More To the Story

Light into the world2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Solomon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.  And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,* 8and Asaph* the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,* and Amos* the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.  12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.* (Matthew 1: 2-16)

We Christians sometimes seem to have this notion that Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, Messiah, the Savior of the World just sort of dropped out of the sky one cold winter night in Bethlehem and the world began. But the story of the birth of the Divine One into this world is not the beginning but the next chapter in a story that had been read into the world for volumes of the story before.  Jesus came, God with Us, after eons of the earth straining to see the Light.  He came into centuries upon centuries of waiting journeyers, those who had prepared the way for his coming, not knowing what that would be but knowing that it would be.  Those that came before are not just a prelude to the story but are part of the story itself.

I would guess that most of you sort of skip over these verses in the Gospel from the writer known as Matthew. After all, the names are hard to pronounce and, really, what do they bring to the lovely story that we have compiled from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and a little “tradition” thrown in. But they ARE important, SO important. They are the story of our connection. If the writer had not been of Jewish descent (I think the fact that he (or she!) starts with Abraham is the first of many clues in that Gospel version.), the story might have gone back to the beginning—you know, that “in the beginning” part. It’s all part of the story.

In the beginning, God came into the darkness, into the chaos that was the world and filled it with Light. And it was good. And God went on to fill the illuminated world with Creation—waters that bring and sustain life, soils that would continue to birth life from decay, green and blue foliage reaching into the earth for their nutrients, animals of prey and animals that would become companions to us (including the one that just demanded that I open the window blinds so he can make sure no one is going down his road!), and we humans. And then God continued to walk with the Creation, guiding them through the times that they listened and patiently waiting for their return when they did not. And after generations of both failed and incredibly wonderful journeys, God again came to once again bring light to a world who had allowed part of the light of Creation to go out. And it was good. And this time, God came not as the Light on us but the Light within us, coming as one of us to show us how to be Light.

No, Jesus did not just pop out of nothingness. The story had been in place long before. And we, too, did not just appear. Our lives are not merely individual existences that we have worked so hard to create. Our lives are part of the ongoing story of the world becoming more and more illuminated until the darkness is no more. THIS Advent, remember the story and do not forget the light that you are called to carry forward into the next chapter of the story. Even now, God is bringing Light to a partially dark world. We can only imagine where God will take the incredible story next.

God showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in a palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my minds’ eye and I thought, “What can this be?” An answer came, “It is all that is made.” I marveled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small. And the answer came into my mind, “It lasts and ever shall because God loves it.” And all things have their being through the love of God. In these little things I saw three truths. The first is that God made it. The second is that God loves it. The third is that God looks after it. (Julian of Norwich)

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

 

Coming Out of the Dark

Mystery Forest8For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5: 8-9)

It doesn’t seem right to talk about darkness in the middle of Advent, does it? Maybe we could deal with it during the season of Lent, but not Advent. Advent is the season where we look toward the Light. And yet, much of Advent is about darkness, about the unknown, about the Light that has yet to come. And so we wait, in darkness.

We have a sort of aversion to darkness. We have somewhere along the way convinced ourselves that darkness is bad, “anti-light” if you will. And so we do everything we can to stay away from it. We fill our lives with light—the 75 watt variety. And we push the darkness away. But what else are we pushing away with our artificial light? After all, when you live in a city with street lights and porch lights and motion detector lights, how many stars do you see? Darkness is not bad; darkness is needed to see light. Light on light lets us see things, those things that the light illuminates. And we find ourselves lost in things. But darkness…in darkness we see the Light.

Remember the darkness of our beginnings. Creation began in darkness…and then there was light. Creation is found in darkness. Birth is found in darkness. Hope is found in darkness. Faith is found in darkness. Darkness gives us what we need to begin again. Darkness enables us to see the Light as it breaks into the world. In the darkness, we are able to see the Dawn.

So in this Advent darkness, be content. Embrace the present. Be content to wait—to wait in hope, to wait in faith, to wait for the Light that will soon dawn. Perhaps our places of darkness are where we come to be because they compel us to look for the Light and it is then that we will finally know how to see our way out of the dark.

 Too many of us panic in the dark. We don’t understand that it’s a holy dark and that the idea is to surrender to it and journey through to real light. (Sue Monk Kidd)

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

Be Light

Being LightScripture Text:  John 1:6-9

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

 

John again?  John the Baptist, this brash camel’s hair-wearing, locust-eating, wilderness wandered, is back.  But here we are told that John is but a witness to something bigger, there to point to the Light of Christ that is coming.  But what makes John’s message uncomfortable is that he is always pointing to that which the light illumines.  For the writer of the Gospel According to John, the Logos was the true light bursting forth into humanity.  Rather than an angel announcing the birth of a baby, the writer is using John as a witness to point to that light as well as the purpose of that light.  We love the image of light but sometimes we are uncomfortable with full illumination.  I mean, here’s John, running around like a wild man in the wilderness preaching repentance, calling for us to change, and just being really loud.  Our reaction in this season is to respond with:  “John…shhhh!  You’ll wake the baby.”

 

We don’t really want to hear this during this season.  We’d rather hear the tales of a baby being born, of shepherd’s visits, of angel’s callings.  This is just too hard.  This is just too uncomfortable.  The season is just too dark for such a bright light.  So John sort of gets in the way.  And there we can’t help but look at the light.  But, good grief, it’s so bright!  How in the world can we be prepared for THIS?  Well, don’t you remember how you prepare yourself to look at light?  You prepare yourself to look at light by looking at light.  So this Light of Christ, this radiant, fully-illuminating light, has now begun to peek into our lives in the form of a witness by this wild wilderness man.  But the way that John witnessed (if you read on) was by pointing the light away from himself and toward the Light itself.  John became a reflection of the Light.  (Yeah…talking in circles again!  It’s this light thing!)

 

Maybe that’s it.  We are called to bask in the light and then deflect the light toward the light.  We are called to illumine the Light of Christ for the world.  We are called to be light by reflecting the Light.  And the world will never be the same.  You see, the reason that light is so incredibly uncomfortable is that, contrary to what we’d like to conjure up in our heads, this light is not warm and cozy.  It is not a light that merely adds a little needed ambiance to an already-shadowed room.  This light is BRIGHT, UNCOMFORTABLY BRIGHT.  This is the kind of light that shines into the darkest corners and then bends itself around the turn.  This is the kind of light that shines into the shadows that were trying desperately to remain hidden.  This is the kind of light that shows the hidden shadows for what they are.  Darkness cannot exist with this light.  This light casts no shadows.  This Light changes the way we see, changes the way we live.  This Light exposes the world to itself.

 

It is that for which we’ve been waiting.  We’ve been waiting for something to not just light our way but to illumine the darkness.  The darkness will be no more.  The Light will come.  And we, like John, are called to be witnesses to that light, to shine a light toward it.  We are called to be light, the light that shines toward the Light.  And the world will be forever different.  No longer are the shadows able to exist unnoticed.  You see, this light exposes everything for what it is.  This Light makes us realize that poverty and homelessness, violence and war, greed and injustice are not just things that exist.  This Light shines such a light that they become unacceptable, unimaginable, undone.  This is the Light that calls us to see not just a dream of the way we could be, but the notion that we are called to be nothing less.  Here’s the deal.  The baby is already awake, already basking in the Light of the Eternal.  So, we need to wake up, rub the sleep out of our eyes, and be a reflection of that light.  Be Light.

 

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.  (Rabindranath Tagore)

 

FOR TODAY:  Look for the light.  Then reflect it toward the world.  Be light.  Be the Light.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Seeing in a New Light

Reflexion of a lunar path in water.Scripture Text:  Psalm 85: 8-13

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

 

We’ve talked a lot about waiting and preparation, about opening ourselves to what God holds for us.  For what are we preparing though?  Well, of course, for the coming of God’s Kingdom in its fullness.  But what does that look like.  Today’s psalter is a good depiction–steadfast, unconditional love intersecting with faithfulness, becoming faithfulness; righteousness and peace being so close that they touch, linking and embracing.  The fullness is pervasive–from the ground to the sky.  The land, all of creation, will finally be what it is meant to be and the way, already prepared, will be found to be paved with righteousness.  So how does that fit into today’s world?  In this world filled with heartache and poverty, with the recent race riots exploding throughout our nation, with the fear of war or terrorism all over the globe, and with humanity’s fear of deadly disease as it leaps the oceans’ edges, how do we see love and faithfulness, peace and righteousness.  How do we see that pathway on which God can break through?

 

The truth is, a good part of faith includes a little imagination.  It has to do with letting ourselves look beyond where we are, with learning to see things in a different light. The French Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, is probably best known for his incredible landscapes and works of nature as well as for his paintings of those things that were a normal part of his own life. But the most fascinating part of Monet’s work are those paintings that he did as part of several series representing similar or even the same subjects—his own incredible gardens, poppy fields, a woman with a parasol, and those unusual haystacks.

 

The paintings in this series of haystacks were painted under different light conditions at different times of day. Monet would rise before dawn, paint the first canvas for half an hour, by which time the light had changed. Then he would switch to the second canvas, and so on. The next day and for days and months afterward, he would repeat the process. In each painting, the color of the haystack is different not because it is a different haystack, but because the amount and quality of the light shining on the haystack is different. The subject is the same but the perspective from which it is viewed changes with the light.  Up until this time, color was thought to be an intrinsic property of an object, such as weight or density. In other words, oranges were orange and lemons were yellow, with no variation as to the lens through which they were viewed. But with Monet’s studies in light and how it affects our view of life, that all changed. As Monet once said, “the subject is of secondary importance to me; what I want to reproduce is that which is in between the subject and me.” Monet’s study was one in seeing things differently.  Beyond just painting the subject that was in front of him, he began to paint the light that illumined it.

 

You see, as we walk through the Advent, the light changes.  The dawn is just beginning to break.  Can you see it?  Aren’t things beginning to look a little different?  That’s the whole idea.  Maybe rather than waiting for the glory of God to come, we are called to begin to see the world as it is illumined by the coming light.  God is in our midst.  God’s glory surrounds us.  What would it mean for us to begin to imagine the world bathed in its light?

 

For the enlightened few, the world is always lit. (Scott Russell Sanders)

 

FOR TODAY:  Look toward the light.  See the world differently.  Be light.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli