Tell me again the reason for Advent season?
What if the power is in the waiting itself, in the awareness waiting creates?
Here’s the deal: With awareness comes gratitude, fueled by gladness and joy.
With gratitude weights are lifted, and there is a sense of peace (down to our core).
And with gratitude we embrace the grace of connection, as we affirm that no one of us in on this journey alone.
My good friend Bishop Martin Townsend tells a story about flying from Washington DC, on a very chilly Autumn morning.
Riding the shuttle bus from the satellite parking lot to the terminal is hardly an occasion for revelation. And typical for very early on a Monday morning, the atmosphere and mood on these twelve-minute junkets is neither warm, nor friendly. More like bordering on grim stoicism. After two stops, a young woman boards, hampered by far too many bags, while carrying an infant. You can tell she feels apologetic and blameable.
And yet. The mood thaws, people on the bus smile, and talk to the baby (who is two months old). “Hello there. Look at your smile. Look at how pretty you are.” Travel stress melts a little, and the mother smiles at the people in her new shuttle-bus-community.
The conversation spills, people on the bus now talking with one another. I was about to bring out pictures of my grandchildren.
At the terminal, the “community” helps with the young woman’s bags.
The journey only took minutes, but our universe on that bus was transformed by the vulnerability of a baby, overcoming the veneer of indifference, anxiety, sophistication and tension that we too often wear in public places. (And perhaps even at church coffee hour?)
Here’s the deal: In a stable in Bethlehem, God became that baby on the bus.
We think of ourselves as plenty clever and bright, able to figure things out or straighten things up. And yet. Martin writes, “Rather than by intimidation and force, God chose to win us by becoming totally vulnerable. We are completely free to maintain our clenched grip on the stainless-steel hand rail, of course, steadying ourselves, eyes unswerving from their protective watch over our baggage as the bus sways and bumps along. Or our glance can be diverted. We can choose to talk to a stranger and smile back at a baby. There is something unassailably believable about the affection of a child; there is no love that is warmer… There is no guile.
God chose to come among us as a vulnerable child, so he could speak more clearly to our own hearts where we are most vulnerable. That child is speaking God’s truth… The stable is the sign of God’s desire to be born in the stables of our own hearts, not into our inn-like self-sufficiency, nor into our quest for palace-like opulence and power. In making his entrance through the mire of a stable, God showed us that flesh and blood, dirt, sweat, and tears, fear and shattered dreams, are good enough for him. That is where he will start.”
We have a very cold week ahead for much of the US. Stary warm my friends, and be one the lookout for those who need a helping hand.
Outside our windows here in the PNW, a landscape of white. And every evergreen tree now ready for the celebration, replete with Christmas frosting. It’s the kind of weather reminding us that if we don’t need to be anywhere, it wouldn’t hurt to settle in, and enjoy the breather… a fireplace, a good book and a glass (or cup) of something to comfort the spirit.
I see that many of you have a good bit more snow and cold than here, and some in the Midwest may experience their coldest Christmas Day in nearly 40 years.
So. Settling in is a perfect metaphor for winter solstice, as we hit the pause button, which is another reminder of our advent season invitation to wait, and make space. And while we’re there, to pay attention, and find the seeds of gratitude.
(And, this is the geek in me: Solstice is our longest night of the year—15.5 hours of darkness here in Seattle—between 4:20pm sunset and an 8:55am sunrise. However: tomorrow, it only gets lighter.)
Please reach out to those who may be alone this time of the year. And to those who need help. Those who could use a kind word or a hug, even if hug is verbal. You never know the power of kindness… let’s let it take root.
And two blessings to carry with us…
“The winter solstice is a sacred time infused with magic and light, in which the universe gifts us with wonderful, new opportunities, sheds light on and rekindles hope in our lives as we welcome a new cycle. By releasing and letting go of old patterns which no longer serve us we can move forward holding the possibility for bright new beginnings within our hearts. By acknowledging and giving thanks for all the beautiful experiences that have enriched our lives and our souls throughout the past year, we can begin our journey as we prepare with great joy and anticipation for the year ahead.” Thank you Mary Anne Byrne (The Garden Of Pensiveness)
A winter solstice blessing
May the longest night and the shortest day
bring rest to your mind and soul, I pray.
May you find guidance and may you find peace
as the circle of light will slowly increase.
Embrace the magic that the darkness bears,
breath deep in the chill and shift in the air.
May you always be blessed with the light from within
and may well-being be yours as a new cycle begins.
Someone asked me if I had any special wishes for Christmas and any I wish to carry into the New Year. Gratefully, John O’Donohue “gave me” the words…
Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten on the shore of dawn.
The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to color.
I arise today
In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of Solitude
Of the soul and the Earth.
I arise today
Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Clear of word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher
“Matins” (Morning Prayer)
From To Bless the Space Between Us
I hope you’ve found ways to stay warm and safe in your neck of the woods. Here in the US, the Arctic blast covers most states. On my walk this morning, the temperature still below 20 degrees. (The kind of weather that makes golf unlikely.)
I watched the tape of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech (Wednesday) to our Congress (his first known trip outside of Ukraine since Russia invaded about 10 months ago). I sat, appreciatively glued as (his remarks in English) he thanked the U.S. for its help in the fight against Russia, and for “all those who value freedom and justice.” Talking about Ukrainians living in darkness with power outages from the bombings, he said, “But we will celebrate Christmas. The light in our faith and our self will not be put out.”
Speaking of spilling light…
What if the waiting of Advent is the story of a God
who pitches a tent among us, even as we live
in the midst of a culture grown weary,
from too much work, from too much haste,
from too much distraction, from too much distrust,
from too much fear, and from too much war?
Waiting provides a space for recollection… even in the middle, even in the muddle, even in No Man’s Land.
For what we value.
For those things and people for which we are grateful.
For the gift of simple grace.
And for last minute gift shopping… let’s take this prayer into the Christmas weekend…
Help us to fill our gift list this year.
To our enemies, help us give forgiveness.
To our opponents, tolerance.
To our friends, our heart.
To those who are hurting, hope.
To our customers, service.
To those around us, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To ourselves, laughter and respect.
And to you, our worship.
Savor your Christmas, Hanukkah and holiday celebrations my friends. Let’s create sanctuary spaces for healing and replenishment.
Prayer for our week…
God of Goodness,
We give you praise for the ordinariness of Christmas–
that the day comes the same as any other day.
We give you praise that there is no sign in the heavens, and no bright star but the light of your presence in the ordinary birth of the child.
We give you praise that unobtrusively you are in the center of human affairs, involved in the struggle of life, and sharing human experience.
We give you praise that out of compassion you take our part, and open to us a new way of life.
We pray that this day we shall be able to see its true glory.
Caryl Micklem (Contemporary Prayers for Public Worship)