Ron Swanson's Advent Prayer
He meant well, this youthful man, as he played his acoustic guitar.
He was helping us to navigate—albeit through dimmed lights—the singing of songs and the making of Christian worship on a recent Sunday morning in church. Then, like many a church worship leader at Christmastime, he invoked us to go deeper and wider into the mystery and blessedness of Advent.
On behalf of the Church, he was hoping to historically connect the first coming of Jesus with that soulful human longing that Jesus might come—again and again—into our modern lives. The young man with a guitar pick prayed aloud.
"Lord, you came into our world...with all the hectic nature of government rules."
With all the hectic nature of government rules. This language curiously caught my attention. Because, well, government rules are inherently hectic, right?
Perhaps the young man with a guitar pick was only alluding to the famed first-century Roman government census, a historical feature of St. Luke's birth narrative that serves to locate and situate the arrival of Jesus.
Or maybe he was referring to the DMV. Or the FDA. Or the TSA.
You know, driver's licenses and vehicle registrations, food regulations and drug controls, airport protocols and security measures—they just make life way too hectic. The young man would've surely hit the prayer jackpot by quoting the viral sensation Sweet Brown: "Ain't nobody got time for that." Although, even for casual praying in a very casual church, that would've been a step too far.
Anyway, it was hard not to smile inquisitively and open my closed eyes. I began to look around at the other closed-eyed churchgoers in this Protestant, mostly Anglo, mostly suburban, mostly (relatively) wealthy congregation. Had no one else noticed the Incarnation?
A figure from another world had become en-fleshed in our world.
Ron Swanson, director of the Parks and Recreation office for the fictional City of Pawnee (Indiana), had traded his usual self and saxophone for a guitar. As fate would have it, he had descended upon an unwitting American church and was now offering Advent prayers with his trademark libertarian impulses, which are humorously on display below.
All in all, at the end of the day, I rather think the young man with a guitar pick who's leading worship in church on Sunday most likely may not know what he says. As for Ron Swanson...
Here's a man who typically eschews anything with an overtly communitarian sensibility—e.g. the State; e.g. the Church. Yet he impressed me with his openness toward the Other. He was walking among the people.
It was, I suppose, another Christmas Miracle.