Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dancing Our Way to the Manger

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in God! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
Philippians 4:4-7 (The Message)

Sometimes, when our eyes and hearts are open and on the lookout, we see the Gospel take flesh before our eyes, and we know deep in our bones that the story isn't some made-up fairy tale offered as a placebo for a spiritually starved people, but the real-honest-to-God-Gospel-truth experienced by a spiritually starved people for other spiritually starved people. In this we learn that the Good News really is good news.


Last week I went to my favorite Christmas season activity: The Dancealong-Nutcracker, performed by the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.  This show, where young and old, the graceful and...well, the not-so-graceful, don tutus and dance our hearts out.  I never fail to be inspired by the show--each year it allows me to enter into the old story of Jesus' birth in new ways. One year, in particular, stands out in my mind.

 The show had all the exuberance of previous nutcrackers.  This year, however, during one of the numbers, the children, all donned in tutus, sat waiting expectantly for a ballet lesson. Out came a drag queen in tutu, ballet slippers and tiara.

Clearly, this prima donna wasn't quite what the children had expected.

As Miss Diva ran through the ballet positions, you could see the children trying to figure out who this one was. She didn't quite fit in any of their already carefully crafted social constructions. They sat and stared and furrowed their brows and squinted their eyes, trying to make sense of it all. Clearly, Miss Diva was no ordinary ballet teacher.

Miss Diva seemed oblivious to their confusions, or maybe she was keenly aware of the cognitive dissonance her presence had created, but she just kept calmly, gently, reassuringly laying out the dance moves. Then, she motioned for the children to stand. For the first time in the entire program, the children were shy, timid, and hesitant. They still weren't sure what this ballerina was all about.

The first notes of the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" sounded, and Miss Diva stretched out her arms and began to dance. The children slowly, cautiously, followed her. Glide, glide, dip, glide, glide, dip. Miss Diva did a spin, and the children followed. Miss Diva did another spin and once again the children followed. Then, Miss Diva smiled a most loving smile of apporval, and the children smiled back their own approval.

Miss Diva danced across the room, and the children followed behind her like a colorful cape, flowing together to the music. Then Miss Diva leapt in the air, and 50 tiny heads bobbed in response.

Sometimes, when our eyes and hearts are open and on the lookout, we see the Gospel take flesh before our eyes, and we know deep in our bones that the story isn't some made-up fairy tale offered as a placebo for a spiritually starved people, but the real-honest-to-God-Gospel-truth offered to a spiritually starved people. In this we learn that the Good News really is good news.

Before my eyes I saw the children's suspicions fade as they mirrored Miss Diva's every move. Smiling, laughing, giggling, sharing in the sheer joy of moving together to the music, they had been transformed by their encounter with this one who had at first seemed so strange. I found myself both laughing and crying, seeing once again Christ taking flesh and dwelling amongst us once again.

Two thousand years ago the Hebrew people were watching and waiting for signs of God's coming. But so few recognized those signs even when Jesus stared them right in the face. Jesus came and offered to teach those around him a new way of living--and even dying--but people kept scratching their heads in disbelief, "Who is this?"

How could a humble carpenter with such radical ideas be the Messiah, they wondered. And as they stared in disbelief, watching his every move, some were able to recognize both the signs and the possibilities, and began to move with him. Together, Jesus and his followers danced joyfully , passionately through the land, inviting others to join in the steps.

Thank God there have been followers throughout the ages who have kept that joyful dance going--unexpected ones who have risen up to lead in the steps when our lives and hearts have turned to stone and we've been unable to join in. Faithful ones who have risked it all to continue the dance even when it has been dangerous to do so. Foolish yet wise ones who keep poking us to join in.

Advent is the opportunity to prepare ourselves to join in the dance, to embrace the good news, to share in the sheer joy of faith. For as Christ was born 2000 years ago, Christ continues to be born in our lives. Watch and wait. Christ comes in the most unexpected ways and places, even as a drag queen at a dance-along nutcracker. Say yes to the invitation to join in the joyful dance.

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