joy14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The Lord, your God, is in your midst. (Zephaniah 3: 14-17a)

This past Sunday, Gaudete Sunday (“Rejoice”), our third candle on the Advent wreath was the candle of joy.  I think that joy is hard for many of us to get our head around.  We Western Christians spend a lot of time pursuing happiness.  Our culture promises happiness if we will only…if we will only buy this or wear this or eat this or do this or go here or believe this way.  Many of our churches promise that God will shower us in happiness and prosperity if we will only…if we will only pray this way and do this and believe this and be this.  But happiness is elusive.  Happiness is fleeting.  Happiness is temporary.  But joy…God desires not that we be happy but that we have joy.  Joy is deep and abiding.  Joy overcomes.  Joy overpowers.  Joy can exist in the midst of the darkness—perhaps even break through the darkness given the chance.  Joy is found not in ourselves but beyond ourselves.  Joy is not something we pursue; joy is there for us already.

In this Advent season, we look for the signs that we so desperately want to see that will confirm God’s Presence.  But the signs are everywhere.  Rejoice!  Perhaps we are so busy trying to make our lives work out the way we want them to work out, to work out in the way that we think will bring us the most happiness, we are missing what is right in front of us.  As we near that holiest of nights, as we prepare to light our candles and sign Silent Night, and, if even for one moment, to feel the joy again, we need to practice by opening our eyes to God who, even now, is in our midst.

We have ten more days.  (Aaaaaggghhh!)  OK, let’s try again.  We have ten more days.  Rejoice!  The true joy of Christmas is that no matter what the darkness holds, no matter how all-encompassing it feels, no matter how many times our journey seems to lead us into quicksand, we are reminded that God comes into the tiniest of places and to the lowliest of spaces and claims them.  God claims us.  God claims you.  How can you NOT rejoice?  The celebration of Christmas reminds us that even though happiness is sometimes elusive, the joy of God-with-us settles into our soul and our minds and even our bones and stays.  God does not just come once a year in that magical candle-lighting, Silent Night-moment.  The Lord, your God, is in your midst.  The darkness may still surround you, but Joy has come and claimed a home.  Rejoice!  Gaudete!

The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything. (Julian of Norwich)

FOR TODAY:  Look around.  God is in your midst.  How can you NOT rejoice?

Grace and Peace,


Joy to the World!


1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)


Joy to the World , the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.

(Isaac Watts, 1719)


The day has dawned!  Sometime in the night, God tiptoed into the world and made a home.  And the world will never be the same again.  Most of us barely noticed.  Most of the world woke this morning and went on with their lives.  That’s OK.  If God had wanted fanfare, then I supposed God would have come with a bit more flourish and drama, perhaps calling ahead or something.  But instead, God enters as one of us, quietly slipping the Divine into our midst with as little noise as possible.  (Although I suppose it’s hard to enter quietly with a multitude of angels in tow!)


When Isaac Watts first wrote the familiar Christmas carol “Joy to the World”, he didn’t mean for it to be a carol at all.  The words were originally written to celebrate the triumphant second coming of Christ rather than the birth that we celebrate this morning.  I think that’s the reason it works, though.  God’s coming into the world is not merely something that happened more than 2,000 years ago.  Today is not the celebration of the anniversary of Jesus’ birth as if it is some sort of historic relic that we hold; rather, today–THIS day–IS the coming of God into our midst, the realization that even now, Heaven is spilling into our lives, making a home, and Heaven and Nature are singing together.


God comes quietly, tiptoeing into our lives each and every day of our existence.  A new Light has dawned and every day is Christmas!  So when the Holy and Sacred dawn in our life, are we called to join in loud acclaim, or are we called to silently open our our lives and let the Divine spill in?  With all respect to Mr. Watts, I’m not a big watcher of the “Second Coming” of Christ.  I don’t know what that looks like and the Scriptures are not that specific about it.  I think the point of Christmas is that the Lord is come (as in already)!  God came quietly into our world as the Christ child more than 2,000 years ago.  It was the First Day of the new dawn.  And the Light has been rising each every day since.  And for every heart that quietly opens and makes room for God to tiptoe in and make a home, the Light becomes brighter.  Rather than waiting for God’s coming, let us see that God is here.  Let us see that every day is Christmas.  (And, along the same lines, perhaps every day is the triumphant coming for which we are looking until God’s Kingdom and the recreation of all is complete!)  Joy to the World!  The Lord is come!


The Lord is come!  Let us now go and see this thing that has taken place!


The Christmas spirit is that hope which tenaciously clings to the hearts of the faithful and announces in the face of any Herod the world can produce and all the inn doors slammed in our faces and all the dark nights of our souls, that with God all things still are possible, that even now unto us a Child is born! (Ann Weems)

Merry Christmas!



Thank you for joining me this season as we prepared ourselves for this glorious day!  Now it’s time for me to take a little break!  I’ll be back every day during Lent (which is incredibly soon this year!) and perhaps I can get my act together to post some other posts in the meantime!  Have a joyous Christmas! (Because THAT season has just begun!)   And keep dancing to God!

Grace and Peace,



O Holy Night


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2: 1-14, King James Version)


Mary and Joseph have arrived.  The crowds are almost too much to take, pushing and crushing as the couple makes their way through them.  Mary doesn’t feel well.  She really needs to just lie down and rest.  And when you don’t feel well, the last place you want to be is somewhere that is not home, somewhere foreign, somewhere so crowded, so unwelcoming.  They need to hurry.  There is not too much time left.


They stop at a small inn up on the hill overlooking the shepherds’ pastures down below.  Joseph leaves Mary for a moment and goes to make arrangements for a place to stay.  But when he returns, his face looks frustrated, almost in tears.  He tells Mary that the inn is full.  In fact, the whole town is full.  There is no place to stay.  There is no room.  But he tells Mary that the innkeeper has given them permission to at least go into the stableroom to keep warm.  He’s freshening the hay now.  He actually was very nice and was trying his best to make them comfortable.


So Mary and Joseph entered the stableroom and, surrounded by animals, tried to get some rest.   They could still hear the crowded city outside.  They could hear the Roman guards yelling as they tried to control the crowds.  It made the place feel every more foreign, even more foreboding.  But directly overhead, was the brightest star they had ever seen.  It was as if the tiny little stable was being bathed in light.  So Mary laid down and closed her eyes.  She knew that the time was almost here.  She knew that the baby was coming into the world.


And on this night of nights, into a cold, dirty stable in a small town filled with yelling and pushing crowds, into a place occupied by soldiers, into a place that did not feel like home, into a world that had no room, God comes.  The door to the Divine swings open and God and all of heaven burst into our little world, flooding it with Light and Life.  And yet, the child in the manger bathed in light, the very Incarnation of the Divine, Emmanuel, God With Us, the Messiah, is, still, one of us.  God takes the form of one of us–just an ordinary human–a human like you and me–to show us what it means to be one of us, to be human, to be made in the image of God.


God comes into a world that is unprepared for God, that has no room for God.  God comes into places that are unclean, unworthy, unacceptable for us, much less for the Divine.  God comes into places that most of us would not go, out of fear of the other, out of fear of the unknown, out of fear of the darkness. And there God makes a home.  The Divine begins to pour into the world and with it a vision of the world pouring into the Divine.  This night, though, is not the pinnacle of our lives but, rather, the beginning of a new chapter.  God comes, bathed in Light, in the humblest of disguises imaginable, into the lowliest of places we know, into the darkest night of the soul, that we might finally know that all of the world is of God, all of the world is bathed in the Divine.  God comes so that we might finally see life as we are called to see it and live life as we are called to live it, filled with mercy and compassion and awareness of our connectedness to all the world.  God comes so that we might finally be human, so that we might finally make room.


Perhaps the world will never be completely ready for God.  If God waited for us to be completely prepared, God would never come at all.  But this God doesn’t need our preparation. This God doesn’t need to come into a place that is cleaned up and sanitized for God.  Instead, God comes when and where God comes.  God comes into godforsakenness, into a world that is occupied by foreignness, where the need for God is the greatest, into a world that cries out for justice and peace, and there God makes a home.  God comes into the darkness and bathes it in light.


The time is here.  In this moment, the door to the Divine swings open and God and all of heaven are now bursting into the world.  If you stop and listen, just for a moment, you can hear the harps eternal in the distance as they approach our lives.  Can’t you feel it?  Doors opening, light flooding in, the earth filled with a new vision of hope and peace.  Maybe, just maybe, tonight will be different.  Maybe this is the night that the world chooses peace and justice and love.  Maybe this is the night that the world takes joy. Maybe this is the night when the world realizes that it is already filled with the Divine.  Maybe this is the night when we become human.  Maybe this is the night that we make room.


It gets darker and darker…and then Jesus is born. (Ann Lamott)


Merry Christmas!



Drawing Near

Advent 13A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

Tis the season! Do you believe it? It’s here—the turkey leftovers are in the refrigerator, the glass pumpkins are being packed away, and now we begin to drag out the Christmas decorations and enter into the mad scramble to get the perfect gifts before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Extended Black Friday, and the Last Minute Tuesday Sale that ends at 12:05 where you can still ship your Christmas gifts for a mere $29.99 sales are gone.

Sad, really…I mean, intellectually, we know that this is not what Advent is, It’s the time of preparation, rather than decorating. It’s the time of self-reflection rather than gift-buying. It’s the time of looking for the coming of Christ rather than planning the perfect Christmas celebration. It’s a hard line. We want so badly to sing Christmas carols and buy presents and get them all wrapped so that we can enjoy our Christmas Eve and we forget that Christmas isn’t really here yet. What?!? (Because you see,, Target, Macy’s, and their myriad of brother and sister stores do not, as opposed to what it appears, tell us when Christmas comes.)

Christmas comes when it comes. Christ comes when Christ comes. God comes, well, really, all the time. God has drawn near. God is waiting for us to do the same. God is waiting for us to draw near to God. Have you ever thought that in our scramble to prepare for Christmas, we have missed the notion that God is here, that God calls us to draw near to God rather than vice versa? So what does it mean to “prepare the way”? After all, good grief, I’m dragging out all those decorations! The neighborhood Christmas lights are beginning to appear. And I’ve got a party planned for two weeks from today. (TWO WEEKS???? ARE YOU KIDDING???) Prepare the way of the Lord…

What if this Advent in the midst of decorations and presents and flurries of activities for which we are not ready, we prepared the way of the Lord? What if all the groceries you buy included an offering to the food bank nearest you? What if every dollar you spent on gifts was matched in a donation to a clothing bank or something like that? And what if rather than spending more money on decorations other than what you already own, you made a donation to the nearest homeless shelter? (I mean, do you NEED that last poinsettia or centerpiece?) What if this first candle you light is the beginning of you preparing the Way of the Lord?

God will come when God will come. But we are called to prepare the Way. What if the Way is already there, laid out for us to follow and this Advent is the time that we are called to follow it, the time to draw near?

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ. (Thomas Merton)


Star over BethlehemScripture Passage for Reflection:  John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The day has dawned.  The Light has flooded in illuminating everything in its path.  It happened before long ago.  Remember…remember back to the beginning when with a Word, God spoke everything into being.  With just a Word, what was dark and without form became waters that parted revealing a new earth.  And then God called Light and Light came, not to push out the darkness but to illuminate its meaning and the two would become forever entwined like twins that know each other’s thoughts.  And then God separated the waters and made sky and then gathered them all together to raise a new land.  God filled the earth with plants and streams and crawling creatures and swimming serpents and flying fantastical feather beings and animals that would walk on four legs, animals that would push us to our wildest limits of fear and trepidations and others that we would tame and love and be loved by in return.  God made the sun and the moon and the stars and gave us time and space and ways to measure both.  And then with yet another Word God spoke us into being and gave us life.  And God then seemed to fall silent if only for awhile, with a faint vision of what the future would hold.  And God proclaimed it good.

And now from the silence, God speaks again as the Word made Flesh.  Once again time and space part and God beckons Light forward.  But this time rather than creating a separate world, God pours the Divine into Creation.  This time rather than speaking water and sky and creatures into being, God speaks the very Godself into earth.  This day all of earth is new again, recreated from the inside out this time.  God is here, God in our midst, Emmanuel.  And God proclaimed it good.

On this day, all power and prestige and prepared plans are laid at the feet of a baby.  God has spoken yet again with a Word that was there even in the beginning, but a Word that God was saving for this moment in time.  God speaks and shepherds hear, drawn to the child.  God speaks and Gentiles from the east begin their journey to lay their gifts at the feet of the Christ.  God speaks this day and each of us must listen and follow.  Creation was not missing anything before.  It was good.  It was the way it was supposed to be.  But through the years, we forgot how to see, forgot how to listen, and started worshipping a silent God.  But God is never silent.  If we see, if we hear, God is always speaking.  God came, Emmanuel, God With Us, that we might finally hear the Word, the Word, this time, made flesh.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Grace and Peace,


A little programming news…Thank you for joining me on this daily Advent journey.  Now I’m going to rest for a little while.  I’ll write more often starting in Epiphany.  I’ll try for once or twice a week.  Then join me in Lent and we’ll do our daily journey together again!  In the meantime, keep “dancing to God”!  Shelli