Like Us

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Advent calls me to remember that Christ came to be one of us.  He came to be like us in all the imperfection of our messy lives.  Even his human family ancestry reflects this –  dotted with misfits and mistake- makers who also experienced grace, forgiveness and hope.

In Gail Godwin’s novel, Evensong,  a small town church in the Smoky Mountains is surprised when the local priest has a young teenage girl read the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew  instead of the traditional Christmas story in Luke 2. The priest then quotes from an essay titled A Coming of Christ in Advent by Raymond Brown that says the genealogy list in Matthew 1 is “three minutes’ worth of tongue twisting names that  contain the essential theology of the Old and New Testaments for the whole Church, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant alike…If so much  powerful stuff can have been accomplished down through the millenia by..people who were such complex mixtures of sinner and saint, isn’t that a pretty hopeful testament to the likelihood that God is using us, with our individual flaws and gifts, in all manner of peculiar and unexpected ways?

“Who of us can say we’re not in the process of being used right now, this Advent, to fulfill some purpose whose grace and goodness would boggle our imagination if we could even begin to get our minds around it?”

Found in Evensong, b

 

 

Yes

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For 15 years, my husband and I have been part of a Christmas event that our small church offers as a gift to the community.  In the beginning, it was only 3 scenes: A shepherd, two innkeepers (us), and a nativity scene set in a stable filled with hay.  Characters have changed through the years to tell the story, but there is always a young Mary. This year, several very young teenage girls donned Mary’s plain clothes and told her story. It is likely that Mary was indeed a very young girl, so these girls were very real in their earnestness and transparent trust.  Mary has to be in the scenes we create, because she was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. I am glad she said Yes to God’s message.  I love her preparing, her purpose, her pondering. The Pieta iis an exquisite rendering of her anguish.  I don’t know of any pieces of art or music that speak of her later life, but I love Edward Farrelll’s litany to her in his book Gathering the Fragments.

Woman

Mom

Mary of rattling tea cups and homemade cookies

Mary of open door, open hearth, open heart

Queen of varicose veins and chapped hands

Strong, fragile woman

Vulnerable, unshakable woman

Believer in love, reality, people, God

Back stooped and ear bent in listening to life’s

stories and to the giver of life

Stubborn fidelity to life in the face of death

Unflinching spirit that stares light into the darkness

of the tomb

Heart that breaks and pours love over the thirsty earth

Missing her son when he is gone to another home

Looking up in the sudden expectancy of hearing

his voice

Smiling wryly to herself and waiting

Waiting, gestating the kingdom once more

Growing in expectancy of second birth this time her own

And their laughter rocks the universe

Sending happy shock waves to echo in our dreams

Tugging our reluctant mouths into smiles of hope

and anticipation

Amen it will be so. Amen

 

 

 

Opening My Eyes

IMG_0869Years ago, when Joe and I were climbing around in an architectural salvage shop in downtown Houston, we literally stumbled across several large wooden beams.  When we looked, we could see carved into the pieces various Latin phrases, highlighted with faded gold leaf.  We bought all the pieces and hauled them home, having  been told only that they had been salvaged from the tear down of a Catholic church in Boston built in the 1800’s.  Now 2 of these beams hang in our home.  We are  not Latin scholars, but have had some help from various Catholic friends and their priests. This apparently is from the “old’ Latin, and although there was not agreement among our sources, the consensus was that this one in particular  is translated “Holy God, Holy fortress, Holy Immortal, Have mercy on us.”

On a Sunday afternoon not long ago, I rested for a while on the couch in our living room.  I opened my eyes to see sunlight moving across the Latin words, and received  a powerful awareness of the glowing light on the word Sanctus.  In Advent, we are called to watch for the Light, to be aware of the Holy. It is only by watching and waiting during these Advent days I can open my eyes to see the LIght of holiness that shined in Bethlehem..

 

Connecting

594-20141215 (2)This bridge spanning the River Sligachan on the isle of Skye forms part of the only road to the west end of the island.  It is in the heart of the rugged Cuillins, and the Sligachan is a rough and wide river, so the road literally makes the way possible.

In the very early morning, while my house is dark and still, the flame of our Advent candle reminds me of Emmanuel, God with me, bridging impassable chaos and separation.  Advent, moving forward in the days to Christmas,  sings of bridges. By his coming, Christ did the unthinkable.  He linked the unlinkable.

 

“But you did the unthinkable.

You build one Bridge to us,

solid enough, long enough,

strong enough to stand all tides

for all time, linking

the unlinkable. ”  ~ Luci Shaw

 

Joy

Joy (2)This third Sunday in Advent we have lit the candle of Joy in the Advent wreath. Joy is a word we hear used a great deal in this season.  It is a favorite word in Christmas cards, tree ornaments, and decorations, much of the time proclaiming cheer or happiness. . Misuse could dull the edges of its meaning for me, but I  claim its numinous mystery once again in my Advent heart.  Here it has been used to repurpose a vintage picture frame by adding paint the colors of Christmas, whimsical design, and drawer pull handles that look like checkered tea towels.  it is a  happy combination.  But the center of Joy speaks more to the truth of the word. A single snowflake tells the story of infinite possibility, unique creation, beauty, and peace.

Joy is more than happiness. The Greek word is chairo, described by the ancient Greeks as “the culmination of being”  and “the good mood of the soul.” They said that it came only from God and came with wisdom and virtue. They believed its opposite was not sadness but fear.

That is why the Joy candle burns brightly tonight. That is why Joy to the World Is not just a hymn to be sung at Christmas.  Joy to my world.!  Joy to our world!

 

 

 

 

Called by Name

 

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Lion of Judah

This week when I went to our pharmacy, at the prescription counter a young woman with black braids and a bright smile called out my name, saying “I thought that was you!”  Surprised, I grinned back – “You remembered my name!”  Knowing my name helped her know who I am. By calling my name, she connected with me in a very personal way.  Advent is a season of remembering not only the coming of Christ, but of recognition –  who he is and how we are connected.  Calling him by name shows that we remember and helps us receive all he is.  What names will you call as you call for Him to come?

 

                                           Judah’s Lion

Where does the lion, Judah’s golden lion walk?

Stealthy under star by winter night his soft paws stalk.

Out on lonely hills a cold wind howls and darkness scowls.

Shepherds shiver – danger in the dark! – some wild beast prowls.

Suddenly up springs a light; a voice rings like a bell.

“Joy, O men of Judah! Come and see! Noel! Noel!”

Where lies Judah’s longed-for lion? “Come and see the sight!

Fear not – your golden one is couched among the lambs tonight.”

~ Keith Patman, as quoted in A Widening Light, edited by Luci Shaw

Bread

IMG_0133 Advent preparation resembles the process that occurs when I bake bread.The work of milling has crushed the grains of wheat.  I choose the grains, gather the ingredients, add them in a deliberate way and begin to work, one step at at a time. But having the yeast, flour,liquid, salt and seasoning in the bowl does not mean there is not still work to be done. As I mix and stir these together, a new work begins – one of my efforts and one that is entirely the result of what has been gathered together to create new dough, a life of its own. As I turn the dough onto a floured cloth and sink my hands into its softness to knead, an ancient chemistry begins to stretch and change, creating flavor and fragrance and nourishment. The heat of the oven finishes this alchemy. This kitchen mystery is a reflection of  Advent Mystery.

 

don’t wait

to celebrate

one who hears

kneads dough with her hands

sets bread to rise,

breathing fragrant prayer

tasting this wisdom

now

 

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