Bearing the Light

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Sometimes what is most profound is in the details.

A beautiful Advent worship had been planned. A young girl, beloved by our congregation, with severe physical disabilities was invited to light the Advent candle. As she rolled to the front of our circle in her wheel chair, Gail (our pastor) realized she would not be able to bend to the table where the candles were displayed.

Gail lifted two candles from the Advent cluster, one already lit and one waiting for flame. Handing the unlit candle to the young girl, she held the other one in her own hand, catching hot wax as it dripped down the side. Arms reached toward one another as one light became two.

The service continued, but as Gail sat back down beside me, I saw the wax already cooling on her fingertips. This sight became to me a symbol of the presence I also felt– God with us.  I deeply admired Gail’s compassionate leadership, her impulse for inclusion, her sacrificial act to bear light for and with another.

Bearing light is not easy. It may result in hot wax on your fingertips, or other forms of discomfort and inconvenience as we make a way for the peaceable kin-dom to flourish among us. Being a witness to this light-bearing restored hope in me, and a renewed conviction about the light I am called to bear in places darkened by fear or despair.

However we hold the light and in whatever place, what was clear to me in that moment was the incomprehensible width of invitation. It is a light for all people, within all people, carried by each one. As we move toward Christmas, may we reach toward flame and heat held by others brave enough to guide the way, that one light may become many.

The Hope of Christmas at the Door

By David R. Brock

A young woman is talking with her family on the phone about how much she wishes they could be together at Christmas, how sorry she is that they will be apart. Her mother asks if she has received her gifts. She says, ‘not yet.’ Her mother asks her if she has looked outside. She goes to the door and opens it to find mom and dad and brothers and sisters all there warmly bundled against the cold and the snow, arms filled with gifts and her mom holding a cell phone. Together as family. A surprise at Christmas. What else could she hope for?

It’s a little too good to be true, I know, but a commercial like that gets us, doesn’t it? The prospect of being alone, distant from the ones who matter most, during the holidays, then totally unexpected, too good to be true, we open the door and all we have been longing for is there before our eyes—the gifts, the family, the fresh fallen snow. The house is too clean; too Martha Stewart. The girl too beautiful and thin. The family too Ozzie and Harriet. The weather too Christmas perfect, the cell phone too clear, and the music a little too bright, but it tugs at something, this sense of yearning and longing for connection, for community, for love, for Shalom. A little too Currier and Ives or Thomas Kincaid, but it feels good and right and it, as those cunning advertisers know, moves us. It is, I’ll risk saying, a secular expression of our longing for the sacred. The utter joy of the longed for, but unexpected gift. The pony in the barn. The shiny bicycle on the porch. The diamond. The doll that cries and the joy of the parent who sees their child’s eyes open wide and sparkle and shine with wonder. The totally unexpected, too good to be true is suddenly surprisingly reality and the joy and hope of Christmas is captured in the opening of a door.

Spiritual Practice: Imagine a door in your soul opening to reveal the “unexpected, too good to be true”, surprising reality of the sacred in your life, in the world. What would be revealed as you discover your deepest longings this Advent season?

Christ Brings Peace

by David R. Brock

A sister in Christ came to my office last week . . . longing for peace. Her mate of many years died a year ago. By the first anniversary of his death she anticipated some healing, a returning flicker of hope. But she felt empty. The only interruption in a long silence was an unbidden whisper of her own unanswered questions: “Why, God? What meaning or purpose now? Can I trust you? Are you there, God?”

Yesterday I was reading psalms of praise and found myself asking similar questions. I couldn’t help it: “Do you really make justice and praise spring up before all the nations, God? Are you really the One who keeps faith forever? Justice for the oppressed? Food for the hungry? The captives set free? Sight for the blind? Protection for strangers, fatherless, and widows? Thwarting the wicked and establishing peace? Really?”

“Look at your creation! Talons and piercing claw, fang and crushing jaw; life robbed by stealth on silent wings; deceiving beauty that lures to the snare; agonizing death rattle of the innocent slain . . . And we haven’t yet arrived at the ‘little lower than the angels’ creature called human! Such capacity for peacemaking and creativity; such a legacy of violence and destruction, your humans, Creator, among whom ‘hate is strong and mocks the song / of peace on earth . . . .’”

I drank coffee and read the psalter in the pre-dawn darkness yesterday. Then, with a fresh cup to warm my hands and throat, sat lakeside to watch first light paint a turquoise sky and tinge gray mist to crimson as it lifted from the water. An unplanned prayer of praise, “Wow!” escaped into the morning. I couldn’t help it!

“This morning I have had the God-experience for which I have yearned so long,” says W. Paul Jones in A Table in the Desert. “I know what it means to name the Name . . . . Is God present? Everywhere, enormous in breadth, expansive in depth, and beyond us all in imagination and memory. God is the emerging consciousness which darts in and out, through and for, behind and in front, to be encountered . . . . [251-252]

In the afternoon I watched Monarchs fluttering by under that same cloudless sky. Migrating, it seemed, on a fall-of-the-year pilgrimage toward home. I felt like I was home. I couldn’t help it! And I remembered the home about which G. K. Chesterton writes in “The House of Christmas”:

To an open house in the evening
Home shall [people] come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all [people] are at home.

Jones says that a common heresy among Christians is to think of Christmas as a once-and-for-all event. We try to limit God to entering human history for thirty-three years then returning to the realm “above.” We then struggle with how a miracle that happened two thousand years ago can transform our lives and world now. Christmas is not primarily about a remembrance of things past. We are not condemned to look backward, trying to give new life or add frills to an old story. The Christian God is the One who was and is and promises forever and always to be Emmanuel, God with us. The incarnation is what God does throughout time and space—in all dimensions of the cosmos and all moments of history. [Facets of Faith, pp. 26-27]

Today, carrying all my unanswered questions, along with those of a sister who cannot feel or hope in her season of grief, I stop at 1:00 p.m. to pray the prayer of peace with Community of Christ around the world. “Christ, bring peace,” I plead.

And today, at the prayer for peace, the Daystar shines into my darkness. I look up, see, know, and know I do not know. “Christ brings peace,” I proclaim:

It is you, Jesus, born of Mary, who grants us
to say “forgive me, please,” to our families.
You teach us to pronounce “healing”
in hospital rooms, to plead “reconcile”
in our places of work, to proclaim “justice”
when we call on government representatives.
And you, Christ, in the dark of our own
weary nights, whisper in us, “Shalom.”

God, Eternal Word made flesh,
speak the language of peace
stanza by stanza into all your creation
this Christmas, and always, we pray,
in Jesus’ name.

Spiritual Practice: Pause today to pray for peace as we anticipate the One who is already here and always coming.

Community of Christ Daily Prayer for Peace: http://www.cofchrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace