The Word Draws Near
Tonight millions of people will gather in churches and cathedrals the world over to once again celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some will come because they want to; others will come because of tradition; and still others because it is expected by family. The church will have been decorated by the Flower Guild and the choir will have rehearsed the anthems and special music for the service. Clergy feel the pressure to deliver a message which offers hope in darkness and speaks to all.
As the rector of my beloved church what I want for everyone who enters the doors of St. Thomas tonight is to remember one thing: God loves you. God loves you enough to send his son to be one of you. God loves you enough to want to understand what it means to be human with all of your wonder and yes your imperfections. In fact, he loves because of those imperfections. This is the God I have come to know over the course of my adult life.
I read quite a bit about how some feel the Church is judging them or making them feel less than. I beg to differ because this is not the Church I know and love. The Church I know says to everyone, "Enter in and rest awhile. Draw near to us." The Christmas story is not just about a birth, it is about the birth of God to people of no account. People who really were the nothings of the ancient world: no power, no wealth, no education. Roughed up by Rome and look down on by the authorities. Who hasn't felt like that at some point in his or her life. I know I have. What I take great comfort in is that God cares enough about us to want to become us.
In the Old Testament he is the God of smoke and fire. I would have to imagine that kind of God is kind of fun-for awhile. But then God realized it was no good to be feared. It is better to come alongside someone and to care about them. To be an on the ground witness to the messy humanity he himself created. What I believe God really wanted was to understand us and what better way than to become us.
My favorite Christmas carol is "O little town of Bethlehem" and each year a different verse becomes important for me. This year it is, "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." It is quite a bit of pressure to put on a baby, but this baby will grow up to be the savior and redeemer of the world. I am thankful to have him in my life and as a light to the world.
Wherever you are in your faith's journey, I pray you go to church tonight and allow "God to impart on your human heart, the blessings of His Heav'n."(italics mine)
It is hard to believe that Christmas is less than two weeks away. For some the holidays are filled with magic and happy times. For others this is not necessarily true. Death, divorce, family far away or family estrangement as well as feelings of perfection can crowd in and really affect our moods. This year St. Thomas will again have a Blue Christmas service December 21st at 7pm. It is a time when we can come together and realize that we are not alone and also that there is a place to feel those less than Christmas feelings.
It is a quiet service of scripture, prayer, music and readings. Over the years as one who has been less than joyful at Christmas time, I have found great comfort in the quiet and contemplation. If you have not been to a Blue Christmas service I highly recommend it, even if it is just to pause and spend time in silence with other people who feel as you do. I have been leading Blue Christmas services over the past ten years and people have been grateful to be able to share how they really feel and not put on a happy face all the time.
What I love is how the readings and prayers give comfort at a time when I am less than comfortable. Please join us if you are in the area-all are welcome.
An infamous day
Today we remember those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Seventy five years ago our peace was shattered by an unprovoked attack on our country by the Japanese. We were in shock and the British were quietly happy. Winston Churchill was said to have remarked that after the attack it was the best night's sleep he had had in years. America would now enter the war and peace would eventually be restored. The long nightmare of tyranny and the pursuit of world domination would cease.
I remember visiting the memorial in Pearl Harbor and watching in horror the movie of that day. The closing words of the film ''How shall we remember them, those who died? Mourn the dead. Remember the battle. Understand the tragedy. Honor the memory'' brought tears to my eyes. Believe me I am not one to be overwhelmed by sentimentality but those words hit a nerve. Standing in a tropical paradise on a warm, sunny day in the hush of the memorial one could not helped but me moved by what was beneath our feet. The harbor still weeps. Drops of oil from the sunken Arizona rise to the harbor's surface bearing witness to that horrible day.
Today we mourn yet give thanks for those brave men and women who served our country. The number of veterans left to tell the story has become a mere handful and now more than ever the narrator's words become more urgent to understand the tragedy so as not to have it happen again.