Monday Morning Musings for 12.18.17

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting…"  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. I have laughed a bit at the recent accounts of "baby Jesus being stolen from local nativity scene – news at 11!" In places near and far, people are lifting Jesus from his "crib", but the question is not why that is happening. The question is: why did God put him there in the first place? The answer is where we find the wonder. In my effort this Advent to help deliver us from our cynical, jaded ways, we find in the manger a God who pursues us – even to a messy, smelly, darkened space. This is exceedingly good news since we are a people who tend to run. We run from God for all manner of reasons, but don't you get tired of running? Even in our darkness, God is with us. Thus, we are never, ever alone. In an age when we are losing the ability to function in face to face relationships – losing the joy of what it is to look across the table at another human being – to listen and laugh and share – what I find is that God's presence is most often felt through the presence of others. As you are with me and I am with you, I find God present. As I serve you and you serve me, I find God to present. More even than these, however, is the wonder of a God who is willing to be humble, a God who is willing to sacrifice, to trade heaven for a manager. This was the model of Jesus' entire ministry, and so we who follow Him mimic the manager. We become less that He might become more. We go to the dark and shadowy places, the places of deep human need, the messy places, and there we serve and love without expectation or condition. Linger at the manager and recover its wonder.
  2. As I reflect on the notion of wonder, it is not disconnected from pain. If we dare risk hope, if we dare risk believing deeply in something or someone else, then we expose ourselves to the possibility of pain. This is love, and this is where we lose our sense of wonder. We become so afraid of being disappointed or hurt that we are no longer willing to risk hoping – believing – in all that is possible in a world God inhabits. Fight that fear. Pain is part of this world, and no, what we hope it will not always materialize. Even so, we know God is faithful, for He has come to us – pursued us – loved us with His life. That is THE hope – so take a chance – risk hope once more.
  3. HOMELESS MEMORIAL: If your schedule allows, take the time to attend the annual Homeless Memorial Service this week as we remember the homeless who perished on our streets in the past year. In this way, we return to them a measure of the honor and dignity they lacked in this life while reminding ourselves of the responsibility we carry as a community to care for those in need. FIRST UNITED METHODIST DOWNTOWN, TUESDAY, 11 A.M.
  4. CHRISTMAS EVE: It's probably a good idea to start thinking about your Christmas Eve worship plans. We will offer one-morning service (traditional) at 11 am. This will be different from the rest of the services that day. Our regular Christmas Eve schedule begins with family services at 2:30 and 4, traditional services at 6 and 8, and Genesis at 10. All services are in the sanctuary and will include candles. Communion will be served at 6, 8 and 10. Last year, our 6 pm service went to overflow, so arrive early (doors open 30 minutes prior) if that's the one you plan to attend.
  5. I love it when I find a really good novel. I love words, and when an author uses them in ways that create beauty, I am captured. This happened to me last week, and I was reminded of what happens as I near the end of such a book. I read more slowly. I don't want it to be over, so I savor each page. I linger…which is not my normal practice in life. I don't want to leave the characters I have come to love. Finishing the book creates an odd sadness in me. I think, "I will miss them."
  6. I didn't get to write about this last week, but one of my favorite football games to watch is Army/Navy. The spirit of the event was captured by what a Navy Commander said: "It's the only game you will ever see in which every person playing is willing to die for every person watching."
  7. I just took my life savings and bought bitcoin. Is that bad?
  8. DID THE INTERNET DIE THIS WEEK? I am not sure if it did or not based on FCC decisions and who you read or listen to, but if it means people having to pay for Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter – and that translates to people dropping those – that's a win!! We'll actually start talking to each other – like – in person! (See #1)
  9. What I love about being Presbyterian is that we sing our theology. We sing what we believe. From A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: "And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us…"