Monday, December 19, 2011

Blogging toward Sunday

What a wonderful week of worship we have before us:

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Christmas Day Service, Sunday at 11:00 a.m.

Our Gospel reading for Sunday comes from John 1:1-14. Yes, the Word became flesh and lives among us. Whatever days we face, whether they seem bright or dim, still the Light of Christ shines, above us, before us, and within us.

As we journey through this last week of Advent, I offer you a much beloved poem, "Bells on Christmas Day." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was filled with sorrow at the tragic death of his wife in a fire in 1861. The Civil War broke out the same year, and it seemed this was an additional punishment. Two years later, Longfellow was again saddened to learn that his own son had been seriously wounded in the Army of the Potomac. Sitting down to his desk, one Christmas Day, he heard the church bells ringing. It was in this setting that Longfellow wrote these lines:

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!"

I look forward to seeing you in worship. Until then, may you be guided by the Light of the Christ Child!


[i] Pulpit Helps, 12-92, p. 23.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blogging through Advent

We are approaching the 4th Sunday of Advent and our texts for this Sunday are Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 and Luke 1:26-38. In the Gospel reading, the angel Gabriel visits Mary and gives her some unexpected news, news that she is to become the mother of a Holy Child, who shall be called Jesus.
Wikimedia Commons Image

In Feasting on the Word, Lewis R. Donelson points out that the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary of the coming miraculous birth of Jesus is similar to the announcements of other births in Scripture. Read and compare the following birth announcements to our reading for today:

The birth of Ishmael (Genesis 16:7-13)
The birth of Isaac (Genesis 17:1-21; 18:1-15)
The birth of Samson (Judges 13:3-20)
The birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:8-20)

How are these narratives similar? How are they different?

In the sermon for Sunday, together we will consider Jesus as the Son of Mary. In previous weeks of Advent we have looked at Jesus as the Son of Man and the Son of God. Of course, nowhere in Scripture is Jesus referred to specifically as the "Son of Mary," however, for our purposes we will ponder the human Jesus born of the human Mary. 

When you imagine Mary, what do you see? Is she "flesh and bone" or is she someone ethereal, angel-like, totally unreal? In preparation for Sunday, take time to read through Luke 1:26-38. Sit with the text quietly for a few moments and, perhaps, jot down your thoughts.  Then, prayerfully read through the text again, but this time put yourself in the story. You are Mary. Now, how does the news of Gabriel strike you? What feelings flood over you?

Then consider the following: Who is Mary to you?   Why?   Have you ever wondered why Mary is made so little of in the Protestant tradition but so much of in the Catholic? What might be the downside to either in the extreme?

Mary was chosen by God to do an incredible thing, a new thing, and Mary was faithful to the end. In light of Mary's  obedience and courage, I offer you the following meditation from Maker's Blessing: Prayers and Meditations from the Iona Community.

New Ways
God of our lives
you are always calling us
to follow you into the future,
inviting us to new ventures,
new challenges,
new ways to care,
new ways to touch the hearts of all.

When we are fearful of the unknown,
give us courage.
When we worry
that we are not up to the task,
remind us that you would not call us
if you did not believe in us.

When we get tired,
or feel disappointed
with the way things are going,
remind us
that you can bring change and hope
out of the most difficult situations.

As always, I look forward to seeing you during worship on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blogging through Advent

During worship on Sunday, December 11th, the
Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church Choir will present
"On Christmas Day: A Choral Celebration of Jesus, the Wonderful One."

On the journey toward Advent, consider these Suggestions for Giving the Present of Presence as offered by Joyce Rupp in Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season.

There are two possible ways to be with someone: (a) to be physically present with someone or (b) to be present "in spirit" by deliberately sending prayer, compassionate thoughts, and kind feelings toward another person or group. Either approach could be appropriate for each of the following suggestions.

Be with someone who needs you.
Be with a person who gives you hope.
Be with those who live in terror and fear.
Be with an older person.
Be with someone who has helped you to grow.
Be with one who is in pain.
Be with a war-torn country.
Be with yourself.
Be with someone who has written to you.
Be with a child.
Be with a refugee who is fleeing from harm.
Be with an enemy or someone you dislike.
Be with a farmer losing his or her land.
Be with someone who has terminal illness.
Be with the homeless.
Be with those who suffer from substance abuse.
Be with hungry children.
Be with a coworker.
Be with those whose hope is faint.
Be with world leaders.
Be with someone in your family.
Be with men and women in prison.
Be with someone working for justice.
Be with those who are abused and neglected.
Be with your loved ones.

God of love, you were so generous, sending the presence of your Beloved to dwell among us and to tell us who you are. Encourage me during this Advent season to continue in the sharing of this loving presence through my attentiveness, given in prayer and in deeds. You who dwell within me, remind me often to let go of my busyness and my hurriedness so that I can be with others in a loving way. Convince me that "being" is as important as "doing." Thank you for your strengthening presence. Thank you for being with me. Amen.

I look forward to seeing you in worship.