Christmas Continues – December 26

The Work of Christmas

Years ago we received a Christmas card with this quote on it by Howard Thurman.  Since then it has been a part of the decorations we put up/out each year.
It serves as a helpful reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

When the song of the angels is still,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal broken,
To feed to hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among our sisters and brothers.

Christmas Eve – December 24

On Thanksgiving Day, as we were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I saw an commercial with a person rushing from store to store with an arm-load of shopping bags.  The tag line of the commercial was: Make my Christmas.

Which got me thinking and leads me to ask this…
What will make your Christmas this year?

Advent Continues – December 23

In those days a decree went out from the Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2: 1-7

Reflection:

For all our elaborate and beautiful preparations…
Trees and lights.
Candles and carols.
Star and flowers.
Decorations both here and in our homes carefully set in their assigned places.
For all of this…
The actual story of the birth of Jesus, as we read it in Luke, is strikingly simple.
Out of 32,000 verses in the Bible a mere seven describe this event.
Rather than special, this birth is more like the birth of any other and every other child than something different and unique.
And while scholars and pastors can parse words and infer meaning;
And preachers write and preach elaborate sermons;
What strikes me today is the simplicity of the story.
And, with that the reminder that that which we most long for…
Most desire…
Most need…
Is, more often than not, found in the simple.
The ordinary, everyday moments that grace our lives.
And, when we have eyes to see a star in those moments;
And ears to hear the echo of angels;
We will begin to discover God in all our other moments, as well.

Advent Continues – December 22

What words would we wrap around our prayers this day, O God?
Continued prayers for healing and hope and strength and comfort for all those whose lives have been and are torn apart by violence whether in neighboring towns or a world away?
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayer.

And prayers, too, for those for whom the holidays are more empty than full?
For those who move through these days with a lingering sense of loss and who face an empty place at the table?
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayer.

And, prayers for all those who move through these days with a deep sense of expectation and hope; who catch a glimpse of what you intend for us and for all?
Your grand dream of peace on earth.  Good will towards all.
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayer.

And prayers for ourselves?
For wisdom enough to recognize and to name that which is really the most important as we move through these final days towards Christmas and then beyond?  For an openness to be caught off guard by wonder and surprised by awe and overcome with an excitement that pushes through our busyness and past our preoccupation?  For a sense of gratitude that breaks open our hearts and makes room for another?
Yes, O God.
Hear our prayers.

And, finally this, O God…
Here we are, poised on the edge of another Christmas.
We would pray for peace.
Peace on Earth and peace between and among all Your children.

Advent Continues – December 21

blog post that I read this morning written by Landon Whittsett got me thinking.  He wrote about the what words we use each day to tell ourselves who we are and how our life is going.  It made me stop and think about the meaning and the importance of the rituals that have become a part of our family traditions as our family has gotten ready for Christmas.  These rituals, I think, become our unspoken words about what is important to us about Christmas.

Yes, there is the wreath hung by the front door and a decorated tree in our living room. And,there are candles in our windows from the First Sunday in Advent through Epiphany. But, it is the Advent wreath on our dining room table that is the most meaningful to me. As we gather for dinner, with whoever is at the table that evening, the candles are lit before we begin our meal. A simple, quiet reminder, often at the end of a busy, sometimes chaotic day, that serve as a reminder that as we move through days with more darkness than light, we are still moving forward towards the promises of Christmas.

Advent Continues – December 20

Crunch time.
December 20th.
4 days until Christmas Eve.
5 days until Christmas.
I have gifts yet to buy.
Gifts I have already bought wait to be wrapped.
There is more bread to make and grocery shopping to be done.
I rush through these days like Christmas depends on me.
And on my getting it all done…perfectly.

But, thankfully, that is not true.
Ready or not, Christmas comes;
Into the confusion and chaos of my life;
Into the heartbreak and the hope which I feel;
Into my anticipation and my searching.
Christmas comes into my life just as it is and however it is for you in this particular moment.
Maybe all we have to do…
Maybe all we can do…
Is to let it come and find its way into our hearts and lives;
Just as they are in this very moment.

December 19 – Advent Continues

Last night I made my first batch of Christmas bread.

A Christmas tradition that began 25 years ago when I first made bread with my oldest son for him to give to his teachers in school.  Every year since, I have made bread to give to teachers and to family and friends and to co-workers.
10 loaves baked last night.
Another 10 loaves sometime this weekend.

So much of our celebration of Christmas – both our preparations and how we celebrate the day – is about remembering.
Ornaments that our children made years ago hung again on the tree.
The Christmas when everyone made it home.
Lighting candles in church and singing Silent Night.
A part of my making bread is remembering standing next to my sons while they stood on the stool to knead the bread and to shape the loaves.  I remembered them as I made bread last night.

But, beyond our decorations and family traditions, can we remember one more thing? Can we remember that time in our life when God came close?
When we were stopped in our tracks by beauty?
When we were overcome by love?
When awe took our breath away?
When forgiveness healed guilt we had carried with us for too long?
When we stood face to face with another and, despite all the seeming differences between you, you knew you stood face to face with your sister or brother?

Maybe there is something about Christmas about that is about remembering this as well.

Advent Continues – December 17

Imagine

Part of the message of Advent and Christmas is not about how life and world actually are.  The past several days have shown, again, how brutal and heart breaking life can be.  But, instead, the message of Advent and Christmas is about how we imagine life and world could be.  The language of the parts of the Bible that Christians read at this time of year is symbolic and hopeful and pointing to a someday beyond the horizon of today.
Weapons of war transformed into tools that nurture and sustain.
Those in need provided for.
Nations refusing to train citizens for war.
No one living in fear.
Peace…known by one and by all.
Imagine.
The imagery here is not all pie in the sky, but taps into our deepest longings and our bravest hopes which is a part of the reason, I think, of the appeal of Christmas to so many, even to those who do not buy into the traditional Christian  understanding and practice.

The challenge we face is not our lack of imagination.
The challenge is taking those steps…
Sometimes baby steps…
From where we find ourselves today towards that which our imagination tells us just might be.  I think, too often, we get side tracked by thinking we have to have how we get from here to there all figured out before we begin.  And, because that is impossible or just too overwhelming we just mark time where we are.
But, the time for just marking time is past.

With the slaughter of the innocents last Friday in Newtown, CT the time is past for just talking about gun control and mental illness.  We may not be able to take all the steps needed at one time, but we can take one step.
And, so, too, with peace.
And, so, too, with hunger.
And, so, too, with…
You fill in the blank.

Imagine if we all took one step today…
And another one tomorrow.

Advent Continues – December 15

yes
“In the fullness of time…”
The Bible says in talking about the birth of Jesus.
Maybe for us that fullness of time is our time right now;
With God waiting for us to add our Yes
To the Yes spoken before by Mary and Joseph and even by Jesus.
Maybe God is waiting right now for us;
In order to be present again in this time and place:
In our time and place:
To be, once again, God with us;
To be present in the lives of all those who need God most.

Advent Continues – December 14

I have no right to speak.
And, even if I did I would not (and do not) know what to say.
Today in Newtown, CT, about 30 minutes from where I live, a young man walked into an elementary school and killed 20 children and 6 adults.
Here I sit safe and sound.
And, as far as I know my children are safe and sound.
I can only feel the edges of their heartbreak that will not heal;
And hear the echos of the inconsolable sobbing for the children and the parents who will not ever come home again.
I have no right to speak.
And, even if I did I would not (and do not) know what to say.

I know better than to ask “Why?”
There is no answer that will make any sense or make things better;
And any answer to that question does not really matter at this point,
But I ask it just the same.
Why?

I grieve for them.
I grieve for us.
In the middle of Advent;
With Christmas approaching.