“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.””
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. ”
Yesterday I woke up with a tune running through my head. Over and over I found myself humming a tune that seemed to come from nowhere. Suddenly, after about an hour, I realized what the tune was – a song I learned in 5th grade at Girl Scout summer camp! It had been buried in my memory and for some reason just popped into my head as I woke up. I realized I could sing the song all the way through – all the words – and as I did, I remembered the camp experience, the lake where we canoed, the platform tents where we lived. All of that came back to me as I sang through the camp song.
I wonder if Mary had a tune to him or sing as she remembered that first Christmas. Maybe she had a lullaby she sang to the baby Jesus, or a traveling song she’d hummed as they fled Bethlehem for Egypt. However she made connections, she had a lifetime of memories treasured in her mind. There were memories of the shepherds crowding into the stable on the night of his birth, Jesus hitting his thumb with his hammer as Joseph taught him carpentry, of her son’s Bar Mitzvah, of girls flirting with him in the village, and of that trip to Jerusalem when Jesus got left behind. So many memories to cherish, so many ways to perceive God at work in her life, in Jesus’ life, and in the world.
As we begin our new year, I invite you to take a moment to recall the joys of 2015, the places where you saw God at work in your life, at Grove, and in the world. Pause to give thanks tonight as the ball in Times Square descends. Commit 2015 to God with thanks for what has gone well and with repentance for where we have failed the Lord. And then seek God’s presence in your life right from the beginning of 2016. Let this be a year for all of us to treasure and ponder in our hearts.
Prayer: Loving God, as we come to the end of this year, I thank you for all the ways you gave been active in my life. I am grateful for the ways you have enabled me to make a positive difference in the world. And where I have failed you, I pray that you will take my feeble efforts and transform them so that you might yet be glorified. Let 2016 be a year in which I am attuned to your presence, and ready to do your will for the good of your people and the glory of your kingdom, for I ask this in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
A 7-year old child was drawing a picture of the Nativity. The picture was very good, including Mary, Joseph and, of course, baby Jesus. However, there was a fat man standing in the corner of the stable, that just did not seem to fit in. When the child was asked about it, she replied, “Oh, That’s Round John Virgin.”
On Christmas Eve we’ll join our voices to sing “Round yon virgin mother and child” as we hold our candles high. The light of the candles will begin as only a few points of light in the darkened sanctuary. From just the light of the Advent and Christ candles, the light will spread across the room from hand to hand until the room is alight. The candle light will fill the room, allowing us to read the words of the hymn and see one another’s faces. That light will be enough for us.
A young mother, a child born in a stable, a rag-tag group of sheepherders…not the beginning that we would expect for the Son of God. A small beginning, not too different form the light of one candle, but a light and a beginning that cannot be overcome by the darkness that threatens it. As the faith is passed from person to person, just as the light is passed from hand to hand, the darkness recedes. We might not have total light in the world anymore than the we will have total light in the sanctuary, but just as the candle light is enough for us to see one another, the light of Christ is enough for us to see each other in the world, to recognize and care for fellow children of God. The light of Christ promises life, grace and a new future for all who believe.
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
May the light of Christ fill your life this Christmas, and may you pass it on, hand to hand, person to person, until the world is alight with the grace of Jesus Christ.
“A person’s attire and hearty laughter,
and the way he walks, show what he is.”
“A pastor, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar…” How many times have you heard some variation of that? And you knew what was coming next. Oh, maybe not the exact words, but you knew that a joke was coming, and you listened with an expectation of laughter and fun around the corner.
Today, July 24th, is National Old Joke Day. Take a moment to share a joke with a friend or neighbor. Laugh with a family member. Laughing, reports WebMD, changes us physiologically: “We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.” (http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter)
I believe Jesus loved to laugh. If you look at the stories of his life, he’s always eating out with people. From Pharisees to sinners, Jesus loved to belly-up to the table and break bread. I can’t imagine his doing that without letting out a good belly laugh at some point. Whether as host or guest (or meal!), Jesus came eating and drinking and, I think, laughing.
So in the midst of all of our serious study of Scripture and commitment to prayer, let’s take time to gather at the table with friends. Remember that God’s first act was one of delight and pleasure – to create a world that would bring delight to the Lord. Let’s be intentional about creating special celebrations, laughing together, rejoicing in each other’s presence, and giving thanks to God for the delight of this day. Then, before you clear the table, turn to your neighbor and ask them if they’ve heard the one about the pastor, the priest and the rabbi.
Prayer: God of laughter and joy, who made us for your pleasure and delight, I pray that my life will bring a smile to your face rather than a frown. Help me to approach the world with the same delight and joy with which you made it, and to rejoice at the wonder of your love in my life as you rejoice at my love for you. Amen.