"Always"

Last week I wrote about how some of the songs from “Muppet Christmas Carol” struck me in this year’s screening. Well, I left one out. Kinda on purpose. Kinda like how I wish they’d left it out of the movie.

However I might feel about it, it has something to say to us. The title is “When Love Is Gone,” written (again) by the incomparable Paul Williams, and it is sung by the young Scrooge’s love interest who is tired of waiting for him to achieve his version of “success”…after all, he never has enough…and decides to move on with her life. Belle, for that was her name, with eyes searching the distance to catch a glimpse of the future she had hoped for (ooh, “narrator voice”), sings:

“There was a time when I was sure
That you and I were truly one
That our future was forever
And would never come undone
And we came so close to being close
And though you cared for me
There's distance in your eyes tonight
So we're not meant to be…”

I’m going to try to avoid making too much of a metaphor out of this. But the phrase that jumps out at me here is “we came so close to being close.” And then there are the words of the bridge verse:

“It was almost love
It was almost always
It was like a fairytale we'd live out
You and I
And yes some dreams come true
And yes some dreams fall through
And yes the time has come for us to say goodbye…”

Again, we hear the desperate sadness of “almost.” How many times in our lives have we come so close to something only to lose it? How many times has “almost” described the result of our dreams of success? And let’s not forget the context of this song.

In Dickens’ actual text, Belle accuses that the root of the problem between them is idolatry:

`It matters little,' she said, softly. `To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.'

`What Idol has displaced you.' he rejoined.

`A golden one.' 

Now we can turn the conversation theologically. This is what happens when we allow anything to displace the place of God in our lives. Or, in a practical manner of speaking, “love” in our lives…the love of God for each of us individually and the love God wants to show to the world through us. Who wants to ponder over coming “so close to being close” to God in Christ? Who wants to say it was “almost love” that they showed to their neighbor: that it was “almost always” that they followed Jesus?

My sermon last Sunday, the last Sunday of 2018, ended with three minutes of silence to ponder (with Mary, the mother of Jesus) the working of God in your life. It’s now 2019. Don’t wait until the last Sunday of the year to ponder how close you might be to becoming the follower of Jesus that you are called to be. None of us do it perfectly, of course. Not even close. But the love of God for us is so great that it’s okay when we fall short. 

You see, with God and God’s love for us, there is no “almost” and no “so close.” God’s love for you and for me is complete and irrevocable. So even when we can’t figure out how to make relationships work, or serve our neighbor the way we’re called to, or help and protect those who are displaced, or be the generous stewardships we are drawn toward being…God loves us and saves us and calls us still. How that call is coming to you in your time and space is up to you to discern. Take the time to listen. Draw close (and closer) to God. And may God’s blessing be upon each of you in this New Year.