Let’s face it, this time of the year we are all beyond TIRED. Our workplaces have chewed us up and spat us out and now expect us to plan how we will further pour more of ourselves than we have into them next year, expecting us to face that with a credible performance of excitement of joy before we have even had our measly 2 weeks off. And those two weeks will largely be spent overworking to get excessive amounts of food and commodities to impress already well off relatives and close friends. Is that all there is to life? This is a good time for me to look for any sort of “meaning” that can transform the death by first world privilege that I increasingly agree with TS Eliot on (yes I quote Marina every other week or something).
So readings, please give me something…
In the first reading a feminine reader is commanded to rejoice by a masculine and militaristic god who takes away judgements against us and rescues us and stuff. OK, I get it, our tradition is suffused with all that stuff and we can’t really just pretend it isn’t there, but even as escapism the being rescued by a bloke thing doesn’t really do it for me. Like our bosses at work and relatives God expects a performance of joy and excitement in the midst of our exhaustion and the general meaningless of life? Forget removing “judgements” against me God, I asked for justice…for my sisters, for my children, for my earth. Oh forget it, men never listen properly. Next time just get me a voucher!
The canticle is really more than the same, but I can glean one small thing from it. Drawing water from the wells of salvation! In the recent heatwaves, in the dryiness of waiting for a response about my paper, in the disappointment of a failed job interview and the grief of an end of an era at my son’s primary school I say “yes please” to salvation by water (not by male rescuer).
With that in mind, I take my parched soul off to the second reading. But I am mellowing, because even though once again it bids me to “rejoice” and I still don’t really feel like it, it goes on to talk about being open with your gentleness. Why do we feel so vulnerable when we are gentle, and spend so much of our lives trying to htfu (harden up)?
So I am trying to be in touch with the gentleness that I feel is somewhere inside me. I am trying to make time for the vulnerable and the lonely people. I am trying to listen and not to judge. But I am tired….tired…tired. My prayer and supplication should be for justice….for refugees…for those worse off than me but I am asking for the courage and strength to take my career more in hand, for eloquence when I write, for the company of the people who inspire me (they seem as busy and exhausted as me). If I “rejoice” with gentleness then I think of my absent sons who I have a chance of seeing over the “break”, of my sisters who will take us as they find us and add laughter to the mix for Christmas, of my beautiful youngest who greeted me at the door when I got home from uni saying “did you get the email from the lecturer” and I almost burst into tears as I told him “She said the paper was shit” and he looked at it and disagreed, “That’s not an ‘it’s shit’ message” my little wise one said.
I need to take some of that rejoicing gentleness to work where there are children and exhausted adults who feel as grumpy and fragile as I do this time of year. How hard not to worry about anything. What a tough call from God. Where’s this peace we are promised? I posted too many Facebook statuses today and got back humour and hugs. So much shit in the world, but always there is love too. Rejoicing…gentleness…love…the wells of salvation. Not escapism, but the quiet activism of remaining human regardless.
And yet the gospel, on this day of joy gives us the wrath of God for the decadence after all. We can’t expect God to be on side if we are not sharing with those who have less than us. John is asking for a radical giving, the second coat you have not the fifth or the sixth. He is not asking us to make a big deal out of the “charity” of giving a tiny skim off the top of our greed, he simply wants us, the haves to equalise the situation. There is no question about whether those who don’t have a coat deserve one or are willing to work for one or pass an activity test or will pay us back. It’s simple redistribution- those who have need to give half to those who do not. Apart from that there is the reminder not to use power inappropriately.
Even now the axe is at the tree. Are we going to pay attention to these simple instructions for living?