Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Underside of Christmas: Everyday

"When the Star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the WORK of Christmas begins. To find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to teach the nations, to bring Christ to all, to make music in the heart." Howard Thurman.

The underside of Chirstmas is now before us, everyday: to pray the grace of Christ's music play joyfully in our hearts as we come to deeper intimacy with Him going about his work in the world. Amen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Underside of Christmas

Before the manger we kneel as the minutes of Christmas pass. Since John the Baptist first called us, all those weeks ago, to the turning of our hearts and minds away from all that would separate us from the love and forgiveness born this night, how have we allowed the Holy Spirit work within us so that Jesus is born not only into the world, but also into our hearts and minds and living ....? Let our Christmas prayer be that our hearts and minds are opened to these most precious gifts of Christmas. Amen.

Image: Hand sewn ornament by Mrs. Carl Stanley depicting the church of my childhood, the Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, IL.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent from the Underside: The D Antiphon

¿Dónde está el Rey de los judíos que ha nacido? Porque vimos su estrella en el oriente y hemos venido a adorarle. (Mateo 2:2)

¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos. We are using an interlinear Spanish/English, Nueva Testament/New Testament provided by the Gideons.  
My patient teacher makes me pronounce each word over and over until my pronunciation is correct enough.

¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos. / ¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos. / ¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos. / ¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos. Porque vimos su estrella en el oriente y hemos venido a adorarle.

The D Antiphon?

Around us, there is lunch and improvising decorations, incredible grace and kindness.

¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos.

I am grateful to see the old man in his grey maxi-skirt and dirty kicks. He taught High School mathematics for years before he lost the struggle to quiet the voices in his head with booze and when that stopped working, weed and stronger things. He somehow successfully dodged the draft and outwitted those sent to arrest him by coming north but President Carter’s pardon did not extend to schizophrenia. He is reading the New York Times and eating chocolate cake.

¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos.

Table decorations are being made from a discarded gift bag and silver and red garland from the pre-Christmas sale bin at Walgreens. They will stay in the kitchen, I am told because the weekend office worker spent her entire shift last Sunday hand making ornaments for the little artificial tree in the living room. It would be wrong to detract from her gracious gift by adding to it.

¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos.

 On the ground floor are five parents, four mothers and a father with young children. They travel from church to church every night so that they do not have to sleep outside. During the day, they can stay here. A board, slouch postured young teen watches something on the TV I don’t quite understand. There are no beds or couches. A preschooler girl sleeps hard on the tile floor wrapped in an old comforter, another in a long discarded stroller. There is a beautiful boy, about a second grader, with long wild curly hair telling his father numbers from a book. The women, I’ve been told, have been asking for blankets for the children.

¿Dónde. Está. el Rey. de los. judíos.

When the Spanish lesson and our kitchen decorations are done, I retrieve the bag of blankets I have in the car.

Porque vimos su estrella en el oriente y hemos venido a adorarle.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Underside of Advent: Longest Night

From the Underside of Advent, the Longest Night, sharing prayer, hymn, meditation and Eucharist with Episcopal friends and neighbors, bringing strips cloth, upon which we've written our deepest longings for the frail, vulnerable God who we will welcome soon, laying them upon the empty, waiting manger.  We prepare for Him a place amid the only gifts we possess this night, or any other, our own sufferings and trials. They must suffice.

The bread, His body, is broken. The wine, His blood, is poured. His frailty and suffering, His vulnerability and trials are before us; they are for ours, if only we bring them. He is with us this long night, real, risen among us, in the bread and wine, in the Word, in our offering poor gifts, in the gathering of faithful, hopeful hearts gone now home each their own way into the cold and deep darkness our way perhaps a little better prepared to welcome the One who is to come.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent from the Underside: "Mary and the Midwives"

Advent 2011
from the Feminism and Religion blog

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Romans 8:22 (NIV)

Ancestral midwives kneel in shadows

bringing aid and comfort
witness giving
to the pains and crying out and pushing,

...prepare the way,

For birthing
in a gushing
mess with cries of gratitude and joy,

As water holy turned
to blood in breaking open paths and sacks
that spill out life
and milk and bread
from deepest springs of hope ferocious.

Beyond the burning ropes
and rapes
and silence, neglect and jailings all of them passed over
stories buried
never heard of more nor seen nor named for eons
but now we care and picture them and her with them and us.

And tell how even Sister-Mother-Midwife Allah
gave a tree bent down to shake
to give her fruit
and water in a rivulet
to bathe her tears and terrors.

And now we know that tales of her alone with no one near
are told from fear of what might be
with women’s arms around her.

To this very day they warn “You dare not, Women,
think of that. She’s not like you for were she that

God would never come through you.”

But sister, mother, holy one, around you waiting now as then
we sisters, mothers, holy ones are here with you to aid and comfort
wait with you and witness to
the work and spirit in you ready here and now is God.

And when we breath with you and help you with the birth
we bring it all
to life among us
all a’groaning to be saved and free
and all in all, Good Women,
in you, with you, for you all
in God’s good healing time.


Featured image: "Mary and the Midwives." " by artist Janet McKenzie. commissioned by Barbara Marian.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent from the Underside: 3rd Sunday in Advent, Longing for Light

The land in deep darkness. There seems none among us not seeking Light with at least some small sense of desperation.  With horaó, inward spiritual perception, the ancient Magi followed the light mile after mile, through untold nights of deep darkness to the Light which shines in the deep darkness which the darkness cannot overcome.  From this dark underside of Advent may we all glimpse the Light.  

Advent from the Underside: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent

The only words, "I'm sorry." The only thing shared grief in silence, "so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. " (2 Corinthians 1:4b)

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence, 
and with fear and trembling stand;”

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent from the Underside: Saturday before the 3rd Sunday in Advent

“Sin pan.” “El ruido.” My patient teacher, who does not do art, articulates carefully and slowly. I write in Spanish and in English in blue paint upon the news print sheet employed to make clean up go faster. And upon careful questioning, he tells of his child’s long desert journey with his father and the coyote towards the promise of a better life.  

German constriction paper Christmas Bells remembered from a 5th grade teacher. The grateful story of a  6th grade teacher who could see the considerable gifts of intellect and empathy in the shy, quiet girl; the same teacher who struggled to maintain order with the active, talkative boys. Hot dogs and diet coke along the third baseline at Wrigley.

A mixed-media Santa with a white glitter nose and matching left thumb sliding down a pink and purple crayon chimney carrying in his acrylic paint sack a purple teddy bear.

“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.” (Zephaniah 3:14-20)

Advent fragments gathered the Saturday before the 3rd Sunday in Advent:   Advent from the Underside. 

Advent from the Underside 1

A rosary ? Why, yes. Despite my deep Protestant roots, literally centuries deep, decades of chaplain training have made certain I always have a few in the glove box in the car. 

What exactly does a Menorah look like? Let me google it on my phone and we can look at a picture together.... Half an hour or so and several sheets of construction paper later- an almost perfect representation if the Wikipedia pic. 

The hope of divine compassion real in human life. Light overcoming darkness. The comfort of familiar ritual- centuries proved. Human suffering knows no bounds, cares not for doctrine or belief. It seeks only the blessing of relief, the strength beyond strength of hope amid overwhelming grief, suffering and unrelenting pain. 

At a shelter for the homeless, unmedicated mentally ill: Advent from the underside. Come Emmanuel, come soon.