Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Work of Christmas Begins

Work of Christmas Begins

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                 By Howard Thurman
"When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…

And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

Adapted from The Mood of Christmas
©1973 Howard Thurman

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Emmanuel, “God with us.”  עִמָּנוּאֵל

Matthew 1: 18-25
     We serve a God who seeks us out. A God you desires a loving relationship with us. The news, delivered to Joseph in the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday in Advent (Matt. 1:18-25), that God wants to walk this earth with us is nothing new. God walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, Genesis 3. God visited Abraham in Genesis 18. God appeared to Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Isaiah, and many other prophets.
     Even beyond special appearances, God wants to walk with us. In fact, God does walk with us, everyday and everywhere we go. This is the meaning of what John Wesley calls “Prevenient Grace.” God is always there, waiting for us to turn to Him, to embrace Him, to make Him a part of our everyday life.

I like to think of Prevenient Grace like this:
     Let’s say I’m driving down the road with my radio turned off. I want to hear the traffic report or the news, or maybe music, so I reach down and turn my radio to “ON”. Immediately voices or music begins to come through the radio and I can here whatever it is being broadcast. Now, when I turned my radio “ON”, there wasn’t a person at the radio station that was alerted I wanted service and then beamed radio waves directly to me. The whole time I was driving, even with the radio off, I was surrounded by radio waves. Music, news, sports talk and even Rush Limbaugh were bouncing off my radio receiver, surrounding my car and even bouncing off me. Maybe even penetrating and passing through me. (What a horrible thought that even though I don’t listen to him, Rush Limbaugh is bouncing off my body daily.)
     God is like the radio waves, always there whether we are tuned into Him or not. Emmanuel, God with us, God around us, God within us. Christ’s birth would be a physical manifestation of a reality about God that existed from the very moment He created humankind.
     Joseph’s dream and the announcement of the Angel of the Lord was conformation the God loves us. God loves us enough to become Emmanuel. God loves us enough to live a human life. God loves us enough to become a vulnerable and helpless child. Born to an obscure teenage girl from a poor village on the fringe of the Hebrew world.

Emmanuel !!!! Emmanuel !!!!! I just can’t seem to say it enough. Emmanuel!!!!

I think I see a tattoo in my future, עִמָּנוּאֵל

Friday, December 17, 2010

"A Christmas Card" by Thomas Merton

by Thomas Merton

When the white stars talk together like
And when the winter hills
Raise their grand semblance in the
                       freezing night,
Somewhere one window
Bleeds like the brown eye of an open force.

Hills, stars,
White stars that stand above the eastern stable.

Look down and offer Him.
The dim adoring light of your belief.
Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire.

Shall not this Child
(When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice)
Conquer the winter of our hateful century?

And when His Lady Mother leans upon the crib,
Lo, with what rapiers
Those two loves fence and flame their brillancy!

Here in this straw lie planned the fires
That will melt all our sufferings:
He is our Lamb, our holocaust!

And one by one the shepherds, with their snowy feet,
Stamp and shake out their hats upon the stable dirt,
And one by one kneel down to look upon their Life.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent, 2010

     The lectionary readings for this week really get me fired up! The prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist echo through the centuries with the promise of Emmanuel, God With Us. Isaiah promises “a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse...”  Isaiah 11: 1-10
     John the Baptist shouts in the desert, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand…” Matthew 3:1-12
     Both prophets tell us: “Something big is about to happen. Clean up your act! Wash off your sin! Make room in your heart for God!”
     We have to do that, to make room in our lives for God. We have to put away our toys and distractions. We have to turn off the phone, we have to be still and wait for God.
     "Hurry up and wait", as the saying goes. Prepare yourself but don’t get so caught up in the preparation that you miss God’s coming. We will never be fully ready to greet God. We cannot be clean enough, righteous enough, sinless enough, but we have to try.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.