You know how sometimes you hear a reference to a book or a movie or an idea you've never come across before, and then all of the sudden it pops up everywhere you look--in an article in the newspaper, in a magazine, on a radio news show or a blog? Well, over the last week, this following lyric has been following me around--it's from Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem":
ring the bells that still can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in
I first came across it over on Milton's blog; since then I've come across it two or three times. Is it a coincidence, or is meaning afoot?
At this time of year, there are at least two ways of thinking about these words. For those of us who do the decorating and the present buying and wrapping, who bake the cookies and the cakes and the turkeys and the roasts, there is a tendency to shoot for perfection. Inevitably, we'll be disappointed. To turn down our efforts--and our expectations--a notch or two might not be a bad idea. Christmas will still be wonderful, or wonderful enough, even if we never get around to spray-painting the front windows with fake snow.
There is another way the words "forget your perfect offering" resonate for me, and that's spiritually. I try to observe the rituals of the church during Advent, light the candles, do the readings, take time for morning and evening prayer. But sometimes that's hard to pull off. I get sick, I get stressed, my calendar fills up. Sometimes a perfect offering, or much of an offering at all, is out of the question.
Whatever kind of Christmas we have, there will be cracks. And I really like the idea that in the big picture, the cracks end up being the most important part. That our failures leave us open to bigger things. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who bake the lopsided cakes and whose Christmas wreaths keep falling down. Blessed are those whose dogs eat all the fudge and throw it up on the carpet. Blessed are those who forget to remove the price tags. Ring the bells that still can ring. There is a crack in everything.