Thursday, December 12, 2019

Christmas Trees and Strawberry Summers

What I'd really like is a life of Christmas trees
and strawberry summers,
A walk through the zoo with a pocketful of bubble gum
and a string of balloons.

I'd say "yes" to blueberry mornings
and carefree days with rainbow endings.
I'd keep the world in springtime
and the morning glories blooming.

But life is more than birthday parties;
life is more than candied apples.

I'd rather hear the singing than the weeping.
I'd rather see the healing than the violence.
I'd rather feel the pleasure than the pain.
I'd rather know security than fear.

I'd like to keep the cotton candy coming.
But life is more than fingers crossed;
life is more than wishing.

Christ said, "Follow me."
And of course I'd rather not.

I'd rather pretend that doesn't include me.
I'd rather sit by the fire and make my excuses.
I'd rather look the other way,
not answer the phone,
and be much too busy to read the paper.

But I said, yes and
that means risk-
it means, Here I am, ready or not!
O Christmas tree and strawberry summers,
you're what I like and you are real.

But so are hunger
and misery
and hate-filled red faces.
So is confrontation.
So is injustice.

Discipleship means sometimes it's going to rain on my face.
But when you've been blind and now you see,
when you've been deaf and now you hear,
when you've never understood and now you know,
once you know who God calls you to be,
you're not content with sitting in corners.

There's got to be some alleluia shouting,
some speaking out
some standing up
some caring
some sharing
some community
some risk.

Discipleship means living what you know.
Discipleship means "Thank you, Lord"
for Christmas trees and strawberry summers
and even for rain in my face.

The author is Ann Weems and the poem can be found in her anthology, "Kneeling in Bethlehem" (Westminster Press: 1980).

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Real Meaning of Christmas

To catch the real meaning of the "Spirit of Christmas," we need only to drop the last syllable of the word, and it becomes the "Spirit of Christ." It beckons us to follow him, and become worthy of the blessedness which he promised to the most unlikely people-the poor in spirit, the sorrowful, the meek, the seekers after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and even the persecuted and the oppressed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Soldier's Poem

Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of
Plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney
With presents to give,
And to see just who
In this home did live.

I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.

No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures
Of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought
Came through my mind.

For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor
In this one bedroom home.

The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured
A United States soldier.

Was this the hero
Of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?

I realized the families
That I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers
Who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
The children would play,
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas day.

They all enjoyed freedom
Each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder
How many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas eve
In a land far from home.

The very thought
Brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees
And started to cry.

The soldier awakened
and I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry,
This life is my choice;

I fight for freedom,
I don't ask for more,
My life is my god,
My country, my corps."

The soldier rolled over
And drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still
And we both shivered
From the cold night's chill.

I didn't want to leave
On that cold, dark, night,
This guardian of honor
So willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, "carry on Santa,
It's Christmas day, all is secure."

One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas my friend,
And to all a good night."

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Reflections on a Christmas Tree

Look closely at a Christmas tree today – bare and perhaps covered with snow. Trees are often bent, broken, missing limbs, missing leaves, plagued by pests, scared by lightening, etc. Perhaps that is how you sometimes view yourself. When you focus on the broken limbs and knots, you see only the “mistakes” of the tree. But do you also see how they add to the beauty and majesty of the tree? Step back and look at how beautiful it is.

Close your eyes and imagine that you are a tree. On your broken, flawed imperfect tree, put an ornament for every sacrifice you have made for strangers. Put a light on your tree for every act of love you have done in God’s name. Place an ornament on the tree for every good deed you have done or for every time you turned away from evil. Put a gift under the tree for every time you have done something nice for one of God’s children.

What does your tree look like now?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Dear God

Dear God, 

I know that the first step in all spiritual healing is to believe. I believe! I open my mind and heart believing in your infinite power and possibility. I believe that healing is a dynamic and reachable experience, a reality that can be experienced right now. I maintain a patient and loving attitude, for I believe that your healing activity is now at work in my mind and body. I look forward, with joyful expectation, to the perfect wholeness that you are now bringing into manifestation through me. I believe in your constant expression of perfect good in and through me. I rest in the certainty of your healing power. I know that with you all things are possible. 

In Your Holy Name, 

Amen

Friday, December 6, 2019

2nd Sunday of Advent

Several years ago, while driving through the Decatur area, I saw a grand oak tree. This tree was huge, with a bright green canopy.  I don't know how many times I drove by this tree and paid it no attention. But on this particular day, I sat for a minute or two - the time it took for a traffic light to change from red to green - and admired the tree. Then I drove away. The next day the tree fell crushing everything in its path. It fell because its roots had withered and died.  While the tree appeared magnificent and healthy, its core was rotten.  When it fell, it did not even leave a stump, all that was left was a gigantic hole filled with dead roots.

As I reflected on today's readings, I remembered that tree.  In our first reading from Isaiah 11:1-10, the prophet describes a new shoot sprouting from the roots of Jesse.  This shoot will blossom and thrive because the Spirit of the Lord rests upon it.  It will be a sign to all the nations of the world and will be sought by them.  Here strong, healthy roots produced an inspiring leader filled with "a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD" (Isaiah 11:2).

We get a distinctly different tree image in today's gospel, Matthew 3:1-12.  As he was baptizing people in the Jordan River, John the Baptist had a confrontation with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He questioned their sincerity and challenged them to "produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance" (Matthew 3:8).  Like our grand oak tree, on the surface the Pharisees and Sadducees, appeared to be holy and devout people.  They assumed that as descendants of Abraham, their salvation was assured. However, John the Baptist saw them differently.  He called them a "brood of vipers!" (Matthew 3:7).  They were arrogant and elitist and, like our grand oak tree; their core was so rotten that John said an "ax lies at the root of the trees" ready to chop them down.  Trees with rotten roots cannot produce good fruit.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist calls us to repent with sincere hearts and to produce good fruit as evidence of our repentance. The Prophet Jeremiah said, "Blessed is anyone who trusts in Yahweh, with Yahweh to rely on. Such a person is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it has nothing to fear, its foliage stays green; untroubled in a year of drought, it never stops bearing fruit" (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Stir up within us,
O God of peace and mercy,
a sincere desire for repentance,
that, baptized with the Holy Spirit
and enkindled by the fire of your love,
we may bring to every situation
the justice, gentleness and peace
that the incarnation of your Word
has caused to sprout and blossom upon the earth.
Grant this through your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
AMEN