Category Archives: Holidays

Is it really all over?

Easter weekend is over. The Chocolate Easter eggs and bunny rabbits have disappeared from the store shelves. Commercial interests have marched on to Mother’s Day.

For Christians, Easter didn’t end on April 9th. We celebrate Easter each and every Sunday, all year long. That’s why we worship on Sunday rather than on Saturday like our Jewish and Muslim friends. We have our day of rest and celebration on the first day of the week, because our Christian story tells us that Jesus rose on that day.

Two thousand years ago, we committed the ultimate act of violence and rejection. We endeavoured to kill God. The joy that we celebrate at Easter is that we failed. No evil, no darkness has enough power to destroy God. On that third day, when Jesus rose from the dead, God showed us that goodness and love always triumph over evil. No matter what we have done, said, or thought, God’s love for us cannot be defeated. When we experience our guilt and ask for new life, God’s forgiveness is there waiting for us. New life is possible. The spark of God’s goodness and love that is born in each one of us can rise up and transform us.

The wonder of Easter is that God wants to work through us. Regardless of our past mistakes, God’s love lifts us up and sets us on a new road. We can speak out for justice. We can share willingly and easily of our abundance. We don’t have to live in fear of tomorrow.

The new life we are trying to live means that Easter is with us every single day. Like babies, we begin with a few halting footsteps. We can speak up when we hear a friend speak ill of another person. Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, we can refill our bottles from our taps. We can write a letter in protest when our government’s policies appear unfair. With each new step, we gain more of God’s courage. Easter is about transformation, about God’s victory over the darkness in each one of us. Easter is never over.

Palm Sunday Meditation

I’ve heard the Palm Sunday scripture each year since I started Sunday School. As a child waving that giant fan like branch felt like a huge celebration. When I followed my friends down the church aisle, all those adults staring at me dampened the party somewhat, but certainly didn’t ruin it for me. I remember imagining I was there with Jesus, skipping along beside the donkey. The coming events of Holy week didn’t even register on my radar. I skipped passed Good Friday right on to Easter Sunday. I didn’t think about the significance of the parade or who might be watching.
            As an adult I want to understand more about this story. I want to find the relevance it has for me as an individual and for our world today. One way of doing that is to place myself in the story, but this time as an adult. I invite you to join me in this process. Therefore, I offer you my guided meditation. Open your Bible to Matthew 21:1-11 . Read through the story you find there. When you’ve finished reading, turn to the meditation below. Take some time to answer each question as thoroughly and honestly  as you can.
Sit back and take several deep breaths to help you relax. In your mind’s eye see the scene. You’re right outside the Golden Gates that mark the entrance to Jerusalem. The setting sun shines directly on those gates nearly blinding you, when you look back to the city. It’s hot and dry. There’s not much grass in this dry land. A growing crowd is lining both sides of the road and still more people are poring through the gates. People are jostling one another, excited because Jesus, the great teacher and healer is coming. You’ve found a good spot in the crowd. What thoughts are floating through your mind? Are you happy to be there? Are you anxious to see Jesus? How do you feel about him? Is he a hero or an enemy?
            As you peer down the road you see them coming, men, women, a few children their sandals kicking up dust in the dry air. One man is riding, the donkey just a little small, so his long legs drag in the dust.
The stranger standing next to you points and yells, “There he is.”
Your eyes follow the line of his pointing finger. You ask, “On the donkey, is that Jesus on the donkey.”
            The stranger nods. As they approach people around you cut palms from the trees and wave them. A chant rises from the watchers. “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to the son of David.” Are you joining them or standing back and just watching?
            A victorious king rides a donkey as he returns to his city. What victory is Jesus celebrating?
            The little party passes directly in front of you. Your eyes are drawn to Jesus. He turns his head. Your eyes meet and hold their gaze.
            What message are you receiving from Jesus? What would you like to tell him?
The moment is fleeting. He smiles and turns to someone else. In minutes the parade is over. Did you wave your flag?
As you watch the little band of people pass through the gates, you realize the sun has dropped even lower. They disappear from view. How are you feeling now? What will you tell your friends about this encounter?

Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Every morning at breakfast, Tom and I join hands and pray. Instead of bowing our heads, we look into each other’s eyes. Tom begins with “Thank you, God, for my “just right” Jan.” I add, “and my wonderful Tom.” We go on to give thanks to God for food, family, home and friends, followed by offering up the people and events that are uppermost in our minds. Our breakfast “Grace Prayer” takes only a few moments. Some might think this is romantic, some that it’s ridiculous. For Tom and I, this short prayer time means that whatever the day brings we’re together on it and God is with us.
Our morning prayer reminds me to pay attention to Tom, to remember that I love him. Why, then, would I bother with Valentine’s Day. After all, I’ve heard it said that Valentine’s Day is just another money grab. It means nothing. It’s foolishness.
For Tom and me, Valentine’s Day gives us another opportunity to show that we love, value and respect each other. We know that God has blessed us with our relationship. Life experience has taught us that relationships do not prosper if they are left unattended. Just as a plant cannot grow and become more and more beautiful without water and sunlight, our relationship will only shrivel and become flat without love and care.
            There used to be bill boards that said, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Praying helps. Prayer is one of the nutrients needed. Speaking words of love and doing actions of love are also essential to a healthy relationship. I suggest you use this Valentine’s Day to add to the ways that you nurture your relationships with spouse, children, family, and friends. Endeavour to be a blessing to at least one person that you love, on that day and every day for the rest of 2012.
St. Paul tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).

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)