God of all peoples— This last year has been so difficult for so many… wars… loss of loved ones…jobs…homes… words of hatred and division… for many, a loss of hope. But now— an opportunity for a fresh start… new beginnings. New starts are never easy. Stepping into a new future is frightening. But without taking those steps we find ourselves stuck… repeating the past. God of all peoples— Help us to truly see each other… to see past the ways we label “the other”… to see our shared humanity… Help us to honor Mother Earth… to be wise stewards of all she has given us… Help us to live out our beliefs… not merely talk about them… letting them be words on a page… Help us to be who you call us to be… brothers and sisters… united in love and hope… delighting in our diversity. God of all peoples— May it be so. Amen.
I did not get my article posted yesterday for Advent 4…but we are still in that week.
There were valid reasons for my delay. We had extremely cold and bitter temperatures…we had ice and snow…I had a graduation and a nursing recognition ceremony to play for…and our musician at church got sick and I needed to cover (and also take a couple of other responsibilities in the service as well)…
Valid reasons…but also in many ways a response to the theme and focus yesterday.
Our them for Sunday was “Emmanuel: God with us”…and we celebrated the emphasis of love.
“God with us”…God meeting us where we are. But it’s not just God doing that.
We meet each other for ministry where each person is.
Sometimes that means playing the organ for a celebration of a life activity, such as a graduation. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work someone has put into that accomplishment.
Sometimes that means allowing someone else to take the time they need to recuperate.
Sometimes it just means being aware of what’s going on in someone else’s life.
And sometimes it’s pretty easy…sometimes it’s not.
Love isn’t particularly difficult when someone is lovable. But when someone is angry…or upset…or smelly…or any of the other myriad of reasons we don’t really want to have anything to do with them, it can be difficult.
But there’s a lovely poem by Christina Rossetti that I think catches up the theme…and the challenge…of this week:
- Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
- Love came down at Christmas,
This Sunday is the day we talk about peace.
Peace…when there is war raging in so many places around the globe…when people are not safe in houses of worship…when we don’t seem to be able to see each other as brothers and sisters but as enemies or “other”…when we seem to have little care about taking care of the environment we live in…
Where is peace?
This isn’t a new question. It’s one that’s asked in every generation–and every generation has to find their own answer.
Peace doesn’t mean just the absence of conflict. Yes, that would be nice, but even absence of conflict doesn’t mean peace. It may just mean that the conflict has been driven underground where it will fester until it breaks out again.
I like this quote from the Dalai Lama: “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.”
And I also like the challenge that is given to me by the One I follow. Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” So peace is my responsibility as well.
The theme for the services this Sunday in my tradition is this: “Are you the One who is to come? or are we to look for another?”
Here is my response:
As we look around, we know that we have disagreements with each other. Some of them may be theological…some political. But our calling is to answer the question by both our telling and our living.If we can let the spirit of Christ bring healing and wholeness to our relationships…if we can let it help us find ways to work together despite our differences to bring peace…shalom…then we will show that truly this baby born in a simple stable far away from home…to a poor couple living in an occupied country…this baby did indeed grow into the One we were—and are—looking for.
May peace be yours on this third Sunday of Advent.
Tomorrow is the second Sunday of Advent…a time when we focus on God’s kingdom drawing near–and joy.
That seems a little ironic, given the turmoil that has been swirling around since the election a month ago. So many feel little joy.
Many, in fact, feel fear and worry. What will their future hold? How safe will they be? Will they be able to buy homes…get married…afford insurance…openly hold hands with their loved one…meet the medical needs of their disabled family members…be targeted because of their appearance or ethnicity or perceived country of origin?
Many wonder about those who claim to be followers of the Christ. Just whose kingdom is drawing near? God’s? or someone else’s?
My mind goes back to the event that we are preparing to celebrate. What was it like for them 2000 years ago?
After all, they were people in an occupied country–not even considered citizens. They never knew when the occupying powers might decide to flex their muscles and make life even more miserable for them than it already was.
If life wasn’t already bad enough, they had to deal with a census order that totally upended life. Families (based on the male line, of course, since women didn’t have rights) had to return to the town of their ancestors to be counted, because Caesar wanted to know how many people he could tax. Travel wasn’t as easy as it is now–or as inexpensive. Once people arrived in their towns, they were so overcrowded there wasn’t any place to stay–and the Romans had taken the best places, anyway.
To top it off, Mary was pregnant…almost due to give birth.
What joy was there in that? And what hope about God’s kingdom drawing near?
Yet–as Dr. Seuss’s Grinch discovered–Christmas does come. And so does joy…and hope…and God’s kingdom. Maybe not in the ways we expected…but when we open our eyes, we can see the small acts of caring that work together to show that there is reason for hope. God’s kingdom–a kingdom where people are loved and cared for…supported and nurtured–may appear fractured and distant, but there are people working to bring it about. And that is a reason for joy.