Advent draws to a close, it is now Christmas Eve. Thank you for journeying with me for this holy season. Many say that blogging is over, but I’m still here and the number of readers here seems to grow, so I simply offer my gratitude and I keep typing.
There will be a Christmas post tomorrow. For today I simply offer this song, the one we sing as we wait, as we make room, as we wait…
To the LORD in the hour of my distress I call—and he answers me. “O LORD, save my soul from lying lips, from the tongue of the deceitful.” What should he give you, what repay you, O deceitful tongue? The warrior’s arrows sharpened, with red-hot coals from the broom tree! Alas, that I live in Meshech, dwell among the tents of Kedar! I have had enough of dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war. Psalm 120
One week ago today, I who – to quote the psalmist – “am for peace” became consumed with the fire of my own anger. If you do not know what I am talking about, you can read the blog post from that day, but I’m not linking to it. Righteous anger is one thing, but that was something else! Again, referring to the psalm above, “red-hot coals from the broom tree” were Continue reading →
(REPOST: This is the text of a reflection that I had offered at St. Edward the Confessor on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 – during Evening Prayer.)
God is with us.
God is with us.
God is with us.
It doesn’t always feel like God-is-with-us, does it? Especially now. Typically we might find ourselves on December 18th, pretty deeply into the “are-we-there-yet?” stage. You know, that feeling where we find our “it’s-almost-Christmas” glee crisscrossing with high anxiety over all the things yet unaccomplished as we race towards December 25.
Anxiety or glee – neither one is especially rooted in our Advent journey of holy waiting, but both are very common things to feel. I don’t know about you, but I am in a state of mind and heart that says, “can-we-leave-now?” rather than “are-we-there-yet?” And the “God-is-with-us” matter might be harder than usual to grasp. This makes me wonder if perhaps “are-we-there-yet?” and “can-we-leave-now?” are the wrong Continue reading →
Many years ago I read that many people fail their climbs of the highest mountains in the last 50 feet. I can’t seem to find that factoid today, but it has stayed with me because it seems like it is true for a multitude of journeys. What about this journey? Have you had a calm Advent? One filled with peaceful waiting and anticipation? One where we make room for Jesus?
The disciples of John told him about all these things. John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”- Luke 7:18-20
Today’s Gospel reminds that that even John, the one who was very clear that Jesus was coming, was unsure of the Jesus that actually showed up. We wait for Jesus now, the same Jesus who has been and always will be in our midst.
Maybe we don’t recognize him because the Jesus we expect is not always the Jesus we get. It is always a good time to stop and reflect on the Jesus we expect, hope for, believe in.
If we are seeking the Jesus who will take “our side” and “hates all the same people we do,” (thank you Anne) might want to go deeper. Today’s Gospel invites us to that place. The question remains, will we go? And if we do, will we believe?
Advent is the time for making room for Christ to be born in each of us. As I am constantly reminded, that means de-cluttering the messy manger of my own heart. Otherwise, where will unexpected Jesus be born? The one I may “expect” is the one of my own making. Today I pray that I haul that image to the dump, creating the space where love comes in. Want to give me a hand? I could never do this alone. Could you?
On December 5 I published one of the most-read posts for this blog, A gun rack in the manger. Today I will post the link to it, and a bit more. I am very weary of the violence in our nation. My weariness stems from societal, economic, cultural, and religious challenges that keep us from doing anything concrete in the wake of the death of the Children of Sandy Hook. Today is the third anniversary of the slaughter. God have mercy.
At a time that stood in the shadow of notorious papal scandal and other church corruption, a time of great distrust of the church, a saint came along to who would change some of this. This man had a great desire to counter these feelings of suspicion and a lack of trust, and replace them with a love of the Lord. If you were walking around Rome in the 16th century you might have spied him, perhaps standing in a piazza or on a street corner. He might stand out because he was frequently seen wearing absolutely ridiculous clothing and sometimes with half of his beard shaved off. What a sight! It was in this way that St. Philip Neri helped to change the course of church history, and bring many souls to know Christ.
Did you get to see any of the coverage of Pope Francis opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s to inaugurate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on Tuesday? Even if you did, here is another look. That I found the video so moving took me by surprise. Of course the dramatic opening of the doors, which apparently was hard to do from the looks of it, to the shift from seeing the doors open from the inside. What an image of Christ – the inbreaking of the kingdom. Powerful.
The scene that really had my emotions running was when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI enters St. Peter’s, at about 1:20. Good Lord, the man cannot walk without assistance, how frail he seemed. Yet he was there, and it was beautiful to me. Fodder for another post, but I always believe he got a worse rap than he deserved. Anyway, I remain grateful for his courage to resign. In doing so, he opened a door of mercy for the Church, and then God opened another door of mercy when Pope Francis was elected. On Tuesday, two men walked through the Door of Mercy, and and embraced. Continue reading →
“They should make a postage stamp with him on it,” one guy told us at his wake. “I owe him everything,” said another. “He believed in me. He changed my life.” This is from a column in the December 4, 2015 issue of Commonweal magazine, entitled “Keeping the Books, Owen McGowan, RIP” by regular contributor Jo McGowan. These are words that were said about her father Owen, who died in August, and they reveal a moving tribute to a great man. I was particularly struck by the sentence, “He believed in me. He changed my life.” It reminded me of Jesus, the one we await this and every Advent.
Not long after reading the column, I opened an email from a friend who does the work of the saints – she teaches at an inner city elementary school. The email contained a link to a video that I present in this link. By the way, I can only share the link, I can’t get the video to embed. It will give you a pop up saying that if you are not signed into your TWC account, you can only view a limited number of videos; just click watch video and it will bring you to the site.) In any case, if you did not or could not watch the video, the story is about an after school mentoring program at the school where my friend works. My friend is Christine Hannan, and she is in the video. The program pairs adults with kids for five years, helping them to learn how to read. The story blew me away. Five years is a long time for a person to give, but imagine what that may yield! Not only does the child have help with reading, but the child also forms a powerful and consistent bond with an adult who is focused on them. In the end, I was reminded of the power of what happens when people believe in us.
If there was any doubt of God’s belief in humanity, the incarnation of Christ, born as a vulnerable infant in challenging circumstances should have clarified the obvious. However, many still struggle – whether they don’t believe that God believes in them, and in daily life, that no one believes in them.
In Advent we are called to this quiet waiting, and every year it can become more challenging. For example, consider this:
Two things immediately spring to mind, well – immediately after I shake the creepy Orwellian doom feeling out of myself. One is that our capacity as humans for waiting is at this point grows ever more culturally eliminated. The second is that it is no wonder so few people believe in God. Why bother when if you are in a position to have all the economic wherewithal to access the mighty drone wonder, who needs to pray? Pfffft! Jesus may be shoved aside by the brilliance of Jeff Bezos and his never ending desire to reinvent the world. That is not always a bad thing… but, just think about how his ingenuity can steal our attention from others – and from God. People worry about our president making himself into some all powerful king? No worries there, Bezos seems to move forth with that with almost no scrutiny. But I digress! I am not here to pick on a rich and powerful man who can fulfill your every dream. He can spur on the economy and fulfill your dreams very well – long as you can pay, that is.
Anyway, my point being – if we can have our material goods delivered by drone, who needs to pray, when one can simply pay? Why wait, when immediacy is a click or two away? And why bother waiting for God who will soon appear as a baby, when due to your frustration boils over not being able to afford the goods or the cost of the drone flight? There are many barriers to God in the material world, but the material world is where we are, as we watch and wait for the very incarnation who wishes to join us here. Jesus comes into the world, illuminating the darkness. He does not to eliminate our every problem or pain, but he is here be one with us in it.
Whether or not you believe in God, God believes in you. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, Jesus believes in you. The act of believing, having faith and hope in another is a vital step on the pilgrimage of Advent, as well as the pilgrimage of life. With faith and hope in Christ Jesus in his one of his least powerful looking forms, as a child, we see a new light that guides us on new paths. We must find ways to twin waiting and belief, fueled always by the One who believes in us, and who in great mercy – waits for us, as we wait for him.
As we go forth today, maybe we can bring a little light into the darkness by doing what we learned about Owen McGowan doing in the first paragraph – believing in someone. Today, may we come to know more deeply, that someone believes in us.
Thank you for the great response to Saturday’s post about the “gunrack in the manger.” As you can tell, I was full of angst, and while things are not “better,” I am deeply comforted and well informed by comments here, comments at the Albany Times Union version of the blog, and on Facebook. I do not get a lot of Twitter love, but I don’t put a lot into it either. (Oh, there’s fodder for another post!)
Another longer post coming on Monday, but for today, a song. It is the Second Sunday of Advent, light another candle, sink into the sheer, even-if-anxiety-inducing, luxury of sitting still and… waiting. Even if it is just for the length of the video. Enjoy the quiet and the song.
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