Tuesday, December 26, 2006

THE CROWD AND THE FEW
“In Christ's human life, there were always a few who made up for the neglect of the crowd. The shepherds did it; their hurrying to the crib atoned for the people who would flee from Christ. The wise men did it; their journey across the world made up for those who refused to stir one hand's breadth from the routine of their lives to go to Christ. The women at the foot of the Cross did it too, making up for the crowd who stood by and sneered. We can do it too, exactly as they did. We are not born too late. We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers, in everyone we come in contact with.” – Dorothy Day

Monday, December 25, 2006

INVITATION TO TWELVE DAYS

CRASHING INTO CHRISTMAS. One weary holiday frolicker was overheard praying, "...and forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us." That seems to reflect the experience of many. Frazzled from preparations, many are relieved when December 25th passes. But that's not the way it's supposed to be. That's not the way it has to be. There's another realistic possibility.

A 12-DAY ALTERNATIVE. Tired of crashing into Christmas? Will you spend the next several weeks recovering from it? Consider joining me in a gentle but intentional spiritual journey from Christmas Day to Epiphany. These "Twelve Days of Christmas" offer an opportunity to receive gifts and reflect on spiritual graces together--one day at a time. I've prepared readings and journaling exercises for each day from December 25th through January 6th that flow from a Christian discipline that runs deeper than commercial Christmas.

DAILY READINGS & JOURNAL EXERCISES. I invite you to track the days with me. I will be sharing my prepared readings and spiritual exercises with our Bicycle India 2007 group each morning. You can access the 12 readings/exercises online. Instead of putting Christmas way and cleaning up its debris, savor it. Explore the extent of its meaning and gifts.
CHRISTMAS EVE 2006

FULL, EXHAUSTING, SATISFYING. We had a full, exhausting, satisfying Christmas Eve, the first time in many years, it seems, that it has fallen on a Sunday. Christmas Eve on Sunday unusually complicates the Hay and Sheffield Christmas traditions, as this day is typically given fully to family gift exchanges in Indianapolis and New Castle--with a hurried return across Interstate 70 for the 11:00 pm Christmas Eve Service at North United Methodist Church. Today, however, we observed the fourth Sunday of Avent in morning worship, exchanged gifts with my parents, sister and her family in the afternoon, conducted the Christmas Eve Service at WEMO at 6 pm, then drove to New Castle to be with the Sheffields. We arrived back home in Indy just before Midnight.

READY NOW. I now have a sense of completion and satisfaction that eluded me to this in the season and in preparations for Bicycle India 2007, for which we depart on Tuesday, December 26. Maybe I needed the closure that Sunday's services made possible. Maybe I needed to rest in the confidence of a soundly-made decision and sense of misison. Maybe I just needed to live Advent. There are still things to tie down before I get on the plane for India, but I feel more at peace about things here than before Sunday. And for that I am most grateful.

ALL IN THE FAMILY. I looked from the sanctuary platform and pulpit at nearly all my earthly loved ones participating in the morning worship service and breathed a prayer of gratitude. It may only be for a moment, maybe just a cameo, but there was Becky seated beside Abby, our oldest child who is a junior in college. On her other side was Jared, our oldest son who is a freshman at Olivet Nazarene University. There was Molly, ready to get her driver's license. And Sam, our 13-year old who had just given the first Bicycle India 2007 update that he's volunteered to offer the congregation each week I am away. My mom and dad were next to them. And there was my sister with her husband, along with her son, fiance and children. Also in the mix was Becky's parents. All but my sister's daughter and her husband were there. In the service, all the "Hay women" shared a song in ensemble and dad preached as our guest minister. It was a rare and precious moment to me.
A BONHOEFFER CHRISTMAS

ADVENT LIKE A PRISON CELL. During Advent 1943, from a prison cell in Nazi Germany, the young theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his fiancé: "A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent."

A MORE MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS. Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents: "From the Christian point of view, spending Christmas in a prison doesn't pose any special problem. Most likely, a more meaningful and authentic Christmas is celebrated here by many people than in places where only the name of the feast remains. Misery, pain, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt have an altogether different meaning in God's eyes than in the judgment of men."

TO WHOM GOD TURNS. "God turns toward the very places from which humans tend to turn away. Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him at the inn: A prisoner can understand all this better than other people. It's truly good news for him; in believing it, he knows he has been made a part of the Christian community that breaks down all spatial and temporal frontiers, and the walls of prison lose their meaning."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

SILENT…AND EXPECTANT

THE GIFTS OTHERS NEED. Ted Loder, in Guerillas of Grace, writes:

How silently,
how silently
the wondrous gift is given.

I would be silent now,
Lord,
and expectant…
that I may receive
the gift I need,
so I may become
the gifts others need.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

THE REASON FOR THE SEASON...SIN

FULL OF OURSELVES. We twenty-first centuryers are quite full of ourselves at Christmas, aren’t we? Full. Almost everybody I encounter seems full…well fed, overfed, in fact. And happy. We wish each other ‘merry Christmas’ and gleefully convey that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ and other greeting card clichĂ©s. Ho, ho, ho. And to all a good night.

WE WANT THIS GUY? Ho, ho, hold it. How happy are we that God has become incarnate? Are we really ready to say, I’m glad Messiah has come? On what assumption are we singing “Joy to the World?” He of whom Mary sang, “he has lifted up the poor and sent the rich away empty,” and “has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts,” this is the One we welcome? This guy will unsettle and stir up everything. Get ready to be confronted, challenged, uncovered, exposed, undone…so that you may be set right.

NOT RIGHT. He was sent because we are not right--not right in and with ourselves, not right with one another, not right in our community-wide and corporate arrangements, not right, frankly, with God. And we have not been able to right ourselves, our interpersonal relationships, and our corporate and community structures and institutions. We've evidenced over and over our consummate ability to distort and subvert what God created and intended for good.

BARNACLED. Over the centuries, yea these millennia, we haven't been able to stop ourselves from doing what we ought not to do, nor challenged others from doing what they ought not to be doing. We haven’t been vigilant and joyful about doing the things we know we should do. Prejudices, pride, exclusivisms, self-serving preoccupations, social nearsightedness, and a thousand and one excuses cleave to us like heavy barnacles. Our mantra is human progress, enlightenment, and the glory of inquiry. Our reality is sin.

VERY FAR GONE. Created in the image of God, we are very far gone from that image. Deprived of divine relationship by our separating sin, we have become depraved. Whatever goodness we bear is residual and grace-assisted (in spite of us). Humanity in general and you and me in particular are, in a word, sinful. We are helpless to change or improve our condition on our own or by cloaking ourselves in fine accoutrements, symbols, materials, money, class camaraderie, homogeneous groupings, do-good associations, refining education, stock portfolios, titles, etc. All this the Bible makes clear as a bell.

GAUCHE GREETING? Get the picture? The Christmas story begins right here. Sin. Is this the gauche Christmas greeting of the year? It is either what we bypass on our way to the next gift exchange or bury under layers of holiday festivities. Sure, leave it to some disenfranchised holiness preacher to blow the whistle and rain on the Christmas parade. On the eve of singing “O Holy Night,” we hear the whistle blow and a lifeguard yell, “okay, everybody out of the pool!”

WHERE HOPE BEGINS. But isn’t this where genuine hope begins? This is where we begin to grasp the meaning of love incarnate. It is not to make us better people that Jesus came. It was to reveal love that reaches us in our sin, our brokenness, our despair, our vanity, our meaninglessness, our pride and pretense. It is to restore in us the image of God, an image that begins and ends in love. Christianity believes the story of this necessary saving act begins at Christmas. This is also what the Bible says. So we celebrate the beginning of the end of sin in the advent of love incarnate—love made flesh in Jesus Christ.

THE SOUL FELT ITS WORTH. Few carols and songs of the season make any reference to the “why” of Christmas, to the necessity of the need of a savior, of a radical intervention, of a divine invasion. Can you think of ones that sing of our wrong-headedness and broken-heartedness? The most poignant words of a popular Christmas song, from “O Holy Night”, are…
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

and…
“Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease. ”

May your soul feel its worth because of Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

CHRISTMAS IS FOR ADULTS
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

It is not enough to say
"Christmas is for children."
So it is, and ever so.
But it is especially for adults,
those routinous creatures
with furrowed brows wrapped
in self-absorbing pursuits.

These lamentable beings need
Christmas if they are ever
to be whole again.
They are so forgetful of
things that matter
and so clamorous for
things that don't.

Christmas, if it can pierce
their thick facade and
deflate their oversized egos,
can touch a forgotten place--
an abandoned but still
life-giving place--in adult souls.

Christmas invites children
and adults alike to a
place where room is made for
a Child and that Child is
adored and honored as
a gift, a hope--even
salvation for one and all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

THIS BIKE COULD BE YOUR HOME
Images of India

An Indian worker takes a rest from his labor as a deliveryman. This Kolkata fellow simply curled up on the bed of his trike and took a needed nap until called upon for his next delivery. It's indicative of how public most activity is in Indian cities. It is not unusual to see an individual or family bathing together on a street corner, or wherever fresh water is available.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

BOTTLE SIZE
Images of India

I will post a few photos over the next few days, images Joe James and I took in during our January 2006 visit to India. Like this child whose diminutive size is revealed in light of the water bottle. These photos help me prepare for our return one week from now.

I never dreamed of or fancied India before being asked to be part of Bicycle India 2007 and invited to accompany Bishop James on a three-week administrative visit there. But, having been there, I can't get it out of my heart and mind's eye.

Monday, December 18, 2006

CHRISTMAS: THE EVE OF A JOURNEY

ANTICIPATING THE BIG DAY. For the first time in memory, I am looking forward not only to Christmas, but to the day beyond it. I can't wait for Christmas. And I can't wait for the day after Christmas. This year, Christmas will be the eve of a once-in-a-lifetime journey for me. On December 26, I embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to ride 2,000 miles across India.

FLIGHT TO EGYPT...OR INDIA? It's got me thinking: how quickly after Jesus' birth did his parents saddle up and head off to a foreign land? They left Bethlehem for Egypt to protect the Child from Herod's vow to kill the firstborn sons of Hebrew children in the Bethlehem area. Christ's birth takes me to a foreign land on December 26--not in flight from an oppressor but in hope of making real the promise God's healing mercy.

RIDE ALONG. Our effort is not only to raise funds to rebuild Umri Christian Hospital, but to talk with hundreds if not thousands of people along our 2,000-mile biking route about Umri and God's love expressed through it. Thank you for your prayers. I hope you will follow our progress at www.bikeindia.org, a website Dan Laughlin developed to help folks virtually ride along with us.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

REVOLUNTIONARY JOY
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

REVOLUTIONARY DOCUMENT. I used to gloss over the Magnificat ("Mary's Song," Luke 1:46-55) as a shallow poem on my way to more sustantial fare of the Christmas story. Then one day I read what E. Stanley Jones thought of it: "The Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world.” Since a rather theologically conservative fellow like Gandhi-era Methodist missionary to India like Jones described it that way, I took a second look. I've been fascinated with the Magnificat ever since. Maybe that was my baptism into an appreciation for libearation theology and commitment to urban ministry and service among the poor.

JOY FOR THE POOR AND OPPRESSED Gustavo Gutierrez, who's groundbreaking book A Theology of Liberation, sparked dialogue that continues two decades after its initial publication, writes poignantly of the impact and implications of the Magnificat. Joy is the focus: “Mary’s thanksgiving and joy are closely linked to the action of God who liberates the oppressed and humbles the powerful. ‘The hungry he has satisfied with good things, the rich sent empty away.’ The future of history belongs to the poor and exploited… In them, the Lord saves history.”
WILL YOU PARTICIPATE? Gutierrez writes: “Every prophetic proclamation of total liberation in the Bible is accompanied by an invitation to participate in God’s eschatological joy: ‘I will delight in Jerusalem and rejoice in my people’ (Isaiah 65:19). This joy ought to fill our entire existence, making us attentive both to the gift of liberation of people and history as well as to the detail of our life and the lives of others.”

ALREADY AND STILL AWAITED He says: “Joy is born of the gift already received yet still awaited and is expressed in the present despite the difficulties and tensions of the struggle for the construction of a just society."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

JOY AT THE HEART OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

CONFIDENCE AMID PLURALISM. Listen to E. Stanley Jones speak of joy at the heart of Christianity. Jones, a Methodist missionary and contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, invested his life in unhesitating dialogue with many other faiths as British rule and all the legal "props" for Christianity were taken away in India. His spirituality is not a fearful, suspicious, protectionist faith, like that articulated by those who wage so-called "culture wars" on America's religious media airwaves. Jones' spirituality is rooted in unflagging confidence in the Word of God to pierce darkness with truth and win hearts through Christian love. I am convinced his voice needs to be heard and his writings seriously revisited today.

ESSENCE OF OUR FAITH. "Joy is the very essence of our faith. If there is no joy, there is no Christianity, for Christianity is joy. Them empty tomb takes away the empty gloom. When we can sing in the face of death, we can sing in the face of everything."

NOT IN POSSESSIONS. "Christians' joy is not in what we possess, nor in what we do , nor in what other do for us. It is in relationships that abide amid the flux of possession and nonpossession, of success and failure, of good treatment and ill treatment. Christians can do without anything on earth--even life on earth, for we have a permanent eternal life now which is rooted in eternity."

CENTERED IN GOD. "Make up your mind where your joy is going to center--in God. Only in one place in this universe can you put your whole weight down--on God. Everything else is a staff upon which, if you lean too hard, it will break and pierce your hand--and your heart. But you can lean on God, absolutely, and he will hold you, absolutely."

FROM SORROW TO JOY. "Don't try to protect yourself against sorrow, for it is bound to come. Face it in Jesus' name and turn it into joy. The attempt to stop up all the holes against sorrow is bound to fail.... The Chrisitan faith...exposes one straight off to the very heart of suffering, to a cross. And then it proceeds to take that suffering and turn it into salvation; the cross becomes an Easter morning. The worst is met and changed into the best. Pains are turned into paeans. A singing optimism is won out of a dark pessimism."

FINDING BOOKS BY JONES. Interested in reading E. Stanley Jones? Begin with A Song of Ascents, his spiritual autobiography, written at age 87. Or try Victorious Living or The Word Became Flesh, two of many of his books that are written as 365-day themed and connected devotionals. You won't find E. Stanley Jones in most Christian bookstores; they don't carry much beyond whatever the Christian Bookseller's Association is currently hawking as new, urgent, popular, etc. Check out an online used book resource for Jones' stuff. It will be a good search and find. Jones' library resides at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, his alma mater.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BE BORN ANEW
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

by Clyde Reid

There is a depth
a reality
a promise in Christmas
And this depth has nothing to do with the holiday
or families
or receiving gifts.

It has to do with God’s eternal promise
that we can have a new life
start over
begin again
be born anew.

If we want that,
That can happen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

SKATING IS PART OF THE SEASON
Not if you live in Florida...but if Indiana is home, then skating on an outdoor pond when it freezes is part of our winter festivities. Indiana is unseasonably warm right now--it could reach 60 degrees before Christmas comes. But it was cold enough for Becky (baggy, striped pants), her two sisters (in front) and a friend to get their photo taken and placed in the Indianapolis Star about thirty years ago. They are skating on Lake Sullivan, adjacent to Cold Springs Road on Indy's northwest side, now site of the Major Taylor Velodrome and Lake Sullivan BMX Track and Terrain Park.

Monday, December 11, 2006

MADRIGAL SINGING...AN ENDURING TRADITION

I sang in a Madrigal ensemble at Parkersburg South High School. Molly now sings in the Ben Davis High School Madrigal Choir. They sing some of the same Medieval-era songs to which we harmonized. It's the 40th year for this chorale, with 15-18-year olds carrying on the tradition each year. BD Mads shared their music at West Morris Street Free Methodist Church on Sunday evening...a heart-warming part of the holiday season.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

WHAT'S WITH ORNAMENTS?

I'm not sure where the tradition of hanging ornaments on Christmas trees comes from. I'll do a little research and find out. Our Christmas tree is burgeoning with all kinds of them. Hallmark-made ornaments overwhelm all other kinds, Becky purchasing a gift ornament for each of the kids each year. And then there are the ones the children have made in Sunday School or at school at some early age, the ones that are so adorable and so, well...adorable. Becky arranged a few choice ornaments in a window (photo). This is part of the touch of the season.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

FOCUSING ON JOY

A GREAT JOY...FOR ALL PEOPLE. The authentic Christmas gift is joy, is it not? "I bring good news of a great joy that will be for all people." That's what the angels announced to shepherds, according to Luke's account. A great joy. For all people. I've been focusing there this first week of Advent: Joy...for all.

BUILDING BLOCKS OF ADVENT. Usually, I carefully observe the prescribed and logical progression of Advent protocol. This season of preparation and penitence is supposed to start with hope, move to faith, reflect on love, and then, and only then, bask in joy. Hopeful longing readies one for belief in God's personal promise, and that reveals a boundless love which, with the birth of Jesus, errupts in joy. This thing builds to a crescendo. In teaching and preaching terms, however, that means I only get to touch on the gift of joy ever so briefly one time a year. The capstone grace gets a Sunday. Short shrift for such a superlative. This year, however, I've decided to focus throughout Advent and Christmas on joy.

CAN'T RUSH JOY; BUT DON'T LIMIT IT, EITHER. Joy can't be rushed, to be sure. There's good reason why Christian tradition places it after hope and faith in the Advent building blocks. What's happening at the superstores and in the holiday frolicking is ample evidence enough that you can't manufacture, purchase, or produce joy. But just because it is not a surface-on-demand grace does not mean it should remain submerged until the Revised Common Lectionary poobahs say it's time to call it forth. I'm convinced that joy--lifted up, examined, explored, and chosen (yes, chosen...read Nouwen's and Neuman-Lee's comments in earlier posts)--can become a more readily experienced and expressed grace than usual Christian behavior and outlook normalizes.

More later...

Friday, December 8, 2006

JOY IN OUR GIFTS
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People


“For me, the joy is also in the gifts. God gives us gifts for the building up of the church of Jesus Christ. When the church is built up people find God and know the fullness of eternal life. It is so great to be part of that. When we use the Gifts of the Spirit something real happens (as opposed to lots of other stuff we do with our time.) When I use my gifts, it is as if God’s Spirit were singing through me (which it is!). When I use my gifts, it is as if God were dancing with us through me. When I use those gifts (not really mine in the sense that I own them or can use them at my own command), I am opened up to the work of Christ in me and I am ready to continue His work. When I use those gifts given by the Creator through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, there is no joy in spite of something else, it is just joy and joy and joy through and through.” – Jeff Neuman-Lee

Thursday, December 7, 2006

MY DREAM...WHEN I'M NOT BIKING

Dear Santa,

Please, let it snow before Christmas. Let it snow before I head to India for the heart of the winter season. Let it snow enough for cross-country skiing at Eagle Creek Park. Let it snow enough for us to sled together at night under the stars. Let it snow enough to get the kids out of school, just for a day. Please, let it snow before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

HOW JESUS COMES TO US
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People
"...We are faced with the shocking reality: Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality. He asks you for help in the form of a beggar, in the form of a ruined human being in torn clothing. He confronts you in every person that you meet. Christ walks on the earth as your neighbor as long as there are people. He walks on the earth as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you and makes his demands. That is the greatest seriousness and the greatest blessedness of the Advent message. Christ stands at the door. He lives in the form of the person in our midst. Will you keep the door locked or open it to him?"

"Christ is still knocking. It is not yet Christmas. But it is also not the great final Advent, the final coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: 'Behold, I make all things new' (Rev. 21:5)."

"Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent - that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: 'On earth peace to those on whom God's favor rests.' Learn to wait, because he has promised to come. 'I stand at the door?' We however call to him: 'Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!' Amen."

-- Dietrich Bonheoffer quoted in Watch for the Light

Monday, December 4, 2006

ADVENT IS ABOUT SEEING THE SIGNS
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

“At every turn in the Christmas story there appears an absurd mismatch: a woman and a dragon, a babe and the kings of this world, a messiah of utter folly and the power of death. But that is precisely the method that God has chosen in the Incarnation. God risks everything on the power of powerlessness.”

The topic of Christmas is whether we have the eyes to see it. And the heart to follow. Many did not recognize God’s coming to them in Jesus. But some did. Christmas has to do with seeing the signs, with recognition, with discerning God’s presence in the world.”

“As William Stringfellow said, ‘Discerning signs does not seek spectacular proofs or await the miraculous, but, rather, it means sensitivity to the Word of God indwelling in all Creation and transfiguring common history, while remaining radically realistic about death’s vitality in all that happens.’ Lord, for such a comprehension in this season and all, grant us the heart!”


— Bill Wylie Kellerman in Seasons of Faith and Conscience

Sunday, December 3, 2006

ADVENT CURMUDGEON?
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY? Before we frolic a little too flippantly through the Advent season and collapse into Christmas, hear William Stringfellow. These are excerpted from A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow, edited by Bill Wiley Kellermann (Eerdmans, 1994):

FROLICKING IS NOT REJOICING. "For all the greeting card and sermonic rhetoric, I do not think that much rejoicing happens around Christmastime, least of all about the coming of the Lord. There is, I notice, a lot of holiday frolicking, but that is not the same as rejoicing. In any case, maybe outbursts of either frolicking or rejoicing are premature, if John the Baptist has credibility. He identifies repentance as the message and sentiment of Advent."

NOT JUST PERSONAL REPENTANCE. "In context, in the biblical accounts (Matthew 3 and Luke 3), the repentance of which John the Baptist preaches is no private or individualistic effort, but the disposition of a person is related to the reconciliation of the whole of creation. 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"

PRODUCE THE FRUIT OF REPENTANCE. "The pioneer Christians...knew that the message of both Advents is political. That message is that in the coming of Jesus Christ, the nations and the principalities and the rulers of the world are judged in the Word of God. In the lordship of Christ they are rendered accountable to human life and, indeed, to all created life. Hence, the response of John the Baptist when he is pressed to show the meaning of the repentance he preaches is, 'Bear fruits that befit repentance.'"

INVITATION TO REPENTANCE. Let not Stringfellow's words douse what measured lightheartedness we may muster in anticipation of Christmas. Instead, may his effort to point to the Word of God overwhelm us. Let's not allow ourselves to waltz through Advent and into Christmas without falling before God in true repentance. And then, ever repentant and cleaving to the living Word of God, bear joyfully the burden of an unrepentant church, nation, and world in our hearts and through our prayers, words, and actions.
SPECTACLE & SIMPLICITY
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

“As Advent adventurers, we see both the secular spectacle and the scriptural simplicity of this holy season… Though the secular separates itself from the sacred, the sacred encompasses the secular. Teillard de Chardin affirms that ‘nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred.'

-- Marilyn Brown Oden in Manger and Mystery

Saturday, December 2, 2006

THE GIGANTIC SECRET
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People


"The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live ... Joy ... is the gigantic secret of the Christian."

--G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 1, 2006

JOY AMID ANGER & SADNESS
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

I found the following comment online. It's by Jeff Neuman-Lee, pastor of an Iowa Church of the Brethern community. Note the way Jeff perceives joy in the warp and woof of the fabric of life--including anger and grief.
"Joy rises above all other emotion, even anger and sadness. It can be present anywhere and everywhere. Even in great anger over great injustice there is the joy that God's Realm is before us, demonstrating what is just and unjust, and that Christ's Spirit is within us giving us courage to witness – utilizing the energy our anger gives us – to bring Christ’s good against evil. Even in great sadness over tremendous loss is the joy that God's love is eternal and that God's Spirit shall resurrect even the dead, that we might share God's everlasting community..."

"Joy comes with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the presence of his Spirit in our midst. It is a great gift for this life, now."

Photo credit: Hasan Zubair
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

"Joy
does not simply
happen to us.
We have to
choose joy
and keep
choosing it
every day."

— Henri Nouwen