Thursday, December 22, 2011

So, this is Christmas: Year B, Christmas Day

This Week's Lectionary Texts:
Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)

This Week's Reflection:
I wonder how many people will throw out there Christmas trees Monday morning. All this work, all this preparation, all this waiting and he is finally arriving! The Light of the World is bursting onto the scene once again and too many of us are unwilling to savor the time with the baby.

Nativity by He Qi
The Luke text this week is well known to many of us because of a boy who couldn't give up his blanket. Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas recites those verses standing in a single shaft of bright light shining down on him standing on the stage. After being treated poorly, after trying to please everyone and create the perfect Christmas program, Linus steps forward into the midst of chaos and stops it all to remind Charlie of the true meaning of Christmas.

Glory to God in the Highest by He Qi

We have waited and watched. We have savored the anticipation. Now, let's go visit that baby and savor this moment as well. The first day of 12 is this Sunday. May we remember to stop in the midst of the chaos and sing with the great company of heavenly host, "Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Impossible Reality: Year B, Advent 4

Annunciation by Qi He
This Week's Lectionary Texts:

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Luke 1:47-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

This Week's Reflection:

I loved being pregnant. I have two children and simply loved the experience of being pregnant with them. It was anything but easy, though. Childbirth was everything you have heard it can be, but it is was easy for me compared to the pregnancies. There was gestational diabetes and low amniotic fluid. There were high-risk pregnancy doctors and work transitions. It was anything but easy and still I loved it. I think it stems from my love of traveling. I am one of those people who truly does think that "getting there is half the fun." The journey through those nine months (really eight because they were both early!) was an incredible one filled with amazing sights and stops along the way. Did I say that it was anything but easy, though?

Annunciation St Catherine Sinai
found at
This journey of Advent is so fast. In four quick weeks, we go on this trip of being reminded of how hopeless we are because of our sin, being presented with the gift of good news that hope is on his way by a man who looks and acts like no one else,  being invited to stop and breathe for a minute in the midst of what may be the busiest time of our year, and finally being given the opportunity to witness Mary as she is presented with this impossible situation. We better hold on. We don't want to miss a minute of this trip.

The gospel lesson this week is that one from Luke 1 that most of us know very well. We've been waiting for it. Angels and virgins and songs of commitment and joy. What an impossible situation, though. A young girl, unmarried, but legally bound to a man, is told by an angel that she will give birth to "the son of God." And, the angel has the audacity to call this finding favor with God! I think I would have laughed out loud had something like that happened to me. It is an impossible situation.
Annunciation African
found at

And, of course, God knows that is what we humans will think. The angel is ready to answer the question before it is ever asked. "I know, Mary, sounds crazy, but listen to this . . ." With the news of Elizabeth being six months pregnant, the angel is able to proclaim "For nothing will be impossible for God."

For me, having children has increased my spiritual connection to God. Okay, let's be honest, I have my moments, but for the most part it truly has. It has done this for two reasons. One is that I love my children more than I ever knew was possible and two is that I could not have survived the difficult pregnancies or parenthood without a God who loves me and cares for me and shows me how to love and care for my kids. I am reminded daily that "nothing is impossible for God."

So, whether we focus on 2 Samuel and David's gift of rest and promise from God after a very difficult time, on the Romans passage where the writer reminds us to praise God for giving us very good news or Mary's encounter with the angel and response in song found in Luke, this final stop during this journey through Advent takes an impossible situation and brings home to us that nothing is impossible for God. 
Annunciation Ethiopian on fabric
found at

We have to remember this and celebrate it because though it is ultimately an amazing experience, it is anything but easy. And even though we may feel like laughing when we hear it, "we have found favor with God." The impossible situation of God becoming human is about to become a reality! Praise be to God!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just Breathe: Year B, Advent 3

Annunciation to the Virgin Mary (detail) .
Pontormo, Jacopo da, 1494-1556
This Week's Lectionary Texts:
Isaiah 61:1-11
Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 
John 1:6-8, 19-28

This Week's Reflection:
Advent seems to go by so quickly compared to other seasons of the Church - like Lent, for example. Four short weeks and then we are into Christmas. Not much time to get ready for the most important birth in history!

In the first week of Advent, the lectionary texts reminded us that we are sinful people and that we really need a Savior to come. In the second week of Advent, we were provided the hope we need as John shouted out to us that that Savior is on his way - without him there is no hope, with him there is no need for hopelessness. Now, we continue our journey along the Advent Road and arrive at what seems like a traffic jam. It isn't one of those traffic jams that makes you want to lose your temper, though. It is more like the rare moments when you are rushing from one place to the next and suddenly have to stop. Beyond all your own control, you get to take a few deep breaths and trust that pausing for a bit will be okay.

330 by Melissa Bridgman
There is no hope because of sin. But wait, Hope is on his way. Now, sit with that message for a while. Savor it. Decorate the tree, put up the lights, take time to write special notes in those Christmas cards. Time is passing by too quickly and we are called to stop, to pause, to breathe in the reality that the Savior is coming. Soon enough labor will begin and everything will speed up again. For now, may we rest in the knowledge that "the Lord has sent good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners" (Isaiah). Let us pause with John to revel in the fact that "he came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him" (John). Let us sing with Mary (Luke) and the Psalmist. Let us sing praises always and pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians).

Savor this week. May our congregations be led to savor it too. Too often we want to skip to the birth, but the anticipation of this great event is too wonderful to miss by running too quickly through Advent.

"Breath of Heaven," help us to pause long enough to breathe You in as deeply as possible.