Margaret was all ready for her date. She was wearing her best outfit, her hair was fixed, her makeup was perfect. Imagine her disappointment when her date didn’t show up! After an hour of waiting, Margaret decided that he wasn’t going to come. She changed into her pajamas, washed off her makeup, gathered up a bunch of junk food, and parked herself in front of the television for the evening. As soon as she got involved in her favorite show, there was a knock on the door. She opened it to find her handsome date standing on the doorstep. He stared at her in shock, then said in disbelief, “I’m two hours late, and you’re still not ready?”
In our culture a beautiful spiritual message is built into the system as we get ready for the season of Advent. We have this incredible internal awareness that we lack something. It is a wonderful place for us to start. That is when we start making lists of things we don’t have, or least we are able to convince ourselves that we don’t have.
From the notes of Christian Coon, here is a story. “Every year in mid-November she calls to ask what I want for Christmas, and every year I try to put her off—but she is not to be denied. So I mentally rummage through my closets and, instead of admitting how much I already have, I try to convince myself that I need something. That’s when I ask for a George Foreman grill. Yes. I must have a George Foreman grill”.
It does not matter how much we have we still lack something. That is why at every Black Friday we, the money starved, poor, lost, recession suffering Americans, that it feels like to me, flock at the wee hours of the night at the storefronts as if we won’t be able to live our lives meaningfully without what we buy at that time.
What has happened to our spiritual life is that we have become a people who do not care, not simply about others, but ourselves. We are aware of the fact we lack something. But we are not clear as what it is that we are longing for. The speed around us is faster than we can keep up with, waiting is not the name of the game. As a generation we have lost the beauty of waiting. We are not longing for anything more. What we want now we take now.
In one of the most profound statements Thomas Merton shares his response to a drugstore clerk who asked him which brand of toothpaste he preferred, “I don’t care.” Intrigued by the clerk’s response, Merton wrote, “He almost dropped dead. I was supposed to feel strongly about Colgate or Pepsodent or Crest. . . . And they all have a secret ingredient.” He concluded that “the worst thing you can do now is not care about these things.”
Living life as if it does not matter is the worst thing we can do to ourselves because it matters. The routine of life gets so monotonous for us sometimes we fail to see what we are waiting for day after day. Many of us have come to a place to say, it does not matter, just do it. I don’t care. I hear more often from children these days about that they don’t care. And I am culpable of the same.
In the last few days, I had two children who longed for their cousins, aunts and uncles, opa and oma to come home for thanksgiving. They ran to the window every time they heard the sound of a car on the road. It was Christmas time for them. Waiting in anticipation… away from their wired world.
Now the question for us when will this God emerge from the outer space into our midst? When will this come about? On 25th of December as usual?
Mark is pointing out here is something that is very simple. It could happen in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, meaning at times that is nothing spectacular, but simply regular. There is no fanfare or loud noise at the arrival of God. God walks among us like one of us.
“Got up at 6:00am to vote. Put on my sweatshirt and my jeans that reek of Korean barbecue. I arrived at my polling place, a church, at 6:15. I counted. I was number 50 in line. We still had 45 minutes before the polling place opened. You had to stand. You coudn’t sit or even lean against the building. It rained all night. The sidewalk was wet. When the polls opened…there were 200 people waiting. Some in heels. Some in ties. Some in pajamas. Lots of hair pulled back in ponytails. Lots of baseball caps. Dodgers. Red Sox. Indians.
The line stretched from the church to the Burger King around the corner. Kinda fitting. That’s America. Faith and french fries. I watched people walk out with their “I voted” stickers. You could see the smiles…and a few tears. An older woman got her ballot and told the poll worker…”I’ve voted my entire life, but this is what I have been waiting for.”
This election for a lot of people is not a political act. It is the fulfillment of a dream that happened on a raily day like yesterday and tomorrow. This is how God appears in life. According to Bonheoffer, “We have become dulled to the message; we only register what is welcome in it, what is pleasant, forgetting the powerful seriousness of the fact that the God of the world is approaching us on our small earth and now makes claims on us. God’s coming is truly not merely a message of joy, but first of all horrifying news for every person with a conscience”.
The deer season is open. People know exactly where to hide and what to look for. Because they have familiarized the footprints of a deer. There are deer tracks all over and thus a hunter knows where the deer is or likely to come through.
There is God tracks in the world about us. Only people with conscience can find the tracks. God has passed us when we find the tracks of suffering and pain around us. Hunting for God makes it easier once we know where the tracks of God lead us. God is found among those we run around with. It is not a matter of simple celebration, yes, that is for sure. But it should be a terrifying moment in human life as God among those who are abandoned and lost waiting to be rescued. This is how anticipation becomes a powerful gesture in the Christian world.
And not until we have perceived the terror of this matter can we then also appreciate the incomparable act of beneficence. God is coming, into the midst of evil, into death, judging evil in us and in the world. And by judging it, God loves us, purifies us, sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love.
What do you think the Arab Spring is? What do you think the occupy wall street is? These people had been waiting for justice. We, as a collective human race, are waiting in anticipation for participation in heavenly behavior for a long time and it is often frustrating. Now they are taken to the streets and palaces.
When we can see what lies behind the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street, then we will have found the God-Tracks among us through our neighborhood. The tea party movement, the move-on moment, The Arab Spring, The Occupy Wall Street, and the struggles of people all over, point to one reality, where God is hovering over these days. God is not in the malls that are filled with beautifully decorated Christmas trees. God is seen in the tents across the globe where human suffering is tangible and human hope is diminishing.
So to bring it all back together, what we are lacking on the day after Thanksgiving is God. Not the George Forman Grill. What we are missing on the day after Thanksgiving is the tracks that lead us to God among people. What we are afraid to see is God among us looking like the one we do not care about. Ultimately we do not want to admit that we do not care about ourselves. That is a sad place to be. However it is the best place to start our Spiritual Journey. For that proves God-Track is among us and not away from us.