Here Comes Christmas

I’ll be shocked if there’s snow on the ground in Gulfport this year.  Google tells me that is has and can happen.  Apparently, in 1993 there was enough snow to fashion something that resembled a snowman on the beach!  What a sight.  In 1963 on the brink of 1964, New Year’s Eve saw the crisp white stuff, and in 1899 weather monitors were checking their mercury thermometers as it read 0˚, and 6 inches of snow covered the ground.

So, while it’s theoretically possible and may have a catchy tune, it probably won’t be a “White Christmas.” Still, Christmas comes.  Here, it is heralded by twinkling lights and large bows.  It is greeted with specially crafted meals, and bells in every tone.  We celebrate.

And as we celebrate, we remember.  We reflect on Christmases past and think of friends and family near and far.  We commit to be a little kinder and often find ourselves pulled to give generously as we have received generously.

This is a season filled with reminders of HOPE. We remember that the first Christmas brings forth this hope as the young mother-to-be and her betrothed journey to be counted among God’s people.  In the middle of the journey, without the usual preparation for the birth of a child, they deliver the Christ Child.  The hymn “O little Town of Bethlehem” captures this moment in beautiful succulence, as it proclaims, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

We fasten our hope in this child king.  Some thought that he might be a great military messiah.  Herod feared this so much that he sent out to have the child killed.  And in the turmoil, God made way for the infant, fulfilling the prophecies which God had gifted his people long before Herod came to throne.  The child, followed by turmoil, thought to perhaps be a militaristic messiah, was instead the Prince of PEACE. And so, in this season in which we too mourn the slaughter of innocents, we pray for the reign of the prince of peace to be realized, first in our own lives, and then in all the world.

Our hope in the one who brings peace which passes all understanding is the foundation for our true JOY.  The happiness of festive displays and wrapped goodies will soon give way, but our joy remains.

Our joy remains because God LOVES us, each of us.  That’s why Christmas comes, even when there is no snow, even when we are on a journey, even when it seems as none of the preparations have been made, even if it’s not what we thought it would look like.  Christ comes to reign in our lives and grow in fullness until God’s work is fulfilled in us, and the light of Christ which is the love of Christ shines through.

May all your Christmases be bright.



Our Tilted World

Our Tilted World

We northern hemisphere dwellers are experiencing the effects of our ever so slightly tilted Earth moving into an area of its orbit where the tilt puts us further away from the warmth of the sun’s rays.

This of course means cooler days, but it also means longer nights.  Already, it has begun to get dark quite early in the evening, and the sun comes up a little later in our morning.  Aiden noticed this the last week of October when we left the house to catch the school bus.  He said, “Momma, is it a school day? Because we don’t have school nights.”

This past Sunday, we as a nation will adjusted our technology of time keeping to help us get the most out of this reality.  We reset our clocks so that the sun is more present in the usual working hours of our society.

Some of us got an extra hour during our usual sleep time.  As we do this, we also have a chance to reflect on time, how we mark it, and how we adjust our lives to time and the things that affect it.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes reflects on time.  This short book filled with poetry influenced writers such as Hemingway, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare.  It inspired the artist Peter Seeger to write “Turn, Turn, Turn” which was made popular by the folk rock group “The Byrds,” where in 1965 it topped charts for all genres.  People loved hearing words that affirmed what they had experienced.

Seeger included in his song a majority of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes – especially the list of seemingly opposite things we will experience during our lives. Then as a refrains he uses the Ecclesiastes summary statement, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

So what do we do?  Seeger takes no comment on that beyond, turn, turn, turn. That is, we keep on keeping on. But the author of Ecclesiastes tells his reader that it is God’s gift that we take pleasure in our lives.  He professes that it is our task to take time to enjoy.

I think we do this by marking our moments.  Historically, God’s people gathered either on the first or last day of the week to celebrate together God’s goodness.  We too have this opportunity each week as we worship together each Sunday.  We mark larger occasions with special ceremonies, weddings, birthdays, showers, funerals.  God is present in each of these, and they help us align ourselves with the seasons which God has blessed.

Sometimes though, the night begins to creep into the day.  The time markers we set for ourselves aren’t working as well as they once did.  Maybe we think we should have moved on by now.  We imagine that our grief shouldn’t be this intense this far out.  We think perhaps that we should have our life together more by now.

Our world is a little tilted, and that shows up in moments when we experience God’s warmth and brightness in powerful ways, but sometimes, we feel a bit colder.  In those moments, we gather together. We give thanks that we have community to support us. Then, we put on festivals of lights to remind us that God’s goodness always surrounds us. And, we readjust the clock a little. We give ourselves a bit more leeway to stop trying to accomplish too much before the sun shows up.

May we be thankful for God’s time.




Trick or Treat

October is here. Pumpkins are on display in every store and in many homes with more to come in the following weeks. We might even get some crisp weather soon, and my fridge already contains apple cider (which Aiden keeps accidently requesting as “appetizer.”)

I like October. It’s probably because it heralds the celebration of my birth and cooler weather, but I think it’s also because it is a month in which hospitality seems to be at the forefront of our minds.

This month there will be decorations and parties, get togethers and for many of us more knocks on our doors than we may have combined all year.

As a kid I was fascinated by the concept of Halloween parties. What fun to abandon any self absorbed concept of ourselves, dress up, and enjoy other people around us. I imagine that the festival of booths in Jesus’s day may have been a bit like Halloween. It is still celebrated beginning the 15th day of Tishrei which this year overlaps the Gregorian calendar beginning October 4. Israel shares a very similar latitude with us north of the equator, so the weather in Israel was likely experiencing similar changes to what we have here in Mississippi. While people did not dress up, they did build open air sukkah (type of dwelling exposed to the elements) which they decorated with seasonal produce. They gathered together and celebrated as harvest was upon them.

They celebrated that God had brought them through the wilderness in in dwellings as fragile as the ones in which they now celebrated, and they celebrated that God was still providing in the harvest that they had just gathered. It is in this context that Jesus sat and spoke to those gathered around saying, ““You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15-16).

Jesus would have been surrounded by light peeking through those makeshift dwellings, seeing soft glimmers not unlike the glimmers of Jack o’laterns whose light and toothy smile represent that which drives away the bad.  We are hosts to Christ’s light. May we continue to share it with our world as the best treat.