Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Cycle C

24 December 2015

Here’s a question. Which of the people in the Christmas story are you?  I promise that you are somewhere in this inspired narrative. That’s how the world’s great stories are meant to work, and the story of the birth of Jesus Christ is surely tied with the narrative of his resurrection as the greatest story ever told.

I realized years ago that I am without a doubt the shepherds. Like them, I had the good news announced to me, and I have spent the rest of my life in haste, rushing to verify it for myself (which I have), and then “making it known” to anyone who will listen.

Are you a maverick, someone who speaks the truth and doesn’t care about the consequences? Hello, John the Baptist. Do you delight in being the bearer of comfort and very good news? Welcome, angels! Are you someone who seeks the Truth, even if it’s outside your comfort zone, and is willing to go to any length to find it? Step into the manger scene, Magi.

Or maybe you find yourself in one of the darker characters this Christmas. Are you paranoid about losing your power and status these days? Do you worry that a younger or more charismatic employee wants your job? Hmm. I’m sorry to tell you that King Herod had the same suspicions.

Here’s a good one. Are you a Christ-bearer, someone who brings goodness and Light to everyone around you? Brace yourself. You are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who carried Christ into the world.

Gaze at the manger scene and find yourself there.  In your heart, recognition. And on earth, peace.

Share with a dear one who you are in the Christmas story.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

19 December 2015

Reflecting on Luke 1: 39-45

Sometimes we just have to live between memory and hope. When Mary asked, “How can this be? the angel Gabriel appealed to her memory. Certainly Mary remembered the great miracle stories in the scriptures, didn’t she? Just thinking about them would have stirred her faith in what was happening right that minute. But Gabriel had another surprise. “Look!” said Gabriel. “You know your elderly, childless cousin Elizabeth? She’s pregnant! See? And God who is mighty is doing something even greater right now. Are you in?”

“I’m all in,” said Mary. Then―and don’t miss this―the angel left her. There is no evidence that the angel ever visited Mary again. Not when she was an unmarried, pregnant girl about to give birth in an over-booked Bethlehem. Not when the prophet Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart. Not even, oh God, at the foot of the cross. Not even then.

Have you chosen to remember, even in the dreadest times, God’s nearness to you in the past? Elizabeth’s words to Mary are for you too: “Blessed are you who BELIEVE that the promise of the Lord will be fulfilled.”

In what ways do you live between memory and hope?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

13 December 2015

Reflecting on Luke 3: 10-18

“What should we do?” asked the crowd that followed John into the wilderness. He looked at each one and told them what particular thing was keeping them from the fulfilling the Law in their own lives.  “Stop cheating.”  “Stop extorting.” “Stop hoarding what you’ve got.”

Hmm.  I wonder what he would say to us.  Imagine the Baptizer encountering us, leveling his refiner’s fire at us.  I suspect we would hear things like, “Stop being anxious.  Your heavenly Father knows what you need.” Or, “Stop working so hard to provide things.  Your family needs YOU more than things.”

Or maybe, “Stop secretly harboring grudges.  Your resentments have grown tiresome. Others have overcome far worse injustices than you have. Forgive, and move on. Or is it possible that being wounded makes you happier than being healed?”

Here’s an Advent assignment: imagine John the Baptist looking into your heart. What would he tell YOU to do? And here’s the hard part: could you do it? Today’s third candle (pink for hope) promises that you could.

What changes are you making for the Year of Mercy?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

10 December 2015

I had a “moment” in the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. Although I had been shopping for a week, there was still a significant list of last-minute items to pick up at 4pm Wednesday afternoon. It was bitter cold outside, but the store was bumper-to-bumper buggies and their harried operators. We squeezed past each other. We smiled tight, stressed smiles while reaching over each other for rolls and marshmallows.

I snagged the last bouquet out of the cooler.  On my victorious journey to the checkout lane several people congratulated me. They laughed. I laughed. And then the realization of how ridiculous it all was came over me, and somehow I think we all felt it at the same time.

Seriously? I was stressing over a table decoration? Where am I, Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? Mali? Paris? Colorado Springs? San Bernadino?

I don’t think I imagined this. I think a moment of what we used to call “actual grace” was released in the store, at least in the area where I was shopping.  People relaxed.  They smiled and wished a Happy Thanksgiving to strangers―those abundantly blessed buggy drivers, none of whom would be jockeying for a place at the overcrowded shelters that night, or standing on the frozen street with signs asking for spare change.

It was a Thanksgiving Miracle. An ease, a peace, an immense swelling of true gratitude seemed to waft through the store. Or maybe it was just in my heart. That’s where most of the really awesome miracles begin.

And now it is Advent, and the long-awaited Year of Mercy. Having felt the breath of the Spirit, I intend to spend this year gorging on gratitude, and handing others the last bouquet.

How will you celebrate the Year of Mercy?

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).