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.

Advent Continues – December 12

In my reading today I came across this quote from William Sloan Coffin.  While probably not written for Advent, it carries an Advent message.

“Jesus is both mirror to our humanity and a window to divinity, a window revealing as much of God as any mortal eyes can see.  When Christians see Christ empowering the weak, scorning the powerful, healing the wounded, and judging their tormentors, we are seeing transparently the power of God at work.  What is finally important is not that Christ is God-like, but that God is Christ-like.” 

Maybe what all that means is as I/we do our best to be Christ-like, then maybe I/we will begin to recognize the Holy within us and among us.

Advent Continues – December 11

Christmas Card 2Last night I was listening to a sports program while trying to entertain our new puppy who had more energy at that moment than I did.  For some reason the broadcasters began talking about Wayne Gretzky, arguably the greatest hockey player of all time.  ”He was the not the most talented or the fastest player on the ice,” they said, “but he was able to make the game around him slow down while it continued at breakneck speed for everyone else.”  I have heard that same description used about other athletes who excel in their particular sport.  A great hitter in baseball being able to slow down the speed of the ball in order to hit it.  An outstanding quarterback in football being able to slow down the rush of other players around him in order to complete a pass.

I wonder if that is what is needed for those of us who pay attention to Advent as we move through the days that lead to Christmas?  Can we find ways, even if for a moment, to slow life down even as it continues on around us at full speed and so pay attention to the moment we have and to those who share life with us in that moment?  Slow it down and so remember who we are and where we are going?

That is the key, I think…
Not to getting to Christmas
Because Christmas comes regardless of what we do or don’t do (thank God!),
But of arriving at Christmas with a sense of openness and expectation and hope and peace.

Advent Continues – December 10

I grew up being taught that God was up there somewhere.
In heaven…wherever that was.
That way of thinking and talking about God worked for me for a long time, but it doesn’t anymore.  I now think and talk about God as that which binds life together.  My life to your life to her life to his life; to both those who I know and to those I will never meet.  And, in recent years our understanding of what is alive has even changed.  We now understand that we are bound to/inter-related with what used to be labeled as inanimate – water, air, earth, sand. All of which has now become wrapped up in that which I know and name as God.

Maybe that is why I like the Christmas story in the Bible so much.
It is about God right here.  Right now.
Human and holy wrapped up together;
Mixed up in life…my life and your life…just as it is.
God suddenly present and made real;
Or, at least with the possibility of being present and made real;
In the flesh and blood encounters that happen each and every day.

These days of Advent which continue to lead me…
And sometimes push me…
Towards Christmas,
Serve as a reminder not to look up, but to look around;
And to do my best to look for God in those places where God might really be found.

Advent Continues – December 9

An Advent Prayer

In these Advent Days, O God, may our hearts lead the way;
Because despite all the pressure to the contrary:
The tinsel;
The glitter;
The relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy;
Our hearts long for something more.
For something deeper.
For something much more real.
For that which we often cannot quite name, but somehow we know.
And, so we pray, God…
Turn us around.
Point us in the right direction.
Turn us in the direction of the One who comes to be the Prince of Peace.
Turn us in the direction of a star that still might lead the way.
Turn us in the direction of unexpected angels who meet us on the street or in the store.
Turn us, we pray, in the direction of Christmas.

Advent Continues – December 8

crecheLast night we put up our Christmas tree.
Today, we will decorate it with colored lights and ornaments collected over a lifetime and, finally, with an angel carefully placed on top.  You might say all these externals don’t matter, and maybe even that they take away from the true meaning of Christmas.
But I think they do matter.
For me, at least…
The Advent wreath;
The tree;
The lights;
The creche;
Serve as the everyday reminders which I need.
The carol playing on my computer;
The glimpse of the creche on the corner of my desk;
Pull me up from the busyness and the distractions of the day;
And turn me, again, towards the meaning of Christmas.

Advent Continues – December 7

peace

Yesterday, as a Christmas greeting, a friend sent me this video…
http://bit.ly/Xzik3z

Peacemaking happens each day in a million and one small ways.
Person to person.
Household to household.
Building bridges.
Bending that long arc of history in the direction of justice and peace.
Relentlessly pushing towards God’s promised day.

In Advent, Christians often turn to these words from the prophet Isaiah as a reminder of the promises of the season, and of who we are called to be and what we are called to do.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares;
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
Neither shall they learn war any more. 

Today, may we all find our unique way to be peacemakers and not just peace lovers.

See. Decide. Act.

I am on the Board of Directors of Bridges to Community, an organization that not only does development work in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but also provides service learning opportunities where volunteers live in and work with communities to address basic human needs.  I got home late last night from a four day whirlwind trip to the Dominican Republic with the Board of Directors of Bridges. In the short time we were there, we visited the communities in which Bridges has worked and will be working, and also met with the leaders of those organizations with whom we will be partnering to improve schools and educational opportunities, address health related issues and provide more safer, more suitable housing for those in need.  I am always moved and troubled and made more hopeful as I walk down the dirt roads of communities like the ones we visited.

While there was much to see and to learn and to think about, the most moving part of the four days for me was sitting in a small Roman Catholic church listening to Father John. He is a Roman Catholic priest from Long Island, NY who, by choice, has lived in the Dominican Republic for the last eight years working and advocating on behalf of a people who otherwise would have little or no voice, and sometimes, little or no hope.
He had three words to say to us: See. Decide. Act.

How simple.
See.
Decide.
Act.
And, yet how difficult it is…
To risk being vulnerable enough to see the need of another.
And, to risk being daring enough to decide to do something.
And, to risk being courageous enough to actually do it.

In addition to the challenge Father John placed in front of us, several of us ended our time in the Dominican Republic reflecting on this Franciscan Benediction:
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships;
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At the injustice, oppression and exploitation of people;
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed
For those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war;
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in this world
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done. 

A Day Not Promised to You

This afternoon I will stand in a cemetery alongside a friend as we remember and celebrate and bury her grandmother. It is a moment, I think, not just to remember the person who has passed away, but to reflect on our own lives as well. Here is something of what I will share this afternoon…

Before he retired, a friend of mine used to call me up periodically to say,
“Remember, today is a day that was not promised to you, but it is a day so full of promise.”
And that is what I want to say to you today.
Today is a day that was not promised to you, but a day so full of promise.
I am hardly one to speak, because I sometimes look too far ahead and worry too much about what just happened, but the truth is the only moment that we have is the moment right now.
Where you are.
With the people around you.
I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know.
But on a day like today…
At a moment like this…
Life moves a bit deeper or a bit more into focus than we sometimes allow it.
And so I encourage you to remember…
Today is a day that was not promised to you, but a day so full of promise.

The second thing I would like to say to you is this…
When I was young I had this picture of God as being somewhere up in the sky looking down to see whether what I was doing was good or bad.  Now I think God is more about compassion and kindness and forgiveness and peace than about rules or about good and bad. And, I think of God as that which connects us to each other and to the world in which we live.  An abiding presence with us all the time; inspiring us and guiding us.  Our lives are a mixture of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, laughter and tears.  And it is not that God is with us sometimes…when life is good or we are good. And not there sometimes…when life is hard or we are struggling to find our way. That which we know and name as God is present in all those moments of our lives, and is present even now.