Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, 2018

Soon my 4 year old grandchild and I will add the last figure to our Advent Calendar that is also a nativity. This is my favorite of all our manger scenes, one I found years ago at an estate sale. It is a hinged wooden box with tiny wooden pegs for the members of the scene. Every year I enter the story more. With each Advent, I am more awed by the mystery of Divine love, this gift. Each year at this time I am  learning a little better the work of Christmas.

 

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart

~Howard Thurman.

  ~

 

 

Advent Wonder

 First Baptist Church, Richmond, TX  December 8, 2017

A few days ago, a rare (for this area) snowfall briefly covered our homes, our gardens, and our church. Young and old rushed to the windows to watch as flakes began to drift down.  Later, the rushing was to go outside, to lift faces and palms to the wonder. I often think just when I need the sense of wonder quickened, a gift like this comes to do just that. Wonder at snowfall or the tiniest dewdrop glistening on a rose petal is a nudge to be open, to remain open-eyed, to be receptive to the fullness and expectancy of Advent.

Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder.The wonder keeps us open-eyed and exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.  ~ Eugene Peterson

A Reminder

November has been a month of spectacular sunsets. This one was changing so quickly that my husband pulled into a pharmacy parking lot for us to capture part of it before it began to fade. I will always remember this sunset, given on November 6, 2017 –  a day that an armed gunman walked into a small church during a worship service in Sutherland Springs, TX – a small town less than 2 hours from our home and killed 26 people, including children, a pregnant mother and the baby she carried.  The tiny congregation is decimated and the building itself will be demolished. I heard the awful news after we left our own beloved house of worship that Sunday morning. I was filled with grief at the time I saw this sunset. It seemed to me a needed reminder that God is still present even in the presence of evil.

A week later a memorial service was held by the church’s pastor, who lost his own teenage daughter in the massacre. I wept when I heard that volunteers had gone into the riddled church building, cleared and cleaned the space, covering bullet holes and painting the whole space white. Twenty-six white chairs, each containing a rose, were set into the space, which people could visit during the day. Now the building will be entirely removed, replaced by a memorial prayer garden. As my own family gathered for Thanksgiving, and this week as we pulled out old familiar ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree, I am reminded of those families who will have empty places at the table and who will not have family members there for celebrating this Advent and Christmas. There may be some who, like me, begin to shop early and already have gifts for a child or parent who won’t receive them.

I would rather have simply written a poem about the beauty of a November sunset. Instead, I offer my remembering and my prayers in this season of gratitude and beginning again of Advent expectancy. Lament has always been a part of its story.

 

Advent Blooms

paperwhitesMy first Advent post this year pictured the paperwhite bulbs Nora planted on the day her baby brother was born, November 26, 2016. My, how fast they have grown!

paperwhiteblooms

Today, almost 4 weeks later, Nora holds her growing leaves close and says she loves them. Their blooms should be ready to grace our Christmas dinner table!

norapaperwhites

She loves her baby brother even more!  Oliver has many adoring arms to reach for him. He has grown too, a much more amazing miracle than the paperwhites. It has been fun to watch growth and blooming. Tending the blooms and the baby has given particular grace and meaning to these days of Advent, to my reflections of another baby and the way He changed the world.

oliver3weeksOliver and his Papa Joe.

 

Light for My Path

Clear shining light,

Mary

s childbeacon

Clear shining light,

Mary’s child

Your face lights up our way

Light of the world,

Mary’s child,

Dawn on our darkened day

 Geoffrey Ainger

Advent is neither just a period on the church calendar nor my personal one. Advent has become an important preparation time, a time to reflect on my path, entering into the darkness of unknowing, opening to new possibility and radical availability.   Light coming into darkness.

Advent

paperwhites

A cold dark day in winter, when spring’s arrival seems to be an eternity in coming, is a good time to force bulbs indoors. Paperwhite bulbs, green and growing, hearken toward the light and warmth of spring to come. A week ago, our 2 year old granddaughter and I placed marbles in this dish and added water, then nestled dry, brown bulbs on top. I watched her little hands as she worked on our project.  Today, we can see how the roots have grown and how much they have grown.

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A few minutes ago, I helped the same little hands add a tiny cardboard shepherd girl to our vintage Advent calendar -the most powerful story of  light and hope and promise.

Stirrings

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sit in dark stillness

light one candle

quickening as flame swells

Veni, veni, Emanuel

 

hold a little one high to see

starlights and manger scenes

join her awe and wonder

take joy in her ohs and ahs

sing Silent NIght for a lullaby

 

greet the leapings of your weary heart

welcome stinging tears

images of all Christmases past

while wrapping yourself in present gifts

attend to the stirrings of God.

 

 

 

This is True

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Advent Credo

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

From Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak, Eerdmans, 2004.

After the Star, Following the Light

Hope

 

 

 

 

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This week I wanted to spend time listening to Christmas music, wrapping Christmas gifts and baking Cranberry bread. I did these things, but along with so many others , I struggled, shattered by news of more violence against  innocent people , heartbreaking photos of grief-stricken families, terrified refugees, and the darkness of human hearts without hope and faith and love.

I have this pottery jar on my kitchen window sill.  It has been shaped and fired and given as a gift of love. In deeper, mysterious ways, Advent is expressed hope, shaped and fired and given. In the darkest of times, this hope remains.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton