Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mary, Were You Ready?

My husband is famous for asking me brain busting questions about God and faith like a recent one: "When God created the universe, do you think he really only created life on Earth? Wouldn't he have created in other places, too? And if he did, would Jesus have come to those planets, too?" This question was one of those complex, no-real-answer-to-it questions. The other day, though, he asked me what seemed to be a relatively simple yes-or-no question: "Are you ready for Christmas?" "Yes," I said. "I am excited to see Molly's first Christmas and looking forward to spending time with family." And without saying it directly, he basically told me I had answered the wrong question. I was answering the question, "What part of the events of the 25th of December 2008 are you most anticipating?" But the question he asked was, "Are you ready for Christmas?" He then went on to explain what he was really asking, "You know, you have always wanted to proclaim the Christmas word, and now you get to do that. Now, you get to bring the hopeful word to the people, and aren't you just a little excited about that? " And so, I remind myself that it's Christmas that I am ready for, it's Christ that has me anticipating, the entrance of God into the world that makes my heart race. So I turn my eyes back more than 2 millennium, and I wonder, Mary were you ready? Were you prepared for the way that this ordinary labor and delivery would become something so much more and would profoundly change your life? Were you ready to be Mother of God? Were you ready for Christmas to come? May the joyful expectation of the Christ child and his love be yours this Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Love Actually is All Around

Last Sunday, the Ladies Bible Study group decided to go Christmas caroling at Walmart....and they weren't just caroling to spread cheer. They decided that they would sing about Christ and also work for Christ by collecting money and gifts for those in need. They had a sign and a box and a bucket...and Santa hats! Anyone who knows me knows I shouldn't be allowed within ten feet of a Christmas caroling group, especially if there is money involved. But, I showed up, and donned my Santa hat, and started singing. It was incredible! People came out with bags of food to donate and dropped money into the bucket. What was especially touching was seeing the ones who seemed to have the least give the most. Later, I learned, somewhere in the bottom of the bucket was a crumpled $100 bill. But it wasn't about the money. It was about the babe in the manger. You know, the one we say it's about...the one all the songs are about. As we stood there singing "Joy to the World" and proclaiming that the Lord is King, it seemed so counter-cultural and so God-like. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room. And there they were, those hearts preparing room. Pushing aside their wants and desires and saying, "Because of him, because he lives here, I am going to reach out to someone else." My heart was so full of true Christmas joy, my eyes started watering...darned cold wind can do that. Nah, it was the other waterworks thing....Jesus can do that! His love actually is all around. If you look for it, you'll find it. May you find it this Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Angels from the realms of glory

CAUTION FOR READING...contains mature subject matter.
'Tis the season...for the Victoria's Secret fashion show. The lingerie-clad models winging their flights oer the television screen. They are dressed in festive holiday "apparel," or so I hear. Come and worship us, they beckon with their feathered wings. Your woman can look like me, too. Get her this outfit, these wings, and then worship her. I have to say, is this what Christmas has become? Is this what people look forward to? Are these the angels we want to put on high? What happened to those other angels from the realms of glory, telling the story of the Messiah's birth? And why have these ideas of womanhood become objects of worship? What about the cry of the heavenly host to come and worship Christ?
A favorite Christian author and literary hero to me is Lauren Winner. Lauren writes a great book that exposes our way of thinking about our bodies and our intimate relationships, Real Sex. In this book, she discusses the Victoria's Secret phenomenon and brings to light a telling truth about our cultural obsession with sex...she reminds us that sexual images bury themselves in our minds and in our relationships and eventually chip away at good intimacy. She says that these images teach us that real bodies aren't good enough, and that "real sex" happens only in a fantastic, other-worldly way. God, who cares enough about the people he has created, chooses to inhabit our bodies in the birth of the Christ child. And so, I'm certain, our bodies and how we approach them matter to God. I doubt these angels are what he had in mind. So, each time I am bombarded with the fluffy-winged images, I am going to remember those other angels who proclaimed a redeemed flesh--that God in our skin is here! And that he bids us choose respect and love over gratification and desire. In excelsis deo!