struggles and their beautiful expectation behind us, for a time, until we join them someday, when it is our turn to sit at the edge of eternity. May we, too, be filled with the hope that God gives in His Son Jesus.

They shall see the glory of the Lord
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!

He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away

(from Isaiah 35)

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