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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays

I'm taking some time this week to relax and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.  I hope you have opportunities to do the same as the year winds down.

The weekly message will be back next week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fear Not!

I first wrote this short reflection back in the late '90's, but recently pull it out and upon re-reading it and making only a few minor changes found these first words of Christmas still echoing and calling us to better life. 

"Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing good news of great joy for all the people." Luke 2:10 

      "Fear not!" are the first words of Christmas. 
      Years ago my daughters, now adults but then about five and three, were watching television, and had stumbled upon an old episode of "Lassie".  I walked into the room to see the famous collie trudging through deep, blinding snow.  It was a dangerous, fearful scene. 
      The youngest was visibly upset.  However, before I could offer assuring words, her older sister put a tiny arm around her and said, "Don't be afraid. It's just the music."  And she was right.  With the sound turned down, it was just a dog walking through snow. The fear was in the music.
      So, why is there so much noisy fear in the world and in our lives?  For many years now it seems fear has been and continues to be the motivation for much of what we do.  We're afraid of terrorists. People with guns traumatize and paralyze communities and nations.  Seniors are afraid of the rising costs of health care and drugs.  Young people fear they've been sold a bill of goods about hard work and education and cry, "Where are the jobs?"- Not to mention safety nets to catch them when they get old.  Some people are afraid freedoms are being sacrificed in the name of "homeland security" while others will give up just about anything to feel safe. Border fences, gated communities, check points and profiling are considered necessary and common. 
      The stock market rises and falls on fear. Every other month there's a threatened government shutdown. The environment is endangered.  Pension funds have been raped. And don't forget taxes, liberals, fundamentalist, drones, global warming, world economy, pedophiles, snipers, conservatives, illegal aliens, high cholesterol and low libido.
      For God's sake, someone turn off the sound!
      And when the fearful sounds surrounding us fade away, what remains?   Like a dog trudging through the snow, we are simply people traveling through life.
      So, this year why not really hear the first words of Christmas, "Fear not!" Don't be afraid to reconnect with old friends, mend fences with an adversary, wear silly Santa hats, put blinking lights on your necktie or scarf and put folding money in the charity kettle. 
      Don't be afraid to admit failure, confess that we don't have all the answers, or concede that another person's beliefs hold Truth.  Don't be afraid to risk, to love, to live.  Don't be afraid to look at another human being without the noise of religion, racial prejudice, sexual phobias, or ideological bias. 
      In silence, holding out our hands to one another, we are just people walking through life together. And if for a brief moment we can imagine life with the sound turned down.  What do we hear?  Could it be the sound of Peace? 
       "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright."  Christmas is a time when God puts an arm around us and says, "Don't be afraid.  It's just the music".  
      For all people of the world the good news and great joy of Christmas are the first words of Christmas: "Fear Not!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness

on them light has shined.

-Isaiah 9 

In the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

-John 1

Every year as days grow shorter and shorter and it gets dark earlier and earlier strange things begin to happen.  We adorn our homes, our businesses, our public buildings, our public spaces, and our places of worship with light.  Lights appear in the forms of trees, stars, snowflakes, candy canes, snowmen, reindeer, and just about any other shape people can imagine.   Towns and neighborhoods have contests for the best lights.  Communities have nighttime parades with light covered floats. Cities outline their skyscrapers in lights. Candles burn in windows and Yule logs glow in fireplaces.

We call it Christmas.   Angels once proclaimed it as “Good News of great joy for all people.”  And the eventual bearer of that Good News shows us the way from darkness to light, a path that begins within each and everyone of us.

Maybe the lights of Christmas are simply kindling for the spark of hope in the darkness of our own lives, warming our hearts, bringing smiles to our faces, and lifting our Spirits.

"You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God.”

-Matthew 5

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


People get ready
There's a train a-coming
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don't need no ticket
You just thank the Lord

        - Curtis Mayfield

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be lifted up, 
and every mountain and hill be made low; 
the uneven ground shall become level, 
and the rough places a plain. 
            -Isaiah 40:3-4

Getting ready is an activity we spend a good portion of our lives doing.  We get ready for work, plan vacations, clean the house for guests, do research for a paper, train for athletic events, draw plans for a building, outline a speech, - you get the idea.  But, when it comes to our spiritual lives how many of us really take time to get ready.

Advent is a time for getting ready, for preparing our lives in order to experience the Presence of God in the world.  One idea I've come to appreciate and try to keep in mind is that God is eternally present.  This simply means God Is - always and everywhere.  The constant of our spiritual lives is God - the variable is us.

So, how do we prepare?  The popular song based on an old Spiritual says, "You don't need no baggage
You just get on board. All you need is faith."
  Our scriptures say by leveling things out and finding equilibrium in our lives, in other words - relax, slow down, be still.

It just so happens that during Advent as you get these weekly messages on Wednesdays there is also an opportunity for you who are in the DC area,  some "getting ready" time on Wednesday evenings at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church.  Tonight, Dec. 7, at 7:30 we have some special guests joining us for our time of music and meditation.  Cardinal Trio, three graduate students at Catholic University, will be sharing their music on piano, cello, and violin with us.

If you really want to experience God's presence in your life, why not take one hour tonight and "get ready".