Instant Connections

“Just text me, Grandma,” I’m told. Technology keeps us connected. Letters have been replaced by instant e-mails. We celebrate being able to Skype our children in China and see them as we talk. My daughter calls home on her cell phone, as she walks to the remote parking lot where her car is parked. We like the illusion of safety it gives her. Today’s connected world is expensive, yet we are willing to accept the cost, for we know the advantages it brings.
From the beginning of time, God has been offering this instant connection ability.
Look around you and soak in God’s Word offered through the extravagant gift of nature. Experience the wonder of God’s healing power, every time you see a scrape heal, a broken arm mend. With the invention of the printing press, God’s message through the printed Word reached an ever widening audience. Always, God’s ear has been tuned to our prayers; God’s voice has spoken in our minds and through other people. Connection with God requires no monthly internet fee, but it does cost. To benefit from our ever-present connection to God, we must invest our time and attention. We have to plug in. We have to open our eyes, ears and minds to our God channel.
            In 2012, I challenge all my readers to open up every connection possible with God. Begin each day with a simple prayer like, “Open me to see, hear, know the blessings you have for me today.” End each day with God, identifying even the smallest joys and giving thanks. That’s one minute, twice a day. Over time, you’ll find yourself consciously searching for God’s messages of affirmation, guidance, joy. Connect to God. It’s easy. No battery required. Connection guaranteed.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See? I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

A Christmas Reflection

On Christmas Eve, we  watch the church fill with people. Eventually, every seat is taken. There are even people standing at the back. For at least one evening, we respond to God’s call. Reluctantly or joyfully, we come to celebrate and give thanks for the birth of Jesus. For a few moments, we are one in our desire for that joy symbolized by the Christmas story. Influenced in some way, no matter how small, by the life and work of a simple carpenter, two thousand years ago, we gather to sing and to pray and to find hope for our aching world.
           The scarlet poinsettias speak of the pain and spilled blood of our faith story. The words of our songs and scriptures tell of a baby, born in humility, who walked as God among us, teaching, healing and loving. The story continues as shepherds, kings, and angels crowd around the child. The flickering candles remind us that faith and hope are fragile. We depend on God to remain strong, to know joy in the midst of life. We give thanks for a baby, a blessing given freely by God who loves all of this world.
This Christmas Eve, as you sit in church or at home, open your eyes to see the beauty of God’s Son shining from the faces of those around you. Open your mind to experience the wonder of God’s child in every person you meet on the street. This Christmas you’re asked to hold in your heart this precious baby, in whatever form he comes – a homeless man, a depressed woman, a laughing child, a determined teen – not just for one night, but for always.  When we do, our world will truly find peace.
”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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.”
(Luke 2: 4-7 NIV)

Mary Did You Know?

When my children were born, I had many hopes and dreams for them. Today, each one works with young people teaching, offering healing. They have far exceeded my wildest dreams for them. I give thanks to God every day for the blessing of their lives and love.

“Mary Did You Know,” a beloved Christmas song, asks, “Mary did you know that your baby boy…” would heal people, calm storms, teach, preach, and give his life for the world? Mary believed her son was a special child of God, the long awaited Messiah who would lead her people to freedom. Yes, Jesus far exceeded her wildest dreams for him.

Each and every child that is born, male or female, is a special child of God. Each baby begins with the God-given potential to bring joy and healing to our world. We cannot see into the future. We don’t know what wonder or pain awaits a new baby. Like Mary we are called to love each child and believe “with God, all things are possible”.

The news tells us about the lost children, the difficult ones. On the street we see strangers who appear different from us. They come packaged as young people pierced and sullen, or adults tough or lost. Society has taught us to fear them, to turn away. In his day, people feared the itinerant preacher, Jesus. With hindsight, we can see the wonder and joy that Jesus has given us. As Christians, we know the acceptance and forgiveness he brought and still brings to the pain and misery of our hurting world.

This Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, remember that each new baby, each child, each adult has been born with the potential to bring goodness to our world. Open your heart to receive that goodness at every opportunity.

 

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is his name.”

(Luke 2:46-49)

 

 

Let’s Get It Right!

Many of us try to get everything right at Christmas. Those in charge of cooking endeavour to prepare the most sumptuous feast of the entire year. In our effort to choose “the right gift,” plan the “best party,” do “the right thing” that will keep everyone happy, we get buried in the work of Christmas. The celebration becomes a mountain of expenses and a valley of exhaustion. We declare, “Christmas is ruined. Society has commercialized it. Let’s run away. Let’s not celebrate at all.” For Christians escape is not an option. The celebration of Jesus’ birth is second only in importance to the celebration of Easter. What then can we do?

On our front lawn, a spot light illuminates the word “JOY”. The “O” carries the silhouette of the Christmas nativity, announcing Jesus’ birth. Many years ago, a friend, shared his creative gift with wood, by making this for me. When the preparations and celebrations of Christmas leave me exhausted, this beautiful piece of art reminds me that two thousand years ago, God came in Jesus and changed the world.

At Christmas, I give gifts because I am grateful for God’s love, because I want to share the abundant blessings I have been given.  I celebrate at parties because I am called to share the Joy of knowing God’s love and forgiveness. There is no “right” to our Christmas celebration. We are carrying on the joy that began with a carpenter, who through us is still touching lives with God’s love. We are lighting up the world with the “Good News” of creation. To be the gift of Christmas is a “holy privilege.” There’s no right way to do it. We need only give in love. It’s God’s job to make it “right”.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

Under Construction

Winter brings relief from the constant road construction that slows down our journey. We want the convenience of smooth, uncongested roads without the frustration of time consuming delays and the vast expenditures of tax dollars required.
            The Advent scripture readings begin with the prophet Isaiah saying, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Remove the rough spots, the places where you step away from God. Remove the hatred and the prejudice that have become mountains between you and others. Fill in the valleys of greed. Accept the freedom to share your bounty with others. Smooth out the rough road of busyness and dissatisfaction with prayer and gratitude. Put your life under construction.
Yes, construction is expensive. Changing your life requires energy. You will have risk looking at your dearly held prejudices. Lay them down to love and accept all people. You will have to receive the wisdom that comes from holding out your hands in forgiveness to those who have hurt you. You’ll have to open your eyes and hearts to the pain of others. Your family and friends may lose patience with you. Construction is like that.
This Christmas season, instead of crying out to God to smooth out your life, listen to the prophet Isaiah. Begin your own construction company. Believe you can do it because of God’s promise to love you and support you. God will provide the friends, the bulldozers and the strength you need to get the job done. This Christmas, be ready for the birth of the Christ child in your own heart.
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.  (Isaiah 40:1-5)