Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Not exactly my experience of reality, though it's what we all hope happens - and I think I've had excellent bishops.
The series finished this week with a seasonal episode looking at the bleaker side of Christmas. Adam, the vicar, does his best to do good to all, whilst all around him everyone else does their best to confound him. The resident alcoholic gives him a black eye; the midnight mass crowd go wild; the old lady he wants to visit dies whilst the archdeacon delays him, pointlessly, again; his father in law bullies him and his wife with no regard for the work he is doing or the stresses he faces.
And at the end, something wonderful occurs. As he gathers a disparate group of people around a table for Christmas lunch, ostensibly for the poor and needy, but infact seemingly for everyone we have seen in the series (all poor & needy?) it turns, briefly, ever so briefly, into a glorious tableau of the Last Supper around the enormous turkey ready before them.
All that pain, all that struggle, all that effort and service - becomes beautiful. A masterpiece. And seen and noticed by nobody there. Only by us, the observers granted, for a moment, God's-eye-view of what is happening.
Matt, my faithful Springer, sitting on the chair by the tree in the photo for you at the top of this piece, is, I expect, enjoying his last Christmas with me this year.
Today we went to see Roger, our new vet.
Matt has been shivering a lot at night; he's been restless in the evenings; and he has started to have the occasional little accident indoors. Wetting the floor a little. This happened about a year ago, and it was an infection; a few tablets & it cleared up. I took him to the vet in the hope that this was what we were seeing again; another infection. Instead, I received what no pet owner wants to receive - that sad look that medical practitioners give when they have no good news left.
Matt's kidney disease has progressed. There is no infection. There is no further treatment. He is being brave. We are not quite at the end. We are on the road there. There are further signs to watch out for. Who knows what happens next?
Yet in the pain, the struggle, the effort perhaps there can still be something beautiful, a work of art. God's-eye-view, if I may be granted sight of it. The incarnation, Christmas, the way God enters this world and takes on every painful, glorious, earthly part of our experience speaks of him owning every bit of this. Fear. Loss. Grief. And with them, love, hope, trust. Gratitude for time together not bitterness for its ending, however and whenever that may come.
Life is a gift, and its fulness brings joys and sadnesses, but what is the alternative? Inaction, stultification, fear of leaving the room for what may happen next, the closed heart that never feels in case what it feels is painful. We should not be so foolish as to seek nor as to relish pain; but when it comes, Christmas tells us we have a Saviour who knows its bite as well as we do, and more. And he holds our hands, wipes our tears, speaks his peace until we rest within. To live is to love is to trust is to believe is to hope is to look up when we have been cast down and know - know - the whole picture beyond our seeing may yet be somehow beautiful. After all the pictures point us to an innocent young girl bearing the Messiah. A carpenter raising a King. Shepherds greeting a Saviour. Wise men worshipping the Author of all wisdom. Creation gathered in a stable. Truths beyond mystery, things seen but not understood, known but not fully recognised.
And the echoes of it in my small corner, with tears reminding me that the colours of this day will also work their way into that greater, living masterpiece. God with us: even here, even now.