A Child Is Born

A child is born…
but is that news?
Children are born every day
with hopes and dreams.

A child is born…
dressed in warm clothes,
laid in a soft bed,
surrounded by love.

A child is born…
sheltered from war,
from violence and hate,
covered with fear.

A child is born…
abandoned and left alone…
no one with the strength
to care.

What do we see in each child’s face?
Hopes and dreams of a better world?
a child who belongs to each of us?

A child was born to us so long ago…
a child is born to us each day…
what is our wish for each one?

In each face may we see
love…
peace…
hope…

Post some cheer…

In four days it will be Christmas.

Social media is full of “stuff”…cute dog and cat memes…alerts and spoilers about the new Star Wars movie…Christmas carols…and lots and lots of political stuff. It’s the political stuff that gets to me.

I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with me either theologically or politically. After all, it’s in those discussions that we often find ourselves figuring out new ways to solve problems that we are all concerned about–or in coming to understand more about who and what the Divine is.

But I don’t understand the anger and hate…the vitriol…that I am seeing. This is a season when many of us celebrate the birth of a child who calls us to change the world–to work toward bringing peace on earth. And yet I see such hatred expressed towards some who believe differently from me. I see fear and anger towards those who are trying to find a safe place to raise their families. There is so much language that brings division rather than healing…

A friend of mine on Facebook said “It’s Christmas after all…post some cheer!”

And so…I bring you some thoughts from Charles Dickens and Jacob Marley:

…and from Charles Dickens, Scrooge, and the Ghost of Christmas Present:

…and a reminder, that it was in being challenged and going through difficult self-awareness that Scrooge was redeemed.

So my cheer is found in a wonderful new hymn by Shirley Erena Murray that is a challenge for us in our time:

No obvious angels sing through the night skies,
no thunderstruck shepherds tell out their surprise,
for Christmas comes into the here and the now
through star-sighted people,
the watchful and hopeful,
who wake us to see a new world.

Our angel potential is waiting to start!
The Spirit will teach us the song of the heart,
for Christmas comes into the here and the now
through peace-maker people,
the just and the gentle,
the stars who will light the new world.

Whoever will take it is given the role:
the fruitful, the faithful, the joyous of soul,
for Christmas comes into the here and the now
when we are the angels
who dream and deliver,
who rise and create this new world!

 

 

Advent musings…

I started to write this post a few days ago but got sidetracked with other things that needed to get done. Since then there have been a number of situations that have changed what I was thinking…

So here are some Advent musings–not in any particular order.

At this time when we are looking back in time to the birth of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem…and forward to a time when we will have learned how to accept each other and to live in a way that honors the birth of that child…I am grateful. Grateful for a safe place…for shelter and food…for family and friends. But along with that gratefulness, I find myself being challenged–challenged to live in a way that provides those same opportunities for others. It’s easy for me to “cocoon” myself–to not look too far outside my own connections…and to not see the great need.

I am grateful for the continuing survival of a young loved one who has had many issues to deal with in a short life. Some of those issues are not because of anything that child has done–but because of decisions others have made. Some of them are because of that one’s own unwise decisions…and have impacted future choices the child has. There have been times when I have wondered if that young person is going to make it to adulthood without landing in jail–or dying…and I have agonized over what the future holds. And yet I am aware that this young one–and others in my family–are supported not only by family of birth but also by a church family who cares deeply for many young people who are struggling with so many difficult decisions. In this time of Advent, I am reminded of the importance of community in helping all children become who they can be.

I’ve been enjoying watching an active 2-year-old play with her nativity creche. Her favorite figures have been the shepherd who is holding what she calls “momma sheep”…and the single “baby sheep.” They have wandered all over the house, and I am never sure where I am going to find them! The three kings have also traveled…and the angel has sometimes been with them, sometimes with the shepherd, and sometimes with the family. It’s been important to her that Mommy and Daddy and the baby are together–and that there are hugs and kisses between them. At times they have been scattered–and yet somehow they all find a way to get back together.

I have watched healing occur in part of my family that was deeply wounded by an unexpected death 11 years ago…a death that has, in many ways, made it difficult to rejoice in the Advent and Christmas seasons. While we lost one grandchild far too early then, we have been able to rejoice in the birth of a new little one on that same birthday…new life rising out of the ashes of sorrow and regret.

I went to an Advent concert the other night. It was a quiet and reflective concert–different from much of the music we hear this time of year, and yet such a beautiful reflection on all the aspects of this season. The words at first blush don’t seem to fit this season of Advent…and yet they are so appropriate during this time of waiting–waiting for healing…for wholeness…for getting together…

The words were found written on the wall of a concentration camp…a place where hope may have seemed useless. And yet…someone had hope for a better world–just as we are called to…and to work toward.

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even though I don’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when he is silent.

 

We are better than this…

I tend to try to stay away from overtly political postings, but I am deeply concerned by what I am seeing in the news and in many Facebook posts recently.

I have no problem with friends (and others) having differing political opinions from mine. None of us has a perfect perspective, and it’s when we bounce ideas off of each other–and listen to each other–that we can come to something better than we might have created or developed on our own. I may not always agree with someone else–and sometimes I may think that a specific idea doesn’t make sense. But unless I think it is dangerous, I will usually let it go.

But I can’t now.

I belong to a faith tradition that honors the worth of all people. Not just those who believe the same way I do…or who live in the same country I do. ALL people.

I belong to a faith tradition that believes in unity in diversity. That’s a challenge, I know. But again, if I believe that none of us has a lock on understanding God…or life…then I am called to listen to those I may disagree with, and find areas we can work together in.

I belong to a faith tradition that is called to work toward peace. True peace…not just the absence of war. And peace for all of creation (human, animal, and environmental).

But what I am hearing scares me.

There are valid reasons for concern. There are extremists who seem to want only to destroy what they don’t understand or believe. But they are found all across the faith spectrum–and we seem far too willing to demonize only one faith.

When I hear a candidate for president of the United States say that he would be willing to kill men, women, and children in order to defeat Islamic extremists, I am appalled. When I hear that same candidate propose that all members of a particular faith tradition be forbidden to enter my country–even those who are seeking to escape the ravages of war and violence and who want nothing more than a better life for their children…even those who are seeking ways to bring peace…then I wonder if he remembers that my country was built by many who came here as refugees seeking the same thing.

The kind of language I am hearing creates divisions between us. It causes us to look at those who may look different from us…who may worship differently…who may speak different languages…in fear–the kind of fear that feeds on itself. Instead of taking the time to learn about each other, we build walls. We “protect” ourselves by insisting that the police be called because someone “looks” dangerous…

We’ve been down that road before–and it led to the internment of an entire community based on nothing more than their appearance and their national background. The Japanese internment camps were a disgrace to the values we say we believe in. Do we really want to go down that road again?

Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps, is perhaps best known for a poem that is an adaptation of his postwar lectures. I think it is relevant for us today in what is rapidly becoming a toxic political environment. I believe that those of us who claim to be followers of the One we call Christ have to stand in defense of the vulnerable and denounce the hatred and venom we hear far too often.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I believe–along with many other members of my faith tradition–that God views all people as having worth…that God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships. And I believe that I am called to challenge unjust systems (and language) that diminish human worth.

 

Advent musings

We look back 2000 years and think that somehow it must have been a better world. Yes, there was violence, hatred, and fear…but was it really as bad a time as ours is?

Why couldn’t we have been living then? Wouldn’t we have recognized Jesus as the Messiah? Wouldn’t we have understood his message if we could just have walked side by side with him?

Or why couldn’t he have been born today? Surely our time needs him even more than the time 2000 years ago…

But “advent” means “coming”…and every Advent we celebrate is a time when we look back to when Jesus was born…and forward to his second coming.

We can fold our hands and sit patiently, waiting for that second coming…for that time when the world will be changed. Or…we can be part of it.

We can work to bring about the changes Jesus tried to teach us…the changes that are caught up in what he said were the two greatest commandments: (1) to love God with everything we have in us, and (2) to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

The first one seems easy…the second one not so much. Especially now.

We might find ourselves asking again, “Who is my neighbor?” And can we hear Jesus’ answer? Our neighbors are not just the people who look or act like us…the people who believe like us. Our neighbors are those who look different…who have different understandings and perspectives…and yes, even those that we might dislike and even fear.

But fear only breeds more fear. And the baby whose coming we look back to–and the incredible teacher and peacemaker whose coming we look forward to–came to help us bridge those gaps of fear and violence. He taught that perfect love casts out fear.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

But what would our world be like…what could it be like…if we really believed that?

Maybe we’ve reached the tipping point when we’re ready to live it. Maybe we’re tired enough of the violence…the hate…the fear.

Maybe…just maybe…this is the year.

Lament

Another day…
another shooting…
just another ho-hum day.

Dear God…
when did we become so used to violent deaths
that we accept it as part of life?

What kind of world have we made
for our little ones just being born?

What kind of hope can they have
for a life of joy and peace?

When will we learn to value life
more than we value things?…
to pay attention to those who need help
before they break under the strain?

When will we realize that our words have consequences?…
that to spew out hate and violence
creates a world where for many
there is no hope?

When will we reach the tipping point?
When will we say “Enough!”?
How many pictures of innocent ones
do we have to see each day?

How can we live with ourselves
in this world…
where there are more shootings than days?

Another day…
another shooting…?
When will we say “Enough!”?