Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our Love, Our Hope, Ourselves

I dearly love what I do as an ordained minister, and believe I am called and convicted to it. Indeed, I don't really know what else I would do on this earth.

At the same time, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there is a part of me that yearns to be a worshiper instead of a presider. On this one day, I would rather sing hymns than lead them, I would rather hear the Word proclaimed than be the one proclaiming it, I would rather be receiving Christ at the Eucharist as a communicant rather than as presider. My love of Christ and my love of music overwhelms me on this day. I just want to sit in the pew and worship.

I know that's not reality, because my love of the Church outweighs my own selfishness. So for many years I have listened to the international broadcast of Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge - my opportunity to "sit in the pew" and simply worship. This year, schedule and work didn't allow me to listen to it. So, arriving home after our 11 PM Christmas Eve service, I watched several clips from previous years' worship services at King's College. Hearing the scripture readings and the carols sung remind me of the joy of Christmas, why I am Christian, and why I love Christ so.

This carol, "The Shepherd's Carol," is new... and brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart every time I hear it. Sung from the standpoint of the shepherds to Mary, it captures serenity, humility, wonderment, and the implications of Christ's birth to the world. It is a anonymous poem that gifted British composer Bob Chilcott set to choral setting in 2000. No organ, no piano, no instruments whatsoever - and none needed. (Turn up the volume or get headphones to catch the richness of the voices and harmony)

May we offer to Jesus our love, our hope, and ourselves.


We stood on the hills, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.

The evening was calm, Lady,
The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.

There was a star, Lady,
Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.

Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,
It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.

And so we have come, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves
We give to your son.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas and Never Being Alone

Christmas can admittedly be a lonely time for many. While it is a time for families and friends to get together and celebrate, it can also be a painful reminder of the loss of loved ones. My parents’ anniversary was on December 24th, the same day that my grandmother died. I love Christmas, but I miss my mother and grandmother.

I have “inflicted” the writings of Henri Nouwen on you many times. Allow me once again to inflict you, this time with some of his words about Christmas:
God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy. This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us.

The challenge is to let God be who he wants to be. A part of us clings to our aloneness and does not allow God to touch us where we are most in pain. Often we hide from him precisely those places in ourselves where we feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and lost. Thus we do not give him a chance to be with us where we feel most alone.

Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let him - whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend - be our companion.

- Henri Nouwen, Gracias
Merry Christmas, and God bless us – everyone.