Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It is the Season of Gladness

I’d like to share with you two selections from authors who speak to us of this holy feast of Christmas that we celebrate this evening.

In her Christmas poem, Amazing Peace, author and poet Maya Angelou offers to us her poem as a gift for people of all faiths and encourages us to celebrate and embrace the promise of hope, peace, and unity during this holy season. I present a small section of this poem. . .
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes and lightning rattles the eaves of our houses. Into  this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters.  Streaming lights of joy,  ringing bells  of hope. We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.  It is the Season of Gladness ~  a halting of hate time.  At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Promise of Peace.

Writer and storyteller, John Shea tells us what Christmas is all about through the eyes of a child.  And so he shares this story: 
“She was five, sure of the facts, and recited them with slow solemnity, convinced every word  was revelation.  She said, ‘They were so poor they had only peanut butter and jelly  sandwiches to eat and they went a long way from home without getting lost.  The lady rode a  donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady.   They had to stay in a stable with  an ox and an ass, but the Three Rich Men found them because a star lighted the roof. 
 Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them.  Then the baby was borned.   And do you know who he was?’  Then her quarter-shaped eyes inflated to silver dollars . . . as  she continued.  ‘The baby was God.’   And she jumped in the air and whirled around . . . which  is the only proper response to the Good News of the Incarnation.”

Yes, it is Christmas time; it is the Glad Season time; a halting of hate time and an awakening of peace time.  It is a time when truces are called, old hostilities are set aside and the night sky is scanned for some sign of a star coming to rest over our homes, -- over our world.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus the Christ; we celebrate the Promise of Peace.  We celebrate this awesome mystery; an incredible, unfathomable, infinite kind of Love that is difficult to wrap our minds around, much less our hearts! 

We, too, need to consider transforming our eyes to silver dollar size and jumping in the air and twirling around because we have heard the Good News!

Our God has truly entered the human condition, a human condition that is not all clean and lovely, warm and welcoming as Christmas cards would have us believe.  As one author reflects,
“Our secular, consumer society has usurped much of the wondrous mystery of it all from under us. Have we not, as well, sanitized the whole scene?  Have we not softened the rough straw with Downy,  sprayed a fragrance to cover the smells of the animals; silenced the cries of Mary in childbirth; tranquilized Joseph in his fear as he heard the first cries of this baby boy?

Jesus came into the world to homeless refugees, into abject poverty, on the outskirts of a brutal empire.  Christmas celebrates not just the birth of a baby meek and mild, but a life of one who was perfect and total Love, perfect and total nonviolence, perfect and total peace.  

Jesus was Word Incarnate whose words took flesh as well.  His words were of compassion, healing, encouragement, and empowerment.  Jesus not only spoke of a God of mercy and forgiveness, but also extended that forgiveness to all whom he encountered. 

Jesus not only spoke of God’s Reign of justice, but also stood in solidarity with the poor and the outcasts.  He not only spoke of a God who longs for our wholeness, but also touched a leper so that his skin would be made clean; he even stooped to straighten the woman bent over by the law.  And to the hungry crowd, he fed the bread of compassion and truth to satiate their emptiness.

Truly the nonviolent Jesus was a presence that disturbed.  He was the thunder in the mountain passes.  Into this climate of fear and apprehension our God entered.  Jesus taught by his way of life - for Jesus was the Word that both stabilized and destabilized; that comforted and discomforted. He was Wonder-Counselor, the Prince of Peace who filled our world with majesty, mystery, and meaning.

A life of peace is both an inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world.  However, we are not to lose heart. “We were made for these times,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  “People everywhere are concerned and deeply bewildered about the state of affairs in our world.  Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once, (she continues) but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.  Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”

Choosing to live a life of peace is a difficult balancing act between the inner work and public work, a high wire trapeze walk that requires calm, patient, step-by-step mindfulness and heartfulness toward a specific purpose, hope, and vision.  

Yes, we are made for these times, and as a people, a church, a nation, a world, we need generous, creative, imaginative people whose zeal can be ignited by the vision of a daring and not quite rational undertaking. 

In our nation of abundance, let us not forget that 16 million children live in poverty and 1.3 million public school students are homeless.  And in comparison with other industrialized nations, we have more high school dropouts, more violent crime among youth, more poverty among the elderly, more medically uninsured citizens, and the widest gap of income between the rich and the poor. 

Unlike the little girl in our initial story, we need to recognize and address the real facts that call us to ponder the scarcities and the inequities of our social system.  Yes, we are made for these times – and we must dare to become imaginative, creative, and generous so as to confront the dark forces that keep our minds and hearts hostage.

Yes, now is the time for hope to be born again in the faces and hearts of our children and where we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as pillars of passion, heralds of hope, and voices with vision, where it will spread around the earth, brightening all things.

Yes, we are made for these times and we are called, invited, chosen, and challenged to not only speak peace but BE peace.

We are made for these times to stretch out and to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.  Together, let us look at our world and speak the word Peace aloud.

Together, let us commit ourselves to listen carefully as it gathers strength. We will hear its sweetness.  It will be loud; louder than bombs.  It will halt all hate time.

Together, let us see, acknowledge, and honor each other, and then ourselves, looking into our hearts with the knowledge that to find peace, we must first find God.

Together we will say without apology or any hesitation:
Peace, my friend; Peace, my sister; Peace, my brother; Peace, my neighbor. Peace to all who are strangers. Peace, to all the least, the last, and the lost.
For at this Holy Moment; at this Holy Instant, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ; it is the Season of Gladness, the Season of Amazing Peace!
(Based on Lk. 2:1-14) Christmas Eve 2014

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