reflections on this Christmas Eve

What an unlikely place to be on the eve of bearing God’s child!

As if they had not already gone through enough. I wonder what it was like for Joseph and Mary to prepare for this moment. It seems that trying to make any plans was futile. Mary and Joseph began with certain images of what their life would be like. After all they were raised in a close community–they were trained in the tradition of their ancestors–their life would be a mirror of their parents and grandparents. Of course we know the story. Nothing about the life that Mary and Joseph  shared would be like their close relatives.

Nestled in the midst of a town named in the prophets, they would constantly be challenged to comprehend where they belonged. Visited by angels and encouraged by dreams this family would begin with little security and carry with them a different understanding of belonging.

Belonging to a greater community and charged to raise the child who would grow to lead a new “Way”. These parents would always have to step back in the quiet and trust.

What an unlikely place to be on the eve of bearing God’s child! In a stable, far from home – alert and aware. Isn’t it true – in the most uncomfortable moment we can find the greatest strength?! When all of the familiar is torn away, the night sky is brighter and strangers become friends.

The story is told that a child was born tonight. Vulnerable and yet determined – determined to sit in the center of this fragile earth and make it home.

Come Lord Jesus, our guest to be…

(Pre)Occupied

Few have been this preoccupied with tents

since you recklessly pitched one among us.

I would have chosen something more stable,

not quite so porous and vulnerable,

safe, secure, readily significant,

and missed the whisper of evening breezes,

the restless susurration of canvas,

and that one appearing in the shadows,

light flinting off flesh in a fading sun,

fireflies dancing in the night,

rousing my longing

to step into your own

luminous darkness.

The Rev. Jay Johnson – Peculiar Faith

Do we remember what we are preparing for?

Tomorrow we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. The third Sunday — how has time moved so quickly? The weeks have moved at an unusually fast pace.

Advent 3 focuses on preparation. Oh boy – I sense a moment of uncomfortable redirection. What’s new about preparation? After all, Christmas is only two weeks away — there is so much to do! Family is coming, trees are being  decorated as gifts are purchased and wrapped to reflect in glitter the lights around them. It is all about preparation now!

Yet John the Baptist in his rough and blunt manner meets us tomorrow — this was and is his cry to all who can hear: “Prepare the way.” This preparation is of a different sort. We are to roll up our sleeves and secure all that might blow away at the arrival of God-among-us. This preparation has to do making ready a place for people to meet this God and know the wonder of God’s kingdom here and now.

We should not be surprised — this redirection comes at just the right time. Lest we forget our own steps on this sacred journey, John welcomes us tomorrow with a clear reminder. Take a minute to read this short yet helpful article about Advent 3. It comes from a great resource — THE PRAYER BOOK GUIDE TO CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

Prepare the Way (click here)

  • Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
  • Psalm 126
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
  • John 1:6-8, 19-28

John the Baptist’s ministry was vital for developing the climax of God’s revelation. The thread of Hebrew religious history had to be brought together to prepare a public that God’s Anointed could reach.

John was not the light of God’s world. His task was to enable others to see the light. To be such a witness, John had to possess forcefulness, and at the same time to have a humility that rendered him unaware of how forceful he was.

Advent is near.

Looking for a creative way to journey through Advent? Christine Sine has a wonderful blog called “Godspace”. The invitation below will take you to this blog offering a variety of ways to experience the wonder of Advent…

An Invitation to Join Us for Advent..

to welcome the stranger…

Do you remember when you entered a new “community of people” as a stranger? Did you feel welcomed?

My memory — I was 15 and a new kid in a new school. All of my education up to that time had been in “special” schools for children with disabilities (I have used a wheelchair to get around all of my life). These schools were filled with many children with varying physical and mental abilities. There were a small number of children, myself included, who together were instructed at our grade level and offered skills training to thrive in a non-disabled world. By the time I was 14, public schools throughout the country were beginning to adjust, adapt and open the doors to students of all abilities.

 I was 15 and a new kid in a new school. In my 9th grade year, we moved to a town that had one high school for the whole county and no “special” school. Going with my parents to the high school for registration and to meet some of the teachers, I noticed immediately that hallways were long, ceilings were high and no student was my height (I’ve always done a lot of ‘looking up). Though I was excited, I felt very small.

Do I remember? Oh yes, this memory still stirs emotion. I was welcomed. Welcomed with all of the energy that catapults one through their adolescence, the ups and the downs. With genuine hospitality and support, I entered this new “community of people”. It was a pivotal experience at a formative time. Looking back I know those teachers and friends helped me “vision” a future with confidence.

Flexibility and the openness to welcome diversity are both at the core of my memory. It is not about being comfortable but being willing to adapt and welcome the person you might least expect at your door.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

“Seasons change and so do I…” (a re-post)

To friends and readers this post was entered with a portion missing from the quoted poem, Edge of September. In respect for the poet, Jeanie Tomasko, and to complete the original reflection, I have discarded last night’s work and now re-post what was originally intended. Thank you for your patience!

“Seasons change and so do I…” – a line from the song, “No Time”, written and sung by THE WHO. It was a song that proudly played from my dorm room window on speakers cranked loud enough to reach two other dorms and a field used for tag football and sun bathing. That was when ‘serious’ studying was set aside. It was too difficult to resist the call of Boulder’s Colorado sun. When I hear this song I can swiftly return to that time in my life – formative and filled with possibilities.
On October 1, I will have been retired four months. While reflecting on my own changes, I found myself singing this line from “No Time”. It was the thought of seasons that brought the words to mind. There is no surprise that one reflects on the changing seasons now. The days are getting shorter. I read in yesterday’s weather report — today the sun would set two minutes and twenty-three seconds earlier. It does not take a written report to know that summer is waning. Evenings are cooler – the trees are beginning to show highlights of gold and red in their leaves. I have always enjoyed “transition seasons”.  These seasons seem to act as a bridge between winter’s cold and the breathless heat of summer.
This fall I am particularly aware of how life can reflect the nature of seasons. In the heat of this past summer, my new life in retirement felt uncomfortable, still too bright for me to find focus. As in other times of change in my life, I continued to be grateful for God’s grace in each day’s rhythm. Too tired and distracted with details, I would have been unable to tend to the sun’s rising and setting.
Now, I seem to welcome these early days of fall. With four months of retirement behind me, I sense the beginning of a pattern to my days — the words rest and relax feel less foreign. These early days of fall remind me that all of creation knows the stress and creative energy found in times of transition. With gratitude, I welcome fall as I prepare to receive its guidance and calming pace.

Edge of September

Again this year it comes:
the shift in the wind
that certain slant of sun
the sudden red of sumac.
Out at the lake
birdsong is less urgent,
the young can feed themselves.
In a few days
something like light
will tug on wings.
I am at home with
the downside of summer.
I take stock of the woodpile.
Night comes earlier. The space
between cricket chirps, longer.
I’ve stopped coloring my hair.

My husband fingers the gray
as if learning a tenderness.

Jeanie Tomasko

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