My day was bookended by memorable phrases.
I was listening to On Point on the way to work this morning. Tom Ashbrook was leading a very interesting and rather animated discussion about the possibility of sending a surge of additional troops into Iraq as a way to make things better. William Odom, a retired Army Lieutenant General and former head of the National Security Agency, was wonderfully articulate in his criticism of the idea to the point of out right ridicule. In the process of making his comments he described what we are doing in Iraq as “colonial ventriloquy,” meaning we prop up the Iraqi forces and put words in their mouths and guns in their hands and our lips never move.
What a great choice of words. I’ve been trying all day to figure out a way to work it into conversation.
“Enough of this colonial ventriloquy; get back to work.”
“I’ll not be the dummy in your colonial ventriloquy.”
“I’m considering a career in colonial ventriloquy.”
I never had an opportunity.
Tonight Ginger and I took the pups for a walk when I got home from work. Orion was out with his dog, Sirius, right behind as well, dodging clouds in the night sky. While I was cooking for Lobster Night in America, Ginger was hosting Sisterhood of the Spirit, a women’s group in our church. It’s good for us to schedule a party of some sort every now and then because it makes us clean up. I also finally got our big, lighted wreath hung on the fence in front of our house. We moved and straightened things last night and this morning and Ginger came home from the office early to finish decorating. As we made the turn towards home with the Schnauzers, Ginger said, “I guess Christmas is coming incrementally this year.”
This has become an incremental Christmas.
Christmas is a week away and I still have lights to hang on the porch and things to do around the house. I have groceries to buy and food to prepare. I have purchased most of the presents I want to give, but they still need to be wrapped. And I could use a whole day just to call friends I’ve wanted to talk to during these days but have yet found or made time to do so. Life, this year, feels like one of those Advent calendars where you get to open a door each day to see what’s behind, each picture taking you one step closer to Christmas. The challenge, I suppose, is to make the increments intentional: to move toward the Manger and then beyond, since the birth is just the beginning.
Jesus came incrementally, too. As Luke described Jesus as a twelve year old: “And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.” (The Message)
In the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell’s character only prays to “Dear Lord Baby Jesus” because he “likes the Baby Jesus best of all the Jesuses.” This scene around the dinner table would make a great lead-in for a discussion on prayer.
If Jesus had not been born, we would not be who and where we are today, but the birth in and of itself is not what matters most in the story of Jesus’ life or our lives as his disciples. What matters is he grew and matured and incrementally became the one we read about in the gospel stories beyond Bethlehem.
Yesterday morning, when I entered the worship service as the prophet Zephaniah, the little boy who was playing the role of Jesus in our Christmas pageant was sitting on the front row. I came down the aisle singing “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from Godspell and turned to face the congregation right in front of him. He was spellbound. I don’t think he blinked, much less took his eyes off of me. The little one who played Jesus in the first pageant I saw here in Marshfield was with the five year old angels up behind the pulpit this year, having moved up incrementally through a couple of years of being a sheep and a shepherd without speaking lines.
We grow like Jesus grew. I’ve walked the earth now almost twenty years longer than Jesus did in his lifetime; my grandmother just tripled Jesus’ age when she turned 99 a couple of weeks ago. For all of us, the years happen a day, a moment at a time, in both significant and insignificant increments.
Christmas is coming incrementally for us this year, just as life and faith come day after day. And I still have time to hang the lights.