31 December 2011

2011 Plans : Plans 2012

Tonight is hard for me, but most of this year has not been.  However challenging the challenges. However disappointed my expectations. However betrayed my trust, there were more moments of my being fully present with myself with joy and delight to lament tonight’s reality as if the whole of the year was so terribly miserable.

Tonight is hard for me because the plans I made and the dreams I shared were found to be insufficient for another.  Clear that my dreams and plans were not inherently insufficient, their not being  found sufficient for another does not diminish them or me as good, viable, profitable, pure, just, equitable, desirable, doable, hopeful and gracefilled. That my plans have changed gives room for perfected plans for my life.  

Tonight is hard for me because change happened swiftly and unexpectedly.  Tonight is less hard for me because this year with me was wonderful and I find myself looking back and laughing, looking forward and holding on this truth that has never failed me: 
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." / Jeremiah 29:11

So, honestly, tonight is hard for me, but not impossible or hopeless.  And, tonight is less hard for me because the whole of 2011 included many beautiful places that now serve as balm; and because I know the plans I see are myopic on the landscape of the plans God beholds for me in 2012!

Advent: Christmas Eve Knock on the Door

Perhaps for days, but certainly for hours prior to Mary delivering her son, Joseph knocked on door after door looking for a decent place for her to lay and deliver in comfort.  Inn after inn, door after door, his knocks proved futile -- there was no room unsold, reassigned, shareable, or available. Not even for a pregnant woman, clearly in labor.  Not even for the Messiah, not so easily recognizable. Oh Lord, they didnt know who YOU were! 
Luke 2: 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
When I hear this story and reflect on my pre-arranged delivery of my son in the state of the art birthing unit of a pretigious Southern California hospital,  I am humbled by a plethora of memories of gracious family, friends and strangers who buzzed around and busied themselves to make me comfortable and my delivery easy.  It is this same memory through which I bemoan, O Lord, they didnt know who You were!

God was knocking at their door! Okay, in defense of the Messiah’s arrival not being what they expected -- all military mighty instead of a mother’s moaning -- I could see why they lacked urgency to accommodate. Just Kidding.  Whether bearing the King of Kings or not, I am aggreieved that some inn keeper didn't give up their bed for a baby; or cancel a reservation of another paying customer to show kindness to a stranger -- in labor at that! Oh Lord, they didnt know who You were!

God was knocking at their door!  God is knocking at our door.  Appearing as a commoner, a woman without medical insurance, a man with unkept beard, smelly and groaning, in need of creature comforts of kindness, exhausted from obeying the laws of the land that are neither just or equitable, and pregnant with possibilites.  I am thinking, if with every knock on the door of our lives we open up expecting God in some form, even when not fancy, what grace might we experience?  God comes to our address, this Advent again; daily with the dawn; and anew with each encounter we have with one another.  

Looking forward to the Christ of the Morning and Advent of 2012, listen for God-knocks and welcome God in -- the time comes that the Christ is delivered!

18 December 2011

Advent Angel

I have angels perched about my home -- even when it is not Advent.  The coal black metal one from South America stands guard at the hearth screen, hands extended holding the place for a candle.  The abalone shell one with gold filigree wings, halo and robe embellishments from the Phillippines finds her way into my sitting spaces, keeping watch over my prayers for peace.  I have families of angels, often coming to me in triplets, who rotate through my home and office decorations through the years.  But, at Advent, I become more intimately aware of their presence in the supernatural.  I strain to hear their coming, I long to see their appearing, I am on edge ever looking up, around and over my shoulder for an Angel’s appearing.  There just seems to be so many more visiting the Earth in this season!  

Luke 1:28 And the angel (Gabriel) came in unto her, and said,
    Hail, thou that art highly favoured,
    the Lord is with thee:
    blessed art thou among women.

Seeing angelic figurines in my daily and admiring the majestic angel forms in worship spaces (and some public, not intended to be holy spaces also, like the mall) remind me that God’s message to Mary is mine!  Whether unexpected visitation or purposeful listening, Angels around reassures me in my lowliness that I am favored and blessed; that I am fine how I am and perfect for the divine to enter in; that a regular old me is God-worthy and righteous; that I am hand-made and hand-picked to bear Good News and Glad Tidings!

This Sunday is celebrated by lighting the Angel’s candle in the Advent wreath.  Listen... hear with me, the Angels’ wings!  Christ comes... and will come again!

12 December 2011

Advent: The Shepherd's Story

I like the shepherd’s story during advent because God visited the margins to deliver the message of salvation. Don’t miss this -- shepherds were among the lowest of class, did the dirty work of the wealthy, were the weather-beaten workmen (and a few women like the Shunnamite).  Not exactly the shaved and perfumed people of the palace and temple who ordinarily received royalty.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. /Luke 2:15-20 (NIV)

God visits the fringes -- that place where I find my social, economic, gender, orientation, education, class, race and ability! God visits the fringes and tells us about a baby, a Savior and King.  God visits us in the dark, far off, smelly, unkempt, busy, exhausted, and impoverished places of our lives. God visits the oft ignored, over-looked, taken for granted, snubbed and invisible among us.  God visits us!

God visits the fringes and commissions us there to preach this good news which is called The Gospel.  And the shepherds did just that -- told God’s Good News to every ear that would listen. I don’t imagine the shepherd’s telling of the Gospel would be a polished, perfected elevator speech; but rather, I imagine their exuberance, in field lingo instead of the king’s english, telling of the wonder of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! I imagine some calloused-hand high-fives raised with their hallelujahs! I imagine joy choked out with tears! I imagine the youngest ones telling with great animation and the elder ones telling with grateful adoration -- God visited them! And, they ran and told that!

I love the shepherd’s story!!! God visits me where I am, commissions me anew to preach the Gospel, and I just cant help but break out in praise!

05 December 2011

Advent Eucharist

Yesterday was Second Sunday in Advent and also the twelfth First Sunday Eucharist of 2011.  

While in worship I wondered (as in mindfully meandering) at the uniquely awesome faith experience we share in the contemporary Church.  As inheritors of the creation of the story, pilgrims in the story’s chronos, and having our hope in the Christ’s coming again, I marveled at the privilege to live in faith at the intersection of God of us, God with us, and God for us, eternally.

Perfect church.  That is the feeling I had as we sang, “Mary Did You Know?” just before taking the body-bread as the organist played “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place.” Perfect church.  No rush to play with Baby Jesus; no looking away from the Crucified One. I longed to know exactly what Mary, Mother of Jesus, really knew when it is written:  Luke 2:19: "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart."  As we sang :

Mary, did you knowthat your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?Mary, did you knowthat your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?Did you knowthat your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.

Sitting in perfect church I was humbled with awe of the privilege to enter past the crèche (with a brown bodied and African-featured Baby Jesus) only to sup in remembrance of the broken-bodied Crucified One.  Both fully present. Privileged to learn about them in Sunday School, Bible Study, Seminary and sermons for the past half-century of my life.  Most privileged to learn about them in hospitality received today and extended with every opportunity.  

Hospitality, I conclude, is Christmas glory that makes the Eucharist make perfect sense in Advent.