“Yesterday is gone; so is yesterday’s tale. Today, we have a new story to tell.”
Rumi

Even though the sun sets on 2017, the cares and concerns of the past year will continue. Our worries simply do not disappear at the stroke of midnight. But neither do our hopes. Rumi reminds us that, we can, and must, change the narrative. The sun is always rising somewhere in the world. Change is constant. The story evolves. New life is on the horizon.

We are still in the midst of Christmastide. The story of the Christ-child has just begun. Our job is to tell it. In face of all that is evil, hateful, and unjust, we must tell the story of justice, love, and mercy. Tell it from the mountaintops. Tell to the face in the mirror. Tell it to your friends. Tell it to the children. Tell it in the city. Tell it to the wicked. Tell it to the lost. Tell it to church, especially the church. Just tell the story.  Our very future depends on it.

White Rock Sunset
Sunset over White Rock Lake, Dallas, Tx.

 

Advent 2017.1 – Impatient Waiting

False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray. . .be alert. . .I have already told you everything. . .keep awake.
Mark 13:21-37

The powers and principalities of the Earth have cast a dark, ominous presence over this world that, if left unchallenged, will siphon all hope from those who need it most.

The shadows are stalked by false messiahs and prophets who prey upon the fears of the masses, convincing them that only they can save this world from destruction. Or worse, they pacify their audiences by affirming their prejudcies and hatred, and in return the people lay their hands on the deceitful ones, offering unholy blessings.

They create phony wars on one of the holiest of days and make empty, meaningless delcarations like, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.” For they know the problem the  Christ Child poses is a political one. This Gift Bringer promises hope, love, peace, and justice. But not the familiar justice of retribution and punishment. No. This is about God’s justice- Restorative. (re)Distributive. Abundant. God will not be mocked.

God’s Light of Hope shines truth upon those who practice the dark arts of oppression, disregard for basic human rights, dehumanization, greed, and war, dispelling their lies. For Jesus has already told us all we need to know.

The Light of Hope grants the faithful the “impatience to wait for [Christ’s] coming to the bottom of our toes, to the edges of our fingertips” (W. Brueggemann). We are awake, alert, prepared.  We are not idle. Instead, we are mobilized and actively defy those who would bring harm upon our sisters and brothers no matter their place in life. So, we walk toward the Light of Hope, yearning for the promise of the Christ-child. The Gift Bringer. The Messiah.

Advent Preppers

John went into the wilderness proclaiming:
“as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. ’” (Luke 3, Year C, Advent 2)

Advent is the beginning of the Christian liturgical year. It is a time of anticipation and preparation for the coming of the Christ child. So, what does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord? What does it look like? Sound like?

  • Does it look like a stockpile of guns and ammunition?
  • Doe is look like the gift of a weapon, of any kind, under the Christmas tree?
  • Does it look like a group of citizens standing outside a Mosque armed with assault weapons?
  • Does it sound like a preacher calling for the deaths of Muslims?
  • Does it sound like the empty prayers of politicians who stand before the public like whitewashed tombs but do nothing to stop the slaughter of the innocents?
  • Does it sound like speech that is xenophobic, incites fear, and dehumanizes?

No. Those are the actions people who are preparing for violence and death.

Preparing the way for the Christ means, like John the Baptizer, proclaiming the Good News in the wilderness that is our world . . .

            A wilderness that did not come from God
            a jungle that has been caused by innumerable
            human decisions that are 
                        wrong
                        short-sighted
                        selfish
            decisions that have created havoc on the lives of many. . .

           It means proclaiming that  Jesus is going to bring a total difference
          and will only be realized when justice and integrity are victorious.
          Then, and only then, will the whole of human kind will be saved.
                                  “In the Wilderness,” by Joseph G. Donders, adapted.

For the Christian, welcoming the Christ child involves a different kind of preparation. It means being “cut to the bone ” ( Donders) and facing the reality of our world’s current condition. It means humbling ourselves and being open to the possibility of mercy, forgiveness, and peace. 

People will prepare how they will in these times. But we must know the difference  between the kind of preparation that leads to fear and death . . . and the preparation that leads to life.

Advent Conspiracy: It’s that time again.

Somni 451 is a major character in David Mitchell’s novel, Cloud Altas, now a major motion picture. Somni is a fabricant, genomed to be a servant. She lives a futuristic world in which purebloods, or “real” people, are required to spend a certain amount of their income to consume and keep the economy flowing. Given our consumer driven economy this isn’t a far fetched reality. So, I post, once again, this little reminder from Advent Conspiracythat Christmas is so much more than spending money on gifts. Whether you are religious or not I think it’s worth re-imagining the possibilities of the holiday season.

A Different Kind of Christmas

The Christian liturgical year ended appropriately with Matthew 25. In this passage known as the “Judgment of the Nations” Jesus declares the criteria for separating the sheep from the goats. Curiously (or not), they have nothing to do with whom one marries, the music one listens to, the company one keeps, or the dogma one subscribes to. Instead, they have everything to do with how we (collectively) treat the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, the thirsty, and the stranger.

For Christians these words are timely as the Advent and Christmas seasons begin November 27. These are challenging times for the Christian community. I would submit that the words of Matthew 25 gain relevance when the church (collectively) moves to distinguish itself from the consumer orgy that commences the day after Thanksgiving, culturally known as “Black Friday.” This doesn’t mean gift giving must cease.

There is great joy in the act of selecting, giving, and receiving of gifts. Even so, it impossible to deny that the hijacking of Christmas by the consumer mentality has cheapened the gift in the manger. We have purchased unwanted gifts, re-gifted, swapped gifts cards, and, in many cases, increased our debt in the name of what? It certainly isn’t in the name of the Gospel, Christmas, or Christianity. We are called to be something different.

Thankfully, hope has emerged in recent history through alternative gift giving. Fair trade gifts can be purchased through organizations like Ten Thousand Villages or local, fair trade, gift shops like From the Ends of the Earth in Dallas, Texas. I have found the folks at Advent Conspiracy to be particularly inspirational. Committed to building clean water wells, Advent Conspiracy has challenged Christians to view Advent and Christmas as a time to embrace their call to be justice oriented people (their video posted below).

The “holiday season” as it is celebrated in our culture through gift buying, parties and beautiful decor throughout cities everywhere is a wonderful time to celebrate the relationships in our lives. And there’s nothing that says a Christian shouldn’t participate. Yes, engage in the joy of gift exchange. Just don’t buy so many! The Advent/Christmas cycle reminds us that the gift in the manager calls us to a different kind of life. A life that is simpler. A life that celebrates generosity over consumption. A life that engages in acts of justice, love, and compassion.

So, find a local church offering an “Alternative Gift Market.” Host a “Wine to Water” party and help fund a clean water well. Buy a beehive from Heifer International to increase the pollination of the crops in an impoverished village.

Whatever you choose make it a Christmas that embraces the call of the Christ-child to engage this world justly, compassionately and mercifully.

Have a joyful and meaningful season!