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I contain multitudes

by davesandel on December 5th, 2021

Second Sunday of Advent, December 5, 2021                                  (today’s lectionary)

I contain multitudes

Look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Advance, secure in the glory of God. He is leading us in joy.

Miles and Jasper poured themselves into our laps, and we read two books at once, Margaret and I, to our two grandsons, and we were happy.

Margaret and Jasper made fancy fantastic dough for Christmas gingerbread men, clothed in red and green sprinkles of sugar, white hats and belts, faces obscured by wrinkles in the dough but faces nonetheless. Miles and I explored the world with Google Earth, and found the Empire State Building. “A skyscraper!” he shouted. “I’ve never been to a skyscraper.” Miles’ joy is never far below the surface. “Let’s go to outer space!”

Here I am now, quite alone. Except there is a high school senior picture of Margaret shining up at me from below the computer screen. Promise and hope, turned from the back toward the front to accent her good side. So the photographer must have thought. But every side of Margaret is her good side. She is multi-faceted. She is a kaleidoscope of thinking and feeling and sharing and loving and giving, and she loves being a grandma, and she loves me.

We had Nick Stellino’s meatballs agglassatu for lunch, laced with maple syrup and braised in honey. Onions, thyme and syrup, mixed into sherry, vermouth and red wine. Bread, eggs, parmesan and beef – three pounds of beef, which made 23 2 ½ inch meatballs, enough for an army, a family, a multitude. And we ate roasted broccoli and peas, and cranberry sauce, which Miles spit out while Jasper swallowed his and asked for more. And for dessert, we ate gingerbread men as if they were going out of style.

We were like men dreaming, but suddenly our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing. The Lord has done great things for us.

Bring in the sheaves, all you servants of the Lord. I contain multitudes, which as a book title is a reference to bacteria, and as a lectionary text is a reference to the walls of Jerusalem, surrounding and saving all the Hebrew families who have devoted themselves to Yahweh. And my own multitudes? Like Margaret, like all of us, I am born with facets too, which glisten in the light of morning, shine in the face of Jesus, burst with joy and laughter as the Holy Spirit tickles me, and tears from laughter turn to sudden weeping. Sadness and laughter might not seem to mix, but … they do.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert.

And now, in these early December days, Advent bids me relax in her arms. Close your eyes, David and, under the cover of darkness, rest.

I always pray with joy in all my prayers for all of you, and I am confident of this: he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Mom read this verse to me one day from her Shutterfly birthday calendar, full of pictures of all her kids and grandkids and parents and family, but also full of quotes from Philippians, mostly from chapter one, because there are only twelve months in the year, and there are more than twelve great quotes in just the first chapter. She was very happy then, relaxing into her mid-90’s, ready for anything.

As God is my witness, I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Around about now, a few weeks before Christmas, we spent half a day going to her bank, then filling Christmas cards with cash. Every grandkid got money to buy gifts for their kids, and then the kids opened those gifts, screaming, and happy, on our Sandel Saturday before Christmas. Oyster stew and chili, a musical carousel, and presents under the tree.

The cash became checks as getting out become more difficult. Last year the Sandel Saturday was co-vid-cancelled. And this year, it will be cancelled again, perhaps. Or perhaps not. Certainly it will be different, no Christmas cards with cash, no Mom.

No, wait a minute, wait for it … she still sits, in spirit, in her big brown lift chair she inherited from Aunt Mary. She beams at all of us, and we reach down and kiss her cheek. Except for me.

“You’re the only one who kisses me on the lips!” That is, I’m sure, one of the last things she said to me.

The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

(Baruch 5, Psalm 126, Philippians 1, Luke 3)

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