Archive | December 2012

Everyone Knows My Name

This week I and just about everyone I know is reeling from the tragedy in  Newtown Connecticut. Whether we have children or grandchildren or not, our hearts break with the sorrow of such a loss of life. We take heart when we hear the story of the brave teachers who did everything they could to protect the young and their bravery and selfless loving give me courage when my courage barometer is low.  In times like this I remember my mother who on hearing about violence committed by a young person such as in this tragedy, would go immediately from hearing about the violence to saying a prayer for the family of the perpetrator. And so, in the spirit of Eleanor, I pray for the family of the gunman. May they be held with the same love as the families of those who died because it is that Great Love who knows no bounds, who holds us now too as we grieve for them all.

My granddaughter is 4 years old. She was told about the shootings because her 8-year-old brother would be returning to school on Monday and would certainly hear about it if not told first at home, and everything that goes through Dylan’s mind is transmitted to Kiara. So both of the children were given a version of the story which somehow we hoped that they might be able to take in and not be too frightened or confused.  I was told once that Mr Roger’s mother told him in times of tragedy to “think of the helpers” and so this helper message was part of our attempt to transmit the faith that there are more people in life who help than who hurt so call on the helpers.

Yesterday Kiara came to our house singing a song which I imagine was inspired by what she had heard and took in about the tragedy and about how all of us, no matter who we are, are loved beyond imagination.  And so she came to Nana and Grandma’s house singing in a loud voice “I am loved! There are many adults who love me! I am loved! Everyone knows my  name! At Quaker meeting I have a name tag and everyone knows my name. I am loved! Everybody loves me! I have a family and everybody loves me! I am loved! Everyone knows my name…”

And so it is. She and every other person, living and dead,  is known by name and is loved dearly.  The prophet Isaiah proclaimed “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

I have called you by your name. You are mine.

Anticipation, Preparation, Recognition, Celebration

Here we are already in the middle of the Christian season of Advent. Serving in an ecumenical church that has a variety of different traditions about how to walk through this season I have been reflecting this week, not on the traditions themselves but on the root meanings of this time of year. I think of Advent as not just the  beginning of the church year ( a 4 week New Year celebration!) but also as an extended meditation on the eternal coming (and re-coming) of Christ into the world and a call to slow down the mad rush to Christmas by taking baby steps to the stable.  Advent invites is to go inward, to remember an old story and to envision a future where the Empire is displaced by the Prince of Peace.  And here is the thing – this future is not only coming, but it is here. We just need to see it, to believe it, and to live into it.

In the most simple sense Advent is a time to practice anticipation, preparation, recognition and celebration.

We anticipate that Christ is coming into our world, into our homes, our hearts and our very being. Anticipation means that we believe that Christ is on the way, and that we are totally excited about this event (an event that keeps happening in a time out of time way.) We anticipate what in some way we can envision. God is on the way and we are the greeting committee!

Once we know that something big is about to happen  we do not  just sit around waiting passively – we prepare ourselves for the arrival. Again, consider that Christ is coming.  You do not know when. It could be today. You better be ready.  For me, being ready to have God show up means that  I have made my amends, forgiven and asked for forgiveness, opened my mind and my heart to welcome Mystery and have made space for God to come in and take up residence. Think about cleaning house. Every day. Be prepared to be surprised and to be changed.

We anticipate the coming. We prepare for the coming. And we pray that we will recognize when Christ comes on the scene. The best way that I know of to pray for recognition is to ask “Where is God” in every encounter I have – in the supermarket and in the woods, in the face of a newborn and in the hands of the arthritic elder, in the argument during breakfast and in the loving embrace between friends, on the deathbed and in the casual conversation with a stranger. Where is God? What does God look like? We recognize those who we have a relationship with. Advent helps us cultivate a relationship with God so we will recognize God in Christ on a daily basis.

And finally, celebration.  We have anticipated this coming. We have prepared ourselves so that we will be ready. We recognize God in our  midst and we celebrate God’s arrival! We throw ourselves into God’s arms and we have a party. And because God is continually arriving, we are continually celebrating New Year, new life, new insight, a new encounter with a living and breathing God. Advent is not just lighting candles in a wreath to remind  ourselves that Christmas is coming. Advent is both a practice and a way of life that trusts that God in Christ is coming, is here, and is coming again. What a joy!