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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A(E)nnunciation

Last Sunday in our congregation we had a service of Lessons and Carols.  Before the service began I asked the readers did thay have any questions and the woman reading the lesson of The Annunciation said, "I'm ready to enunciate the The Annunciation."  She was closer to the truth with her quip than I think she realized.

Actually he story of The Annunciation as told in the Gospel of Luke  (Luke 1:26-56) is a clear "enunciation" of the purpose and message of Christmas, i.e. The Gospel.  In this rather strange story of two women, one elderly and barren and the other young and innocent, an angel visits them both and tells them they are pregnant and that the babies they grow and carry in their wombs will fulfill ancient promises of God's Presence, Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy for all people.

What is also unmistakenably clear is that these promises are fraught with the burden of becoming real in the anxieties, doubts, and vulnerability of human stories like those of Abraham, David, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  The "Gospel" is enunciated in stories of life and death so real and so common that they are shared by all people of all times, until it comes our time to speak clearly in our lives, with sharp diction and pure tone those same promises of Presence, Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy for all people. 

Christmas reminds all of us that each and every moment is our turn to enunciate along with Mary, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."  Then we, like her, become "God Bearers!"



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent

I don't know about you, but when I was a child the longest weeks of every year were the first three weeks of December.   It seemed like Christmas would never come!  The anticipation of Christmas morning and discovering what Santa would bring was nearly unbearable.

Of course that was before Christmas beginning as soon as, or even before, "Trick or Treat" fades from our ears.   And back when I was a child there were no such things as shopping on Thanksgiving or "Black Friday."  (why is it called "black" anyway?)  Christmas was all about Santa, except for the carols, cantatas, and pageants at church which were usually well over and done by mid-December.  In our Southern Baptist congregation there were no Christmas Eve candlelight services, much less Christmas Day worship.  "Advent" wasn't even in my vocabulary until in my thirties I discovered I was a Presbyterian.

My early understanting of Advent was that it was all about anticipation and waiting for the birth of Jesus.  Then I encountered a little phrase that shifted that perception, "waiting for one who has already come."  In recent years, I have shifted my perspective even more by giving up on the "waiting" part and focusing more and more on "already come."  Advent, has become for me a wonder-filled time of year to contemplate and experience the here and now Presence of God not only in the scriptures, stories, people and customs of the Christian Faith Tradition, but in all Creation.

Don't get me wrong.  I still anticipate Christmas and enjoy carols, cantatas, pageants, trees, lights, ornaments, presents, parties, and yes Santa!   What's different now is that through the years I have learned to appreciate the deep wonder and truth in The Christmas Story of the birth of Jesus and how it is so real and earthy and at the same time mysterious, mythical and even magical, and how so many people of different times and cultures have experienced this same wonder and truth in their time, place, and traditions.  

As a seasoned adult, the weeks (four instead of three) before Christmas go by faster than ever, and I find myself wishing they were longer. You might even say that when it comes to Advent and Christmas I'm a lot like that line from the old Bob Dylan song - "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

I hope you're having a good Advent, or whatever you wish to call it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The "Season"

Yup, it's that time of year!  Just last night in a conversation with several people I said, "As soon as Thanksgiving is over the rest of the year seems like a blurr."

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not a Scrooge.  I really do enjoy the "holiday season" even though it does get kind of hectic and over commercialized. But I can always make choices to slow down and not get caught up in the shopping frenzy, and also selectively participate in the madness.

I pretty much keep my December celebrations to Advent, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.  But, did you know that there are over 40 religious and cultural festivals and holidays observed around the world in December alone?

Something about this time of year brings out the introspective and extroverted nature of people. In my part of the world, maybe it's the long nights and short days that force us inside both literally, intellectually and emotionally, while at the same time motivating us to bring light into our lives with fires, candles, strings of electric lights, and parties.

Whether we are Christian celebrating Christmas, Jewish - Hanukkah, Pan-African - Kwanzaa, or even Seinfeld geeks celebrating Festivus, perhaps one of the best things for all of us is to enter the "season" with wide eyes, open minds, and grateful hearts, realizing we all share a common human bond:  the need to contemplate and celebrate who we are and what we believe.

So, here we go - Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

90 Seconds

Ninety seconds of confusion, fear, anger, panic, violence, and what actually happened in that minute and a half will never be fully known.  What we do know is that in a flash of time a life ended, families were devastated, and a community, both local and national, was splintered and drawn into the same fear, anger, panic and violence of those tragic fleeting moments.

Ninety seconds is the time it takes to brush your teeth, or put on your shoes, or drink a glass of water, but also enough time to say or do things you will regret having said or done, enough time to determine the rest of your life.

On this day before Thanksgiving Day is there anything we can find in these ninety seconds for which to be thankful?  Perhaps, but not until we understand that every "ninety seconds" is the result of all that has come before it.  When we feed our lives with fear, anger, panic and violence, guess what the next ninety seconds will produce.

Maybe on this Thanksgiving Day, in addition to turkey and all the trimmings, we, as individuals, families, communities, and nations need to begin a steady diet of kindness, patience, calm and peace. This is our only chance that the next ninety seconds will be any different.