Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ready for Christmas?

4th Advent. Lectionary Readings: 2 Sam. 7:1-11, 16, Luke 1: 46-55 or Ps 89:1-4, 19-26, Rom. 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38

"Are you ready for Christmas?" I get so tired of this question in December! It is the seasonal variation on the classic Canadian banal conversation opener; "so, how about that weather?"

I'm not sure if anyone cares at all about the answer. I suspect they are just making conversation, but it makes me wonder, what does it mean to be ready for Christmas? The question is meant to be innocuous- a general wondering if shopping, cleaning, decorating, and turkey planning is all done.

Is that what it means to be ready for Christmas? To be perfect and planned and prepared for parties? If that's true, I'm a persistent and pathetic failure! I put up a few decorations, but tend to only accomplish about half of my intentions each year. I don't always get to shopping before the actual week of Christmas. I intend to send cards, but rarely do. We eat the baking before Christmas day comes. Sometimes the house gets tidied, but rarely do we get to the "clean" I would prefer. I think I've worn the same outfits for several years already. I'm certainly not "ready" in the way the question asks, however, I do feel ready in a different way.

I'm not stressed about it. Christmas happens no matter if the details are ready or not. It's more important to have time to ready my attitudes, to have some emotional reserves to be present with others, to have some space for renewing the message of Christ incarnate in our messed up world.

Today's passages help me to focus on what is important for Christmas preparation. All of them push our thoughts toward God. In Samuel, King David is all fussed about building a temple for the ark of the covenant. God tells him the tent is good enough. "I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent...did I ever speak a word with the tribal leaders...saying, "why have you not built me a house of cedar?" David is reminded that God's love does not depend on getting all the fancy stuff done.

Luke reminds us that nothing is impossible with God. This is a good reminder, however, the good news given to Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1:26-38 comes with a lot of responsibility. Am I ready, am I prepared for what it means for God to enter my life anew this season? What might God's good news mean as I interact with people this season? Somehow, I don't think God cares if my kitchen floor gets washed, or if I have a new outfit, or if all the gifts (for people who don't need them) are wrapped and ready.

Friday, 12 December 2014


Lectionary Readings for 3rd Advent. Dec. 14, 2014. Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Ps 126, Luke 1: 46b-55:1, Thess. 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28

Testify! That's the theme for the third advent Sunday. (At least as suggested by our Mennonite Church materials this year.)

John came to testify to the light, and he did that even when some pharisees were sent to question him and harangue him for baptizing people. John pointed away from himself, saying that he wasn't even worthy to untie the sandals of the Messiah. That must have seemed strange to everyone there. After all, John was important enough to have crowds of people hanging on his words, how could he think he wasn't worthy? Or maybe that's a wrong way to think of John. He might have had quite a high opinion of himself-but his opinion of Jesus was much higher and he could easily set himself aside when the time was right.

How do we testify to our faith? What would be important enough for us to speak into the face of opposition? When do we set ourselves aside to point, with words/actions, toward God?

Many of us are quite uncomfortable "testifying" with words. We've seen people do this very poorly and been turned off, at least that's one thing that makes us leery of proclamation. I wonder, however, if the bigger reason we have trouble speaking out is just that we are scared. We aren't brave like John to speak into opposition. Or perhaps we find ourselves in different situations than John. After all, John was a speaker in the midst of speaking. What if you are a homemaker in the midst of diapers and meal making?

What are we in the midst of doing that testifies to who we are as followers of Jesus?  Thessalonians gives some advice. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances..." Reading around this passage, the Christians are urged to live good lives, helping others and always seeking to do good.  I enjoy being around people who live this way, who have attitudes of joy and helpfulness and who point people toward Jesus as the light.

Lives that positively impact people around them testify loudly to the light! So, if you are a speaker, speak! If you are a worker, work! Do it all for Jesus, for others, and with joy.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Shut up and kiss!

Lectionary Readings for Dec. 7, 2014. Second Advent. Isaiah 40:1-11, Ps 85, 1-2, 8-13, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8

Well, time got away from me last week, but there were some images from the scriptures that have really stuck with me. I'll share them briefly here.

1. I thought of our culture's current obsession with celebrity when I read the story from Mark. People were streaming into the desert to get a glimpse of the weirdly compelling guy in the itchy clothes. John had celebrity status, but what he did with it makes his story different. He turned away from the adulation and pointed toward Jesus as worthy of praise. Then he declared the work of preparation-road building. He wasn't asking for a red carpet to be spread out for his expensively shod soles, he was urging people to join him in picking up shovels to level the road for the real celebrity. A call to action that makes it possible for the prince of peace to come.

2. The psalmist has an incredible way with words. Verse 10 particularly sticks in my mind where God's rule is described. "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other." I immediately think of the protracted negotiations and diplomacy needed whenever a 'peace' is brokered between nations (or even individuals) who are in dispute. TALK, TALK, feels like nothing with ever get done, nothing will get decided. But when kissing happens, the talking stops.  Perhaps sometimes we should shut up and kiss. Stop talking and get to doing the right thing because that will eventually lead to peace.

3. The 2 Peter reading contains the famous verses: "...with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you..."  This month, the Mennonite Central Committee is working hard to help bring Syrian refugees to Canada. They might be here in mid-December. Once a refugee claim is approved, it still takes 18 months or more for them to actually get to leave the refugee camp. The whole advent concept of time and hopefully waiting for what was promised takes on new meaning read through the lens of a refugee!

4. I can't read Isaiah 40 without the words of the hymn "Comfort, comfort, o my people" running through my head. It speaks to the needs of people feeling overwhelmed with loss. A balm for that grieving place that all of us find ourselves in at sometime in life. It is a balm, but also a promise that eventually we will be done with brokenness. Love this!