Were any of you struck last night by the parallel images of the celebrations of the last few days?
On Friday all over Britain (and the world), people stood in large crowds waving flags to celebrate. They had tears in their eyes to think this day had come and what it meant for their country and themselves. "It gives us hope," a young woman told an interviewer. She was speaking, of course, about the idea that she, too, might marry a prince. I have to say, though I was caught up in watching the whole spectacle of it--after all, I'm as much a romantic as anyone--I had two thoughts. First, there's the whole notion that one of the two standing before God and the entire world, apparently, was a 'commoner', ie, less worthy, somehow, and the other, a prince. The arbitrary hierarchy of birth in monarchies is strange to those of us born and raised in democracies. Or perhaps it's strange to me because I'm born again into the Kingdom where there is One King and we are all a royal priesthood. Still, she looked a princess Friday morning. But...so does every bride on her wedding day. And that's my other point. That young woman who has hope that she might marry a prince was speaking of one with HRH before his name. But when we stand at the altar, the one we marry should seem every bit the prince to each of us. Or every bit the princess. I felt that way. I was so certain that God had brought us together Beve could have been the ruler of the realm or a ditch digger in outer Mongolia and he would have looked a prince to me.
But the celebration in the streets is what draws my attention this morning. All those flags waving, the champagne and cheering. The tears of joy. It was amazing to see that mass of people march behind the mounted troops to Buckingham Palace for a single--long, long-distance, 'get-out-your-binoculars' look at the newlyweds while they shared a very short, public kiss..and then--oh the drama!--another one. Be still my quick-beating heart. Crazy, really. Wasn't it?
And then came last night.
We were at Grampie and Thyrza's last night when we received a text from SK with the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed and his body recovered. By the time we returned home--after the president's triumphant speech (though he kept the glee from his face, I could feel it coming off of him in waves!)--crowds had begun to grow outside of the White House. American flags appeared. People kept showing up, waving those flags like they were born to it--born to that patriotism that reeks of 4th of July, fireworks and "Stars and Stripes Forever!" The national anthem was sung repeatedly, even though it's hard to sing and often people get the words wrong--for crying out loud! Young people climbed trees to see better (though what they were trying to see is hard to tell). Another crowd swelled at Ground Zero. The broadcasters called these crowd 'flash mobs' and immediately began the task of exegesis. "These are mostly youth who have never known a world before 9-11," they said (which isn't exactly true, since a 20-year-old would have been 10 that day, so of course they knew a world before the planes flew into those buildings, but such hyperbole is revealing about media). "It's something like V-E day, when there was victory in Europe or when the bomb was dropped on Japan. It's like they know it's the end of something." I didn't live through V-E day. But I remember the Berlin wall toppling, and the host of people standing on pieces of it, singing and dancing, beer in their hands, having a huge block party (to be punny!). That wall had been a division between people. A symbol of evil. And when it was destroyed, people rejoiced.
When 9-11 happened and he took triumphant responsibility, I referred to Osama Bin Laden in my journal as "He who shall not be named," from Harry Potter. That's what he seemed like to me then, like the embodiment of evil. Later I began to think of him as a sorry little coward who kept running for his life. He could plot a horrible thing like those attacks, but only from a safe distance for himself, allowing his minions to face what he wouldn't. He even looked sad and cowardly in his pictures. And maybe most tyrannical evil-doers are cowards. The one in Germany during World War II certainly was. And Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole? The essence of a cowardly act. Here's the truth, though: Bin Laden had already declined as the power behind Al-Qaeda. This presents an important fact. Our battle, Paul tells us, is not against flesh and blood. While we are on this earth, evil will always rise again in another form. Christ has overcome Him, has been the victor, but there will continue to be battles while we are on this earth. We do well to remember that.
But here's the other thing. People like to celebrate. They like to gather together--for whatever reason!--and let joy expand within them, overshadowing everything else. Whether it's a wedding of two people entirely unrelated to themselves, or the killing of the man who masterminded the plot that terrorized a nation and changed the way we lived. A chance to say, "I'm a part of this moment. I was there and lived it, was in on it," in whatever small way that is. We like to take joy in the BIG moments, whatever they are. People have been doing this through out history. Think of Zacchaeus in the tree, trying to get a better glimpse of Jesus over the crowd. Yes, it's human nature to want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Soon enough we get down out of the trees, put down our flags, and get on with our mundane lives. And all we have left is a really great answer to the question, "Where were you when..." It isn't often that those really big moments change our lives. But now and then--like with Zacchaeus--they just might. And that, my friends, is the celebration we should rush to join, wherever it is. You see Jesus walking on the road, or preparing a feast--in any guise!--you drop your life, and join the celebratory dance with Him.
That's my take on it all...for what it's worth.