My wife recently told me about a web site she visits from time to time. It’s a category on Reddit.com (a “sub-Reddit”) called “No No No YES!” Users submit videos and GIFs of disasters barely avoided. A lot of them have to do with cars and motorcycles—mechanical malfunctions, accidents that could have been much worse, and a variety of other near-misses—but any circumstance in which possible tragedy is averted at the last minute is fair game.
I did a quick run-through of the material posted in just the last couple of days, and I saw a woman walking on a sidewalk, oblivious to the dead tree being removed by a tree service just to her left. They have apparently neglected to rope off the area, and we see the tree starting to fall as she walks by. It misses her by inches. In another post, a man gets out of a van and starts across the street without looking. A bus is coming at a pretty good clip from the opposite direction, and it looks for all the world as if this guy’s life is about to end quite painfully and messily. Fortunately, the timing is such that he avoids a head-on collision, and instead glances harmlessly off the side of the bus.
Sarah likes these kinds of videos because she likes happy endings. There is another category called “Yes Yes Yes NO NO NO!” where everything starts out fine then goes haywire, but Sarah doesn’t care for them, and neither do I. They are meant to be funny, but they always remind me of the “humor” of America’s Funniest Home Videos, a brand of humor that wants you to laugh at someone else’s pain or embarrassment. It’s the cheapest form of comedy, and sometimes it’s downright cruel. Like Sarah, I prefer “No No No YES!”
I bring this up because it occurred to me the other day that my preaching tends to have a “No No No YES!” flavor. I believe in the good news, and I try to make sure to communicate it in every sermon I preach and every meditation, blog post, and essay (and book, for that matter) I write. But for me, the good news does not come easily. I can’t help seeing the ugliness and evil of the world, and I realize that the gospel has a steep hill to climb. The title of one of Anne Lamott’s books, Grace (Eventually), comes to mind. The gospel will win out—love, grace, and the reign of God will have the last word—but only after struggle and trial.
In Advent we wait. This season calls on us to demonstrate patient endurance during the in-between time in which we find ourselves. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we know that the gospel will prevail, but we do not yet see the fruits of that victory. So we wait. With expectancy and hope, and a longing for fulfillment, we wait.
Part of our waiting will find resolution at the end of this month with the drama of the nativity story. We will remember how the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior and King of Israel, arrived under the most unusual of circumstances: a virgin mother, emergency labor while traveling, a feeding trough for a cradle, and a visit from a scruffy band of herdsmen. Mary and Joseph, as they lived through this drama, must have been thinking, “No no no.” Things weren’t working out the way they had expected.
Once the child was born, however, and his cries shattered the stillness of the night, and they wrapped him up in whatever strips of cloth they could find at hand, and the child, now quiet, took the finger his father offered him and squeezed it with an iron grip as he slept, all the trials and disappointments were forgotten. The “No no nos” were left behind. All that remained was, “Yes.”