December 24, 2006

God With Us

Christmas Eve 2006

The wait is over.
It is here.
No more time left for shopping or cooking or wrapping presents.

The wait is over.
It is here.
No more counting down or rushing around, at least not right now.

The wait is over.
The time is now.
It is the eve of Christ’s birth.

And we gather together to hear and watch the story unfold –
a story begun a long, long time ago,
one of the stories of all time
the story of a tiny babe born to Mary and Joseph,
a tiny babe that was born for us, for all of us.

And it’s a good story … one of the best;
because it contains miraculous, scandalous good news for us all.

So, we rejoice and we draw near to the One who drew near to us as God-with-us.

We join with the innkeeper and the animals,
the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men
and we gaze at the newborn baby
who lies in a manger.

We imagine becoming part of the Christmas story
(and if we are a child we do don a costume and become part of it)
because we want to be there
when the good news arrives!
when God arrives!

So we come:

Perhaps you come like the innkeeper,
overwhelmed with relatives and family, friends and even strangers at your door;
overwhelmed with the idea of having to find room for even one more;
overwhelmed with the memories of Christmases past;
overwhelmed with having to just get through;
overwhelmed and exhausted from running around.

Perhaps you are like the animals,
watching this thing unfold before your very eyes;
watching others invade your space and interrupt your life;
watching this new thing that has never happened before;
watching from the sidelines as you attempt to go about your normal life;
watching and unsure about the mystery of it all.

Or perhaps you come like the angels,
proclaiming joy from every mountaintop;
proclaiming good news for all people;
proclaiming a message that causes people to leave what they are doing and go and see;
proclaiming glory and peace and praise to the Almighty God in booming voices;
proclaiming and appearing to all those who need to know.

Perhaps you come like the shepherds,
surprised by a night shift interruption;
surprised that a Savior would come into the world in the midst of a stable and animals;
surprised that one birth would make all the difference in the world;
surprised that you have been included in this holiest of nights;
surprised and intrigued by an announcement that something amazing has happened.

Or, perhaps you come like the wise men,
following something that has led you to this place tonight;
following the worn path of a familiar journey;
following with others because it’s something you cannot do alone;
following with gifts and your greatest treasures to offer;
following and trusting in something beyond yourself.

Regardless of how you approach the manger tonight, come!
Come because
God is here;
God is with us as Emmanuel;
God is taking on flesh and bone;
because God is love and God is present.

God is with those who come overwhelmed and exhausted;
God is with those who watch from a distance;
God is with those who cannot contain their joy, but proclaim it for all to hear;
God is with those who come shocked and surprised;
And God is with those who follow and trust.

For Jesus Christ, Emmanuel,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

You see …
God chose to be with us,
utterly vulnerable as a baby;
completely identifying with pain and suffering;
fully human and fully divine.
God chose to be for us
in the form of a babe
born one night long ago
as a demonstration of unconditional Love.

And God chooses to be with us still,
God with those who have little food
and God with those who have an abundance;
God with those who have no family or friends
and God with those who are surrounded by loved ones;
God with those who are poor and possess little
and God with those who are rich and have plenty;
God with those who are counted among the low and forgotten;
and God with those who are well-known by all.

God chooses to be just such a God
that would dwell in the midst of
the innkeeper and the animals,
the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men.

God chooses to be just such a God
that would dwell in the world still today;
God with you,
God with me,
God with all of us tonight.

But not just tonight – always.
Because a birth in a cave leads to a death on a hill and a throne in heaven.
Because all of it stems from Love – great love.
Love that would not leave a world in darkness;
but would send a tiny babe right into the middle of it all as the true Light for all.

For God is truly with us as the Light of the world.

Thanks be to God for this gift. Amen.

December 22, 2006

This Week I've ...

Cared for the 50 poinsettias in the sanctuary
Packed to fly to Michigan for Christmas vacation
Packed to move houses after vacation
Made angel, shepherd, king, Mary and Joseph costumes for the children’s pageant Christmas Eve
Wrote a Christmas Eve meditation
Did a million other things that I can't seem to remember
And worked way too many hours

December 18, 2006

Whose line is it anyways?

and what are you doing crossing it …

I’ve been thinking about lines and boundaries and appropriateness lately. These thoughts have probably been spurred by some of the following occurrences:

  • “You better watch out because you’re just a lump of sugar. Someone might come along and bake you right into a cake and eat you up.” ~ 93 year old male congregation member
  • whistles sound in the sanctuary as I walk by as I am preparing for the worship service ~ male choir member
  • “Your legs look great in that skirt” ~ 90s male congregation member
So, I’m wondering how I should respond to such comments? They’re inappropriate and often make me feel uncomfortable. But what do I do? Learn to deal with it ... walk away ... I'm not sure.

December 13, 2006

Names/Titles I Have Been Called

The Minister's Helper - an elderly woman in a nursing home introducing me to the nursing staff

Secretary - an elderly woman with Alzheimer's

Pastor's Wife - a congregation member I met for the first time yesterday

Rev. Zeig (I'm not ordained yet) - the chaplain at the local hospital

I think "minister's helper" was my favorite one ... made me feel like one of Santa's elves ... Oh well, explaining an 11 month full-time internship gets complicated, especially to elderly folk that aren't entirely with it.

I'm sure the women at the senior citizen condo community I'm living in are also talking about me; yesterday they were standing around and gossiping about me as I unloaded groceries from my car. I smiled and waved, but they just continued to stare and chat among themselves. Though there are days when I am bored, my life as a whole is not boring.

December 09, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like ...


At least that's what it feels like to me as I sit in my living room and look out the window to see green grass, trees full of leaves, and bushes with new blooms. This Florida weather is messing with my internal clock.

I have a hard time remembering it's December. December used to mean bundling up with coat, hat, scarf and mittens to brave the Michigan cold and snow. And even though I've spent the last two years in Georgia, at least there it got colder. And there was the great ice storm of January 2005. That day we even went "sledding" down the ice covered hills on campus.

So this warm 70s and even 80s weather in Florida is just not cutting it for me in December. And I've had to create a December feeling inside my house. I keep the condo cool (there's no need for heat anyways) so I can wear flannel pajamas with penguins at night. I play Christmas CDs and close the blinds so I don't see all the greenness outside. And I bake ... and I bake ... and I bake.

And now it's beginning to feel a little like December.