Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Backstage Passes

I say it all the time to the kids at my internship church: It’s not Christmas yet. You, of course, wouldn’t know that if you paid attention to the radio or the TV. Christmas carols start before Thanksgiving, Christmas sales begin with the infamous Black Friday, and Christmas dwarfs what Christians are called to be: a hopeful, waiting people. When Christmas dwarfs Advent, Christians lose the very thing it means to be Christian.

And it’s in Advent where we meet John the Baptist – Jesus comes to the world through a half-naked lunatic who eats bugs. Here’s a guy whose sole purpose is to point to something beyond himself. He is, essentially, that really good supporting actor in movies that you love, but who never gets top billing. He’s Djimon Honsou in Gladiator, Philip Seymour Hoffman in 25th Hour, Zooey Deschanel in Eulogy.

And it’s just not like our society to reward those people. Nobody cares about the offensive lineman who helps LaDanian Tomlinson into the end zone – it’s only the running back who spikes the ball.

But Christians revel in our supporting role. We are John the Baptist, speaking the truth – “I am not the Messiah.” When society tells kids they must be the best, the brightest, the skinniest, and the coolest, Christians say, “I am nothing without God.”

This is not a limitation, however. It allows us to do amazing things, to love our neighbor, to work for justice in the world.

It was Oscar Romero’s words that ring true: “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning - a step along the way. An opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.”

We are not all quarterbacks and leading actors. We are the backstage people, making the set ready for the main event. And there’s no shame in that; there’s no disappointment because we “should” be something more.

The New York Yankees are such a prolific baseball team, any year they don’t win the World Series, it’s considered a failure. Luckily we don’t have such high expectations.

We are just wandering around, searching, waiting. And then God’s grace enters and does the rest.

It’s not Christmas yet. All we can do is wait, in a society that never does.


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