December 25, 2018

Advent 2018

"True Glory"


Once upon a time, there was a boy who was obsessed with the Age of Chivalry.  He loved stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot, read voraciously about St. George vanquishing the dragon, and generally dreamed of living a life filled with heroic conquests.


One holiday season, the boy went to a mystical land of dreams and fantasy called the Oglethorpe Mall with his mother.  Lo and behold, when the two of them arrived at the mall, there was Santa Claus himself, sitting smack dab in the middle of the mall on a golden throne festooned with a plethora of Christmas ornaments and blinking multicolored lights.  The boy, filled with all sorts of glorious expectations, hopped up on Santa's knee and was asked by Santa what he wanted for Christmas.


The boy leaned over and carefully whispered into Santa's ear (for every child knows that if anyone but Santa hears what you wish for you won't get it), "All I want is a castle with a moat and a drawbridge."


The Jolly Old Elf found this request uproariously amusing.  He laughed until he turned even more red-faced than usual.  In fact, he laughed until he started choking, which the boy found puzzling.


"Well, young man, if you're a good boy, I'll see what I can do," Santa said at last, after a couple of sips of water (or perhaps, in retrospect, sips of something else).


As you might have guessed, that little boy was me.  Needless to say, I did not get a castle, a moat, or even a drawbridge that Christmas.  I did get a sailboat, a cap pistol, and a plastic sword and breastplate, but my glorious expectations were most emphatically not met.

Ever since that time, I've never again had glorious expectations.  Have I been excited?  Of course.  Enthusiastic?  Absolutely.  But can I say that I've actually had true expectations of glory?  I can't say that I have, not once.  I suppose that this is a self-protective maneuver.  You see, frustration is the product of a mismatch between over-exuberant expectation and reality.  If you don't expect much, you don't get disappointed.  Suffice it to say that I no longer hold out hopes for castles (or their adult equivalent).


But here's the thing:  just because I don't have pervasive expectations of glory does not mean there's no glory out there.  In fact, there's glory everywhere.  Childbirth is inherently glorious.  The riot of flowers that erupts in Savannah every spring is a month-long paroxysm of glory.  And even the simplest things, such as a quiet moment of epiphany in a candle-lit church sanctuary on Christmas Eve, can be glorious.  The key here is perception.  The secret to finding glory is in knowing where to look.


The Jewish people in the time of Christ had expectations of glory.  They anticipated a warrior-king as savior, a person to deliver them from their Roman conquerors.  They had glorious expectations of redemption and salvation, but unfortunately they did not recognize their Redeemer and Savior when he came--and they crucified him.  Their expectations of glory were met, but they failed to perceive them in the proper context.


So no, I do not have glorious expectations.  I do not anticipate, nor do I expect, wealth, fame, honor, or a national championship for Georgia's football team (especially not the latter...not after last year).


Instead, I wish for peace, humility, and generosity.  I hope for love.  And I pray for the capacity to recognize true glory when it comes.

-- Mark Murphy


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