Sunday, December 25, 2005

Holding promises

In fourteen years of being an ordained minister I have never preached a Christmas sermon. Yes, that's right, I am a virgin when it comes to such matters (quite fitting, don't you think?) yet I have been ready to conceive of such a sermon by the Holy Spirit for years. So come out of your post-holiday stupor and pour yourself a tall nog, snag the last Christmas cookie and join me here by the virtual fire for a Christmas meditation.

One of my many pet-peeves is the saying "Children are our future". Bah, humbug! Ever since I gave birth to the first of two, I have known with all my heart, soul, mind, and especially body that they are our right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. Forget that Hallmark nonsense about today being a gift that's why they call it the present. Usually having children is nothing like a Hallmark card. If it were, they'd sell them ripped and torn, with greasy fingerprints all over them, and when you opened it, an explosion of dirty laundry and the sound of milk bubbles being blown through a straw would greet you.

The beauty of the Christmas story, whether you believe it really happened that way or not (and it probably didn't), is that the One who set this universe and you and me in motion revealed the power of love in a tiny, helpless baby (and thus every baby)--right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. We hope and pray that our children will take care of us when we are older, but we know the truth is that they saved us from the moment we knew they were on their way to us. And they save us each day of our lives. They save us from being self-absorbed, greedy, depressed, angry, and lonely. If nothing else, Christmas reminds us of this as we attend a birth in a mean and lowly place.

Christmas is a salvation story as much as Easter. Toward the end of the birth story in the gospel of Luke, a priest named Simeon holds the baby Jesus in his arms and proclaims that he is now ready to die for he has seen the salvation of his people, the promise of God. Jesus hasn't done a thing yet but be born yet he has saved this old man from despair that he may die in peace.

Hearing the birth story of Jesus (which is easier for my children to believe than believing their parents were infants once) reminds us of all the children who need saving right now, this minute, can't wait any longer: children being conscripted into armies; children orphaned by AIDS, war, floods, earthquakes, and last year's tsunami; children sold into slavery and prostitution; children who need nutrition, health care, education, and a home; in some cases, a legal marriage for their parents. In short, children remind us that we are all worthy of love, simply because we draw breath.

Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. Yet I would bet that Mary already knew that the moment she looked into her son's eyes. What we don't realize is how often that sword will drive home its dual edge of pain and love. Our world needs to have its soul pierced, to see that we still practice child sacrifice of the worst kind--the kind we choose to be blind to.

We are our children's future. We are the ones who create policy, social structure, decide what is truly valuable and what is just dust in the wind. The trouble is, we spend more of our energy chasing after that wind than on what is right in front of us, right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. God is watching us but through the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of our children and they are taking copious notes

Friday, December 23, 2005

Are you ready?

Yesterday in the grocery store, a friend asked me that question. I answered her that no, I was not ready for Christmas and all its attendant shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, etc. but that yes, I was (and am) ready for Jesus.

Does that mean I've got all my spiritual little ducks in a row? If you've been reading this blog, you know the answer to that is "hardly". Being ready for Jesus means that, despite my spiriutal little ducks running all over the place, quacking their heads off, I'm ready to stop chasing after them, thinking that I have some kind of control over any of this. I'm ready for Jesus to save me from me.

At least, I'm ready today. Tomorrow may be a different story.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Noble Laureate

On rare occasions, a playwright can be a prophet.

Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture "Art, Truth, and Politics"

A prophet in the Hebrew scriptures was one called by God to see reality in all its starkness and then, with brutal honesty, tell the people of Israel the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, with the help of God. And for the U.S., the judgment day is coming and swiftly.

Harold Pinter won this year's Nobel prize for literature.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Thanks, from the bottom of my shoe

(I received this e-mail today. It pretty much sums up the past year of forwarded e-mails that have been passed on to us...whether we liked it or not. The only good thing that could have come from this is that urban legend websites may have seen more action than usual.)

My heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me "forwards" over the past 12 months. Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed and wealthy.

Extra thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat crap in the glue on envelopes cause I now have to go get a wet towel every time I need to seal an envelope. Also, I scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains. I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer. I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS. I no longer use deodorant - since it causes cancer, even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone might drug me with a perfume sample and rob me. I no longer receive packages from nor send packages by UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise. I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore and Uzbekistan.

I no longer have any sneakers -- but that will change once I receive my free replacement pair from Nike. I no longer have to buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe. I no longer worry about my soul because at last count I have 363,214 angels looking out for me.

Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes. I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl who is about to die in the hospital (for the 1,387,258th time). I no longer have any money at all - but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.

Yes, I want to thank you so much for looking out for me that I will now return the favor! If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 7 minutes, a large pigeon with a wicked case of diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM (EST) this afternoon. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician.