As I sat and watched all four performances I became aware of an upwelling of emotion at various points. This was not an emotional response to seeing “my baby” growing up as I might have thought but something different and it took me some time to understand what I was feeling. Sitting in the darkened theater I felt myself immersed in beauty and abundance. As I watched these beautiful young people I was aware of just how privileged and fortunate they are. They are healthy. They have parents (or someone) who is committed enough to get them to rehearsals and make sure they have the equipment they need to participate. They are Americans so they enjoy a standard of living that is only a distant dream for many around the globe. They get a chance to learn to dance and to be surrounded by beauty. As I experienced Tchaivosky’s “Waltz of the Flowers,” enchanted by the music and the young dancers who looked very much like beautiful flowers, I found myself saying a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of beauty and music and the abundance that makes it possible for me to partake in such a feast for the senses.
The sweetness of the experience was tempered only by the knowledge that so many of our fellow humans will never know abundance but will spend much of their lives struggling just to have enough. The contrast of these dual realities brings to mind the story of the nativity in which the jubilant proclamation of the Angels to the shepherds regarding the birth of Jesus is contrasted with the humble stable which housed him and the violence that followed his life. We live in the paradox of “already and not yet.” God has already provided for the redemption and reconciliation of all creation and yet that work is not yet complete. Living with such abundance it is easy to stop with what we “already” have (most everything we need and much of what we want) and forget that so many do “not yet” have even the basic necessities of life.
I pray that the sweetness of our celebrations this holiday season will be tinged with the awareness of and compassion for those who do not live with the abundance we will experience in the next couple of weeks. I pray that their need will be before us, not to spoil our celebrations, but to remind us to be thankful and to motivate us to generosity and compassion as we seek to follow the one whose birth we celebrate.
Lord hear our prayer.