Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

We pass through Christmas into the hard reality of January, the warmth of the stable left behind. The path before us stretches unknown, fraught with difficulty and unexpected obstacles. Herod pursues us, and the angels voices are silent, gone.

But wait. The soft sound of a camel’s hoof approaches. The wise men appear, silent as a desert night. They come from a far off land, traveling together on hope, dodging enemies, avoiding pitfalls. They arrive days after the birth, their epiphany not the result of angels singing, or knowledge of a virgin birth, but of their own desire to seek, to find the truth wherever it may lie.

The wise men guide us into the New Year. They remind us to accept the challenges of today, to live now, and not wait for graduation, for vacation, for retirement. There will be obstacles. There will be enemies. But together it is always possible to find another way home.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Four Candles

One candle for everyone who reaches out to a neighbor or stranger during this Advent season, to make their burden light and their Christmas bright. For the givers and the seekers who notice the lost, forgotten and poor, who visit the prisons, feed the hungry, and befriend the lonely, that their compassion may be returned a hundredfold.

One candle for the forlorn and forgotten, whom no one will visit this Christmas, that they may know they are loved by God. For the sick, the grieving, the fearful, the suffering and the dying, that they may feel held in the arms of God, and remembered by the world.

One candle for the peacemakers and justice seekers who speak up for all of us in parks and squares around the world, in newspapers and on cardboard posters, on Facebook and in the streets, in letters and in conversations, in Churches, mosques and synagogues, in rallies and vigils, who persist and hold on, even when harassed, ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned, or ignored. That they may keep the vision of God’s peace forever in their hearts and know their voices matter.

One last candle for the dictators and thieves, the Herods and Pilates, the CEOs and presidents, the Generals and politicians, the oppressors and powerbrokers, who work without conscience, who send others to war, who kill at arm’s length, who pursue greed at any cost, because business is business and a dollar is a dollar. That their eyes and ears may be opened and their hearts turned so that they may see and hear and serve their brothers and sisters who hold a different candle.

Four candles for justice, hope, faith, and love, all lit from the fire of a star that burned across the universe two thousand years ago, illuminating the lowly manger, reflecting the infant’s first breath, and calling us to keep the flames alive.

Note: My Christmas story, Elizabeth's Hope: A Meditation can be found at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Struggle

Waiting usually involves quiet expectation, a period of idleness even, a time to gather thoughts and energy for an important event. But Advent, that time set side to wait and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, contains little of those qualities any more.

I love Advent, but I struggle this year to find the peace it offers. I feel as if I’m standing on a platform while an express train hurtles past, warning me to hustle, hurry, get things done. I try to find the stillness inside, but the world calls out that nothing interior matters, except reflection on the gifts I should want, the food I must prepare, the decorations I must hang. Buy it now. Eat it now. Do it now.

I read of the failure of the Kyoto protocol on the environment, the struggles of the Occupy movement, and the imposition of ever more draconian security legislation, and I feel as if we have lost sight of all vision and all hope for the future. But that is exactly what Advent is about.

Advent calls me to reflect on the future, on what is to come, as Mary did, as Joseph did. It tells me to take risks for peace, for love and for all those who are to come. It reminds me that life isn’t easy but with our eyes turned toward the divine and our ears tuned toward the angels we might have a chance. And where do we find this divine? With the meekest, the poorest, and the most vulnerable, into whose arms the messiah was born.

I don’t do enough in my life for God or my neighbor, but Advent allows me to begin again, to try harder, maybe to reach higher this time. I force myself to find time for reflection and prayer in this busy season. It fills me then, this spirit of hope. It fills me and reminds me that Mary and Joseph struggled too, that their path was hard and their world imperfect. But they answered the angel anyway. They said yes. Maybe we can too.