Christ Comes

by Shandra Newcom

It’s been a rough month for people I love. A few dear friends have passed away, many have been sick. The news I watch lists names of the dead, people who had lives stolen from them due to violence. We are living in a confusing time.

And it is the season of Advent.

From death will come birth.

How do we make this transition? How do we move from death to life? What does the Christ-child say to us to remind us that we are called to both honor and love those who have gone and honor and love those who are here?

Birth to death to rebirth. We experience the cycle of life.

It is the gift of Christ – this living in the place of “and”. We are sad and joy-filled. We grieve and we celebrate the birth of the one who comes.

And here’s how we know the time for Christ has come. Our bodies open to the message of peace. We mourn what we have lost, yes, but we move toward light – taking with us the memories and love of all who have gone before. We feel, within us, a breaking of walls and shattering of assumptions and we move, breathing the breath of life, toward the stable.

It will only be fear that holds us back. Fear that we aren’t ready, that we aren’t respecting our loved ones who have journeyed to God if we celebrate the birth to come, fear that we won’t understand or know the time or feel the peace. Sometimes, the very thing we are unprepared for is the very thing we need.

But we have been preparing. We have prepared our hearts for the coming of this baby – this child who will point us toward life and be present with us even to the end. We have grieved, deeply, and we have shed innumerable tears. And we have listened to the stories and we have sung the songs and we have lit the candles and we have created a space for holiness in our homes and in our lives. We now trust those preparations.

The opening of our bodies toward peace will give us and all the world an opening for Jesus. He will come into our hearts, stir us up, call us to justice, and heal us in our brokenness. He will be the way that we walk, slowly, sometimes in pain, the pain that comes from living. And he will lead us to joy, the joy that comes when we are together in community.

How will we welcome him? Will we shy away from the drama of the story of the birth? Mangers and shepherds and angels and stars tell quite the tale. And if we look toward the life we are welcoming we know that Jesus, too, felt pain. He lost friends. Jesus knew what it was to mourn. He understood how powerful presence was. He brought healing to brokenness. He also brought light to this dark, closed world.

He brings this light today. We are prepared. We continue preparing. We will wait for the day, which is coming soon. We will open our hearts and bodies to the peace of the baby. We will feel our sadness fully and live our joy completely.

We will wish one another a Merry Christmas. And we will understand that in the power of those words and this moment of time, Christ comes to the world and we, the world, rejoice.

Spiritual Practice: Christ comes into the realities of our lives. What are those realities in your life, in the world? How can you feel your sadness fully and joy completely this Advent season as you prepare a space to welcome this great light?

DAPPLED PATH

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Refrain from posting or commenting on all social media for the day. Instead, use that time to listen to what you are hearing from others and offer prayers on their behalf.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

As we head into the heart of Holy Week, we come face to face with grief and despair, longing for “the possibility of resurrection.” I am grateful for today’s post, a poem written by Susan Oxley. Susan serves Community of Christ as Apostle for Canada and Australia.

May you be attentive this day to those who stand “stunned in the valley” and share the hope of the path that leads to life. If it is you who stands stunned in the valley, may these words bring the hope you seek.

Dappled Path
By Susan Oxley

There is a dappled path from the Valley of the Shadow into life.
Those who walk the path move from joy to tears, from laughter to silent grief
As the foliage of memory parts to let life shine through.
Dark and light lay in erratic bands across untidy days.
I am surprised into dancing, one fleeting moment of unbridled motion
Affirming the existence of joy, the possibility of resurrection,
Before shadows close again in pain. But the moment quietly echoes on.
The light illumines memories, and they drift like leaves through autumn thought.
Brilliant colors remind me of all I’ve lost, and of the bleak mid-winter.
They touch my wet cheeks with gold, then fall lifeless in the dust.
Healing laughter parts the shadows. I stand amazed at lilting notes, and wander on..
My journey leads through other lives, other sorrows, other pains
And my wounded heart bleeds afresh in passing, pausing, weeping
With those who still stand stunned in the Valley.
I touch their sorrow and murmur, only half-believing,
“There is a dappled path from the Valley of the Shadow into life…”