Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Betty West - "Nothing Can Take the Joy of My Christmas Away"

A few weeks before my mother's last Christmas in 2002, she attended a worship service I was leading at Morningstar. When I opened the floor for prayer concerns, she announced "Even though I have been diagnosed with an agressive form of cancer and the prognosis is not good, I want everybody to know that nothing can take the joy of my Christmas away!"

Her carefully chosen words are etched in my memory. I had to sing a solo after that, and I barely managed to sing through my tears. She had left me with a powerful gift.

Every year during Advent, reading Mary's "Magnificat" reminds me that no matter what troubles come, there is always a bigger picture to behold. Mary had plenty to pout about, having gotten pregnant at 15 or 16 only to have others assume the worst. She knew the baby would be born out of wedlock, and would soon take a long trek on a donkey's back only to find that poverty and lack of connections would lead to giving birth in a messy old barn. Yet she knew there was a song to sing because God was doing something. Even heartaches put us in touch with the big picture of God's grace.

Do you remember how the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" ends? Proud of stealing all the presents from the little town, he stands at the top of the mountain and leans his ear forward. He can't wait to hear the crying and wailing. Yet what does he hear? Singing.

Claiming Mary's and Mom's magnificent spiritualities would mean that no matter what, we sing anyway. We can’t help but sing. We sing and we sing and we sing. Nothing can steal the joy of Christmas away.

Why? Because no matter how hard life is, something new is being born in us.