A friend posted a blog today that referred to the image on the right. “Buy Presents” is edited to “Be Present,” and so on. She suggested that in her life there’s a bit of Both/And.
Do you know how a phrase can send you off down a rabbit hole of memory? Her post did that for me, taking me back to my days in seminary at Meadville/Lombard Theological School. On the second floor of the old stone building, there was a bulletin board and tacked to it was a hand-lettered sign that read “I believe in the Both/And. And if Bibfeldt said it, I believe it!” I liked the sign from the very start, though it was some time before I learned about the fictional theologian Franz Bibfeldt.
In the 1940s, he was created by students at a Lutheran seminary and the story goes that students began quoting his work in their essays. Mysteriously, even though there were cards in the card catalog of the library, his books were always checked out, and professors couldn’t seem to find more about this mysterious fellow. His most famous book reported to be Both/And, his response to Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. I gather a final work from Mr. Bibfeldt was Either/or and/or Both/And.
The Both/And has been a part of my theology and ongoing ministry since those long ago days in the stairwell of stone and dark wood. Hope for me springs from trusting that what is most important is inclusive. As my friends said, in this season it’s both being present and giving gifts made or bought with love, creating the surprise of opening gifts, and wrapping your arms around your loved ones. All of it.
Just a week before it’ll be Christmas Eve and the first night of Channukkah, and there will be candles and prayer and light. May you have both/and in these days to come, and find hope there.