I was in the self-checkout line at Kroger this afternoon, about six people deep, when the guy in front of me started talking. He was twenty-two, I’m guessing, a good four inches taller than me, and in a Kroger uniform. He had one Christmas card in his hand. That was all. As we stood there, he began talking about how the management didn’t get why they needed more checkout stations and how they wanted to expand produce when the guy who has worked in produce for thirty-five years knew it was a big mistake and the stream of consciousness rant about the perils in produce and the catastrophe at checkout continued until without the slightest punctuation he said “and my dad died last March 11 and I’m the one who found him and Christmas used to be a really big deal to my family and I didn’t want to work today and now we’re all getting together and we don’t really know what to do.” The period on his run-on grief was the call to step up to the empty terminal and check out. He paid for his card, looked over his shoulder, said, “Merry Christmas,” and walked away.
A few years back, my denomination, the United Church of Christ, used a Gracie Allen quote — “Never put a period where God has placed a comma.” – as the tag line for our “God is Still Speaking” campaign. We live in a world of run-on grief, runaway pain, and sentences that appear destined to end in despair. Tonight is the night we celebrate God’s punctuation in the Incarnation. The pain the young man and his family are sharing tonight is not the final word. Nothing can separate us from God’s love shown to us in this baby that grew up to be Jesus.
The night is far spent; the day is at hand. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.