What does the food court in a Canadian mall have to do with the Immaculate Conception? Everything. [I was writing this post yesterday and didn't get it finished.]
A couple of weeks ago a Canadian pal sent a link to this video:
I have watched it a dozen times now and still it leaves me with tears streaming down my face. One reason is that it is December and anything can make me weep in December.
A bigger reason is that I am particularly sentimental about the Messiah. I was 12 years old, living in the cultural wasteland that was early 80s small-town southern West Virginia, when my church's choir director invited me to join the community chorus. "We have a lot of fun," she said. It wasn't fun for me, exactly, because I had never seen such challenging vocal music. It was a fantastic experience, though, and that music, along with those words full of grace and truth, is etched into my soul now. Nothing says Christmas to me like the Messiah.
But I think the most important reason is that the video is an emblem of a fundamental truth all too easy to overlook: the kingdom of God is among you. The kingdom of this world -- with all its excess, deep-fried TBHQ-laden breaded chicken, lookalike ugly purses, heinous fluorescent lighting, and heartbreak and deception and failure ("Gosh, Jamie," you are probably thinking, "you must really hate the mall." --and you are right!) -- the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
I look at the choir with its lovely young women and its grizzled old men, making beautiful music together, and I think about redemption for "every tribe and tongue." I especially love the part where the guy waves the "Caution: wet floor" sign like a banner, the most mundane of items giving exuberant voice to his joy. I watch this video and I remember that while we trudge through our dreary Decembers, eyes focused narrowly on our to-do lists and their attendant headaches, the enduring reality is that angels and archangels are singing "Hallelujah!" for the Word made flesh.
What does this have to do with the Immaculate Conception? St. Anselm said it better than I can. (Scroll down to the second reading to see what I mean.) The Immaculate Conception tells us that God has the desire to free us from sin, and the power to free us from sin, and it gives us a glimpse of the beauty there can be in a world redeemed.
And that is enough to make this overtired, overcaffeinated, rather bedraggled mama say "Hallelujah!"