Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Through the Window

As she looks through the window on Christmas Eve
What kind of world will my great granddaughter see?
Will her tomorrows be filled with wonder and awe?
Or will our todays prevent her from seeing the wonder of it all?

She peers through the window pane with her wistful eyes
and watching, I ponder her future with tender sighs.
Who can fathom the future or know its mystery?
We only know of yesterday because we have a history.

The future unknown, she gazes out the window still 
as she leans against the window sill.
And great grandad begins to dream a dream
of all that she may become in the midst of life’s stream.

Perhaps, he dreams, she will be a person who cares,
reaching out to embrace God’s people everywhere.
Maybe she will become a person of hope, 
who knows when it fades just how to cope.

Great grandad looks out the window this last day of the year,
as his great granddaughter did on Christmas Eve, and dreams.
He sees the barren trees, brown grass, and yes, the rising of the sun,
and knows, deep down, that at the heart of this world is Love.

Looking out the window of both history and the present,
one has difficulty seeing this love ascend.
The days are sometimes dark as night, but light comes,
and as we look through the window; the darkness succumbs.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

“The Wrong Shall Fail”

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is one of my favorite Christmas carols because it speaks about the harsh truth of our situation, not only on this Christmas Day, but every Christmas since the first one.  Perhaps that is why it is seldom sung!  It is based on the 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The song tells of the narrator’s despair, upon hearing the Christmas bells, that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”  But Longfellow, grasped by “hope” concludes that the bells of Christmas shall never be silenced and the message they peal out on this day and all days, shall never be eradicated.

On this Christmas Day 2016, in the United States of America, and in the world at large, the bells on Christmas Day still ring and will continue to ring, however dimly, calling us to rise above the “least common denominator” of human behavior, which expresses itself in bigotry, hate, greed, falsehoods, and ugliness.  This darkness shall not prevail.  It cannot quench the Light that has come, nor silence the angel song, or cause the bells to cease their ringing.  “The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail.”  Love (which is at the heart of all things) came down at Christmas and this Love cannot be smothered, ignored or destroyed.  “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet 
the words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent.
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, 
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wishing You A Troubled Christmas

Christmas comes once again with all its wrappings.  The lights on the lawns and in the windows of many homes brighten the darkness of these winter nights.  The old familiar carols, the family gatherings around the tinseled tree, the giving and receiving of gifts, and candlelight vigils, these all lift us for a little while above the normal, the usual, and the routines to which we are so accustomed.  Visions of sugar plums dance in the minds of children as they await Christmas Day.

“This Is Christmas,” writes Howard Thurman:
“The evergreen singing aloud its poem of constant renewal,
The festive mood spreading lilting magic everywhere,
The gifts of recollection calling to heart the graces of life,
The star in the sky calling to mind the wisdom of hope,
The warmth of candlelight glowing against the darkness,
The birth of a child linking past to future,
The symbol of love absorbing all violence.

But there is more to Christmas than these things.  God comes, not to pat the world on the back and make things merry and bright, but to disturb, upset, and change it.  God comes to turn the world upside down!  In the midst of all our Christmas celebrations are we troubled and perturbed by this discordant note?  Matthew writes in his gospel, “King Herod was greatly perturbed when he heard this…”  Are we perturbed and troubled when we sing, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all?”  Paul Scherer writes, “Could it be that the only trouble God has with Christmas is that it troubles us so little?”

We celebrate Christmas but we are slow to set it to work!  This ought to perturb and trouble those of us who celebrate the season.  Again, Howard Thurman speaks:
“Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,
And the heart consumes itself, if it would live,
Where little children age before their time,
And life wears down the edges of the mind,
Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,
While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day’s life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.

In you, in me, in all mankind.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Sadness

I wrote about Thelma, my 100-year-old friend in West Virginia last year during Advent and again a few months ago.  Thelma will celebrate her 101st birthday on December 28th.   Yesterday we received a Christmas card and letter from Thelma.  We have received a Christmas card and letter from her every year since leaving West Virginia in 1967. Her letter this year was a sad one.

Thelma’s daughter came to visit over Thanksgiving weekend and while there suffered a fatal heart attack.  Thelma’s daughter was 66-years old and had no known health issues. Thelma wrote, “This will be a sad Christmas for us, but we pray that each of you will have a wonderful holiday season and that you remember the reason for our celebration.”  

So often we think that everything is supposed to be perfect at Christmastime.  I don’t know where that mistaken notion came from because it certainly doesn’t represent reality.    The first Christmas had its sad moments—remember?   “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” Each time I read those words in Matthew’s gospel a great sadness comes over me, the same kind of sadness I feel as I see the innocent children fleeing the city of Aleppo.  And who cannot feel a similar sadness when a 101-year-old mother loses her only daughter!  

There has never been a Christmas without a Rachel, a Thelma, or someone, somewhere in the world,  feeling a deep sadness, feeling a deep hurt.  There has never been a perfect Christmas, or a Christmas where everything was rosy and bright.  Do we, as Thelma writes, really “remember the reason for our celebration?”  “Christ always seeks the straw of the most desolate cribs to make his Bethlehem,” writes Thomas Merton.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are You Listening? Watching?

Advent is about annunciations. Have you heard your’s?

We’ve made God’s annunciations in the Christmas story so spiritual, so angelic, so other-worldly, that we miss the gist of the story’s message. We never stop to think that the very same thing can and does happen here and now. It is not a fairy tale! God still comes down to poke around in smelly stables, and still calls stubborn Josephs and receptive Marys. God still announces His intentions not only to mend this broken world, but His intention for each of us to be a part of the mending. Listen! 

Have you seen a star (they come in various forms, and not necessarily in the heavens) or have you been visited by some Gabriel (angels are simply God's messengers; an angel could be just about anybody).  Watch!  You just never know.

Redeemer, come, with us abide;
our hearts to thee we open wide;
let us thy inner presence feel;
thy grace and love in us reveal.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Isn't For Children

“Cease to dwell on days gone by, to brood over past history. Here and now I will do a new thing…”

Some say, “Christmas is not Christmas without children.” Or some say, “Christmas is for children” and we aren’t children anymore. We’ve grown old, our children are scattered, we don’t get excited, we don’t find Christmas very meaningful anymore. Hogwash! Read the Bible: Moses was 80 when his annunciation came; Simeon waited for years to see God’s gift; Elizabeth was old when she became pregnant with John the Baptist; Anna, the prophetess was 84. Annunciations are for all ages. Listen for your’s. Such annunciations are what Christmas is all about!