The groaning of earth is heavy this Advent season. I drove yesterday weeping while All Things Considered played the solemn ringing of bells that sung for 26 lost lives a week ago. Washington DC was a deep bellowing bell and Hampstead like the sound of silverware in a wooden drawer, Lansing was mournful and Sandy Hook was musical. I wonder about the bell maker from that church in Sandy Hook—did he know that a hundred years after he cast those molds his bells would ring out the memory of six year olds?
I am grateful for the Mayans and not their strange magic or numbering systems, but their calendar and their prediction of the end of the world so nestled between the tragedies of 26 families and the jubilant Christmas morning of a million other families. I needed all this talk about the end of the world, not because I believed a word of it, but because I need the weight of the second coming heavy on me. I needed it to bring order to my misplaced priorities and misappropriated mourning.
Some say that the joy of Christmas is in the youngest faces, in their expectation that what they asked for is under the tree, wrapped in paper and bows. Some say one cannot fully appreciate the season until you have children and sometimes I believe them. But not always. Because the longer I live, without children, without distraction, the depth of Christmas makes room for the truest expectation to be present. I have not prepared room in my heart on purpose, but it is there, in the void of so many other things, there is room in my heart for heaven and nature to sing. For heaven to call and earth to groan back: Come, Jesus, Come.
Last night in an old warehouse in Dallas, amidst pine trees, white lights, and a room packed full of so many favorite faces, we closed an evening of song with a Come Thou Long Expected Jesus/Joy to the World medley and I stood there in the back row and closed my eyes, breathing deep the scent of wood, fir and firelight, the stuff of earth, ready, waiting, groaning.
Let earth receive her King.