A FRIDAY MEDITATION ON CHRISTMAS – A Christmas Story

“Love caused your incarnation; love brought you down to me. Your thirst for my salvation procured my liberty. Oh, love beyond all telling, that led you to embrace in love, all love excelling, our lost and fallen race.”—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW, #241, v.3)

Jesus loves us and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it – nothing that will change this. I’ve said this many times before and will most likely continue to say it because it is so true.  Christmas reminds us of it once again. We tend to split the Bible into two stories, the “Before Jesus” story and the “After Jesus” story, but in reality, the Bible is all the Jesus story.  Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal Bishop and author who died in 1893 (also the writer of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem”) says, It was not suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation …Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of his time, did Jesus come.”

God loved us so much that he wanted us to be able to re-connect with him. From the beginning, the plan was for Jesus to come and live with us when the time was right and all was prepared.  But, until that time, he missed us and longed for the restored relationship.  Once, while I was meditating, I was given a sense of that longing.  It was intense and brought tears to my eyes that I couldn’t stop from flowing.  I can’t describe it because there are really no words and when I try, even now and even to myself, the tears come.  The best I can do is to say that it was a feeling of longing, aching, loving and missing all in one. A feeling of the Lover separated from the beloved, multiplied many times over.

Max Lucado wrote that we will travel great distances to be with those we love, especially on holidays, because we love to be with the ones we love. He continues by saying, ….So does God. How else do you explain what he did? Between him and us there was a great distance….And he couldn’t bear it. So he did something about it.  He travelled far.”

God loves us!!  God wanted us and missed us so he took the form of a helpless baby, born in a barn or a cave, in poverty to a human mother and into a simple carpenter’s family.  God the creator entered the womb of a girl he had created.  It was time. All was prepared.  Think about that if it doesn’t boggle your mind too much.  Even so – ponder it. Our restoration, redemption and reconnection was born on this night of his birth.

When God feels distant,” Max says, “remember the Christmas story. When you feel alone, unloved, or unlovable, remember that God loves you. And he travelled a great distance to be close to you. Why? Because he loves to be with the ones he loves!

And there is nothing you can do about it – nothing that will change this.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.—John 1:14 (RSV)

And so, the story continues. Stay tuned.

An Irish Christmas Prayer for You. 

The Light of the Christmas Star to you. The warmth of home and hearth to you. The cheer and good will of friends to you. The love of the Son and God’s Peace to you.

My love and Blessing also to you.  Merry Christmas.  Donna

Pondering…

The angel Gabriel from heaven came, his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored lady.”  Gloria.“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be, all generations laud and honor thee; thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold, most highly favored lady.” Gloria. ~ Hymnbook 1972 

It’s one week until Christmas. Seven days. Are you ready for it?  I’m really not, but then, maybe I am.  It depends on what I mean by ready. No, all of the preparations that usually go on this time of year are not done.  I haven’t had the energy for it, but I am ready for Jesus, I hope. Working through life this year has helped me here.

This Advent season began as the Angel Gabriel visited Mary with the announcement that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.  Emmanuel. God with Us. The one who has been awaited by God’s people almost forever, it seems.  For the most part, they still believed He would come as promised. Luke 1:29 tells us that Mary was perplexed and she pondered this strange greeting. She meditated upon these words not really able to understand. Her thoughts were probably deep thoughts.  “What? How? This can’t be, can it? Am I ready?”

What have we pondered as we prepare for Christmas? Have we thought about how the Messiah is growing us? What is God saying that brings us to pondering pause? Below are a few of my thoughts so far.

First, Ann Voskamp wrote this on December 1:  “Okay — deep breath — not only is this month going to be okay — it’s all going to be Beautiful! No-Stress Holidays this year — because simply? quietly… we are hushing the hurry & waiting for you, Lord. And when we know it’s all about Jesus — there. is. no. stress. And we whisper it: I will not let December become about making a production when it’s simply about not. missing. You. Miracles happen throughout Advent — whenever I slow…. whenever I still…. whenever I simply look for small and unlikely shoots of Jesus’ love everywhere… because this grows deep in Jesus’ love for everyone.”

Wednesday, while we were snowed in, we saw Flickers looking for food in the cracks of the Green Ash right outside our window?  They were very purposeful in their poking around.  The fat squirrels joined them in the search for food, in the tree but also on the ground, where I throw dried bread crumbs from time to time.  Ten inches of snow did not hinder them.  They were more than willing to look deeper for their nourishment. Have I been willing to go deeper for mine?

I read in Isaiah (40:3), “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” Still pondering.

Do I dig deep looking for Jesus?  Or have I stayed on the surface of things? Do I still myself and consider what I’ve heard and seen?  Have I spent still time with God? Or am I going at a mad pace with no time to wonder?  No time to listen? To ponder? Have I allowed time to prepare myself for the coming of Jesus anew in me?  Well, there is one more week in Advent.  How about this week?

So, how? How do we go deeper? Where will we find nourishment? How might we prepare the highway in us? How will we be still in such a busy time? What will I do? Well, I have a list – First of all – Number 1, Decide; Then Be still; Read the story; Ponder; Share it with others; Pay attention; Join together; Pray without ceasing. Watch for Jesus; Be still. Repeat.

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head; “To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,“my soul shall laud and magnify this holy Name.” Most highly favored lady. Gloria!

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Have Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”~ John 16:33

The focus for the second week of Advent has been on Peace so I have been meditating on it. Several quotes, in addition to the scriptures above, came to mind as I sat. These are three of my favorites.

“Peace in the world cannot be made without peace in the heart.” ~ Henri Nouwen

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  ~ Mother Teresa
“Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.” ~ Oswald Chambers

What does peace actually look like and feel like? Even though Oswald says peace is not the absence of trouble we would like it to be, or at least I would. If we had peace wouldn’t there be an absence of war and other turmoil in the world? Wouldn’t there be an absence of war and turmoil in our own inner and outer life?  Apparently, that is not what Jesus meant by the scripture verses above. Although, if we all had the peace of God perhaps we would eventually get there.

Having and keeping the Presence and Peace of God within really requires the practice of some form of silence and solitude—some form of meditation—some way of paying attention. There are several ways to practice this.  Some take long quiet walks in nature to be with God.  Many use Centering Prayer when they sit quietly and ignore, as much as possible, the distractions of the mind and heart.  Lectio Divina—sitting with a Bible passage, not for study but for prayer and meditation, helps others.

Some people, including me, use all of these ways at different times.  Perhaps you have another way. I have more silence, more peace and more of the sense of God’s presence then, and throughout the day, when I regularly practice Centering Prayer.  I try to sit for 20 minutes twice each day. I don’t always make it, but when I do, I know the gift of peace Jesus was talking about and I am less afraid, not just while praying but all day. When I don’t have at least one of these periods, it isn’t long before I feel worried, fearful, anxious and empty.

Today, a prayer came out of the silence. It was this:  Jesus, I’m grateful you have allowed this painful experience(s) in my life. Thank you. It has shown me things I would never have known without it.  Wonderful and terrible things, inner things.  Outer things. Things about myself that I didn’t know.  These have been gifts to me and I am truly grateful. Thank you.”

What?  Where did that prayer come from? I can guess.  Actually I know it was the Presence of God within that gave it. I have more peace, but I probably do need just a bit more silence and gratitude (Ok a lot) to get this attitude to stick. Do I have scars?  Yes.  But the scars are reminders of how God has been with me for healing. We never know what tomorrow, or even the next minute, will bring but we do know who holds tomorrow. This inner Presence of God is what we have to give to our hurting neighbor and bring to a hurting world.

“I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.” ~ Psalm 85:8

There is Hope

Come thou long expected Jesus born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. ~ Charles Wesley

The Old Testament is full of stories about waiting for the Messiah that had been promised. The Messiah, when he comes, will make things right again as they should be.  The Messiah will rescue them from the oppressors.  The Messiah will be King. The people wait, and yet he does not come.  The promise remains unfulfilled. The plaintive cry, filled with desperate longing, goes heavenward, “How long?” It is filled with dashed hopes and unrealized expectations.

How long, O Lord, will you leave us alone with ourselves?

How long before you rescue us and do something about this dark and messy world?

How long before you stop hunger and homelessness?

How long before you stop the wars and rumors of wars? Mass killings?  Hatred?

How long before you show yourself in our darkness?

How long before you heal our hearts from so much grief?

How long before you show yourself in so many of the painful and unacceptable feelings that reside deep inside to keep us from acknowledging them?

How long before you reveal your purpose in our sufferings and unresolved issues?

How long before you heal us?

How long will it take for you to come again as you have promised?

How long?  How long? How long?

Search any concordance and you will easily notice how often this question is asked in the scriptures. In Psalm 13:1, King David asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”  Sometimes, we feel the same way.

This sounds discouraging doesn’t it?  But we are children of the promise, also, and we are not to live as those who have no hope.  We need to remind ourselves of that.  We are just about to finish the first week of Advent where our focus has been on waiting in Hope.  This is very timely, I believe, considering the darkness of the world, today…like then.  It is easy to feel hopeless, but we are called to be people of Hope. It is not something we can get by working hard, though, because Hope is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s not one of the fruit listed in Galatians 5, but it is a fruit nonetheless. All fruit is formed by staying attached to the Vine, so hang on tight.

But, listen! I also hear in that plaintive “How Long?” wail, the longing of God who wants his family back.  God asks in Psalm 4:2, “How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?” A new thing is starting to take place, but it’s not really the beginning of it.  Ever since Adam and Eve left the Garden in Genesis 3, God’s cries out to us, “Where are you?” And, “How long? How long will you hide from me. When will you do something about the cries of the people? I hope for your return. We can work together. I love you.”

“Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the world thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.” 

 “We pray Lord God that we, as apprentices of your Son Jesus, for whom we have waited and are awaiting still in hope, may so love and obediently serve you in what you call us to do that darkness will be banished, your justice will be established, and violence will be no more. We pray that the glimmer of light we now see in the midst of the darkness will grow by the power of your Spirit, beginning with us and spreading outward until your Kingdom is established on earth.  Come, Lord Jesus.  AMEN.”