December is, in Nature and in many world religions, a month marked by waiting. Waiting for the magic of snow (or waiting for it to melt!). Waiting for daylight to wane and then again to grow. Waiting for the birth of a child, or for hope or a miracle of healing, long promised. Waiting, with the Maccabees, for the oil to run out, or better yet, for the flames to keep burning.
Today, we know what resulted from the waiting in these stories of old. But perhaps we come closer to the meaning and spirit of this season by faithfully entering the waiting of our own times. By participating in the difficult waiting required by stories still being written today, with endings as yet unknown.
As in the ancient stories, we are still, now, waiting for peace. For an end to the violence that rattles our world, not just in San Bernadino and Colorado Springs, in Sandy Hook and Boston, but on a more horrific scale around the world in wars waged daily against the armed and unarmed alike.
As in the ancient stories, we are waiting for shelter in the night. Not just two weary travelers waiting for a room before their child is born, but millions today who have left their homes of necessity only to be turned away at the door, at the border, at the shore, with their children already born and waiting for a bed.
As in the ancient stories, we are waiting for the oil to run out, now globally, hoping for the lights to stay on, for the sacred temple of this earth to be rededicated to life, and to be healed from our long human history of plunder and pillaging.
We are waiting for justice. Not mythically or in the abstract, but in the very real questions raised day after day about black lives lost and about the ongoing cost of racism that so cruelly rules here at home and around the world.
These are not just distractions erupting from the news, interrupting the sacred stories celebrated in this season. They are the same holy story still being told. Which parts will we play as the stories unfold? (The innkeeper or the shepherds? The Magi or Herod?) How will we wait and prepare? Where will we place our faith, our hearts and our lives? What will we do to keep the lamps burning, to reclaim what is holy, to attend to the birth of tomorrow’s child and to prepare the way for peace paired with justice, for a shelter that is shared?
As we light the candles that illuminate these long-nighted holidays, may we also kindle an inner flame that will help us each find our way in the stories still being told today.