Whenever Jesus gives a warning or a woe it’s good to pay attention. Today we hear a warning attached to a crystal-clear positive practice to follow. It is a rare and precious gift. The treasure of the Lord’s Prayer is so vast that Christians have been plumbing its depths since the very first days. It is a pearl of great price, and yet, in its ubiquity, perhaps it has lost its luster.
For as long as I can remember this prayer has formed the backdrop of my spiritual life. I don’t remember sitting down and learning it systematically. It was just in the atmosphere of the family and church community I inhabited.
And so, it usually takes some conscious effort for me to return to the words, the layers of meaning and desire expressed to revivify otherwise dulled, ambient noise.
I can recall encountering slightly different versions; sometimes we ask forgiveness for trespasses, debts, or sins. Sometimes the correct, or at least familiar word seemed really important and other times I was just happy that we were saying it together. And on some occasions hearing the prayer spoken in the various languages of the hearts of people from all over the world has risen like a beautifully rich fragrance to God.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, in a place not very far away, there lived a perfectly ordinary man with one curious habit. Whenever he would greet people, instead of saying “hello,” or “how are you?” he would instead wish them a “Merry Christmas!” It didn’t matter the season, winter, spring, summer, or fall. It didn’t matter if it was the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or if it happened to be your birthday. No matter the day or occasion, and for no occasion at all, he would always wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.” I imagine this seemed odd and perhaps confusing to people, especially at other times of the liturgical year like Advent, Lent, or Easter.