Walk into the comfort of my daughter’s cozy kitchen and you’ll be greeted by a hand-lettered chalkboard saying, "Normal Day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.” Kristal has a way of bringing hospitality, beauty, and grace into every encounter.
Now that all the Christmas decorations are tucked away for another year and folks have returned to work and school, it feels like a return to normal. The church has a fitting name for this season of normal, Ordinary Time. We are now officially between the seasons of Christmas and Easter which begins, of course, with the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, March 6th. This year we get nearly two months of Ordinary Time, starting now. Yay! Two months to grow in awareness and appreciation. Let this be my new year resolution, to be aware of the treasure of the ordinary.
When I was a teen, Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town,” was a popular presentation for high school productions. In it, a deceased young mother, Emily, is allowed to return to earth to observe one day of her life, her 12th birthday. She delights in the rediscovery of every childhood joy and acquaintance.
"Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you!”
But her initial joy is replaced by sadness as she realizes how little she or anyone else appreciates the ordinariness of that day. She laments to the stage manager, another character in the play,
"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?”
He replies, "No. The saints and poets, maybe. They do some.”
Then let us be saints, poets, and mystics!—not too small an ambition for the new year, or at least the first two months of a new year. Not too big an ambition either. If Jesus’ coming to live among us means anything, it means that he shared in our ordinary human life. He chose to spend most of his life, 30 years of it. living the same kind of ordinary existence that we do.
That big gap in the Gospels, the one from the Nativity to his adulthood, those were years Jesus lived an ordinary life. Like us. Luke gives us that one tantalizing scene of Jesus in the temple at age 12, but the rest of those 30 years are left to our imagining. 2000 years ago, did Jesus really have a life like ours?
- A morning stuck in traffic. Did Jesus ever find the roads of his town clogged with Roman soldiers swaggering through, muscling the lowly out of their way?
- Morning sun, spilling color into the world outside your window. What color were the hills of Nazareth in the light of sunrise?
- A bout of the flu. Did Jesus, who later healed the sick with such compassion, ever awake to the aches and chills of fever, the indignities of nausea?
- Red tissue paper around a valentine gift. Did Jesus learn from Joseph how to work with wood and make a simple child’s gift to delight his mother?
- Political haggling and rancor in public discourse. How did Jesus respond to the arguments of his time in occupied Israel?
- Water. The feel of it on our skin. The quench of it in our thirst. Was the water cool from Nazareth’s well? Where did Jesus splash and play as a child?
To be a Christian is to follow Jesus. Let us, these next two months, follow him into those quiet years, the years he spent as a child and as an adult, the years before his public life. Our everyday tasks, joys and challenges are much like his were. And he did not deem them lowly, boring, or beneath him.
If we are to take seriously the example Jesus gives us, then maybe these ordinary days are very important indeed. Somehow his years in obscurity were preparation for all that he later did in ministry. If we don’t listen for the chirp of cricket or call of bird, can we thrill to the swell of a symphony? If we don’t look across the breakfast table and see another beloved of God, will we recognize Jesus in his glory?
From now til Lent. I offer you this new year resolution. May we pause each day and pray, ‘Lord, let me be aware of the treasure of this ordinary day.”