Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 24 -- LOVE
Tertullian reported that the Romans often exclaimed, “See how these Christians love! ”When they saw how members of the early Church treated one another, and even their persecutors, sharing everything they had, caring for all who were in need. This love characterized the early Church in its first three centuries.
In today’s world, where terrorism, mass shootings, racism and acts of bigotry and religious persecution are reported daily in the media, is it even possible for present-day Christians to be identified by our acts of love? The fourth candle on our Advent wreaths gleams with the reminder of the Love that has been given freely to us.
Let us try, each day, to show the loving face of Jesus Christ to each person, each neighbour that we meet, not just at Christmas, but all through the year. And let us look for Christ’s face in each person that we meet. Love is stronger than fear and death.

The words of Christina Rossetti’s beautiful poem remind us of the Source of this love which is a gift to all who are willing to receive it.

Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine, Love was born at Christmas, stars and angels gave the sign,

Worship we the Godhead, love incarnate, love divine,Worship we our Jesus, what shall be our sacred sign?

Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine,Love to God and neighbour, love for prayer and gift and sign.
 -- Gail Holland

Friday, December 22, 2017

December 23 – LOVE -- Luke 1: 78-79

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. 
- The Benedictus
The Benedictus which we sing or say daily at Morning Prayer always resonates with me. Zechariah’s song of thanksgiving for the birth of his son John the Baptist is such an outpouring of love. First, Zechariah praises God for deliverance of Israel, and for the covenants God has made, in the past and currently in the coming of John and soon, Jesus. The second half of the Benedictus is addressed to John as the prophet and forerunner of Jesus, the Jesus who will bring peace to God’s people.

God’s unconditional love for us is so great that in the incarnation God takes on human flesh in Jesus. Our redemption and freedom are secured by this. Our sins are forgiven. The astonishing fact is that we can do for others what Jesus has done for us. Ronald Rohlheiser says ‘to be touched, loved, and forgiven by a member of the body of believers is to be touched, loved, and forgiven by Christ. The incredible power and mercy that came into our world in Jesus is still with us, if we choose to activate it.’

We are called to be beacons of light in the darkness of this world, not just at Christmas but throughout the year. Blessed be God who helps us to do this!

 – Doreen Davidson

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 22 -- LOVE
I believe that it was through reading The Revelation of Love by Dame Julian almost 20 years ago that I really came to understand the depth of God’s love for us. Julian had a series of 16 visions after she became seriously ill and thought she was dying. Later, she recorded her visions and then spent the next 20 years pondering the meaning of them. She wrote: “I saw that he [Christ] is the ground of all that is good and supporting for us. He is our clothing that lovingly wraps and folds us about; it embraces us and closes us all around as it hangs upon us with such tender love; for truly he can never leave us. This made me see that he is for us everything that is good.”
Sometime after I read Julian’s book, I had a kind of mystical experience myself. I was walking as part of my morning meditation time, and suddenly into my mind came the words: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” It’s hard to explain the impact of these words at that moment. [I later discovered that the words came from Jer 31:3.] I believe it was the first time

I had really felt deeply loved by God, that God knew everything there was to know about me, and yet God still loved me, in spite of all my faults and failings. To me that is the meaning of the Incarnation. Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God was showing us the depth and breadth of God’s unconditional love for each one of us

– Sr. Elizabeth, SSJD

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 21 – LOVE – Psalm 89

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all  generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established  forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

As a singer, I look for the passages that refer to music in scripture and this one resonates (a singing activity) with me.

I have made a number of life changes over this past summer. I have returned to my home of West Virginia after 20 years away. The state is different with both improvements (some increased educational opportunity and some economic benefits) and tragedies (mountain top removal, strip mining, the opioid epidemic). 

I am here to be steadfast, to be true to the values I have held dear, to stand with other members of my community reclaiming the goodness of the neighborhood, the obligation to steward the earth well, and the responsibility to compassionately care for each other. It requires God because I am surely not enough.

And I need not be. 

I can just share the Psalmist. 
And be the Psalmist. 

I declare steadfastness of love and enduring faithfulness for all from age to age! Alleluia! Amen!

-- Maggie Grace

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 20 – LOVE – Luke 1

In today’s reading we eavesdrop on a conversation between the Angel Gabriel and Mary.  She is told she will give birth to the Son of God.

I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “Let it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) 
In the little we are told about Mary in the Gospels, we meet a woman of  resilient, humble  faith; a model for us in our response of love to God.

Committing to the work of nourishing our faith will direct us to lean on God’s steadfast love for the resilience and wisdom we need in meeting daily challenges.  Receiving the gift of faith encourages our response of “let it be to me” for Life and Love in Jesus Christ.  Faith opens eyes to God’s presence; faith opens hearts to generosity and gratitude.  Faith grows resilience.  Importantly this virtue of hopeful determination can be the embers burning strength into a faith that is struggling.  We can help each other here.  Receiving and offering prayer, support and encouragement, sharing wisdom and experiences can shore up discouraged, tired hearts.

What will nourish your faith in the days to come?  And how might we encourage others?  To consider again how our practices of prayer, meditation and spiritual reading  nurture our lives of faith is worthwhile.

We approach the coming Christmastide both merrily rejoicing and like Mary, pondering the mystery of it all in a deep and quiet trust.    

-- Dorothy Dahli 

Monday, December 18, 2017

December 19 – JOY – Luke 2:10
In a recently discovered letter of C.S. Lewis as reported in The Guardian (article by Alison Flood, Dec 9, 2014), Lewis wrote of how; “real joy … jumps under ones ribs and tickles down one's back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o' nights”.  The article further spoke of Lewis’ belief that joy is infinitely more than any amount of pleasure one could experience, and once tasted, is forever sought.  It was joy that brought Lewis to his knees to pray as he finally accepted Christ and Christianity in his life.

Throughout the Scriptures joy is most often connected with exuberant praising of God: making a joyful noise to God!  This too is my great experience of joy especially when I am singing in choir; joy is simply something which must be shared.  In the gospel according to Luke we have that beautiful image of the angel appearing to the shepherds on the hillside and saying, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) We know that the shepherds immediately left their flocks and went in haste to see that which the angel announced: our Lord Jesus newly born into the world.  After their visit, as they went they told everyone what they had seen: they shared their joy.

What rib-tickling joy have you experienced in your life? With whom and how have you shared your joy?  Share some experience of joy with another this Advent season as we await with eager anticipation for the joy of the world in Christ Jesus, our Saviour.

– Sr. Elizabeth Ann Eckert, SSJD

Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 18 – JOY – Psalm 106

Your Word is joy to our hearts, O, Creator of the Dance. May we become bearers of joy, We who are invited to share in The Cosmic Dance! 
Psalm 106:19-20 -Psalms for Praying by Nan C. Merrill

The day after I received the invitation to write something on JOY, the assigned psalm included the above. I took it as a (holy!) hint, a gift that I was to unwrap and explore. My thoughts roamed as I reflected on the words through the lens of Advent……Yes, the Word became flesh and lived among us – coming as a babe in a manger in a stable.
The Dance of creation with all its components to which we relate and belong. (Let yourself feel the movement of the waves on the sea, breeze in the trees, the feel of making angels in fresh snow, the awesome fullness of the night sky……)
Joy is defined as a vivid emotion of pleasure, extreme gladness; and each of us is invited to be a bearer, to carry it wherever we go. It can be a heavy load at times depending on what else we have to bear, but still we are invited to be part of something bigger……
The Cosmic Dance – the universe is a well ordered whole, immeasurably vast, some pieces of which collide and break open into other forms but there is beauty in the broken, like ragged pieces of stained glass brought together by a skilled artisan….

How many hymns do we know that have the word JOY in them? (Let them float through your mind's ear and give them a hum or two… )

– Mary L. (Bunny) Stewart