I've always been fascinated by the idea of "thin places" ... it's an old Celtic mystical phrase that suggests the meeting of the ordinary and the divine. The curtain is pulled back just for a moment, and we get a glimpse of how things should be. I remember even as a little girl seeking out what I liked to call "perfect moments" ... a sweet night of walking and laughing with friends, driving with the windows down, breaking bread with the people I loved the most, lazy afternoons spent on the dock at summer camp, finally reaching the summit of a mountain after a morning of hard hiking.
I've come to understand what those moments really were - glimpses of the divine. The closest we'll get to perfect here on earth. These days, I find myself missing those moments more - I'm lost in fear and anxiety and cynicism, which pull me further from my creator and push me closer to myself. I clench everything too tightly. I don't know how to celebrate well ... each happy moment is stolen by a vague sense of fear that the goodness I know will be gone in an instant.
And still, God surprises me with grace. My eyes will spill over with tears at the communion table. A hymn will strike me the right way and absolutely devastate my prideful heart. The curtain pulls back. Goodness is there. One day it will all be right, all of the time.
I've struggled this Christmas to find myself in a Advent state of mind. Perhaps it's my day job, which has been full of Christmas since mid-summer. Perhaps it's the uncertainty that sits in the back of my mind about our future - a future that is staring us in the face and seems to be screaming "figure me out!" in the most idolatrous of ways. Perhaps it's the busyness and the parties and the never-ceasing baking and the stress over finding just the right gifts. Maybe it's just that at the end of the day, I know that none of this "stuff" of Christmas will fix the brokenness in my heart, my family, my community, my faith. Because it's all just so broken, and it clouds my joy like a dense, gray fog.
But then on Sunday night, after I sat across the table from my husband at dinner and whispered "I think I'm just over Christmas," and exhaustion just dripped from each word, I pulled on my prettiest winter coat and dragged myself to what is normally my very favorite night of the year.
Behold the Lamb of God at the Ryman.
And it didn't disappoint. It never does.
We sat in our obstructed seats, downstairs, just steps from that sweet, hallowed stage. I love the pews at the Ryman. I love the floors - old, gnarled wood with a million scuffs and scrapes. I hope they never replace those floorboards ... each one could tell stories enough to fill a book, of the people and songs and thin moments that they have known through the years.
And as I sat with an audience more full of friends than strangers and sang along with every word of every song, I knew the air was getting thinner. The Lord was rejoicing and singing over us in that place. The curtain pulled back and surely, I thought, this is what Eternity will be like.
I love the way Behold the Lamb works. So many artists on stage shift through the blue shadows, in between and during songs, like a never-ending chorus. Someone moves from one microphone to the next, changes instruments, moves from back-up to lead vocals. It's perfectly orchestrated. And the stories flow from the stage and weave their way through the old pews and our old, tired hearts, breathing a bit of life into a very tired season.
I love intermission. I spoke through sloppy, sweet tears that streamed down my face during Andrew Peterson's song to his wife that led conveniently to a break during which I could blow my nose and at least pretend I hadn't been ugly crying through most of the first half. Because that's what good stories and good songs do to you. That's what happens in a thin place. It's too good not to cry. It's too sweet not to cry. And thankfully everyone else is crying too.
Those 15 minutes at intermission were so full, so happy ... I can't count the number of friendly faces and hugs and waves and smiles and short conversations that will lead to longer ones at later dates. I smiled. Surely this is what heaven will be like - intermission at Behold the Lamb. Only better, because no one will be missing because tickets sold out too quickly.
And then the night closes with a sweet singing history of our collective story. Of the deep and painful longing of the people of God, traced back through our Bible, and of the joy and mystery of the first coming. We sang every song with the same longing ... He's coming again. He came once. He'll come again. That's the beauty of Advent. We live in a perpetual Advent season, with the sadness of the present mingling with our assured hope in what is coming next.
But the night ended and Monday brought with it the same tiredness and readiness for the end of this holiday season. And yet, I carried with me the same hope from the night before ... the hope that comes from being in a Thin Place, where we sing and laugh and love with the Body of Christ, where the Lord's presence always is palpable and always perfect.
Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away our sin Behold the Lamb of God The life and light of men Behold the Lamb of God Who died and rose again Behold the Lamb of God who comes To take away our sin
Broken hearts--behold our broken hearts Fallen far--we need you Behold the Lamb of God
Son of God--Emmanuel Son of Man--we need you Behold the Lamb The hope of man Behold the Lamb of God