Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Meditation for New Year's Eve

On the day I called,
you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.
Psalm 138:3

It seems that the days between Christmas and New Year's are days of recovery. Our energies are completely expended not only because of the rush of the season but also the let down. That which was eagerly anticipated is over--family is gone, kids are off, the house is a mess. We're in the in-between, reflecting over the year with no idea what is coming.

In the midst of our weakness God finds something very workable and maleable. His hands begin to work, forming and shaping, readying his creation for the future.

Call out to him today. Your voice will be heard and your soul strengthened.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No One Greater Than He

The faith that Jesus inspired in his disciples had such a profound impact on them that the disciples found it impossible to believe anyone could be equal or greater to him, not even Moses or Elijah, not even Abraham. That a prophet or judge or messiah should come after Jesus and be greater than Jesus was inconceivable. It was not necessary to wait for someone else. Jesus was everything. Jesus was everything the Jews ever had hoped and prayed for. Jesus had fulfilled or was about to fulfill every promise and every prophecy. If anyone is to judge the world in the end, it must be he. If anyone is to be appointed Messiah, King, Lord son of God, how could it be anyone but Jesus?

On his robe and on his thigh he has the name written:
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Revelation 19:16
Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Coming in Glory

Contemplating the crib (meaning, looking at Jesus while loving him), the Christian's faith flames into joyous expectation that the Christ who came in history will one day come in glory. Paul writes in Colossians: "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). Here, Paul refers to a future event. Christmas arouses longing for the Parousia, the Second Coming. It awakens hope in that heralded upheaval, that upcoming earthquake that makes radical discipleship possible, ushering in as it will the ultimate fulfillment of human history.

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have,
so that no one will take your crown."
Revelation 3:11
Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins

Monday, December 28, 2009

Intimacy With His Father

The readings for this week are taken from Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning. This is a devotional that has been significant in my life.

A central theme in the personal life of Jesus Christ, which lies at the very heart of the revelation that he is, is his growing intimacy with, trust in, and love of his Abba.

After his birth in Bethlehem Jesus was raised in Nazareth by Mary and Joseph, according to the strict monotheistic tradition of the Jewish community. Like every devout Jew, Jesus prayed the Shema Israel, "hear, O Israel, the Lord you God is one God" (see Deut. 6:4), three times a day. Jesus was surrounded with the Absolute, dominated by the One, the Eternal, the "I Am Who I Am."

In his human journey, Jesus experienced God in a way that no prophet of Israel had ever dreamed or dared. Jesus was indwelt by the Spirit of the Father, and gave a name of God that would scandalize both the theology and public opinion of Israel. The name that escaped the mouth of the Nazarene Carpenter: Abba.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name.
Philippians 2:9

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Creche

by Cristen Alexandria Mangrum

In chapel a few weeks back we were asked to think of our favorite Christmas moment or something of the like at which I promptly drew a blank. In my defense, it was after all, only ten in the morning. After exchanging lame half-truths of Christmas’s that were memorable, or memorable enough to fill the three minutes we were given, my friend and I, with whom I shared my sorry excuse of a story, returned to our banter, none of which was mildly Christmas related. After the service I was a little bit upset that nothing from my childhood Christmas stood out. Nothing? Really?

Then I remembered the Christmas party of 1998 which will forever be a big hit, not because I got done up fancy but because of the Christmas Crèche. The Crèche has, for as long as I can remember, come out yearly in a pinstripe box from the 1950’s which looks out of place 364 days out of the year, except for when it makes it’s debut sometime around the first week of December. Containing the nativity scene of my mother’s childhood, it bears little resemblance to anything modern day productions have created. Chipped yet chic, it has always been my job to assemble Mary, Joseph, the various animals, an ensemble of holy looking Wise Men, and of course the big baby J himself into the typical Christmas story scene. While all of the characters and animals alike have held positions ranging from traditional to avante garde at my more creative moments (as mostly demonstrated between ages 4-6), the position of the infant Jesus rarely changes, because, after all, he is the main event, the real deal, the man behind the month to which we dedicate our devotion.

The Crèche depicts that Holy Night long ago when Jesus, after months which must have seemed longer than years to his expectant family, both Holy and human, became no longer an abstract glimmer of hope for Earth but tangible flesh, basked in hay encased in the perfectly crafted manger, as set upon our rosewood coffee-table, of course. The appearance of Jesus days prior to the actual Christmas day was never questioned as everyone knew that Christmas was the celebration of his birthday, so what did it matter if he showed up to his party all month long, days before his designated ‘birth’. These traditions formed the basic tenets of my Christmas season, the joys to which I took pleasure, the kickoff of the whole Christmas shebang.

Until of course, TLC showed up to the holiday party my parents had given to the members of the Session of our church. "Tanya Cook" (the "L" still eludes me to this day) or “TLC” as she signed gifts, cards, or referred to herself fondly in third person, had barely placed her foot in the door before rushing to the crèche, this time set up more traditionally for the evening’s affair. “YOU HAVE TO PUT THIS AWAY!!” she cried, plucking the sleeping Holy infant from his designated spot of the night into my chubby palms. “Christmas isn’t here yet!! He only comes out on Christmas!!”. Bewildered, I marched little baby Jesus into the closest closeted space one could find; our silverware drawer. Baffled by not only the desecration of my carefully positioned crèche creation, and by so many adults looming above, cheek pinching and gabbing, it is without a doubt that His ride into the drawer was less than graceful. He remained as such until the next morning when upon unloading the dishwasher he was found by my equally bewildered mother, tangled in the daggers of forks and knives unfit for the party the night before. My mom, with little questioning, managed to get the details of the previous evenings scenario out of me. "TLC" was known for her outrageous and rash actions, so her party trick caused slight guffaw from the Mangrum clan. Innocent Jesus returned to his safe homestead with mother Mary and father Joseph and the others protecting him throughout the remainder of the Christmas season.

I did not give the incident much thought at the time as I was, after all, eight years of age, with Santa’s impending arrival heavily on the mind. To be honest, I do not know why all of the story comes back to me some eleven years later, when the Advent season is neither pressing on my mind nor as appreciated as it has been in years past, when life moved slower, His coming as festive and as fraught as on some small fraction I think it must have been for Mary and Joseph trekking to Bethlehem countless centuries ago. I think I recalled now because I recognize some many miles down my own journey of faith that I now know what it means to wait. To go hours and days and months with the mundane of the everyday, in expectancy of what is to Come, even though it may not be visible at the present time. To Yearn for a Christ that is tangible and present, visible for all. To understand the excitement and nervousness Mary must have felt knowing what lay in store for her as placed by God.

While unwrapping the crèche box bears little resemblance to carrying the Son of God in one’s belly, I do believe that in some small way there is the same expectant urgency in beginning the celebration of something glorious as begun with the Advent season. Some small assurance that no matter the years, Christ will come, incarnate and alive, waiting to follow us into whatever home we may inhabit, wrapped in the promise of a story so alive and rich and steeped in tradition it transcends time and the trappings of the modern day.

Perhaps that is what "TLC" tried to teach me by snatching him away until his proper day that December night, but I’d prefer to think He was where He should have been all along, inside our home, an obvious light to all of the real reason for the special china, occasions, festivity. Christ is alive whether he is sitting on the coffee table wedged between Mary and friends, or whether he is not so observably placed, wedged between agendas, schedules, pain; the boxes we encase him in eleven months out of the year, until we are humbled and called to be reminded of his Glory.

Come, let us adore Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Christmas Eve 2009

Change has been a significant part of my life. It is a fact that I continue to learn to live with and on many levels embrace. Change can be enlivening, like a breath of fresh air. But it is good to also have a few things in one's life that are consistent. Our family creche is one that I have had for over 50 years. I set it up as a child and now my daughter continues the tradition. The custom was to set up the creche immediately after Thanksgiving. But, with the advent of a daughter in college even this "tradition" has now "changed." It doesn't get set up until she comes home.

Carefully unwrapping each figure she decides where it should be placed. While the location of the creche has been different in each of our homes I cherish its familiarity and how year after year it is unchangeable. It is for me a symbol of the unchangeable character of Jesus. While the world around me spins, at the center is this baby, God incarnate, who came that I might have not just life but abundant life. That is his unchangeable gift that lasts no matter the changes that come my way. I haven't the fainest idea what 2010 will bring except the contancy of change!

May you know the unchangeable presence of Jesus this Christmas and throughout this coming year. Thank you for reading my meditative attempts and I pray that God has used them in some way to bring his unchangeable nature into your life. Blessings!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eighteenth Advent Reading

'Each day has enough trouble of its own," Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. He meant it. He was realistic enough to recognize that this world is too often a place of suffering, for now still in the grasp of the World Hater, the prince of this world.

A day will come when sorrow will be no more and death itself be destroyed, but until then there will always be some poorer than others, some bereaved mistreated, abused. We must do all we can to protect and to heal, but even the miracles we see are only signs of the Kingdom. That Kingdom is at the same time 'already' and 'not yet.' We are not exempt from trouble, injustice, violence and suffering, just because we are believers. He will allow some of these things to touch us also, even though it is not HIm that visits them upon us.

Jesus, who understood that it was necessary for Him to suffer, still questioned, Was there no other way? Job wondered what was going on and in this life was never told what had happened in the courts of heaven over his story of trials. We know that no test is beyond what we can endure, but why this random, faceless violence unleashed at times in our society? The cross begins with an unanswered 'Why?' - and Christ also shouldered the cross.

Celtic Daily Prayer
From the Northumbria Community

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Appointed Companion

Seventeenth Advent Reading

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country…
Luke 1:39

Mary may have been a contemplative at first, but, when her conversation with Gabriel began sinking in, as her “condition” became reality, she fled to the only person who would understand. Elizabeth also knew the outcome of a Gabriel visit and for six months she had been living the encounter. No one could have possibly helped Mary understand what lay ahead like Elizabeth.

Difficult times demand empathetic companions. Finding someone who is experiencing or has experienced a similar situation is to discover hope. Knowing that you’re not alone allows a view of the way out where once you saw only barriers.

God promises that with every difficulty he allows, a way out is also on the horizon. Mary wasn’t given her world turning event without someone who could be in the experience with her. After Mary’s three month stay in the hill country Elizabeth gives birth and Mary is once again left alone. But the companionship she shared during those three months must have helped her through the ensuing months of aloneness.

Gabriel was gone and Mary couldn’t prove his visit, but she only needed at least one person who could understand. God provided just what she needed when she needed it.

Thank you God for not leaving me helpless when difficulties come.
Help me to see the horizon and the help you always provide.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Angelic Visits

Sixteenth Advent Reading

But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

It’s probably safe to say that most of us would think we were delusional if we saw an angel. We don’t expect angelic visits in spite of the fact that we read about them frequently in the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament angels make appearances to all sorts of people. The psalmist assumes angelic presences in Psalm 34:7—“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him…” But, when was the last time you anticipated, expected, looked for an angel?

Now we come to Mary and we assume a great deal. We know that Gabriel gives her assurances, “Don’t be afraid.” But, how often have we considered, “pondered” Mary’s response at the moment Gabriel bursts into her room. While Gabriel later says, “don’t be afraid”, Luke doesn’t record “fear” as Mary’s first response but “discernment.” She doesn’t seem to be all that surprised by Gabriel. Instead, she looks at the encounter reasonably and rationally. It’s not the presence of Gabriel as much as what he says, “O favored one, the Lord is with you” that troubles Mary and gets her thinking.

We can have a tendency to put Mary in the ultimate spiritual category and yet if Jesus is to be accessible, to all of us, it surely begins with Mary. She was a girl who had learned her daily lessons well--so much so that Gabriel’s appearance isn’t startling. Instead Mary wonders how her life warrants such a visit.

Are you ready for an angelic visit? Don't be afraid. The Lord is with you.

Jesus, your coming was a miracle.
But you came using regular, ordinary means in order
for me know that you are with me.
Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, December 18, 2009

God with Us

Fifteenth Advent Reading

Ask a sign of the Lord your God, let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

Isaiah 7:11

Angelic preschoolers standing in two rows sang through their repertoire of music. The audience was enthralled consisting of mostly parents and grandparents. However off key their songs of Christmas it didn’t matter, they were precious in the eyes of those beholding them. I was simply an observer sitting by my now adult “child” who not long ago was living her own childhood.

Looking at the sweet, innocent faces singing about the birthday of Jesus I was struck with the realization that in ten, fifteen years the world would look very different. These singing voices might look back and wistfully recall their childhood and “better” days. “Oh God,” I prayed, “let these children live in your future.”

God heard the cries of the Israelites and in his compassion, in his love, he gave them a promise that would allow them to live in his future. A virgin would conceive and bring to birth a son whose name would be “God with us.” This sign would reach the highest heavens and the deepest portions of the earth and with it would be the opportunity of living in God’s future—“Immanuel.”

Jesus, I want to live not only inthe present but in the future with you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beauty from Ashes

Fourteenth Advent Reading

A terrible fire ravaged the whole building, and when, afterwards, she went back to inspect the remains of her office all she could do was shake her head and be grateful that she had not been in the building at the time. Certainly none of the files of papers had survived.

With one backward glance her eye fell on a tiny blackened vase still standing on the charred remians of her desk. She had a new office now in a different place and was able to move in there instead. Well, little vase, she said, you and me have survived and you shall come with me into my new office.
It stood in the usual place on the corner of her new desk, but when people came in she noticed a difference in their reaction. Before, they would say, 'Oh, what a beautiful vase.' Now, since it had been through the fire, they said, 'Oh, what beautiful flowers.'
Celtic Daily Prayers

Whatever hardships you may have experienced this year haven't gone unnoticed by God. He is taking them even now and changing the shreds into a magnificent garment. Whoever you meet will see only the beauty that God has created.

May God's Spirit descend on you today. Blessings.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Thirteenth Advent Reading

He was despised and rejected…

Isaiah 53:3a

Recently I met a woman who doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Her reasoning is, she went to church the whole time she was growing up and didn’t learn anything so why would she want to sit in a pew now. Her questions are posed such that answers are moot. Her spirit resides behind a granite wall. The path that she walks is paved with her desires, her wants, her choices—her fears. Fear is what keeps her despising and rejecting.

Long before his birth Jesus was destined to be rejected. To have that kind of shadow hanging over one’s existence doesn’t seem very promising or hopeful. The Bethlehem innkeeper was just the beginning of a series of rejections. How does one keep living in the midst of continual rejection?

And now, thousands of years later the rejection continues. It’s painful when those we love reject the One we love. Their rejection becomes the elephant in the room that is squeezed around and avoided. With every conversation there is a limit because the ultimate, deepest part of oneself cannot be shared—a love for Jesus. Conversations start but end quickly as soon as faith pulls up a chair.

But should their rejection be surprising given what is required of a Jesus follower? When Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” he’s asking for a total commitment, a complete handing over of oneself. No wonder those that despise and reject are fearful. Relinquishing ourselves to Jesus is dangerous! And part of the Jesus journey will include rejection.

Jesus, when those I love reject you, I feel rejected too.
Help me to love even when I feel despised.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gardens of Justice

Twelfth Advent Reading

The Lord will bring about justice and praise in every nation on earth, like flowers blooming in a garden.

Isaiah 61:11 (CEV)

The government of Iraq has a new slogan, “tourism not terrorism.” They have high hopes. It is perhaps one of the last places most tourists would think of going for a holiday. More than likely, the images streaming through our heads are views of devastation, drought, sand storms and death. And yet, at around 600 BC, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the world. Even more poignant is the possibility that somewhere in the vicinity of Iraq was the first garden—Eden.

In a world that at times seems hopeless, the Iraqi slogan is sobering. Whether they know it or not they are waiting for justice to reign. So much has been lost, and memories of their ancient past are fading. What remains are the stories of the dawn of time when justice, praise and peace were the government.

We like the sound of justice but it is difficult to come by when sinners rule. Adam was gifted with the knowledge of justice but believing the serpent’s lie altered his ability. As a result man’s focus turned inward, instead of outward, and justice took a back seat.

But there is hope! In the new heaven and new earth of God’s kingdom there will be no other governing power but His justice. Tears will be replaced with laughter, sorrow given over to joy and death turned into life. What was seen as lost will be found and the gardens of the world will bloom once again.

Creator God, let your justice take control of my heart, soul and mind, today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hurry. . .Wait

Eleventh Advent Reading

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

Psalm 37:7

Everything stopped as the worshipper walked forward, clicked the wheel on his cigarette lighter and lit an additional candle on the Advent wreath. With baited breath the remaining worshippers watched silently. The pastor said, “Thank you.” But the muttered words of one member spoke the truth, “Well I guess the second Sunday of Advent suddenly turned into the third Sunday.”

In the flurry of events and burgeoning schedules during the Advent/Christmas season it’s not surprising to feel ourselves rushing. Our days go into hyper-drive as we check off our lists that give us a sense of accomplishment. We live one day while thinking ahead to the next or the one after. There is so much to do with little time.

It takes an act of will to stop rushing. Like the worshipper who hadn’t even experienced the second Sunday of Advent before preparing for the third, we lose ourselves in the “structures” of the season. Caught up in the structures, we miss the quietness of being still, waiting, and meditating on the significance of the season.

Jesus didn’t come to support the commercial or even religious structures of our rushing, frenetic days. The hard, uncomfortable ride to Bethlehem wasn’t a mad dash to the mall. The stable didn’t provide the appropriate Christmas ambience. The feed trough had never seen fine linen or sterling silver. Jesus came simply, lived simply and simply loves all who take time to be still before him.

Jesus, forgive me.
As I have “waited” for you I have been rushing
through the days without being still before you.
Help me to stop, be still and wait.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Big Miracles

Tenth Advent Reading
She wrapped him in a blanketand laid him in a manger…

Luke 2:7a

God shows up at the oddest and most unexpected times. Once, at the heart of a difficult time I was the accompanist for a worship service where there were intentional times of silence. All day, in very psalm like fashion, I had been asking God to show up in a powerful, awesome way and perform the spectacular miracle that would end my sea sickness. Now, silently sitting at the piano I again prayed my week’s long big miracle prayer. In the stillness came a quiet voice, “But I came as a baby.”

God’s promised people had waited a long time for the Messiah. Their hopes rested on the big miracle, a Messiah that would rescue them from the tremendous weight of persecution and genocide. When the Messiah came they would be redeemed and reclaim their rightful place as the people of God. Perhaps they anticipated that, despite prophecy concerning a child, the Messiah would just “appear” ready for battle.

But, of course, it wasn’t just the baby that was the issue. When Jesus comes into his ministry his intentions become clear. He is not and will not be a life-rescuer. Instead he is a Messiah that calls people to a life-change. Those waiting for their Messiah rescuer never thought that anything would be required of them, personally.

Our circumstances may not change, but there will be a big miracle because of the birth of a Baby. When we allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out how we live and experience the difficulties will look different. Instead of being sea sick we’ll be riding the crest of the wave.

God, thank you for showing up with your
big miracle and changing me
from the inside out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Poem for Advent

Ninth Advent Reading

by W. H. Shaw
(A Poem based on Rev. 22:20)

I am. I was. I will be.I am not coming soon I am here.
I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.

On that night were you listening?
On that night the "least of your brothers" was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.

In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.

Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.

In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Redwood Stumps

I finally have a flight out of Denver and am heading home this afternoon! Amazing what a little "weather" can do to one's schedule. Nevertheless I am thankful that I am safe, warm with good books to read!

Eighth Advent Reading

There shall come forth a shoot
from the stump of Jesse, and
a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

California redwood trees are magnificent. Towering the stratosphere, their massive trunks wider than an arm’s reach, one can’t help but be awed when standing among their roots. Some trees have survived hundreds of years and it’s for this reason that the environmentalists persevere. Nevertheless, the redwood remains one of the most resilient trees. If cut down, within the year new shoots will pop up around its base. It’s a survival tree. Massive amounts of digging are required to completely destroy the life of a redwood.

The people of Israel spent years at the hands of ruthless powers determined to dig out their life. Isaiah’s words have weight when considered in this context. They feared they would become extinct having been cut down with only a remnant, a stump, showing. Into this desolation and destruction Isaiah makes a promise that the stump is not dead. God will shoot up a living, fruit bearing branch!

In the midst of life’s challenges and the feeling of sometimes being cut down to the roots Jesus comes promising new life, restored life, redeemed life. Nothing is dead or hopeless in the eyes of God. What is seen only from the outside is not considered by God. He is not distracted or discouraged by what looks like utter destruction. Instead he sees only what is underneath, at the root and begins the life restoring process.

Out of the stump of Jesse, a remnant of a nation, came the Hope of the world. Imagine what God wants and can do with our stumps!

Jesus, your humble beginnings
give me hope.
Help me to see not the stump
of my life but the shoots you are
causing to grow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Safe Home

Presently I'm standed in Denver, CO because of this amazing storm system. I thought I would be home by Monday night, now it looks like Wednesday evening! But, God is present and I'm grateful for this "inconvenient" experience! Blessings!

Seventh Advent Reading

…the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20b

Having a place to live should be one of those inalienable “rights” for everyone and yet the homeless rate continues to rise. Growing up I took “home” for granted, the front door always opened to the familiar and I felt safe. Now in the past five years I’ve lived in six homes. Barely did I become familiar with my surroundings but the boxes were packed and a new home was becoming “familiar.”

There are many who have lived for years in the same home. They have found safety in a shared community of church friends, local schools and volunteer organizations. Feelings of unfamiliarity aren’t familiar. For those individuals this verse will be unsettling.

But our waiting for Jesus this Advent season means that if we are committed to following him we’ll also become aware that his arrival will mean living with uncertainty and unfamiliarity. Setting up house wasn’t on Jesus’ ministry agenda. His focus was bringing the kingdom of heaven to a world that had lost its place.

I am reminded of this when I moan about not living in a home for any longer than seven years. Alas, answering the call of Jesus on my life has meant that I had to put aside all that I considered familiar, certain, secure. The flip side is that my safest “home” is now with Jesus and together we’re on the move!

Jesus, thank you for being “home” for me.
When uncertainty and fear
grip me I feel the pull
of your hand and I’m
on the road again with you.


Monday, December 7, 2009

A Cloudless Sky

Sixth Advent Reading

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.

Revelation 21:3a

While wandering through the daily grind of the wilderness the Israelites had only to take a glance or renew a morning memory to be reminded that they were not alone. God’s presence was always evident in some way or another. In the morning they gathered God’s manna. Moving from one location to another a cloud or fire pillar was their GPS. And if that wasn’t evidence enough God was in the tabernacle that they carried with them.

God dwelled with the Israelites in objects that could be seen, felt, heard. Of course, even those weren’t enough for them at times. Despite all the visuals they still took to shaping golden cows. When Gabriel appears in Mary’s bedroom and the first indication of Jesus’ birth is given it is also the beginning of God making his dwelling place with man.

This amazing birth, where God reveals himself to man through his Son, should be an event that stops all doubt of his existence. Surely from this point there should be astounding accounts of God’s presence. Now he has been made flesh. Now we should be able to see him. But it doesn’t happen like that and we’re left wondering if the Israelites had it better.

With the appearance of Jesus we become more vulnerable when it comes to experiencing God. Faith in the unseen is now required. But, by looking more intently for God, keeping open and vulnerable to the experience, the visuals that appear will take us deeper into the mind of God. And that is a gift the wandering Israelites never received.

God, make my life
Your dwelling place.
Help me in the experiencing of
your presence
to go deeper into You.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christ Climbed Down

Fifth Advent Reading

In a college contemporary poetry class I was introduced to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I was enthralled. Recently I heard it again and its impact held. Take your time reading it, keeping in mind that Ferlinghetti's poems were written during the 50's and early 60's. Amazing how not much has changed.

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rotless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible sales men
covered the territoy
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagon sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Forever Enduring

Fourth Advent Reading

…whatever God does
endures forever…

Ecclesiastes 3:14a

From the start God had a plan. He would make a creation in his image. In this way the rest of his creation would be cared for with the love and attention that he envisioned. So came about God creating “man” in his image. It was a brilliant plan which went south when “man” decided to take matters in their own hands and take care of creation they way they saw fit.

But God doesn’t ditch his creation which by this time doesn’t look very much like him and has been a disappointment. Instead he keeps finding ways of showing “man” what they are supposed to look like. Seas are divided, walls fall down, battles are won against all odds, fires don’t consume—these are just a few of God’s revelations. He loves and never gives up on what he created in his own image.

By the end of the Old Testament, however, it would appear that God’s patience is tissue thin. Despite the numerous appearances and revelations “man” has continued their blundering ways and made a royal mess. The prognosis for the future is…zip.

Even this does not deter God. His original drawing was still on the board and it continued to give him pleasure. There remained one revelation that could turn it all around. He would become the image he created through the life of his Son. In the life of Jesus “man” would begin to see creation differently and understand that whatever God does endures forever.

Creative God, thank you
for never giving up on your
creation. Help me to see
clearly your kingdom through
the life of your coming Son.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Join the Club

Third Avent Reading

God’s readiness to give and forgive
is now public. Salvation’s available
for everyone!

Titus 2:11 (The Message)

At one point in my life I lived in an area where people were defined by their club membership. It was one of the first questions asked when meeting someone new, “Where are you a member?” The catch was that even within the “club” system there were levels and so there was the possibility that your club membership may or may not add up to much.

With the arrival of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan a life-changing ministry begins where the doors to the existing religious clubs are thrown open. Almost immediately the “club” board realizes that their power base is eroding away and that before long their membership will include the “riff raff” dining with Jesus. The structures that they had carefully put into place, the important levels of religiosity would no longer have any merit.

With the coming of Jesus God appears in the flesh ready to give and forgive. The rules that had been put into place for the protection of his creation were no longer needed. Nothing would now stand in the way of a personal, one on one relationship.

It’s a marvelous sense of belonging. There are no entry interviews, fees or personal recommendations in the kingdom. Doors don’t exist because the kingdom is always open and everyone is invited and welcomed into the “club!”

Jesus, thank you for
coming and changing
the system, the structures
the rules so that everyone is welcomed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Never Too LIttle

Second Advent Reading

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among
the clans of Judah…

Micah 5:2

“Little is much when God is in it” is a frequently used phrase full of hope and promise. We like knowing that size doesn’t matter, amount isn’t quantified and quantity isn’t valued. As long as at the heart of the matter God resides endless possibilities exist.

Throughout the Bible there are accounts of people who gave in abundance out of their little. Elijahprepared a meal with the last of a woman’s oil and flour and she ends up with enough food to feed her entire family over the next several months. Rahab offers protection under a pile of straw and her name reappears as the individual who helped change the course of a nation. A widow gives a couple of coins amounting to less than a cent and her life turns into a story of abundant giving.

Then there is Bethlehem, whose line of historical significance is limited but whose impact is profound. A boy who sleeps with his sheep and calls Bethlehem home, finds himself King of Israel. And while Bethlehem may be mentioned later no one really thinks much of it because there isn’t much to think about!

Bethlehem is small and seemingly of no consequence until it shows again that little is much when God is in it. Bethlehem, out of its “little” gave in abundance to a world and its dwellers an event of such significance that nothing could or would ever be the same.

You overcome the odds, God!
Help me not to think in terms
of how little I might have
but how my little could affect
a change that mattered.