it came upon a midnight clear.

Have you guys ever really pondered deeply the words to that song? If not, maybe this would be a good time to do just that. In fact, I will even supply the words for you, right here, so that very thing may happen.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

What a thought! Here I am, mired in crusty, debilitating bitterness, and the message I need is found in an old song sung on a Sunday, that last such day of Advent. Forget war, forget quarrels and bickerings. Shut up and listen to the song of peace, brought by angles of old, heralding the One who will make everything right. I feel like I can get behind that. It is comforting to think that Jesus wins in the end, as in He has already won.

I have been struck also, recently, with how vastly contrary to the ways of the world is the cause of Christ. I see it in every chapter as I again work my way through the book of Matthew. Jesus is constantly saying things that point to another mode of life, another, better way of living. They wanted Him to be a powerful king of the land, kick out the Romans. When offering his felonious temptations, this is in essence what the devil was trying to get Jesus to consent to; to be something they could not deny and everything they wanted. But God is not swayed by the blind wants of man; as if a father would willingly let a child rush to it’s death in order to avoid the child’s frustration over what then seems unfair. He knows how to give good gifts; how much more our Father in heaven! And so Jesus butts heads constantly with just about everyone. You thought this, but here is what it all means, He says, bringing to light the why behind everything, and how to apply that to life better than ever before. And thus the Gospel of Christ fits in no box made by man. Even if we try real hard. And that is the only way it can work. Because love needs to be the amazing, seemingly idiotic thing it is in order to eventually heap burning coals upon the head of hate.  And I am also reminded of a Five Iron Frenzy song where they talk about the angels and the shepherds and how “all of our slogans designed to take away the pain meant nothing to the Son of God that night in Bethlehem.” (you could just check the song out if you wanted to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUh2CZz4V3E) But maybe I ramble. All this to say that the Gospels will always be wonderful and Jesus will always have a place in the world, even if we all forget Him.

And so Sunday was passed reading much and relaxing, trying to allow rest enough for a creeping sickness to slink its ugly way out the back door. This endeavor was only partly successful. Cathy gave me a bag of donated winter gear, one bag of many, to give to the refugees. Ali and our Iraqi friends a few others took what they needed. They were very thankful. I know I don’t do this for the praise, but it is good to know that the people we are trying to help aren’t ungrateful jerks. Or at least not all of them. The group serving the meal that night at the train station went above and beyond with the fanciest fullest meal I have yet seen. The guys weren’t angry about that. Then everyone got a new sleeping bag. That didn’t suck for them either, I think.

There is a Christmas tree and a tiny Nativity scene in the Piazza Bologna metro station, somehow bereft of the little baby Jesus. Joseph, Mary, animals, and adorers, all gaze lovingly down into an empty manger, the indentations in which show where a child should be.

Today is the day of our grand festival of cookies. A couple years ago Tim and Rachel threw a shindig, sporting cookies galore, inviting Italians and refugees alike. We tried to do that again. Lindsey and Rachel were busy using ovens to their fullest extent to produce the greatest mountain of cookies I have ever laid eyes on. Cookies from every nation, tribe, and tongue were represented, shimmering in sugar or powered by a deep chocolate, mustering the friendliest of smells from the farthest reaches of the world. Platters and platters of baked wonder!

To transport her share of the cookies, Lindsey was forced to gather all the tupperware containers she could find, many of which were only able to hold a very select amount of cookies. We are talking six or seven tops. It was kind of ridiculous.

We spent the late morning decorating the sugar cookies with frosting and various festive sprinkles. Like eating a cup of sugar in every bite. Oh yum!

Our fellowship broke for the afternoon, in which time I finished The Island of Doctor Moreau, which was a pretty stinkin’ good book.

Back at the Uthmann’s, we decorated and cleaned and arranged and generally got ready for what we hoped would be a flood of joyous faces and great fellowship. I went out to the post office to meet up with Asa who called earlier to say he was coming. He finally arrived and we walked back, having our usual attempt at conversation in two broken languages. Trinity was there upon our arrival and maybe fifteen minutes later I got a call from Ali saying he and one of our Iraqi friends, Amed, where at Piazza Bologna. So I took another trip out…and back. Trinity was replaced by Agape leader Debby. A little bit later Eli showed up. Also, I forgot to mention the delicious bounty of spiced apple cider brewed and warmed to perfection. Super tasty and certainly keeping in the theme of lots of sugar. And then Asa gets a call from another Afghan friend I had invited, also waiting at the piazza. He had tried calling me numerous times, but my phone just decided to not receive them. So Asa and I picked him up and then came back. It was a simple, low-key evening of just chilling with friends, some who knew each other, others who didn’t. We didn’t really see the amount of people we had hoped for, but I think that the night went quite well without all that. I was glad to have a quiet evening with friends. Kind of makes up for our complete lack of anyone refugee-wise last week for dinner. The Uthmann’s close Afghan friend, Amir, came over after all but Eli had left and they joined us for dinner. I really couldn’t have asked for a better night. It was simple and wonderful. I wish that I didn’t have to keep coming and going and get some longer conversation time in. And we still have a mountainous heap of cookies left. So if you want any…..

Lindsey walked back in the Christmas light studded streets, carrying bags full of tupperware containers, empty but for the crumbs and the smells. It is still amazing to think that Christmas is in less than a week.

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