Archive for the ‘advent’ Category

Observing With Your Heart Leads To Seeing

December 6, 2017

This week is the first week of Advent. I have been looking at this as a time of rising awareness of the meaning of the celebration of Jesus’ coming.

We talked of having our eyes open.

I’m reading in the gospel of John. In chapter 20 he describes the events immediately following the crucifixion. Jesus was killed on the day before the Sabbath. Then there was the Sabbath. Then there was the day after, when the Jews could move around again.

Mary goes to the tomb. It’s empty. She runs to Peter and John. They run to the tomb. John looks in. Peter goes in. Then John also goes in.

The words and story change from John’s first looking from the outside to when he goes in and observes.

It is at this point that understanding of the “big picture” begins to sink in.

“Looking, they do not see.” That happens to us all the time. We’ve seen it a hundred times. Or, worse, our mind is diverted. Images come into our eyes but they are not comprehended by our minds and our souls.

This Advent, let us be watchful so that seeing, we believe.

Advent With Eyes Wide Open

December 5, 2017

The attack fizzled. The defending team won the ball, played it forward. The new attack was on. It’s now a 70-yard sprint. The referee had to turn, changing direction from one attack to catching up with the attack going the other way. That is the way it goes for 90 minutes in a competitive soccer match.

We are evaluating the referee. As he sprints, we notice he is looking down at the ground ahead of him. Had there been a challenge for the ball in those crucial seconds, he would have missed it.

He needed his eyes wide open watching the developing positions of the players, anticipating where the attacker was going relative to his teammates. He needed to see potential challenges. All this information while running at full speed.

We find ourselves at Advent changing direction from Thanksgiving to Christmas. We put our heads down and run hard for four weeks. Worrying about presents to buy, parties to attend, places to go, plans to make.

We fail to notice the developing “play” (to carry the analogy).

We fill our minds with the advertising images of delighted children–and increasingly adults–finding presents.

Perhaps our eyes should be open to signs of the celebration of the coming of the Prince of Peace, the one who brings righteousness and justice.

In this time of global xenophobia, fear, and distrust, we really need this bringer of peace, justice, and unity with God.

Curiosity For a Fuller Life

December 4, 2017

Why, if Jesus came as the fulfillment of prophecy about God’s peace and justice, are so many of his followers so violent and have been throughout much of history?

Why did Jesus pray that his followers would be one with him and the Father and one with each other only to have millions of people claiming to follow him yet divide themselves into smaller groups in order to argue and fight with other groups of people claiming his name?

We have a few stories about Jesus entering the world. What was it really like?

Why did I accept certain teachings only to grow up and discover that they really were not in the Bible after all?

Walter Issacson has written a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. This follows previous biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. He discovered his curiosity leading to the research and books was about these unconventional, yet highly creative, men. I’ve heard Issacson speak twice in the last month. These men were all curious–about many things.

He relates how Da Vinci wrote in a journal one morning about thinking about woodpecker’s tongues. He was curious.

How much of these stories about Jesus have I just accepted, placed in a safe memory spot, and then just dusted off each December along with the Christmas tree ornaments?

Where did my curiosity about what it was really like, what did it really mean, how did people really react go?

We are in the season of Advent. The idea is that we are to prepare for the celebration of Jesus coming into our world.

Maybe part of preparation is to ask lots of questions. And seek the deeper answers.

Visions Dancing In Their Heads Come Christmas

December 14, 2016

The “first Christmas” wasn’t Christmas, of course.

The celebration came years after the event. Christians had conquered Rome. An unthinkable event at the time of the events we celebrate. And then Christians conquered a big holiday by making it a celebration of Jesus’ birth. A triumph over paganism, if you will.

The phrase of the old poem recurs. “While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”

Do you ever wonder what was “dancing in the heads” of Joseph and Mary? Maybe, “Please, God, allow us to have a safe child birth?” After all, child birth was a dangerous event in the life of a woman in those days. And they were not around supporting family (we think).

We know that there were many visions dancing in the heads of Jewish people at the time.

They expected a Messiah (Anointed One, King). But like all visions of the future, there were many competing versions.

Some thought King–as in replacement of King Herod with a real Jewish leader who would restore the empire.

Some thought prophet who could perform might acts of God–like an Ezekiel or Elijah.

Both Mary and Joseph had been given visions. What could have been dancing in their heads as the little boy was born? Certainly not what happened some 33 years later.

Jesus later explained from Scripture why it pointed to him (think the walk to Emmaus). But even today Jewish scholars dispute that reading of their Scriptures.

As we approach Christmas, what visions are dancing in your head? We each have our own. I hope more than candy.

That Moment When We Realize God’s Gift

December 13, 2016


There is that moment of sudden realization. That “Oh Crap” moment. Or on the other hand the “Ah Ha” moment.

Those old cartoon characters–they run off a cliff. But they don’t fall. At least immediately. They fall when they realize there is no ground under their feet. They give us a look. Then, zip. The looks we get from Wile E. Coyote are priceless comedy.

Kids enter December with anticipation of gifts. OK, many adults do, too.

Paul the Apostle talks about gifts. He talked about the “free” gift of grace and eternal life that God gives.

He said that it comes because of our faith–in the resurrection.

But Jesus talked often of faith and eternal life–before the death and resurrection. The way he talked about it, he meant that eternal life started right then.

Today there are many who preach that eternal life begins when we die “and go to heaven.”

You can’t get that from reading Jesus’ words.

I think we can look at eternal life a little like Wile E. Coyote’s experience–except in reverse.

It is at that moment when we are open to God through faith and we realize we’re not falling. Or, maybe we’re falling like that old Hank Locklin country song, “Please help me I’m falling, In love with you.”

The gifts we give are in remembrance of the gifts the Magi gave to Joseph and Mary for Jesus. Or, they can be.

And maybe we get that sudden realization of the moment when we know we can live life more fully the way Jesus meant for it. Here. And Now.

Anticipation Or Making Me Ready

November 28, 2016

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

Carly Simon

I was still coming out of the season of Thanksgiving–focusing on gratitude–when it hit me like a bug meeting a truck. It’s Advent already. The season of anticipation.

Carly Simon wrote a love song. But the raw emotion is real.

Sure, we know all about Christmas. A billion people who barely know who Jesus is knows about Christmas. They can probably recite the passage in Luke popularized by Linus in the Charley Brown Christmas movie. You know, a little boy was born and placed in a manger.

What if we could imagine not knowing the story, yet? What if we were sitting in the evening every day discussing the possibility of a Messiah–the Anointed One, King?

We realize that we can’t know about the days to come. Not even the end of today. What if we’re just chasing after some finer day?

It’s making me late. It’s keeping me waiting.

I sit in meditation imagining sitting out under the stars of a clear desert night. Staring up, wondering. Are the stories from long ago just fables? Let’s put it in perspective of today. Those stories back then of a coming Messiah were older than the entire length of time of European settlement in America!

Then we can meditate on the story of Jesus. How he gathered people around himself. Taught them. They didn’t understand. The night he went to his death, they still didn’t understand. The day after he died–they still didn’t get it.

Imagine the mixture of anticipation and hopes crushed.

But then they got it.

Anticipation. It makes me late. It keeps me waiting.