Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and it felt like a divine coincidence that it should fall on the first day of Spring this year. That we should stand in church waving around green branches, defiantly proclaiming the arrival of spring despite the cold, biting air outside.
After church, we sat at the kitchen table eating pizza. I asked Ian, “What did you learn at church today, buddy?” We are just getting to the point where he can sometimes recall what the lesson was. (Other times, all he can remember is, “I play with trucks! I play with bubbles!”)
He thought about it for a moment, scrunched up his brow and said, “Hmm.” Then, a flash of memory, and he said, “Da people were sad!” (I thought he said the baby was sad at first, but after a few tries we got there.)
“Oh really, buddy? Were they sad because Jesus died on the cross?”
“Da people sad because Jesus go away. And den, da people happy because Jesus come back!”
Oh yes, sweet boy. That’s just it. We can’t wait for Jesus to come back.
I need Spring this year. I need to feel the warm sunshine on my skin. I need to walk barefoot around my house, to feel the soft carpet under my toes. I want to feel settled in this place, to feel ease in friendships, for the ache of homesickness to abate. I want to pack my boots and gloves away, to step outside without needing protection.
I want Spring in the atmosphere to signal Spring in my soul.
When we hold the palm branches in our hands, what do they symbolize? The people in Jerusalem that day long ago–marking the beginning of the very first Holy Week, though they did not know it then–were signalling the coming of a King. They thought he would be a political king to overthrow the empire of the day. They thought he would be a political savior, not realizing that their souls needed saving more than their nation.
Similarly, I have things I would like Jesus to be. Depending on the day, I ask him to be a magician, or a genie, or sometimes I ask him to be a Xanax. Sometimes I expect him to function like the blankie my son carries around, comfort after a fall but quickly eschewed for a noisier, fancier toy.
All the while, Jesus is what he is. The way. The truth. The life.
And so, I hold both the Jesus I want and the Jesus who is, and I ask him to replace the former with more of the latter. I let him know he’s welcome, laying down my cloak and palm branch beneath his feet.
He is as welcome and as needed as the Spring, bringing new life and new creation to this gray, frozen earth.