We all know it, or some version of it. Girl gets pregnant, but not by the guy who takes her to a barn in the middle of the night to deliver the baby. Some wisemen show up… they’re greeted by a bunch of shepherds singing Hallelujah with a choir of angles. And sometimes there’s a little boy pounding on a drum.
Of the four gospels, only three mention the Christmas story. Each one tells their version of it, revealing who this baby truly is. The son of man, the son of God. The long-awaited Messiah. The one who will save his people from their sins.
Luke’s version is the one we are probably most familiar with. It’s the one with the manger, the shepherds, and the angels. Instead of a birth story, Matthew gives us magi and some dramatic backstory to let his readers know the prophetic promise has been fulfilled.
And then there’s John’s version. Anyone looking for the traditional will be sadly disappointed to learn that John doesn’t seem to care about Christmas carols, hot cocoa, or crabby old curmudgeons who have a change of heart.
John’s version is different because John is different. He’s a theologian and mystic who speaks of the nativity from his understanding of ancient scripture, and the holy imagination of his prayers. Here’s how he tells it.
The same light from the first incarnation is present at the second. This is God’s light. The same one foretold by Isaiah’s prophetic vision. The light that shines on those who live in darkness.
This is the same holy light that broke through the night sky and grabbed the attention of the shepherds.
The same wondrous light that illuminated the heavens and guided the magi to Christ. The very light that John declares, “was the life of everyone.”
The light that began it all, is the light we honor tonight. For it’s in this light we are able to see God’s truth, enfleshed in the body of this holy baby. And the Word became flesh and lived among us - enlightening us and illuminating the world to see God’s grace and truth. In his light, no darkness can prevail. We all know what darkness is, and what it can produce in us.
Years ago, I spent the night at my friend’s old warehouse apartment in downtown Los Angeles. Because he worked odd hours, he chose the bedroom with no windows. When I turned out the lights, it was so dark I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I’m not going to lie, but I’m not a big fan of spaces that are void of light. They cause me great anxieties.
Thankfully, just before I went into full blown panic mode, I noticed a small green glow coming off his laptop charger. I kept my eyes fixed on that light, as I felt my heart pound against my chest. I’m not sure how long it took, but eventually my eyes began to adjust. And I started seeing just enough for my heart to relax so I could fall asleep.
We know darkness, and the anxiety and despair that comes with it. John and the others make sure to point our attention not to fields or fold, but to the heavens…to that one true bright Christmas light. The one that begins to shine —suddenly, quietly, but with absolute certainty. A light no darkness can overcome.
This light might be small for some, and mighty for others. But in its glow is the mystery of God’s truth revealed. And the Word became flesh and lives among us. The longer we keep our eye on it, the more enlightened we become to what that means for you and me.
So even though there are different versions of the Christmas story, they all point to the same visible, tangible divine light that illuminates our way to God.
That light is Christ who breaks the darkness apart so we can begin to see God’s love and truth clearly for the first time - in real time, in real ways. In his light we can see and understand who we are. And who we were created to be - God’s beloved children. As God’s children, we are called to radiate like Christ in the varied ways we love God, love others, and serve both.
John will later explain that we are given this light to help us see just how much God loves us. Because that’s the real Christmas story - God’s love for us.
In Christ, God’s love is revealed by taking on human form in order to transform human hearts. He is the visible, tangible, flesh of God’s light and love. Through him we have been given the power to take our place in the infinite space where God’s never-ending light radiates.
And the word became flesh and lived among us…For God so loved the world that God sent the Son - not to condemn us but to redeem us and return us to God’s holy and sacred heart.
This is the Christmas story. This is our story. Each one of us will tell it differently, because we all come from different places. And different needs. But no matter how different we are, we are all given the same. The same light. The same love. The same saving grace that shines from God’s heart to yours and mine.
This is the light of Christ. Whoever is guided by it will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
"Now may God grant you the light in Christmas, which is faith; the warmth of Christmas, which is love the all of Christmas, which is Christ. Amen."
A special thanks to James Liggett whose sermon The Same Story inspired this sermon.
Taylor, Barbara Brown. Home By Another Way. (Lanham: Crowley Publications, 1999).
*Benediction by Wilda English
In his book, “Wild Pork and Watercress,” Barry Crump writes about a New Zealand orphan named Ricky who is placed in the home of two reclusive country folk named Bella and Hector.
Now, Ricky is an overweight boy who has always had trouble fitting in - be it at school or foster care. Bella is a kind and loving soul who accepts him for who he is and instantly welcomes Ricky as her own. And Hector is nothing like Bella. He is a cantankerous old bushman who know more about hunting than raising a kid.
After a bit of adjusting, things start to go well for Ricky until Bella unexpectedly dies. That’s when Child Protective Services decides it would be better for the boy to return to the orphanage than to count on Hector to look after him.
Well, Ricky doesn’t like this plan. And runs away into the wilderness, forcing Hector to go and find him before the others do. This ultimately sparks a national manhunt for the two, who for next three years learn how to survive in the wilderness together, feasting on wild pork and watercress…and forming an unbreakable bond.
Now, Hector didn’t have to go after Ricky or take him under his wing. He could have easily turned the boy in instead of putting his own life in jeopardy. But for some reason, he showed up. And something completely unexpected happened that would alter the course of their lives forever.
We get a similar story today from the gospel of Matthew 1:18-22
Once every three years, the lectionary puts the spotlight on Joseph. And this always surprises me. Because we’re not used seeing Joseph as one of the main characters in the big Christmas story, are we?
Believe it or not, but I have never preached on this text before. At the previous churches I’ve served, the Sunday before Christmas is always reserved for the children’s Christmas pageant. And we all know who the star is of that production: Mary and her baby. Not Joseph.
Joseph Pagano muses, “While we’ve all probably heard plenty of stories of little girls who were disappointed because they didn’t get to play Mary in the Christmas pageant, there are fewer stories of little boys who felt slighted because they didn’t get to play Joseph.”
Wiseman and donkeys, maybe, but never Joseph. He’s always the guy in the background. “Which is often the case for the stepfather,” as my friend Beverly points out. “They tend to be secondary players or background extras. Rarely the star.”
Now I have no idea what it’s like to be a stepfather. Nor do I know what it’s like to have one. But I know many who have stepped up to the plate to adopt or raise someone else’s child – loving them as their own.
One person was John Kraft, the husband of Rev. Dawn. Although John never pretended to be Alex’s father, he was there – with an open heart and open arms. One year, Alex gave John a keychain for his birthday that said, “Thank you for being the dad you didn’t have to be.”
I like to imagine Jesus doing the same for Joseph, who may not have been in the spotlight but was an important part of the cast – being the loving dad he didn’t have to be.
At first, it seems like Joseph didn’t want the responsibility. Set aside being the stepfather to the Son of God, I’m not sure Joseph saw it as good news when he learn his girlfriend is pregnant – and the baby isn’t his. I imagine he felt hurt, humiliated, disappointed, and angry. I doubt his first thought was “I should step up and raise this kid as my own.”
Although Joseph was an ordinary, everyday man, no different than any one of us, Matthew tells us he was also a righteous man. Meaning he loved God and tried to follow God’s law.
According to scripture, Joseph had every right to publicly accuse Mary of adultery, which under the law carries the death penalty. But instead, Joseph chose the other legal option, a more righteous one. Divorce her privately to spare this young girl of any danger, and himself any disgrace. As a righteous man, Joseph knows God is merciful and just. Why should he be any different?
It’s when he makes this resolve that something extraordinary happens. “An angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in a dream; telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, “for the child conceived in her womb is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Now, let’s take a moment to think about how you would react if this happened to you? What would you do if God gave you a divine revelation, in a dream no less. I’m pretty sure even I would wake up questioning its validity. Not Joseph. He did exactly as the angel of the Lord commanded.
He could have said, “no thanks,” and just moved on with his life. But like Hector running after Ricky, Joseph put someone else’s needs before his own. He showed up and became the unlikely hero in this story - a dad he didn’t have to be.
Because he showed up, God wasn’t going to let Joseph screw it up. Together they work behind the scenes to make sure this dream becomes a reality. Their son will grow up and redeem the world.
watch the message here
What can Joseph’s story teach us today?
Simply this: show up for God with all your imperfections and brokenness, with all your questions, and doubts. God doesn’t need perfect to do miracles through. Just our willingness to show up and sow the seeds of love, so the fruits of love will grow.
How do we react when we see suffering or injustice in the world? Or a neighbor in need of friendship and a compassionate ear? We do what Joseph did. We do what Jesus did. We do what so many others before us have done.
Trust God enough to be a conduit for God’ love to pass through. All we have to do is take that first, faithful step out into Anamesa, and God will do the rest.
Since God always leads with love, we can always show up in the many ways we show love. Love is what the entire Christmas story is about. God so loved the world that God became one of us to make love tangible and real.
Christmas was not a one time event. Or an annual celebration with gifts. Like Mother Teresa discovered, “It’s Christmas every time you let God love others through you.”
To say that differently, we are called to honor Christ’s birth every day in the many ways we show up to love God, love others, and serve both.
God’s love moves through us every time we show up - providing food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothes for the naked.
God’s love moves through us every time we show up - to be a parent to orphans, and a child to widows.
God’s love moves through us every time we show up - demanding justice, righting wrongs and ensuring equality to all.
It’s through all the ordinary and meaningful acts of loving kindness that we participate in the coming reign of God.
With God’s never ending love flowing through us, we become like the Christ child, illuminating the light of hope and peace and joy and love in every space we enter.
As Frank Logue wrote, “Not everyone one of us will be asked to do such a monumental task like Joseph was. But we will no less take part in what God is doing; bringing divine love into fruition, through ordinary acts and ordinary people like you and me.”
All we got to do is show up, and let God do the rest.
Logue, Frank. Participating in God’s Plan. December 11, 2022 (December 14, 2022).
Pagano, Joseph. The Faith of Joseph. December 22, 2013 (accessed on December 14, 2022).
I think we can all agree that faith is a 24/7 job, one we often fail at. Lucky for us it’s not our faith that saves us but God’s faith in us. Like the painter who risks it all to keep the bridge free from corrosion and harm, God through Christ works tirelessly around the clock to do the same for us.
As we continue our pilgrimage towards the Christmas crèche, God remains faithful to us. Becoming incarnate in the Christ child who will dedicate every second of his life to make our faith come to life. This is a tough job for sure, but one that secures the world for all eternity.
Joy is a short but powerful word. One that is often equated with happiness. But here’s the thing, in the English Standard Version of the Bible, words like “joy,” “rejoice,” or “joyful” appear about 430 times, compared with “happy” or “happiness,” which appear only ten times.
Happiness lives in the head. It’s fleeting, in that it comes and goes depending on your experience or mood. Joy is different. It’s permanent. It lingers deep within our hearts whether we feel it or not. I think that’s because it’s not our joy, but God’s joy in us.
So, we light this candle to remind us that no matter how difficult life might seem, we can find joy knowing that Jesus is our Emmanuel, which means, God with us.
Last week, we met John the Baptist by the sandy banks of the Jordan River and learned about his baptism of repentance. That is to say, to change our thinking so we change our seeing and doing to be inline with God’s way and not our own.
Today, the lectionary takes us back to that familiar face but in an unexpected place. As we think about what we are to look for, let us open our hearts to hear what the Gospel of Matthew has to offer.
(Read: Matthew 11:2-11 here)
For the last six years or so, I have been corresponding with someone who’s serving a 15-year sentence in a federal prison. Every 4-6 weeks I’ll get a letter telling me about his prison ministry classes, and how he’s trying to keep his head straight. My replies are often quick notes telling him what’s going on in my life, and to let him know I am praying for him. Occasionally I’ll send a sermon or two to give him something to read.
Over the years, he’s never asked for anything outside getting some of our mutual friends to write him. As far as I know, I am the only one outside his family who stays in touch with him. In the first century, prison wasn’t that much different than it is today. It was a way station where one awaited trial where they’d be exonerated, exiled, or executed.
The big difference between then and now was: taxpayers didn’t foot the bill. Prisoners relied on family and friends to bring food, water and blankets and stuff. This is what the followers in John’s Redemptive Movement were doing when they brought their teacher the latest news about the Messiah. We don’t know what they told him, but whatever it was it rattled John enough to send them out to see if Jesus was the real deal like he’d proclaimed.
Now, imagine if you were the one being sent on this mission. How would you know what to look for? Someone walking on water, or turning water into wine? Or someone who looked like a warlord or Marvel action hero?
Most people who encounter Jesus were regularly confused about who he really was, because Jesus was like no other. And rarely was he what they thought to expect. Given their question, I think John’s disciples were no different. This makes me wonder how well we’d do at identifying the Messiah today.
In our post 9/11 world, what would we do if we saw 13 homeless middle eastern men roaming around our neighborhood? I’m sure our first instinct would be to call the cops. And not risk everything to follow them. So, how will we know? What do we look for? Today’s text gives us some very clear indications.
Matthew reminds us that we can always tell the authenticity of a person, not by what they say, or wear, or what titles they have…but by the fruit they produce. Or you can do what John’s disciples did. They just straight up asked Jesus directly, “Are you the one we’re looking for?”
And Jesus, God bless his patience, answers their question by echoing Isaiah, the prophet who had paved the way for how Israel would find healing and restoration. You will know the Messiah when the blind regain sight, when people look at things in whole new ways.
You will know when the lame walk, and those who play to their victimhood are no longer cripple by it. When the lepers and marginalized are restored and honored. When those who are stone deaf to accepting God’s love begin to hear and find grace. When people who we consider morally and spiritually dead become alive to their Christ-conscious self. And my favorite, you will know the Messiah when the poor have good news proclaim to them. [Rohr]
Whenever and wherever you see these fruits, you will know the one sent by God.
It’s no surprise that many of us have trouble finding Christ, muchless seeing him in our midst, because like Richard Rohr points out, “more often than not, we’re looking for the wrong messiah.” Just as John’s disciples were probably looking for a military leader to overthrow the Roman Empire and restore Israel’s place in the world, we want someone who will single us out and put us on the top because “we all want to be on the top.”
a little audio trouble for two minutes of intro
But here’s the thing, like Irene Maliaman notes, “Jesus is not this kind of savior. He did not come with military might or wealth. His way of saving the world is through soft power – sacrificial and loving service.” We tend to “reject the Jesus of the gospels and look for another version of the Messiah that fits our lifestyle and ideology.”
We want to be right, we want to be the one’s God blesses. We don’t want to share the space, we want it all for ourselves. Each of us has an expectation about the kind of Savior we want. But rarely is he the one we always expect. And this as good news!
Turning to those listening, Jesus asks them about John the Baptist. “What did you go out to the desert to find? A reed shaken by the wind?”
Now, Jesus isn’t talking about a plant but a person whose opinions bend and sway according to the latest tweet or trend. “What did you come to see? Someone dressed in soft robes. Someone who lives in a palace.” Jesus says you won’t find the Messiah there.
If you want to see the one sent by God, Rohr argues, “Don't look up. Look down. Don't look at the center and the top. Look at the edge and the bottom.”
Scripture makes it very clear that the Messiah heals and restores from the bottom up. He isn’t showing up for the rich. They can take care of themselves. Instead he comes to the poor, the outcast, the rejected. If you want to find Christ, this is a great place to start.
Folks like Saint Francis, Mother Teressa, Martin Luther King understood this; meeting Christ in the poor, and the dying, and in the ones suffering from injustice, violence, and oppression.
Matthew makes it abundantly clear that you will find the incarnate Christ down among the one’s we overlook, ignore, and avoid.
Even Jesus confirms “Among those born of women, there are none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
But this is what you need need to remember. Just as you will find Christ among those crying out for help, so too will you find him in the one doing the helping. For wherever you see his fruits, you will know the one sent by God. And that includes you and me.
We are the one’s God sends out into the world today to open eyes, lift up the lame, heal the lepers, raise the dead, preach good news. For it’s the Christ within us who is moved to meet the Christ in others.
As we make our pilgrimage through Anamesa towards God’s love and grace, the Holy Spirit will lead us down the path less traveled, where others are to scared to go. Whenever we move into the unknown, we tend to keep our eyes open; alert and awake to all that surrounds us.
In the space between each step we take on this pilgrimage, we know what to look for. Christ blessing the immigrants at the border; forgiving murders and thieves in prison; holding the hands of junkies and addicts in detox; loving the LGBTQ+ community on the dance floor.
If this isn’t good news proclaimed to those who have been pushed down or marginalized, then I don’t know what is.
Whenever and wherever you see love and mercy and grace being given, you see and meet Christ. When your heart is moved to follow his way, then you know that God has called you too, to be little messiahs, bringing hope, peace, and joy among the nations.
So, as we continue our sacred pilgrimage, let us go forward, with our eyes open and our hearts singing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king.”
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol. 1. (Westminster John Knox: 2010)
Maliaman, Irene. Expectations. December 5, 2011 (Accessed on December 10, 2022).
Rohr, Richard. The Qualities To Look For. December 14, 2012 (Accessed on December 10, 2022).
Today I received an email from a very dear friend who is going through tough time. To say it’s a rather difficult period of his life wouldn’t do it justice. He’s been this way for as long as I have known him. Despite his inner darkness, he has shown me the light in so many ways.
He is not only a friend, but a brother. Not just a student but a teacher. Not a nobody, but a very special someone who has inspired me to love on a deeper level, and to allow myself to live into my truth and be vulnerable. He doesn’t not judge me unfairly, or perhaps not at all. He saves that only for himself. While he is trapped in his emotional prison, he has freed me.
He told me once that not having me in his life would be like missing a finger. Not having him in my life would be like missing a foot. He always keeps me balanced, and on all ten of my toes.
In response to his letter, I wrote him these words that I think all of us need to hear.
Never forget that everyone feels one of these, if not all of these, at some period in life. This list is not exhaustive. Nor is it static. It grows as we continue to add ourselves, our pain, our negative beliefs to the list. Yet no matter how much it grows, not matter how may adjectives and layers of our emotional baggage we bring, one thing remains constant and sure. The perfect image of God, for which by some divine mystery, includes you and me and everyone else. If God is love, then so are we. No matter what.
Advent is a time to wander down many different pathways to the meet the Christ child. Each week we’re given a new road to meander down that draws us nearer to that sacred space. Each of these pathways is a different opportunity to discover something new about who we are.
So, Where Do We Begin. I suspect it will be different for all of us. That’s okay. Like Emerson said, it’s the journey that matters. It’s taking the first step that leads to the next. With each step forward, we discover life is no longer the same as it used to be.
Like a stream, it’s always flowing and always different every second of every moment. What’s important to remember is it’s how we find ourselves and grow closer to God in these steps we take that matter the most.
Years ago, I met a man in the city square of Iquitos, a small Peruvian town settled along the Amazon River. It was my first time there, and his first time back since he and two college friends hiked the infamous Inca Trail in the late 70's.
I have heard many stories from people who have taken this ancient pilgrimage to the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu. But never had I heard one like his. His story began in a bar where, over a few drinks with the locals, he expressed his desire to see this place which is considered one of the seven greatest marvels of the world,
Back then trains didn’t drop you off at the foot of the mountain. And there were no buses to take up to the pilgrimage site. To get there you had to hike the legendary pilgrim trail which is part of the 23,000 kilometers network of pathways that vein through the Andes Mountain range. While these guys were hoping for a guide to show them the way, all they got was a hand-drawn map sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Things may have been different in the 70’s, but I’m not sure I would entrust my life to something so vulnerable and susceptible to the elements like a napkin. These guys did. It wasn’t until they watched their train disappeared into the dark wilderness that they questioned their judgement. With no other way out, they took the first step up the steep mountainside. Every step he took was a step into truly the unknown.
For five hours they hiked in silence, too scared to talk. Just as he was about to suggest they turn around, they reached the first set of ruins drawn on the napkin. There they set up camp. While sleeping under a canopy of stars that night, he realized this was no longer a trip, but a journey that would forever change him.
Our wilderness adventure doesn’t start in a bar, but along the sandy banks of the Jordan River where we meet a man the late Rachel Held Evans described as, “that crazy guy you go out of your way to avoid in the Walmart parking lot.”
I like to think of John as that stranger in the bar, giving us a map for our pilgrimage. Anyone who chooses to take this trip needs to pay attention to what he has to say and not be distracted by how crazy it sounds. Because John is leaving us little places to stop and ponder the deeper meaning of life. What he had to say would change the world forever.
READ: Matthew 3:1-12
n those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight....“I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I, and I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Like I said last week, text without context will often get us in trouble. So, here’s what we know.
The son of a temple priest, John was a good Jewish boy who followed his father’s footsteps. At some point, he abandoned the temple for the wilderness where he lived only on what God provided, wild honey and locusts. John also gave up the ceremonial purification pools of the temple in exchange for the wild, flowing waters of the Jordan where he preached a baptism of repentance.
Today, we understand repentance as an act of sincere regret. It’s a way to show remorse so forgiveness and healing can happen. Back then, to repent was less about being sorry and more about changing your thinking. The idea is if one begins to think differently, then one will also start to act and live differently.
To repent is to have a new mindset, and for Christ followers it helps us to be more aware that our actions are out of step with God’s dream for all creation. We know this because Jesus also began his ministry saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Like his cousin, Jesus will dedicate his life to show us how to reconnect with God, by changing the way we look at the world and how we interact in it. To repent is a good place for us to start our pilgrim journey. It reorients our heart and mind to follow God’s will instead of our own.
But there’s more to John’s story. He was out in the wild baptizing people because that’s a part of what priest do, they purified and prepared people to enter the temple.
You might have been baptized with a little water poured over your head as a baby. Or perhaps full submersion as an adult. Like Richard Rohr notes, "water doesn’t really change a person." It’s just a ritual, an outward sign of an inward promise.
John knows water doesn’t change your heart, your mind, or actions. Real baptism, as he points out, comes from Christ who baptizes “with the Holy Spirit and Fire.”
Again, this text needs context.
watch it if you don't feel like reading any further
John gives us an allegory, and unless you’ve worked threshing wheat, then you might be tempted to think this is a scare tactic to avoid the eternal fires of hell.
That’s one way of looking at it. A human way which doesn’t seem to fit God’s way. God is not quid pro quo – do this or else. Revenge is not love. And anything that isn’t love isn’t from God.
Another way of looking at these verses is to see the fire like a refiner’s fire – one used to cleanse and purify precious metals. Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit does? Like John, it prepares the way for us to meet God by removing our impurities. As the text suggests, the Holy Spirit doesn’t use water. It uses an axe and fire.
Again, context is key. In our front yard, we have a tree that has the world’s best avocados. But it doesn’t do it on its own. I water it, prune it, care for it, and give it the attention it needs to produce its delicious fruit.
In the same way, it’s the Spirit’s job to prune away the parts of us that no longer bear good fruit in the kingdom of heaven. Those things are tossed into a fire…and transformed into something good for the world, like heat to cook a meal.
If we are to bear the fruit of God’s peace, then we need to remove the things that keep us from doing what God has called us to do – which is love one another.
We might all start this journey in different phases of life, but we all start from the same place. In the wilderness of life, surrounded by chaos and distractions that try to steal our peace. Out here, we’re constantly being tempted and led astray from God.
Although we might know how to read the stars, or forage for food, we can’t rely on our own selves to keep on the right path. We need the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in God’s way of seeing, thinking, and doing.
St. Paul tells the churches in Galatia to “live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of flesh” (Galatians 5:16) because Paul knew that when we live by the Spirit, we produce the fruits of the Spirit.
With the Spirit of Love growing in us, we can produce peace instead of war. Joy instead of sorrow. Kindness instead of hatred. Gentleness instead of pettiness. Self-control instead of rage. We become more patient. More generous. More faithful.
John paved the way for Christ who, in all the ways he showed God’s love would change the world forever. It was Christ who gave us the Spirit so we can go and do the same.
If we listen with an open heart, we can still hear John’s voice crying out in our wilderness; calling us to wake up and come clean; “to turn around from the old way we do things, so we don’t miss out on seeing the new thing God is doing right before our eyes.” (Taylor)
As we wait for the Christ child to break into our world and longing, and redirect our pathway back to the open heart of God, we must remain awake and present to the Spirit of Love, the very presence of Christ within us all.
By this Spirit we can tune our ear to the voices crying out for mercy. We can touch the hands in need of human tenderness. We can forgive those who have love inside them but don’t yet know it.
As we move through the space we call Anamesa, may we always bear the fruits of the Spirit, walking in-step with the saints who’ve walked this pathway before us – bringing the light of hope and illuminating God’s peace into the darkest corners of the world.
Therefore, go and start your journey in whatever space we’re in right now, singing from your heart, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. (Nashville: Nelson, 2015).
Rohr, Richard. The Two Tasks. December 14, 2019 (Accessed on December 1, 2022).
Taylor, Barbara Brown. Home By Another Way. Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.
Where do you feel the divine presence of God right now in your life, in this moment? Maybe in the silence of snowfall. Or the noise of a preschool. Is it in the wind blowing across the harbor? Or in the cold morning air as you walk to your car for work? Maybe you feel it the steady (or unsteady) rhythmic beating of your heart?
Perhaps God isn’t so easily recognizable to you right now. Maybe your brain is elsewhere. But even with a thousand images and ideas zipping through your head God is there. Between worry over money and finding time to get Christmas presents. Between calls that need to be made and relationships that need to end. The presence of God's goodness is all around us.
Our goal is to train our eye to see what our heart desires. There is no one special way to do that other than knowing that every space is an opportunity to workout that special muscle. But if it helps, whenever I get stuck or simply can't see God around me, I look at my reflection in a mirror. Instead of picking myself apart like I might be tempted to do, I simply breathe slowly and welcome the divine light that is within me.
Like Jesus said, “when you see me you see God.” We are not God, but we are made in the divine image of God…if only so we can always remember that God is always present, always there and here and even over yonder. However, it’s up to us to take the first step by opening our eyes to see what our heart desires.
Nouwen, Henri J.M. "You are the Beloved" Published by The Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust and Convergent Books: 2017.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”