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December 25, 2017 - That First Christmas, Christ Was Not Found in a Church

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Scripture Readings

The author of this story is unknown. All we know is that it is written by a young mother and that it was Christmas day. She writes: “We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee. His eyes were wide with excitement and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard, and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. "Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy,” the man said to Erik. Erik was responding with glee to the man’s comments. My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. We ate in silence; all except for Erik and the man. We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man was poised between the door and me. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Suddenly, a very old, smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik, in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor -- gently, so gently, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back.”

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December 23, 2017 - David and Mary: Lessons in Spiritual Discernment

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

Sunday Readings 

There are two stories in today’s scripture readings. The first reading tells us the story of David and gospel reading is the story of the annunciation. I am stepping aside Advent themes to deal with very common questions that people ask: “What is God’s will for me?” “How do I discern whether I am doing God’s will or not?” Discerning God’s will is a complex spiritual exercise. In the stories of David and Mary, we might have some insights.  

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December 17, 2017 - Advent: An Exilic Perspective

Third Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

For Advent this year, my focus has been almost entirely on the first readings of the last three weeks, more specifically, the Babylonian exile. In the first week of Advent, I focused on the people of God desperately yearning God’s redeeming intervention. In the second week of Advent, I reflected on Isaiah’s announcement the exile was coming to an end. I remember preaching that while the exile could be attributed to God’s justice, the people newfound freedom was an act of God’s mercy. This week, we continue with our reflection on the exile. Only thing is that today’s first reading is directed toward the people who are finally back in their homeland. 

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December 10, 2017 - Conversion, Comfort, and Joy

Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, one of the first things we do is examine our consciences and seek God’s mercy. “Kyrie Eleison! Christe Eleison! Kyrie Eleison!” And then the celebrants announces the absolution, saying, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life!” The congregation responds with a resounding, “Amen!” And then community does something special. We break out into the Gloria! “Glory to God in the highest,” we sing, “and peace to his people on earth!” The reason is simple. The experience of God mercy and forgiveness leads us to rejoicing! One moment the mood is sorrow for sin and the next moment the mood changes to praise! This contrast of moods is also the best way to explain the spirit of Advent. All of Advent we prepare our lives for Christ. And then at Christmas, we break forth singing “Glory to God in the highest!” 

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December 3, 2017 - What About Advent?

First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

The Christmas frenzy has begun. No matter how much I try each year, there is no escaping it. More often than not, I feel violated by all the in-your-face glitz and glamor. It is crazy, but my first Christmas party is on the 12th of Dec. It goes ridiculously downhill after that. I have given up trying to make Advent a quite time. The social and commercial dimensions of the season are so blatant, that there simply is no escaping it. All I can do is to make sure that I do not lose out on the real meaning of the Advent season. 

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