Weekly Reflection: December 16, 2021

Dear Friends and Family of Grace Church,

As I’m preparing this message this morning, I’m wondering just how many of us might be struggling to “feel it” as we prepare for Christmas. It’s often said that when the Preacher “exhorts” the congregation, she or he is often saying what he or she needs to take to heart as well. My sermons and messages for these past few weeks of Advent have all been full of exhortations to get our spirits ready, to allow ourselves to “feel it” despite whatever might stifle our sense of joy. 

I’m assessing where I am in this moment, and realizing that I’m not quite “there” just yet. Yet, I am closer to the joy than I was just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you’re feeling that too. And, the good news for us all is that we still have time to “get there”. Two more weeks, in fact, to get there. This morning, I discovered that Bishop Porter Taylor is struggling to “feel it” too. But he also has a solution that can set us free to at last get there and feel it. Here is his message of hope for joy. 

Fr. Rick 

Yearning To Be Made New

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to get into the customary pre-Christmas frenzy. When I read that 795,000 people have died from Covid in this country alone, it’s hard to get excited about what’s under the tree. Then there are the worldwide deaths and the mess in Washington.

I will admit my playlist is retro because I have never gotten over the sixties. However, some years ago I found a singer named Ted Small. One of his songs has this line: “When gravity is getting you down, look up.” While walking around the neighborhood this week, I listened to this song, and I thought of the words in our Eucharist, “Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.” I realized I need a reorientation.

This not about ignoring what’s going on in our country or in our world. It’s about remembering to hope. When we run out of what we can do, we are called to remember what God can and will do and to lift up our hearts to focus on that. My faith in our politicians to make our country or this world right is small, but my confidence in God’s ability to do so is unshaken.

In part, this is because of what God has done for me in my life. Without God I would never have gotten sober from alcohol or adopted two wonderful children or found Jo, my wife, or gotten into graduate school or gotten ordained or anything. “All things come from Thee O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” All things. To lift up my heart to the Lord is be reoriented. As the mystic Simone Weil said, “It’s up to me to think of God and up to God to think of me.”

Really, I don’t need anything under the Christmas tree. I need to lift up my heart and dare to hope for the Savior to break in and make all people new. I don’t need another blue sweater — I have four — and I have no more space for books. Instead of stuff, I need to ask, or more importantly, to pray for God to break into this world and turn everyone and everything right side up, beginning with me. I mean the return of civility; the birth of kindness and peace; the birth of genuine community; confronting racism and inequality, the birth of hope and no more despair — 45,000 Americans committed suicide in 2020.

The poet Jane Hirschfield wrote, “Hope is the hardest love we carry.” This is the time to yearn for the birth and for our finding our heart’s deep home.  The world’s mess is too deep for presents or ornaments or food to do much good. We need God to be born in us and in this world and to make everything new.

Come Lord Jesus.

Bishop Porter Taylor

And one more thought:

 If I would add anything to these thoughts, it is this: reread our Epistle lesson from yesterday’s service, then do what it says. Philippians 4:4-9 It is among the best “formulas” for how to grow joy and peace within as we continue to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming. Looking forward and “up” in hope for the joy with you. 

Peace,

Fr. Rick