Scripture Text: Luke 1: 39-45 (Advent 4C)

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

So, we have one more week.  You know, in those days, it would have taken about that long to get from Galilee to Bethlehem, so, chances are, Mary and Joseph would have left…about now.   It would have been a hard journey.  They could only travel during the day and would have had to somehow find warmth and shelter in the cold desert wilderness at night.  They wouldn’t have traveled alone.  That would not have been smart.  They could not have gone straight through Samaria because it was not a friendly country.  So, they probably would have traveled along the Jordan River and then turned near Jericho just north of the Dead Sea and headed toward Jerusalem.  The way would not have been easy, but, as they traveled, God made room for them, providing a pathway of light, probably fellow travelers, and a perseverance to get them to Bethlehem.  And there, in the dim light of a stable, the glory of God would be revealed in the child that was born to Mary.

This story that we love so much is not only a story of God’s coming into the world.  God would never have been able to come if somewhere along the way, someone had not made room in her life for God to come.  So, we hear of a young girl who put her life’s plans aside and made room to participate in God’s work of salvation.   And there with her, is her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, who, putting their convenience and their reputation at risk, opened their home to make room for the young girl.  That young girl was not just a vehicle for God’s work.  She wasn’t some random person that God used.  That young girl was a Light-Bearer.  She made room for the Light of Life to come into the world.

So, this story is as much an invitation as it is something in which we believe.  It is an invitation to us to open our eyes, open our hearts, and, yes, open our minds to the ways that God comes into our lives and the ways that God is calling us to participate in the changing of the world.  See, we are all called to be Light-Bearers.  We are called to bring the Light of God revealed through Jesus Christ into the world.  Oh, you don’t have time?  You’re not ready?  You’re not trained?  You’re afraid?  Alright, focus…Mary was just a young girl.  She was still maturing, still growing into who she would be.  She was planning her wedding.  And then this angel shows up and, well, you just won’t even believe what all happened.  Mary had plans for her life.  And yet here was this angel, a messenger of God, asking her to put all those plans aside and do this one little thing for the world.  Mary was asked to birth the Light of God into the world.  (No big deal, right?) She sat there stunned, the light probably draining from her face.  The angel waited.  The world waited.  God waited.  The Light hung suspended for a moment, waiting, with the darkness nipping at its heels.  And then Mary responded, “Let it be…let it be according to God’s Word.”

So, in these days leading up to Christmas and beyond, when you answer the door or find yourself in conversation or are met by someone who asks you to rearrange your mind a bit, remember that you never know when you might come face to face with the sacred, with the Divine, with God.  And our faith tells us that when that happens, it’s all about making room for God to do something new.  It’s about becoming a Light-Bearer.  The Light shines on you.  It is getting brighter and brighter with each day’s journey.  It is the same Light that God created so long ago.  It is the same Light that brought the world to this place we read about today.  It is the same Light that Mary birthed into the World.  And it has been there ever since—shining into our lives, inviting us to bear the Light to the world.  Let it be according to God’s Word. 

When I first met him, I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days re-arranging my mind so there’d be room for him to stay. (Brian Andreas, “The Story People”) 

Grace and Peace,


A Light in the Window

Scripture Text: Psalm 18: 1-3, 28

1I love you, O Lord, my strength. 2The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies…28It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.

Remember once again in the first chapter of Genesis when God created Light?  The Light was created to push back the darkness.  It didn’t “win” over the darkness; darkness was not gone.  This is not a light war.  Even darkness was created by God.  But then came Light, pushing back the darkness, re-creating the darkness into Light.  In essence, Light illumines the darkness.  God lights up the darkness.

This Psalm can be traced back to the era of the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple) before the Babylonian Exile.  It was considered a Royal Psalm, words echoing the belief that God would save the king, that God was the one behind the king, the God who had always been strong and reliant, the God whose actions were always just and merciful and would continue to be.

What, then, does it mean for God to light our darkness?  What does it mean for God, strong and reliant, just and merciful, to push back the darkness in our lives and illumine where we stand?  Are we ready for that?  Do we trust in that?  As we’ve mentioned before, sometimes the darkness gets a little too comfortable.  We become accustomed to strategically hiding part of ourselves, which is, of course, easier in the darkness.  And, after all, there’s always still darkness, right?  But if we truly allow ourselves to look toward the Light, the darkness will begin to subside.  We’re not used to the Light.  Our eyes will sting at first until we clear the remnants of darkness from them.  But when we begin to focus, it will all come into view—pushing back the darkness.

Try it.  All it takes is a candle—one candle in the darkness.  If you light one candle, there is Light. Maybe it’s not everything you want.  Maybe it’s not enough to read or something.  But it’s enough to light your way.  It just takes one candle to begin to push back the darkness.  It just takes something small.  I think that’s how God does it.  I think that’s how God has always done it.  God doesn’t turn on all the lights at once.  Sometimes God slips into the darkness like a baby in a manger. 

We’ve always been in darkness.  I think that’s so we can see the Light.  God doesn’t supply us with headlights or spotlights or even a strategically-placed flashlight.  You know why?  Because we don’t need light to find Light.  God created darkness for us.  It was the place that we were born before our eyes could adjust to the Light.  It was the place where we grew and learned to see the Light.  But through our lives, God always put a light in the window, just enough Light so that we would know where to go.  God begins to light our darkness, lighting one lamp after another.  Because that’s all it takes to light up our darkness.  Look toward the Light and the darkness will be pushed away.  Look for the Light in the window.

In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t. (Blaise Pascal) 

Grace and Peace,


Whispers of Light

Scripture Text: Matthew 10:24-27

24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Have no fear…do not be afraid…fear not…How many times have we encountered that in Scripture? Well, apparently, “fear not” is in the Bible 365 times according to the trustworthy Google machine.  Are you sensing a theme? So, of what are you afraid?  We’ve probably outgrown worrying about the monsters under the bed or the ghosts in the closet.  But we’re all afraid of something—health issues, financial issues, the pandemic, global terrorism, or just being found out.  Yeah, most of us are afraid that others will discover that we’re not as competent or self-assured or as put together as we project.  (Or maybe that’s just me!)  Most of us are afraid that that façade we have so carefully crafted around our lives will be pierced and we’ll have to be honest with those around us and, even worse, ourselves.

Fear not…have no fear of them…well, easy for YOU to say.  The promise is that everything will be made known. That’s what the full Light does, remember?  It exposes everything.  And imagine how glorious that would be to no longer have to hide those parts of yourself from the world!  Be not afraid!  What’s the worse that could happen, right? 

So, do you remember that whole notion of needing to die to live, die to self and be resurrected as a New Creation?  I think that’s the thing.  Living in the darkness makes it easy to hide things.  But this light, this light shows us everything.  So those things hidden in the darkness will die.  They will just fade away.  The things in the Light will survive.  The Light is coming.  Right now it’s just a whisper.  But we know what’s out there.  Our faith tells us that.  And we know that we have to let go of the darkness, we have to let go of the things that we hide.  The whispers of Light are gently showing us how to let go.  Because the Light will give us everything.

God, I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid. (Annie Dillard) 

Grace and Peace,


The Speed of Light

Scripture Text: Hebrews 10: 5-10 (Advent 4C)

5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  7Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Yes, sometimes it’s very hard to focus on the Epistle readings that are chosen for Advent.  After all, we’re getting ready for the big day.  We’ve become accustomed to John the Baptist and his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.  We like hearing the story of Mary and, once every three years when we focus on the Gospel writer known as Matthew, we get to talk about Joseph.  But this sacrifice and offerings rhetoric doesn’t really fit, does it?

Well, the truth is, when we remember that God came into the world in the form of Jesus Christ, we began to talk about a new way of looking at things, didn’t we?  In spite of what some try to make it, though, it is not a “replacement” of what was there before; it is a fulfillment, a broadening, a clarifying of it. It was a way of seeing who God calls us to be in a new light.  And, as has been said before, “it is very very good.”  See, Jesus did not dismiss sacrifices or offerings but instead put them in perspective.  Sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake is, and has always been, pointless.  But if that, or anything else, is what brings you closer to God, go for it.  That’s the point. 

So, this is a somewhat random question but do you know the speed of light?  In a vacuum, light travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second.  I suppose that would be pure light.  But the problem is that we do not live in a vacuum.  In measuring the speed of light (I guess, when you have nothing else to do!), Einstein surmised that light seen from a moving train traveled at only about 184,000 miles per second.  The point is that the speed of light, the way we see it, is affected by a multitude of factors—the speed at which we’re moving, temperature, wind, our own eyesight—there’s lots of things.  And if the speed of light changes, what we see changes.  Oh, for us, it’s almost nothing, but it affects the length of objects and even the colors we see.  We don’t see pure light.  So, another random point…did you know that sunlight takes approximately 8 ½ minutes to get to us?  If the sun exploded and remnants were strewn through the universe, we wouldn’t know that for 8 ½ minutes.  The point is that Light is always changing.  We can’t just look at it once and think we know what’s in it.

So, back to the God’s Will thing.  I’m sure God has in mind some way we should be.  It’s, there, in the Light.  God shows us over and over and over again.  But we are not capable of seeing pure Light.  We do not live in a vacuum.  God knows that.  God knows that the way we see things changes.  God knows that we do desire to do God’s Will.  God’s goodness and God’s holiness is a gift.  And the way we see it is faith.  It’s always been the same.  WE are the ones that change—sometimes at the speed of light.  So, don’t decide that what you see and what you think is the end of the answer.  What if it was only the beginning of the question?  What if the Light we see is only a reflection of who God calls us to be? (At least for now.)

All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light. (James Joyce) 

Grace and Peace,


Evidence of Light

Scripture Text: Isaiah 45: 1-3

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: 2I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

As this passage begins, we get good King Cyrus, the Persian conqueror who is known for taking over Babylon in the 540’s and is credited with being the one who allowed the exiles to return to their home.  So, the writer imagines this foreign ruler as God’s anointed even though it is likely that Cyrus didn’t even know God at all.  But Cyrus is known as a liberator even today.  Interestingly, the “cyrus cylinder”, Cyrus’ supposed policies on liberation and human rights, was declared by the United Nations to be an early declaration of human rights in 1971.

So, all of that said, there have been many times when what is seen as God’s work does not even involve persons who even see themselves that way.  The writer of this passage called this work the “treasures of darkness”, the hidden work of God.  The truth is, so much of God’s creative work is not that obvious to us when it is happening.  As much as we would like God to make it easy on us by extravagantly broadcasting the ongoing coming of God’s Kingdom into our lives, we are over and over again blessed with small treasures hidden in the darkness that depict evidence of Light.  Rather than giving us proof of God’s existence, God instills faith in our lives that we might look toward the Light.

Think about it.  God did not come into the world via a perfectly choreographed event in an impeccably decorated venue.  Instead, God tiptoed into the world as a baby born to immigrant visitors from a little-known town in a small place on the outskirts of the gated holy city.  God came into a world that wanted something different, something grander, something stronger and more powerful than what the world got.  God was laid in a feed stall surrounded not by armies and elites but by those who needed God most.  God came into the darkness as one of us and therein lies our evidence of Light.  It’s everything we need.  Because sometimes what is being shown to us is not the full-lit picture but rather the wonderful glimmers of Light in the darkness that guide us toward the Light.

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty if waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure. (Macrina Wiederkehr, “A Tree Full of Angels”) 

Grace and Peace,


The Illumination of Peace

Scripture Text: Micah 5:2-5a (Advent 4C)

2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5and he shall be the one of peace.

The time in which Micah prophesied was a time of great turmoil and violence.  The Assyrians had already invaded the region, had captured Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom), and had attacked several towns in Judah.  Corruption was at its height among the rulers and the people were reaching a point of despair.  Their expectations more than likely would have been for God to send a great warrior, a ruler who would quash the growing threat and instill a sense of safety for all against their enemies. But, instead, the prophet promises a ruler who will bring peace.

Yeah, I know…we all went there. But keep in mind that the original prophecy and the current-day Jewish interpretation does not associate this promise with the coming of Jesus.  The Old Testament should stand within the context in which it was written.  This was the promise of a king that would bring a time of peace against the Assyrians and for the time thereafter.  But for the Gospel writers, this understanding was illumined through Jesus Christ.  Know that neither is the “right way” or the “wrong way” to understand it.  Either way, God offers hope and promise of new life.  

So, who is this “one of peace”?  I mean, as near as I can tell, the world has never experienced peace.  For as long as history has been written, the earth has rocked on its axis with threats or acts of war and violence and intentional ways to divide us.  Rulers came and went.  Jesus was born.  Great theologians and spiritual thinkers have written of the peaceful time to come.  And peace still seems to be elusive for us.  Could it be that the promise of peace is elusive because we’re waiting for someone else to do something?  Jesus did not bring peace as if it could be manifest with some sort of magic earthly pill. Instead, Jesus showed us a different Way, a radical Way, the Way of Peace. Jesus did not bring peace; Jesus brought the love of peace.  What Jesus showed us was indeed radical.  It was a different Way than the one to which the world was and is accustomed.  This Way of Peace is not merely an absence of war.  It has to do with so much more, a pervasive and radical re-imagining of the way we live in this world. 

Peace cannot be until we respect one another, whether or not we agree.  Peace cannot be until we honor one another’s life, until food and housing and safety is available for all.  Peace cannot be until we realize that this earth in which we live, all of its creatures, all of its resources, and all of its beauty are entrusted to us not for our consumption but for our care.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  The “one of peace” has indeed come but peace itself is up to us as children of God.  Each of us has a part. Our journey toward the Light is a Way of Peace.

Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability.  We can’t just wish for peace.  We have to will it, fight for it, suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God’s most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is.  (William Sloan Coffin) 

Grace and Peace,


Take Joy, Take Light

Scripture Text: Isaiah 12: 2-6 (Advent 3C)

2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

We love this Psalm.  We love to say it.  We love to sing it.  It brings us joy.  It is our affirmation that we trust that God will save us, that we rely on that.  And we wait and watch for those lovely flowing waters of salvation.  The writer’s vision is one of liberation—to the exiles, to the world, to all of Creation, to us.  The destiny is clear.  God is walking us all toward salvation and that is indeed something about which everyone should be joyful. 

But what do we do in the meantime?  What do we do while we are waiting for the promised liberation or the prophesied salvation?  What do we do while we are waiting for our joy to kick in?  So, did we forget?  Did we forget what we believe—that God, the very Godself, the Creator, broke through all time and space and entered this world as a baby to become Emmanuel, God-With-Us?  So go back and re-read this Psalm with that in mind.

Notice that it says “God IS my salvation”—not God will be or God might be or God will come when we do something right.  God IS my salvation.  That’s pretty major.  The God who is in our midst is here to save us—not to see if we’re being good or doing right—just IS.  So, why aren’t we drawing water from those wells?  Those wells are everywhere, flowing with clean sparkling water.  We just have to get a bucket and draw out the water.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe we don’t always have our bucket handy.  Maybe we’re so preoccupied with what we will be and the way things will turn out for us that we have neglected what God has given us to draw out water, to draw out joy, to draw out Light.

God created us in Joy.  God created us in Light.  God created us in water—lifegiving waters.  It’s all for the taking.  We are called to always go toward who we are meant to be, who God created us to be.  But the journey is here, filled with joy and light.  So take your bucket and draw out the waters.  Take joy.  Take Light.  It is yours.  God IS our salvation.  Take that too, for “great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel”—in your midst…

I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got. But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy! Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . . that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it, that is all! . . . And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away. (From a letter by Fra Giovanni, 1513, as quoted in the introduction of “Take Joy”, by Tasha Tudor) 

Grace and Peace,