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Getting Ready for Christmas

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In the last few days, most people I have run into have asked something like, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”  And most people mean, “Have you gotten all the presents you’re planning to buy?”  “Do you know where you’re going to celebrate?”  “Do you have the food you need?”  Of course none of these is a bad question and I’ve asked each of them myself.  But, I wonder if these are the right questions.  Am I really ready for Christmas?  What would it mean to be ready to celebrate or commemorate the birth of Jesus?

I came across this poem by Mary Oliver and she reminded me of the answer.

Making the House Ready for the Lord

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you.  Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice — it is the season of their
many children.  What shall I do?  And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances — but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do?  And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do?  Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door.  And still I believe you will
come, Lord; you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

May your Christmas be a day filled with simple whispers — “Come in, Come in.”  And may his presence and peace fill your soul, your family, and your home.

Grace and peace,


Sunday Reflections, December 7, 2014

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I woke up this morning with the refrain we sang last night on my tongue:  Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  I have been singing or humming it for several hours now.  I think it’s because it seems like that’s really what our world needs and what I need.  When we pray for peace in a world like ours, this refrain seems like the only thing to say.  When we pray for our leaders, each of whom is human and sinful and broken, this refrain seems like the only thing to sing.  When we pray for people in our country and world who are afraid, in danger, and without hope, this refrain seems like the only answer.  Oh, and when we pray for our own hearts, hearts that surprise us sometimes with the darkness they carry, what more can we utter?  Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

O Come Emmanuel

songs and prayers

I remembered, though, in the midst of my singing this refrain, that our Lord is merciful and has granted, is granting, and will grant us mercy.   In this season of Advent, we remember that Jesus was born ultimately to extend mercy to us and to the world.  Last night when Father Michael Sparough led us through the prayer of imagination, I was moved deeply by his humility, wisdom, and vulnerability, as God used him to remind us of the grace and mercy of Christ.  He walked us through a beautiful practice, helping us imagine what it would be like to be present just after the birth of Jesus, in the cave, near the animals, with Mary and Joseph.  I am sure some of us experienced something we need to journal and process through, some of us nodded off, and some of us felt frustrated by the experience for any number of reasons.  But what grace that this birth happened at all; what mercy that even our imaginations can be surrendered to God for his purposes; what a gift that we get to anticipate with holy expectation the second advent.

This week, let’s keep practicing the prayer of imagination, surrendering our imaginations to God for his purposes, and waiting with expectation.  For me, this is going to be journaling and processing my experience in the prayer last night, reading and using the prayer of imagination through a couple other passages (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:22-35), and soaking in some of the other Advent resources, like the Brilliance’s Advent music.  What might this week look like for you as you practice?

Some resources…

Learning How to Hope, Brian Zahn
The Brilliance, Advent, Vol. 1; Advent, Vol. 2
O Come, Emmanuel Daily Devotional
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.