Tag Archives: Christmas

Prayer, In Advent

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 19, 2018

o come Emmanuel

Prayer, In Advent

Advent lasts for quite a while. Almost a whole month. Why does Advent last for such a long time? Why can’t Christmas hurry up and arrive, already?

This waiting-period reminds me of one of the leading cast of characters in Advent preparations, John the Baptist. What does John the Baptist have to do with Christmas, anyhow?

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, does not fit into your typical Nativity scene. Usually, in most drawings or figures of the Nativity, there are a usual cast of characters. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, kings, animals, and a manger. John the Baptist just does not fit in here. Where does he fit? With his rough clothing, different kind of diet, and hollering about repentance, he will not easily fit onto a Christmas card, either.

Yet, John the Baptist is featured in the Advent readings, for several weeks. “But the schedule for children’s pageants and choir Sundays often allows us to avoid him, and it is understandable that few of us complain.” [1]  However, John the Baptist is a featured part of the whole reason and purpose behind Advent. Advent is all about repentance. And waiting.

True, the crowded calendar in December often provides little room for repentance and devotion that is strongly suggested for Advent. What gives with this hurry-scurry, rush-rush attitude which now seems to be part and parcel of the holidays? It’s either that, or an extra dose of guilt unloaded on those who are also trying to have Advent devotions on top of following a full calendar of holiday dates.

Dear Lord, help me steer through all of this extraneous stuff and find the expectation and anticipation of Advent. Lead me to discover anew the great worth and value of John the Baptist, and his important message of repentance. Thank You for Your patience and understanding for the many people who are striving to get closer to you—including me. It’s in the name of Jesus, God-with-us, we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] (This devotional by the Rev. John Thomas appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 19th edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois. Advent 2018)

Cardinal Newman Celebrates

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, May 21, 2017

cross - carved

Cardinal Newman Celebrates

John Henry Newman appears for a second time in this anthology of spiritual excerpts. Yes, he was originally an Anglican priest. While still an Anglican, Cardinal Newman preached some sermons in Oxford that were gathered in several volumes. These excerpts show Newman celebrating both Christmas and Easter.

In the Christmas sermon, Newman expresses joy. Yet, a solemn, serious joy. More subdued. He certainly refers to the seriousness of life, for it is a burden to live through. “For one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and rejoice in the perfections of our Saviour Christ, without thinking of ourselves, without thinking of our own miserable uncleanness, but contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His overflowing love.” [1]

Yes, Newman acknowledges that we ought to commemorate this great Festival! Blessed by angels in heaven and godly people on earth, he invites everyone to come and contemplate that Divine Mystery, come to earth.

In the Easter sermon, Newman begins with the “Gift of the Quickening Spirit. He moves to the wonderful events immediately following. Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed. Christ is within us, without us, dispensing blessings and granting sufficient grace to His church universal.

Yes, celebrate! Yes, there is joy at the empty tomb. As Richard Foster adds, “…the final word of Christian witness…is reserved for Easter: “Christ is risen.” He is risen indeed.” [2]

 

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000, 330.

[2] Ibid, 333.

Week-After-Christmas Prayers

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 28, 2016

christmas-holly

Week-After-Christmas Prayers

The week after Christmas does tend to be a bit of a downer. Anti-climactic, as it were.

This year? Especially so, with an elderly loved one dying two weeks ago, then going to the funeral in another state, last week. And, on top of that, all of the December and Advent and Christmas activities and festivities going on.

Apparently, it wasn’t only my extended family that had it rough. A lot of people had it rough. Some are even calling 2016 another annus horribilis.

Just this evening, I came to the realization that I am mentally and emotionally exhausted. I know I try to be strong, and caring, and honest, and willing to serve—all the time. However, sometimes things pile up so high, and get so heavy. I need to say “Enough is enough.”

I need some rest and relaxation time. Just what I had planned for tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. (Sunday, I need to be back in the pulpit.) My dear husband and I will travel to see my sister for the next few days, and I will even leave my laptop at home. (Gasp!)

If anyone would like to pray for me, I will gratefully accept prayers! Believe me, I have a full slate of things on my To-Do List waiting for me, when I come back.

However, I am still going to pray while traveling. I will take my prayer book with me while I am gone. Perhaps, I will have a fresh perspective on both prayer and life-in-general when I get back. Perhaps, in 2017, we can all make a fresh start.

Dear God, thank You for Your many blessings. Thank You for the opportunity and possibility to get away, to see family, and to rest and relax. And, thank You for dear friends, who uphold me in prayer. Help me to remember my friends and loved ones, too. Amen, and amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Another “Christmas Story”

And now, for something completely different.

I found this short story in my files, written ten years ago. I post it here for your reading pleasure.

christmas-shopping-cart

Another “Christmas Story”

by Elizabeth Jones

 

I had hoped this Christmas season was going to be somehow, well, different.

Alas, it was the same.

Same old frantic shoppers, frantically rushing from store to store. Same old lighted decorations in our newly renovated downtown shopping district. Same old “holiday” songs sung at our children’s school “winter concert.” (note: not “Christmas concert.” Not, heaven forbid, expressing the seasonal view of the predominant religious group in these United States in even one song in the concert. No.)

Same old Christmas video tapes played in our apartment. (Condominium, really. Small, modest rooms, in a great area in our town. Such a steal, at the time we bought it. But I digress.)

As I was saying, my family—specifically my husband—played the same old video tapes that they had played every year since I could remember. Especially, over and over again, “A Christmas Story.” Or, as I shall refer to it from this point forward, The Movie.

I knew the plot of The Movie backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards. I knew Ralphie and his angst at the possibility of not receiving the Red Rider BB gun. (“You’ll put your eye out, kid.”) I had felt Ralphie’s pain at being forced to model the bunny suit for doting grown-ups. My tongue smarted at just the memory of being frozen to the flagpole at school. (I did not even have to see the actual scene in the movie.)

I had suffered through The Movie countless times, as my husband and two children also sat glued to the small screen and variously chortled, giggled and guffawed through the whole thing, no matter how many times they had seen it.

I also had drifted through our living room, where the television, topped by both videocassette player and compact disc/dvd player, sat enthroned in state. In passing, I had observed various scenes from The Movie—Ralphie being pelted with snowballs, Ralphie getting his mouth washed out with soap, Ralphie on his knees next to the decorated tree, actually receiving the precious BB gun as a Christmas gift.

I was sick and tired of it. The whole thing. Every single, solitary scene of The Movie, lock, stock and barrel.

I started thinking about how I might dispose of the bootleg copy (actually, a copy of The Movie that my husband taped from a showing on television many years ago). I seriously began to consider how I might get rid of it, with no one being the wiser.

We had no dog, since our small apartment barely had room for two adults and two rapidly growing children. However, since there was no dog, I couldn’t very well say that our dog had chewed up the tape of The Movie, could I?

Or could I?

. . . nah!

Nice try, though, if I do say so myself.

I could try the old “abducted by aliens” routine, except I could say the aliens wanted to see The Movie so much, that they took our copy and left me a nice pair of earrings in exchange. I needed to tell my husband about my newest pair of earrings somehow, and this seemed as plausible as anything else I could come up with at such short notice. But, my husband and son would see right through that one. They had used the alien abduction thing on me more times than I could count.

No, I simply couldn’t think of any way I could get rid of The Movie. Not without my husband somehow knowing that I had deep-sixed it. Gotten rid of it. Whatever you call it, I very badly wanted to toss the tape.

It isn’t that I dislike Mr. Sheppard for writing his short story. I fully applaud him for writing such hilarious material. I don’t even feel any animosity towards him for narrating The Movie, even though I have seen it uncounted numbers of times. (Incidentally, if anyone ever wanted to make a movie about a short story of mine and asked me to narrate, I would be so there.)

Now that we have settled the part about me not being mad at—I mean, being jealous of—I mean, being really in awe of Mr. Sheppard and his narration of the successful motion picture adaptation of his short story, I’m going to move on. To the article in the New York Times I saw some days ago, where The Movie figures prominently

That article, from my point of view, was the nail in the coffin. Or, the last straw. Or, as my husband viewed it, the icing on the cake. That article started him on a whole ‘nother cycle of watching The Movie yet again. That article was fodder for my husband bringing up seemingly endless, minute details about The Movie. As if I hadn’t had enough of The Movie on the small screen, he had to regale me with tidbits he had read in the New York Times article, or, even worse, had dug up on the Internet.

I tried to ignore him. With limited success. In fact, next to no success. At least I tried to ignore him. The operative word here is “tried.”

So, now I was getting desperate.

The real, real last straw was when I considered what to get for my husband for Christmas several days ago, and the only thing that popped into my mind was an exact replica of the fishnet-clad leg lamp that Ralphie’s dad bought—and loved—in The Movie. (Coincidentally, the Times article mentioned replicas being sold somewhere in Cleveland.) The price, as I think I remember, was $300.

$300! I must be out of my ever-lovin’ mind!

First of all, I do not have $300. Second of all, where did that idea come from??? Third of all, I repeat, I must be out of my mind!

Even though my husband would undoubtably love the lamp, I couldn’t get it for him, for a large variety of reasons I cannot go into right now.

I am now thinking of my position as part-time chaplain at a nearby hospital, and of the pastors and other elders at my church and their opinion on such a lamp prominently displayed in our living room. And I am thinking of the blasted money the lamp would cost, and especially of my husband breaking several of the Ten Commandments in his coveting of said lamp.

No. I simply cannot bring myself to even contemplate such a thing any further.

 

*                                  *                                  *                                  *

 

I have just awakened from a dream. No, a nightmare. A nightmare concerning The Movie, complete with Ralphie and his embarrassing moment with Santa and subsequent terrifying ride down the long slide.

Thinking about what to get for my husband for Christmas yet again, I tossed and turned in bed for quite awhile before I finally fell asleep. Somehow, during my restless night, I entered the horrific realm of dream/nightmare and brought the worry about what to get for my husband with me.

Standing in line behind Ralphie, in my dream there was nothing at all odd about a forty-something-aged woman waiting to see Santa. Except, as the line got nearer and nearer to Santa, I kept looking around and seeing more and more things that reminded me of some Federico Fellini movie or other, which I hadn’t viewed for at least twenty years.

I remember I saw a busty, blond young woman, wearing a bikini and a full-length fur coat, sitting on a large, white swing hanging from the ceiling of the store. The fur coat was open, displaying the white bikini. She had a maniacal grin on her face. She swung back and forth slowly, laughing at the boys and girls as they waited for Santa.

I saw a toy train on a raised platform near Santa, surrounded by numerous small buildings, snow-covered trees and glistening fake snow, all encased under a glass bubble-sort-of-thing. The train rapidly proceeded around the track, but my eyes had somehow become the camera. I saw the train rush around the bend—in a somehow menacing manner—from an impossibly close shot. Then I was back in line behind Ralphie.

It was then I felt as if the walls were turning to jelly.

Then, I saw Ralphie go to sit on Santa’s lap.

Everything changed to slow motion. I watched as the scene played out, seemingly from a cock-eyed angle, a long way away, but I was only five or six feet distant.

As Ralphie started his trip down the slide and as I went forward to sit on Santa’s lap, I could think of absolutely nothing that I myself wanted for Christmas. I suddenly realized what I wanted was Santa’s professional opinion on a really good present for my husband. The elves laughed in a particularly evil manner as I walked to Santa. It was then that I really felt in danger, just as Santa reached for me.

I woke up, in a cold sweat.

My husband was already awake and in the living room, at the computer. I looked at the bedside clock. Its red numbers blinked “5:41.”

I realized instantly I could fight this losing battle no longer. I intuitively knew, without completely understanding how I had come to this conclusion . . . I realized that the perfect Christmas gift for my husband would be a brand-new copy of The Movie.

That would touch my husband’s heart in a way I myself simply could not.

Accordingly, I went to the video section of the cut-rate department store near our house, after my husband and children left for work and school, respectively. Lo and behold, the video section had Christmas and other seasonal selections prominently displayed. I marched right up to the end cap display, chose the dvd with additional extras at the end of The Movie, and dashed off home as quickly as possible, without getting suckered into buying anything—that’s anything—else.

(me – 1, corporate marketing department – 0)

As I tucked the dvd away in my underwear drawer, where it would wait until Christmas Eve when I traditionally had a marathon present-wrapping session, the thought came to me: this was probably the most joy-filled present I had ever bought for my husband in my life (not on my part, but on his.) He would be so overjoyed at receiving a brand-new dvd copy of The Movie—complete with bonus featurettes—I was amazed I had never thought of it in Christmases past.

As I shut the dresser drawer, I reflected that life did not revolve around me, as much as I wanted it to. And, there is always the possibility I could buy myself an mp3 player for Christmas, complete with headphones (so I wouldn’t have to listen to The Movie any more, ever again).

@chaplaineliza

(I hope you enjoy something a bit different, for a change. Merry  Christmas!)

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

 

Pray, Grieve, Attend a Service

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 21, 2016

nourish-and-support

Pray, Grieve, Attend a Service

What happens when something—someone—gets caught up in mourning? Grieving?

Christmas is almost here. But, before Christmas comes, we made a visit across state borders. An elderly relative died recently, and we were paying our respects.

So incredibly sad. I have a few photos taken at the funeral and afterwards, but otherwise, there’s not much more than memories.

Grief. Sorrow. If we tiptoe into the hushed presence of a Christmas program for our well-beloved one . Mourn,  pray, grieve.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

A Reckoning at Year’s End

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, December 31, 2015

Romans 8-28 we know God works chalkboard

A Reckoning at Year’s End

Romans 8:28. Yes, I’ve heard it quoted from time to time. I have purposely not taught it in bible study, or preached on this verse. And, from time to time, I have had serious problems with this verse of Paul’s. Not so much the context, but this specific verse.

Except—Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives me a different way of looking at it.

Many times before, all I could see in Romans 8:28 was either bright, shiny pie-in-the-sky proof text, or dogged, blind belief in a mysterious God who never could be understood. I don’t know quite why, but Bonhoeffer may have given me a way in to the understanding of this verse. He mentions, “I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist [greatest evil] in all times of distress. But He never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on Him alone.” [1]

I appreciate that. I appreciate that kind of God, who respects me as a person, who doesn’t baby or coddle me. And yet, God expects me to use my oar and do my part as part of a team. Sort of like in a yoke of oxen, where one ox cannot do it all.

Bonhoeffer wrote this at the end of 1942. It was more than just a reckoning of the past year, as he sent this letter to several of his closest friends at Christmas. Yet, the snippet I’ve quoted from this moving and powerful letter serves well to close out this year of prayer. This year of journeying through different modes and ways of prayer.

I come to the end of my daily prayer blog for 2015, #matterofprayer. I pray that the various kinds of prayer and meditation I’ve done during each of the past twelve months may have strengthened and encouraged not only my heart, but the hearts of my readers, as well. God bless us all in 2016.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. O.C. Dean, Jr., compiled and edited, Jana Riess (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010), 79.

This Prince of Peace

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Prince of Peace Jesus Isa 9-6

This Prince of Peace

The world today is not a peaceful place. Definitely not peaceful.

I live in the Chicago area. There is definitely a lack of peace here, too.

I crave peace. Calm. Gentleness, kindness, love, joy. Lord God, peace seems so out of reach, both corporally as well as individually. Yet, there is good news. Good news of great joy, which was given for all people.

God came to earth at Christmas. It was not only Love that came down at Christmas, but also the Prince of Peace came into this world. God reconciled the fallen, hateful world to Godself, in a vertical direction. One of the compilers of this book of December meditations writes, “Where God comes in love to human beings and unites with them, there peace is made between God and humankind and among people.” [1]

But, wait. That’s not all. God also overcame the enmity one person has with another. One group with another, one country with another. “Come and see how God, out of pure love, has become our brother and wants to reconcile us with each other.” [2]

Now there is the possibility of peace, love, and togetherness, instead of fear, hatred, and isolation. Prince of Peace, You entered into the world to show us love, in the most personal and vulnerable way possible. All that I can say is thank You, Jesus.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. O.C. Dean, Jr., compiled and edited, Jana Riess (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010), 74.

[2] Ibid.