A Different Kind of Christmas Letter
Every year I write a Kukla Christmas letter. It’s a tradition I love. Sharing my family’s ups and downs in one paragraph per member. I actually experience it as an intriguing discipline of finding what nugget captures the year of growth and learning each of us have had. And because I enjoy wit and humor – I find a fair amount of that in the storytelling. (At least I think so…….)
But those of you who haven’t hidden my statuses already know more than you ever wanted to about my family. You know my kids are adorable, creative, energetic, stubborn, wild, opinionated, and that Caroline and I barely have anything resembling the kind of control one would expect of parents. Just as Warren struggles with bad choices (because he is 9), Elizabeth still has no desire to learn how to read because she’d much rather just make up her own stories (and I love that about her even though it mystifies me). Meredith doesn’t sleep and whines as a tool to get what she wants (you’d think she was the youngest and I think she still thinks she can be that and is campaigning for the lifelong job), and Danielle taught me that no matter how stubborn you think people are… you can always find one out there who is EVEN MORE stubborn (but I’m pretty sure she is going to reverse engineer this world in some amazing ways, I have booked my ticket for the ride at least).
And my wife walks on water. She doesn’t think so… she would have you believe she is barely breathing. But she walks on water and anyone who thinks differently will have to answer to me. But we still fight. We will get frustrated and say things we don’t mean. But that is something we just take in stride – it’s part of our love, not in spite of it. That is why I cannot imagine my journey without her.
So that would normally be it… and then I’d theologize just a bit about advent and Christmas here at the end… because that is what I do too. But. This year. This year I’m really caught up in hope. Not hopeful. I’m caught up about hope because I don’t really feel it.
I shared with a group of clergy colleagues from all over the country that the church is dusty in Idaho… It’s much easier to see the cross than resurrection.
I find myself working with more and more groups with the different hats I wear who are struggling to find commitment, time, and resources to do what they love. LOVE. The love is genuine but how to form and direct it is… a bit lost.
I think about what it means that 1 out of every 2 people you meet is struggling with major debt issues they do not know how to deal with it and cannot get out from under. In a nation of crazy wealth we are living beyond our means… and the stress and fear of holding up a house of cards… it’s palpable and it’s painful. And I’m pretty sure it’s killing us all.
Racial tensions, political tensions, religious strife. They do not pass away no matter how far we seem to think we have come. We have enlightened toys… but we are not enlightened people. We struggle hard to have empathy and compassion and time seems to entrench us more than redempt us.
And violence abounds. Cyclical violence… where answers are more likely to create bigger problems. Where the enemy is the tool we are using to fight the enemy.
Cynics are the sane people… and I can think of nothing sadder to say than that.
So where is hope? Where is up or out from this? If light is not being overcome, is there anywhere its overcoming the dark?
A friend just left me a voice message. It was summed up in this, “Miss you. Wish we were doing this together. Love you.” I haven’t called her back yet… but there is hope.
Half a country away another friend just texted me to say it’s raining there too… and remember that once we held umbrellas up to walk 800 people into our sanctuary in the rain. Miss you too. There is hope.
I recall vividly and regularly a picture of my younger sister, on a ventilator for the rest of her life, standing in my parents back yard roasting s’mores on a fire. Yah a tank of pure oxygen leaning over an open flame. But life will not be contained by fear – because it wants to be lived. There is hope.
I have congregation members… no strike that, friends. Friends who struggle mightily with some of what I believe about God and faith and scripture – “ALL THAT” – but told that to me straight up… not as a complaint, not as finding fault, not as heterodoxy… they told me that because they are committed to journey with me and I with them. There is hope.
I have had the pleasure of becoming the President of the Board of a group that seeks to rapidly rehouse homeless families. And our little group has a lot of problems. Not enough money, organization issues, politics… you name it. But the people working there? They will bankrupt us with their care to position these neighbors with the best chances of writing a Christmas letter like I usually do… where the complaints are all really bragging and food, clothing, and housing are stable and sure. And wow! Their passion makes me want to work myself as hard as I can with time I don’t seem to have to let them run and not walk to serve our community. There is hope.
I visited with a person trying to find something worth fighting for in a nursing home as her life becomes smaller and frailer… but I tag teamed with another visitor and another because while her walls were bare and her room unfurnished, her life is full of people trying to keep it bright. There is hope.
There is hope.
Madeleine L’Engle writes in her poem, First Coming, “He did not wait till the world was ready, till men and nations were at peace. He came when the Heavens were unsteady, and prisoners cried out for release. He did not wait for the perfect time. He came when the need was deep and great…
…We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, or to share our grief, to touch our pain, He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!”
We cannot wait till the world is sane…. And then I read that through my lens of despair that maybe only the cynics are sane and I realize what I am feeling about hope. We cannot wait until all has become cynical. We mustn’t let that happen. Hope doesn’t mean that all will be well. Hope means that we can imagine wellness. We can imagine survival. We can imagine not being overcome. We can imagine shedding our fear. We can imagine…. future. A future with more light than today.
Hope is a present reality, like a baby crying out in painful entry into this world where the very screams of present pain echo as a celebration of life unfolding with unlimited potential and promise. There is hope. And we can imagine that even though we do not know where to find it… It is here.
I was running last night to sneak in my three miles of healthiness, which I try to do every other day. And twice during the run I saw shooting stars streaking through the night sky. Now normally when I run I’m too busy being miserable to see something like that… but I did. And the thought that hit me was just how alive the world was.
The world is ALIVE.
Full. And light was seeping out of its fullness. And I realized… there is hope.
And it was finding me as I was looking for it and somewhere in the twin journeys of attentive searching and disruptively being found – like Shepherds before an angel being sent from the mundane to discover the divine wrapped in impromptu clothing – there is hope. More than enough for me. Not just to hold my ground and not be overcome… but that I might just manage to birth a little more light into tomorrow than the darkness I create.
If we all just birth a little more light than darkness? There is hope.
Love you all, and thanks for loving me to the moon and back: I found hope in the journey.
Grace and Peace,
Andrew and the whole Kukla Family.