Thursday, December 22, 2016

From Darkest Night to Brightest Day

Christmas Morning Sunrise Light

We all, well, maybe many of us anticipate Christmas with the joy appropriate to the season. The smell of cookies and fir trees, the sounds of carols and bells, the sights of  multi-colored lights dancing in the night...and of course, our many versions of the Christmas Manger and the churches we call home.

This year I am mindful in a new way that for some, for a variety of reasons, Christmas might be a bit more low key. The reading we hear at night from Isaiah sums it up nicely I think: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom, a light has shone."

Some people aren't as close as they'd like to be with their families, either geographically or emotionally. Some people have loved ones in the hospital or have lost someone special in the last year or so. Some folks are just sad and this time of year is especially difficult. 

What can we do to reach out to them? Sometimes all it takes is a knock on a neighbor's door, or an invite for a cup of tea. In the world of social media it only takes a few strokes of the keyboard to let someone know you are praying for their special intention. We may have no idea what the promise of a prayer to be said may mean for a soul who is suffering.

Christmas certainly is a feast of Love. What we learn is that not only is God's love abundantly generous, but that God calls us to be the same. To be free to love, to give love away...not to be stingy with our hearts.

Yes, even in the gloom, the Light that is the Christ shines and can break through the darkness. If in the next week or so, you are called to be that light for someone else, don't be generous with your love. (and your Christmas cookies!)

Let us pray for one another this Christmas season, that we will freely share the love God has given us.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Many Yeses?

I'm not one for holy pictures that make saints look other worldly, I like this image of St Joseph because at least he has muscles, as a carpenter would and looks tired after a long day of work and worry. He looks human...and not stuck as some guy forever holding a lily.

The Gospel this weekend tells us the story of Joseph's visit from an angel and his 'yes' to taking on the role of caretaker, husband and foster father for Mary and Jesus. I find myself wondering how we know this story? Since the dream was Joseph's, who did he tell? Who did he share this vision or dream with? I guess I'll have to presume at some point both Mary and Joseph shared their dreams with each other. Were they trying to understand what their roles were in this most amazing story? Were they trying to understand just exactly how they got to where they were on a particular day? Were they looking back over their history in awe of where their personal 'Yeses' led them?

Hindsight really is 20/20 isn't it? When we take a moment  in prayer to look back at how God has led us through the years, over the rough patches and into some very blessed opportunities, it makes me wonder why I would ever doubt God's care for me. In truth, from every event that seemed so horrible, a job lost, a missed chance, a broken friendship has come a new situation that has made my life immeasurably better.

What must it have been like for Joseph and Mary to look back over their lives, their many yeses, and see how God was leading them from one place to the next, helping them create a strong and loving family for Jesus at every moment. I know what that feels like for me, I can't even begin to imagine how much more profound those moments of realization must have been for them.

So, as we come to the end of another Advent I think about "Yes". The many yeses I have tried my best to offer to God over the years, some said with much hesitation, some more bravely, some foolishly...and I think of the incredible "Yes" God offers to me each and every day...

Yes, I will be with you, hold you close and support you.
Yes, I will comfort you when you are afraid.
Yes, I will lead you when you are lost.
Yes, I will laugh with you and share your joy when you are happy.
Yes, I will love you, especially when you feel unlovable...
Yes to you every day my child....and I am incredibly humbled.

That's probably a great way to enter into the Christmas mystery this year.
Happy Fourth Week of Advent to each of you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Patience? You've got to be kidding me....

The readings this weekend are something else! That first reading and the image of the flowers blooming in the wasteland, the joyful words of hope and expectation-song, wonder-Here is your God come to save you...just take a deep breath and drink that all in!

The second reading calling me, (us!) to be patient until the day of the Lord is here. We'll come back to that idea of patience and how that has been a life long struggle for me!

The Gospel with John asking the question: "Are YOU the one or should we look for another?" (They were cousins...he didn't know??) I spent a significant amount of time recently praying with this passage in relation to current events this Advent. Both the first reading and the gospel speak about the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf hearing and so on, as signs that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Wow. Advent, we know, is the time not just to remember the story of Jesus' birth, but to think about and prepare for that second coming...whenever that will be.
What if the second coming was coming now? What are the signs of the times we should be paying attention to? The world certainly seems 'on the brink' sometimes... Would you be prepared if this second coming were coming...sooner rather than later? What would you want to change in your life, in your heart if you had a moment to prepare? Yikes! It would take me more than a moment...

Which I guess brings me back to James's advice to be patient ( and not judge one another and don't complain about each other...simple right?) It seems to me like there's a  both/and here....we need to be patient with one another and encourage each other to grow in these virtues. At the same time we can't sit back and lollygag...(do we still use that word?) We need to be about the work of the kingdom! We need to speak for justice, for the poor, we need to stand up for our brothers and sisters when we see harm being done...we need to be on fire with Gospel values.This Sunday we light the pink candle and perhaps you'll see a priest or deacon in a pink vestment. This is our reminder to be joyful, to be excited as we hope for the kingdom. "Pink" has become a by-word too for both Victoria's Secret and Breast Cancer awareness...(coincidence?) This third Sunday of Advent, let PINK be a reminder to us that we need to be patient with ourselves and each other and at the same time, we need to be on fire for the coming of the Kingdom of God. How we accomplish both those virtues, I'm not sure...maybe it's a day by day thing. But I'll be happy to work for Kingdom with you. 

Happy Pink Sunday!