The time of year is here for listing reasons for attitudes of gratitude! In my heart I hold thankfulness for nothing if not for God's matchless gifts of Church and Sacraments, and above all for Jesus Christ, Gift of Gifts. I bless God that in baptism I am paradoxically both dead and alive in Christ—both dead to the world and alive for the world; that the Good Gift of the Eucharist connects me with all creation everywhere in every age while challenging me to discern the body within the community where I find myself at that particular moment in time and space. I give thanks that I am bound by water and the Word yet claim the liberty of the children of God—bound above all by grace! This Thanksgiving 2006 I give thanks for nearby neighbors and emerging friendships, and amazingly, for a pair of online sites that have shown me (the physical, tangible gospel person) that community, trust and friendship can happen over the internet! Who would have thought?!
I give thanks for shelter, warmth, food, creation, beauty of every kind, the year-long Design School program I finished a month ago at the local branch ("expression of" as we'd say in the Church) of the New Media Consortium—I especially give thanks that God knows to keep putting options in my path sufficiently late to force me to make quick decisions! For the IMCP I interviewed and attended orientation on a Friday in early January, started classes at 7:00 the following Monday morning.
With Rascal Flatts ["Bless the Broken Road"– 2004] I bless the broken road on which I've tripped and frequently fallen. I am increasingly grateful that the God of the bible, Lord of the Church, is a servant God Who Self-reveals not in ornate finery but in the Cross of Calvary Hill and in extravagant unmerited gifts of grace given in spite of me, in spite of us, sometimes because of the messiness, brokenness and devastating shatteredness of life disintegrating into simple survival. And surely the Best News arrives to the dis- or less-enfranchised, to the broken and empty?! (I don't need to mention smelly shepherds quite yet, or do I?) If the upcoming days were not shorter, darker and a little depressing even here in Southern California, how else and why else would anyone ever be motivated to look for the light that would be invisible if not surrounded by night?
Sunday we'll celebrate Reign of Christ, and then the season of Advent, with its retrospect and prospect of judgment, repentance, renewal, redemption and hope will be upon the world once again! In the Bethlehem manger we meet the God Who comes to earth amidst silent darkness, pleased to share our common lot—of casino-style payoffs, fast bucks, fast cars and fast career tracks? No, not—because surely brokenness, estrangement, stranger-ness, strangeness, disappointment, disillusionment, loneliness and betrayal are far more common than what the world out there deems success?! God comes to earth incarnate not only into the thick of human need but in human need, too...Jesus born in Bethlehem, Little Town of House of Bread, reveals to the world the God Who forms us, shaping our identity in situations and relationships full of uncertainty and precariousness—not in the assurances of institutions of higher learning like Harvard Business School!
To Winter Solitude
I hope to make the coming season into an experience of real, near-total winter, getting as close as possible to a somnolent hibernation into darkness in the midst of the city. What with everything going on in my heart and in my head, estivation would have been helpful this year as well, but being in the thick of design school during summer 2006 effectively zapped any estival options. Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth: heart is "earth" written with H at the beginning rather than at the end! Heart as an organic metaphor, a spatial one or place where emotions, will and humanness reside.
To Wintersong: this far by faith
Check out my blog for Epiphany 2006, where I quote Marty Haugen's version of the Service of Light that opens evening prayer or vespers:
- Joyous light of heavenly glory, loving glow of God's own face,
you who sing creation's story, shine on every land and race.
Now as evening falls around us, we shall raise our songs to you,
God of daybreak, God of shadows, come and light our hearts anew.
- In the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn,
of the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song.
Love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul,
Love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.
- You who made the heaven's splendor, every dancing star of night,
make us shine with gentle justice, let us each reflect your light.
Mighty God of all creation, gentle Christ who lights our way,
Loving Spirit of salvation, lead us on to endless day.