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Maybe it’s because we cleaned out my Dad’s house, more or less, this past year.  Maybe it’s because my mother-in-law moved back to town and gave many of her treasures to her children.  Maybe it’s because my house, larger than the one I grew up in, is FULL with a capital F.  But this quote makes a lot of sense to me at this point in my life.

Stuff is not the answer.  Giving back is the answer.

That’s something I’m think about as we had into this holiday season.  What do I want from my husband?  I want the light and fan put up and the patio cleaned up so that we can better use the space.  I want to eagle watch in January.  I want to head out to Osage and visit one of my friends from junior high.  She lives in the town where my grandmother grew up.

So don’t buy me stuff.  Get a poor family a goat.  Contribute to a literacy program.  Make a donation to the local food pantry.

That’s how I’d prefer to celebrate this season.  If you push me for what I want, all that sounds good is some sparkly lights, a plate of cookies and some music.

–SueBE

 

Those miniature mangers we keep around our homes at Christmastime are liars — they make us forget that the three kings (or magi) never hovered around Jesus’ birthplace to adore him along with the shepherds, angels and various ungulates. It took them time to get where they were going. In this, I understand and sympathize with them. It takes most of us time to see the way to God — years and years and years. As such a sojourner, I felt compelled to compose the following.

I didn’t get it
not at first
still don’t, not really
but the portents are present
and I can read them,
the words becoming old friends
to my tongue.
One of these days,
after crossing the desert
or the ocean
or the mountains — any of these
may be —
I will at last decipher the last
of the bent runes,
turn my map counter-clockwise,
realize that where I’ve been
is where I’m going
after all, and then
I will arrive, hot on the heels of magi,
with only my body of stardust to give.
It will suffice.

Often, when I go for my hour of Perpetual Adoration on Friday, there’s already someone there — a little Vietnamese gal who spends so much time in the chapel, I’ve dubbed her “the lady who lives there.” She is a devout soul, spending hours on her knees. But the other week, she actually sat down and nodded off. I have no doubt that she woke full of self-recriminations, but I wanted to tell her not to. It struck me that there might not be a better place to rest than in God’s own presence.

“Stay awake,” said Christ
but surely he knew
how bodies give out, go limp,
sag as if in a warm bath
feeling secure, safe,
safer here than anywhere, ever,
before his presence in monstrance
and wafer.
To sleep before the Lord
is the sweetest of sleep.

The sleep of angels.
The sleep of saints.

Under God’s watchful eye
the soul and body rest,
ready to rise — like bread,
like spirit, like new day breaking.

 

Have a peaceful Christmas everyone!

fpc-front-window“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

In the original, the Word was the Greek logos. Logos in the Greek mind meant much more than “word.” It included the idea of understanding which makes sense. Logos makes up part of many of the words we use to describe how we look at and understand the world including theology and biology.  Faith and science.

Logos. Understanding. In the beginning there was understanding. The understanding was with God and the understanding was God.

On the night that I’m writing this, Pastor Sean preached a funeral sermon on logos.  He explained that for David, the man who recently died, engineering was his logos. Or at least one of his logos. His faith was another logos. When the children did their nativity play and David was a young father, he would stand outside and shine a spot light on the star in our stained glass window so that the star shone for all inside to see.

What is your logos? Your way of understanding the world?

Like David, I have several logos. I trained first in archaeology, a social science that incorporates biology and chemistry.  I’m a writer.  I’m a crafter.  I sing.  I’m a Christian. All of these things fold into my understanding of the universe and my place in it.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas?  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  Jesus is logos made flesh.  Not just adult Jesus.  Not just Jesus on the cross.  Not just Jesus resurrected. Jesus as a whole. Logos became flesh with the birth of a tiny baby.

When God sent us His Son, he sent us logos.  He sent us understanding. He gave us what we needed to remake the world. Lately it sure has felt like logos is in short but logos is in God.  Logos is God. And God is eternal. We have access to the understanding that we need to remake the world. It came as a baby.

All we have to do is look for the Star.

–SueBE

nativityI just had someone at my front door wanting to explain to me why Christ died for us and why we have Christmas. They even had a video. It was a little surreal.

Apparently, Adam is a businessman who steals from his company leading workers to lose their jobs and electricity.  Jesus is the good businessman who pays the bills and gets the lights turned back on — that’s why he died.  That’s why we have Christmas.

Of course, she looked at me and said, “What do you think of that?”

One day I will learn to smile and nod but that day is not today. But I did filter.  It was oh so obvious that this was a message meant to play on people’s fears of the economy and not being able to pay their bills. In my opinion, it rather missed the point but a lot of work had gone into it so I didn’t want to criticize the video itself. “It seems overly simplistic.”

“Then why do you think Christ died?”

After the businessman analogy, I knew I couldn’t give her the entire answer.  Christ died to bring an end to the cycle of sin followed by the sacrifices needed to get back in God’s good graces.  Christ died to bring us grace.  Christ is the ultimate sacrifice.

I decided instead to focus on Christmas.  It’s a prettier story.  “The Christmas season is a time of waiting, of contemplation, of preparing yourself for the coming of Christ.”

“By reading scripture?”

“And prayer and worship and whatever it takes to get you as an individual ready.  I need solitude and music.”

“That’s too confusing. What did you mean by the coming of Christ?  The end times?”

“Eventually, but also the coming of the Christ child.  You have to prepare yourself to accept him and his message and the acceptance and love he brought mankind.”

Prepare the way.  That’s the whole message of the Advent season.  Prepare your heart to accept his message of love and acceptance and mercy for all.  His sacrifice washed away our sins and the condemnation that required blood sacrifice to cleanse our souls.  Prepare yourself for Christ.

He has come not to condemn the world but so that the world through him might be saved.

–SueBE

Christmas Angels

My Grandmother’s Christmas angels.

As we approach the 3rd Sunday in Advent, I’ve been noodling over Lori’s last post. I’m really having a problem with the idea that it’s a mortal sin to miss mass. I think I’ve been to two masses in my entire life so if that’s a hard fast rule I’m in a world of hurt.

Don’t worry. Lori’s used to me questioning things like this.  I think Ruth has grown accustomed to it too. It’s just the way I’m wired. Toss something down in front of me and tell me that it’s a FACT and I’m going to look at it from every direction. I do the same thing with Christmas.  For me, some things make sense and others just don’t.

Do you have to go to Midnight Mass?  I don’t.  Do you?  I actually like going to the midnight service but I’m a night owl. My husband is essentially useless past about 11:00. That said, he pops up out of bed in the morning and tries to talk to me.  He’s more of a sunrise service kind of guy.  When it comes to Christmas Eve, we go to the 7 pm service.

Do you have to put up a Christmas tree? A friend of mine hates Christmas trees.  “It’s a pagan custom. We shouldn’t do it.” Look – I like the lights. A lot. They make me happy. And lights on a tree with shiny ornaments are just extra sparkly and thus awesome.

Another friend challenges the validity of Christmas as a whole.  As Christians, in her opinion, we should focus on Easter.  Christmas just needs to be downplayed as much as possible. But I think it’s a big deal that Jesus came as a little baby, born to a poor mother and father in a stable. In my mind, Jesus’ birth took religion out of the temple and the control of the Priests and the Pharisees. It took it out into the world.  I see her point, Easter is a big deal, but I’m still pulling out my nativity and my grandmother’s angels. I’m putting up my tree and my lights. I’m putting on my Christmas-y music.

I’m not saying you have to celebrate Christmas, but I’m going to do it. Don’t look for rules. Don’t look for regulations. Don’t stress yourself out over it.  Come up with a celebration that is meaningful to you and reflects your relationship to God and Christ.

–SueBE

candle-1841492_1920It’s hard to believe. Tomorrow is the second Sunday in Advent.  We’ll light the second candle in preparation for the coming of the Christ child.

But I’m just not feeling the joy of Christmas.  It doesn’t help that I’ve got a righteous head cold.  You’ll know me by the tissue box I tote everywhere I go.  I’m 98% certain that I got this particular virus from the lady who sat next to me at the funeral earlier in the week. One of my friends lost her not-quite 20 year-old son. He told his boss that he had a really bad headache and then . . . he was gone.

Yes, I’m doing my shopping.  In fact, I have the lion’s share done.  I’m knitting the lace scarf I need for the concert. Today I’m buying Christmas cards.

But I just don’t feel it.

And that’s okay.  This time of year can be tough for those who have recently lost someone. It can be hard for those who have a chronic illness (no, I’m not saying a head cold is a chronic illness) or those who are having money worries, marriage problems, or other hardships.

The thing we need to remember is that God welcomes us as we are. He knows our worries.  He knows our cares.  He doesn’t expect us to be anyone other than the flawed beings that we are, doing the best we can, feeling what we feel, and praying for a better tomorrow.

Yesterday, thanks to this cold, I was able to give myself two extra hours in bed and some time on the sofa with my knitting and the ever-present tissue box.  In the quiet, I sat in the pool of light in the family room, the rest of the house stretching out dark and quiet. I could hear the occasional click of my needles and the ping of the kettle on the burner in the kitchen. It felt like . . . a time of quiet, a time of waiting.

I may not be feeling the glitz and sparkle of Christmas, but I can still seek out a quiet corner for a bit of Advent. If I find the sparkle, great.  If I don’t, that’s okay too.  I can search for God and Christ in the quiet.

–SueBE

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My son, Cole, graduated from high school this past June, and he received many lovely gifts, but the one that warmed my heart was a simple card that he received from his sister, Isabel.

At first blush, one might see a re-purposed holiday card, but look closely: it’s actually a benediction. It’s a five-year-old girl’s way of bestowing a blessing on one of her favorite people in the world.

Isabel really loves some Cole. And I can honestly say, the feeling is mutual.

Once, while she was visiting, I asked my son to put out the garbage and recycle bins, and he headed for the door. “I want to help!” Isabel said. “No, honey, it’s garbage. Dirty.” “But I can help Cole!” she insisted. “Well, okay. You can be his helper,” I said. “You walk with him as he carries out the cans.”

And she did. Silently, scrupulously, she walked side-by-side with her brother as he carried one, two, three cans of garbage. It was impressive that she could match his loping teen-age stride, as he’s 6”3, and, at five-years-old, she’s considerably shorter. She walked exactly in his footsteps. If he stopped short, so did she. If he scratched his cheek, she did, too. My son noticed her doing this and I saw that he smiled ever so slightly. I was amazed that the kids putting out the garbage could almost move me to tears!

The nice thing is, as Isabel said so eloquently in the graduation card she wrote to Cole, they love each other, but they also like each other. That’s a big deal. You can’t force kids to enjoy each other’s company, even if they live in the same household, and these two live in different homes.

The graduation card may look like a Christmas card to most, but to me, it’s actually a gift card. What a gift to have kids in our lives! What a gift to have family that gets along so well! What a gift to see the ones you love making their own way in the world. Well, come to think of it… with all these gifts, maybe it is Christmas after all.

christmasAre you one of those people who love Christmas?

There are people who don’t. People who fight depression and loneliness this time of year.  People who hate the glitz and the commercialism. The bustle and the activity.  They long for the simplicity of the Christ Child in the manger.

There are people who dread the coming of Christmas. Maybe they dread it every year.  Maybe it’s just this year because of the loss of a loved one.  Or the loss of a job.  Christmas actually causes them more distress than joy.  They long for the Peace that only Christ can bring.

Then there are the people like me.  I love the music and the lights.  Cards with glitter?  Love them!  Yes – love them.  Even when the sparkles get all over the front of my black wool coat.  And on my nosey black cat.

But more than anything, I find myself drawn to the Nativity.  When God sent us the solution to all our woes, if only we will accept it, He sent us a tiny little baby.  A baby who would bring us His Love, His Peace and His Joy.

And the most marvelous thing about it?  If you’ve accepted Christ, it doesn’t matter where you are on the Christmas spectrum.  Love the day or hate it – Christ is with you.  Jazz over glitter or loathe Christmas lights – Christ is with you.  Spend the day surrounded by family or serving soup in a shelter – Christ is with you.

That is truly the miracle of His Love and it is in his name.  Emmanuel means Christ with us.  Wherever we are physically or emotionally, Christ is with us.  Whether you celebrate in a community with a fire truck Santa, have a Christmas birthday, or you start the day at the nursing home like we are doing, Christ is with us.  And the best part.  He’s with you too.

Emmanuel. Christ with us all.

Wishing you and yours a  Blessed Holy Day,
SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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