Let the New Thing be what it is, and be open to its beauty
It was Wednesday morning, and the lot of us were rushing about as usual. I was getting ready to step outside and shovel the modicum of snow that had accumulated on the walk.
“Gabriel, would you like to go to the ‘Messiah’ tonight?””Okay.””Okay, you would really like to go, or Okay, whatever?””Okay.”Maybe that was enough. I certainly didn’t require much prodding myself, but if I was going to make an extra evening drive into Glenwood Springs, it was going to need to be for a very good reason, and for that I needed an accomplice. We could file it under developing his musical chops.
We’d gone last year, too, and that was our first. We had jammed ourselves into the back pews, and he had listened well, leaning forward at times, playing by himself at others, and being acceptably quiet – or so at least I imagined – for his own benefit and the benefit of those around him. (This pattern being distinctively different from his behavior in some other venues.)This time, it turns out, was just as successful. Again we placed ourselves at the farthest point from the action, having armed ourselves with a car, a book, a stuffed dog named Jack, and the omnipresent bottle of water.I was transported from the first note, trying to move with intention between the art of listening and the art of parenting/flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. (“Would you like this?” “Oh, listen to that!”) But when the music reached what is for me its most glorious moment – Handel’s dipping into the prophet Malachi to contemplate the phrase “He shall purify the sons of Levi” – all pretense was lost, and so was I. Eyes closed, heart racing, head swelling and rocking, I let the glory of it wash over me like manna and pour into me like warm mother’s milk. So much is accomplished in one well-conceived note well-played and sung.At the same time as all this was happening, I caught a look at my kiddo. His eyes like dinner plates, his little hands gesticulating to themselves, he looked and listened with an amazed intensity and curiosity. “And He shall purify, He shall purify the sons of Levi.”This time on the Christian calendar is called Advent. That’s an old word that simply means “coming” – birth, rising, occurrence, materialization, emergence. Advent is equal parts anticipation, hope, and preparation for the New Thing that’s about to happen.
In every life, to differing degrees, there is a level of change going on right now. Some change is obvious, some is subtle. Some changes are hard, some are easy. Some of it is to prepare us for the next phase of things, while some of it is for us to use in this very moment. In any case, the Advent lesson is to note the change – to see it coming when we can, to be amazed by it when it happens, and to embrace and hold fast to what’s good about it.The little boy in the back pew on Wednesday night – the one with the wide blue eyes – he appreciates what is with simple awe and wonder, and he greets each change, each coming, as a new thing to be understood and engaged, not maintained or dominated. The concept of “the sons of Levi” so far is unknown to him, as is the concept of purity. But he knows a beautiful thing when he sees or hears it, and he strains at the seams to apprehend it, only to let it go a moment later.Oh that we might let go and be like this; that we might open to beauty and wonder, not struggling but only letting the New Thing be what it is. Then the Advent might finally appear to us bearing its single weight and splendor, and on Christmas Eve we might bend at the creche, all our burdens loosed, and seek the human face of divine favor.The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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