Paradox

LK. 1:39-56

It is not out of our power and wealth, but rather out of our weakness and poverty, that we know and declare the greatness of God. This is the paradox of Advent.

In December of l975, I was in business on Bedford St. in Stamford, CT. The economic uncertainties of the year had dampened my enthusiasm for Christmas. Although I knew better, I felt a gnawing doubt which said, “Why Christmas?”

Then one evening, while the snow flurries chased each other outside my five-o-clock window, I saw a man foraging for supper in the municipal trash can across the street. His cocked head and rhythmic gestures had not changed since the time he had applied for a job years ago. The street light cast a nimbus over his head and the windows of the library provided a glowing back drop. The bells of St. John’s caroled the hour, and soon he joined others scurrying home. “Christmas?” I thought. “Mankind hasn’t changed much since the Caesars. Poverty, turmoil, and ignorance have joined hands in a macabre dance around suffering.” But the carols of the bells tolled the message of love, the forgiveness of failure, and the call to spread that love by helping others in every way.

“Christmas?” I thought. “Well, I guess God loves both me and the derelict. I’d better get up do something about it.”

The snow stopped and the bells ceased. I packed my two brief cases, popped off the lights, and glanced over my shoulder and out the window. The derelict now stood across the street. He looked up and our eyes met. He saluted. Then he shuffled on. I never saw him again.

I tell this story, or epiphany, because out of my poverty of spirit, my discouragement, came an overwhelming sense of the greatness of God. That sense was prompted by a man in physical poverty, who in a single gesture of friendship deepened my sense of wonder and thankfulness. Nearly two thousand years ago, Mary, pregnant, dirt poor, lacking power, position, and status, was rich in expectation, wonder, and joy. Out of her humbleness came the timeless story of the richness of God’s love. Amen.