Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 1.7 - Wrapping It Up

Advent is over, and the Christmas season moves so fast that it seems almost not to have happened. Although the magi, who had a cold coming of it, still move toward Bethlehem, it's time to close this blog up.

Thank you, if you've joined me here, and especially if you've commented.

I wondered what I had found meaningful two years ago, when it seemed to me completely unacceptable that a joyous season of midwinter light and hopefulness should even exist. It's still as compelling ~ perhaps even moreso:

The figure of the reconciler, of the divine human Jesus Christ, steps into the middle between God and the world, into the center of all that happens. Through this figure the mystery of the world is disclosed, just as in the same figure the mystery of God is revealed.


[B]ehold the incarnate God, the unfathomable mystery of God's love for the world. God loves human beings. God loves the world.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ecce Homo, in Meditations on the Cross

Christmas 1.6 - Praying Through Darkness

Worth thinking about, for those of us who seek the light in a time and place of darkness:

“Prayer, understood as the distilled awareness of our entire life before God, is a journey forward, a response to a call from the Father to become perfectly like his Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. But this journey forward can also be seen as a kind of journey backward, in which we seek to gain access to the relationship Adam had with God.

“In prayer we journey forward to our origin. We close our eyes in prayer and open them in the pristine moment of creation. We open our eyes to find God, his hands still smeared with clay, hovering over us, breathing into us his own divine life, smiling to see in us a reflection of himself. We go to our place of prayer confident that in prayer we transcend both place and time.”

James Finley
Merton’s Palace of Nowhere

(HT to dotmagis at Ignatian Spirituality.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 1.5 - Ashes to Sand and Water

Early on Christmas morning, while it was still dark, I set out for the beach, about a ten-minute drive from where we were staying. The other members of my family have exhausted their resources when it comes to dealing with the ashes, and it probably seems odd that I would have decided that a Christmas sunrise on the beach at St. Augustine was a right time and place, but when I flipped open my phone and saw the reading that came up, I felt vindicated.

As I drove through the dawning light and walked along the beach where we all ran and played and sunned and built sandcastles for so many years, I thought about those words:

Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ~Luke 2:10-11.

God's son, my son, incarnation, cross, life, death, light overcoming the dark. It seemed to me exactly the right thing to do, to wade into the gentle ocean and scatter ashes as the sun rose.

The next day, I found this poem stashed away in my email, and it seemed appropriate and compelling, given how I had celebrated Christmas:

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within

listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep

calling to deep of the psalm-

writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch the armada of

our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,

whose margins are our margins;

that calls us out over our

own fathoms. What to do

but draw a little nearer to

such ubiquity by remaining still?

(from "AD" by R.S. Thomas)

(Cross-posted from Metanoia)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 1.4 - Blue Christmas Service

It's hard to believe that our Blue Christmas service was less than a week ago. It wasn't something I would have been up to in the previous two years, but this year it felt just right ~ to suggest, to help plan, and to lead.

We created a simple service, based upon a liturgy we found online: Isaiah Advent readings alternating with the O Antiphons in the form of the verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, with a candle-lighting in which everyone was invited to participate. There were other prayers and readings and music, but I think that people were most moved by the quiet candle-lighting and the haunting verses cantored in a beautiful soprano voice.

Simple though it was, it was also a tremendous amount of work, and as we put it all together, I observed the process from the point of view of a hoping-to-be-called-pastor. I hope as well that someday I will be capable of exercising the kind of leadership that the pastors of my home church have, leadership that calls forth and supports the gifts of so many others in the congregation. Music director as organist, choir member as cantor, chair of worship ministry as co-planner and with another member that committee, designer of beautiful space, several other members as readers ~ and we all worked seamlessly together.

Insofar as the service itself was concerned, I had little sense of it from a participant's standpoint, but the emails that came afterward tell me that it was a great success. One of the readers said that she had been skeptical of a service devoted to sadness, but that afterward she felt freed up to engage in the remainder of the week. I realized that I felt much the same way. Something of a transformation for those of us for whom the Christmas season has been something to endure rather than to celebrate! Many others seemed relieved and even grateful for a place in which all those emotions which are generally deemed unacceptable, especially at this time of year, were articulated aloud.

I opened the service with some very brief remarks about the lunar eclipse that would take place a few hours later, saying that all of us there were like the moon: living in a circle of darkness and yet, whether we could see it or not, surrounded by a rim of light, a light that the darkness does not overcome.

And I think that we were indeed a little circle of insistent light, creative and hopeful in the face of the darkness of loss.

Cross-posted from Metanoia.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 1.3 - St. Augustine Beach

Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2: 10-11

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 1.2 - The Unvarnished Story

From my friend Karen, who has also recently lost a son and for whom Christmas also looks different than it did Before:

the beauty
the radiance
the peace
were they there?
heavy, bulky
child with child,
travelling at term
no padded wagon
just a stubborn pack animal
no backrest
no hot coffee to go
long days
in the cold
in humiliation
to the ancestral home
family friends waiting?
ahh, no room for her.
a dirty stable
labor pains
no midwife
no mother to reassure
just an inexperienced man
useless arguing with God.
not his plan.
not his child.
not his way.
no friends no family
no proud cigars
the butt of jokes.
really God?
an indifferent town
an unpadded stable
a smelly place
animal droppings
cold hard noisy
no chair no bed
a trough for a bassinet
scratchy straw
poking in blankets
animals snorting
no hot water
no nurses
no hospital corners
no mirrors
no sink
no toothbrush
no lip gloss
a small, wet baby
pushed out the usual way
who helped?
who cut the cord?
who taught Mary to nurse?
who cleaned it up?
strange visitors
shepherds kings angels
gold, frankincense and myrhh
but still
no room service
no diaper service
no rest
scary dreams
running away in the night
soldiers slashing
babies dying
mothers crying
Her Baby
can you feel it?
in the mess.
has come to thee
O mourning Israel


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas 1.1

And the darkness does not overcome the light.

HT to RevGals for image here.