A New Year – A Time to Bless and to Heal

A year’s ending gives us a peculiar vantage point. We look back on the events, people and circumstances we’ve encountered. There have been moments of joy, others of sorrow. Some came as the bitter sweet irony of both. We have had times to savor and celebrate. There have been losses which caused our hearts to bleed. People who have been precious to us are deeply missed. There were times we acted on our best impulses and our highest motives. To our regret, there were other times when were less than we wanted to be.

A year’s turning gives us opportunity to rethink where we have been and how we want to live our lives in the future. Howard Thurman’s writes in his book of essays and prayers, “The Centering Moment,” “We anticipate tomorrow, not because it is our promise and our due, but because there is within us a deep yearning for the fulfillment of that which we have not known before, for the opportunity to be what, if we have another chance, we think we may become. Brood over us as we stand on the threshold. . . Make tender our spirits that we may not through any callousness of mind or hardness of heart, hurt and maim and injure where we could bless and cure and heal. Leave us not alone to the independence of our minds or to the hardness of our hearts and spirits, but surround us with Thy caring, that what we do will be what we mean and what we say will be inspired by the integrity of the intent.”

May this New Year, truly be that for you. A NEW YEAR. May it be an opportunity to start fresh.   For we have been to Christmas. We have seen the star. We have heard the angels singing. We have knelt at the manger. It has been given to us to know that the light of Christ is in our world and darkness has not and cannot overcome it.

May your New Year be blessed with the deep assurance that Christ’s light will be with you throughout this year.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”   II Corinthians 5:17

A Garland Instead of Ashes

An Advent Devotion for  December 8, 2017    

Read Isaiah 61:1-4

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Isaiah 61:1-2a

The people of Israel remembered the days of King David when the poor were treated with justice. But those days of compassion passed and justice was sorely lacking. All was not well in Israel. People yearned for the return of justice. They yearned for a messiah who would change both the present and the future. Jesus turned to this passage when he first spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth. Quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah he announced the fulfillment of these words.

He wanted the people of  his hometown to know that he did not intend to pursue any conquering of a foreign power, but the conquering of the human heart. There would be no warrior restoring the wealth and prestige of the nation. Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted. He would also leave the unfinished work of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison, and sheltering the homeless to his followers.
Howard Thurman captures the essence of Isaiah’s words and Jesus’s call to us in his poem, “When the Song of the Angels is Stilled.”

“When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”

Prayer: God of Hope, When we weary in our waiting, when our sense of justice goes unmet, when evil seems to win and all we have worked for is erased – grant us a sense of place. Grant us an assurance that you are still at work in our world. In this Advent, may we be people who feed the hungry, rebuild the nations and always seek to make music in the heart. Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found at:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

*Advent – Waiting With Expectation

*Advent – Waiting With Expectation

CandleFlame The dictionary defines “wait” as “to look forward expectantly.” Not all of our waiting is done with anticipation. From traffic jams and delayed raises, to family unrest, much of our waiting is experienced as impatience, frustration and a simple recognition that not all is well with our world. Advent reminds us that God is still working in this world.

We wait for our deepest hopes and dreams to come to fruition. We wait for answers to our penetrating questions. In our confusion, we wait for clarity of mind and purpose. We wait for ourselves to become the person we wish we already were.

Today I find myself waiting for God’s advent fresh over in this broken world. I wait for the lion and lamb to lay down together, for the misery of war to end, for voices of hatred to be turned from loathing into compassion. I wait for our world to become a better, kinder, more gentle place. I wait for the powerful to bend an ear to the powerless. I wait for a day when there are no refugees facing the terrors of the sea or fleeing the travail of ISIS. I wait for ancient ruins to be restored. I wait for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Howard Thurman echos my thoughts in his book “The Mood of Christmas”

“Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,
and the heart consumes itself, if it would live,
Where little children age before their time,

And life wears down the edges of the mind,
Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,

While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day’s life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.
Christmas is waiting to be born
In you, in me, in all (humankind)”
— from The Mood of Christmas Continue reading

“Upon the Night View of the World, a Day View Must Follow”

633Howard Thurman writes, “Upon the night view of the world, a day view must follow. This is an ancient insight grounded in the experience of the race in its long journey through all the year’s of our becoming . . . it is insight woven into the pattern of all living things, reaching its grand apotheosis in the reflection of mortals gazing deep into the heart of their own experience. That the day view follows the night view is written large in nature. Indeed it is one with nature itself. . . Is there any wonder that deeper than idea and concept is the insistent conviction that the night can never stay, that winter is ever moving toward the spring?”

You may be wondering just now if winter really is going to move towards spring. Defeats, failures and heartaches linger. In our painful and difficult moments, discouragement sets in. We wonder how long we must endure before there is a break in our waiting for something better to come our way. We wait wondering if there will ever be a lifting of despair, a word of hope or that elusive good news that seems to find everyone but us.

Years ago, I read about a woman who said that her favorite passages in the Bible were the words, “And it came to pass.” She said that it reminded her that nothing bad would last forever. Whenever she heard those words, she knew that what she was struggling with would one day pass. In those moments when we are discouraged, when families and friends disappoint us, when our days are long and we wonder if the sun has given up on shining . . . it is good to remember that God is not done.

If you find yourself today, bogged down with stress and worry or floundering in a barren land – there is this word of hope. “This too shall pass.” “Upon the night view of the world, a day view must follow.”

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley
    I fear no evil;  for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

The Singing of Angels

BethlehemHoward Thurman is one of my favorite theologians and authors. I first encountered his writings during my seminary years when an anthology had just been published. Of all of his writings this piece has touched me most at Christmas.

The Singing of Angels

There must always remain in every person’s life
Some place for the singing of angels,
Some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and,
By an inherent prerogative,
Throws all the rest of life into a new and creative relatedness,
Something that gathers up in itself all the freshets of experience
From drab and commonplace areas of living and glows in
One bright white light of penetrating beauty and meaning . . . then passes.
The commonplace is shot through with new glory;
Old burdens become lighter;
Deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting.
A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives
We are trying to grow tall enough to wear.
Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the hardness of life,
Despite all the harsh discords of life,
Life is saved by the singing of angels.

– by Howard Thurman from “Deep is the Hunger” 1951.