Isaiah 60.1-6

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         

Arise. Shine. Your soul is light.
         Your face glows with the Beloved’s gaze.

The world is draped in black.
         People live in darkness like black paint.
But the Lover dawns in you;
         you radiate her beauty.
God’s presence in you will be light for others.
         Even those who have it all will be grateful.
Open your eyes. Be aware.
         The Divine Presence gathers people.
We are bound by this umbilical light.
         It makes us family, even strangers.

Your eyes take in glory, and shine with glory.
         Let this give you joy.
Receive the gifts this life has to offer.
         Accept the world’s abundance.
Let the world kneel at your feet
         and bring you gold and frankincense.
This giving and receiving
         is holy praise.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Categorized as Reflections

Journey of the magi

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
         — Matthew 2.1-2

God is in the world. And there are wanderers in our heart seeking God, not satisfied with the surface of things alone, not wanting to be distracted by all the fads and fancies of the world, but hungry for what’s deeper and more life-giving, desiring connection with the Beloved. Our spirit of wisdom and curiosity seeks expanded awareness of the Holy: of a truth, a dimension, a reality that exists beyond and yet within the visible world. It’s a journey of consciousness. If we are wise, we go with the magi.

We leave our familiar surroundings, even our religious trappings, and venture into the foreign and unknown, into the darkness. We are pilgrims. We feel our way along a strange path and an uncertain way. We ask directions, and, trusting, we are willing to be led. We learn to find God in the world, to see the Divine Presence in our daily lives. Some people only ever see what everyone says they are supposed to see. They pass by the humble stable without suspecting. But some see the Holy Child, the light of God, the Word made Flesh. Because they are looking, some see.

Take time to acknowledge the magi within, and give thanks for them. Give them what they need for their journey. Commit to going with them. Seek God in this world. Seek Christ in your daily life. Keep your eye on the star that shines in your heart, the promise that God wants to be found, that God is in fact leading you. Look through the surface of this world, to the child in the manger. Each moment you are asking, “Where is the child….?” And each breath you breathe you are getting closer.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Your star

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising.
         —Matthew 2.9

Head lights, foot lights, spotlights, street lights,
little LED indicators that are always on,
blinking your busyness, connectedness, being on,
a million things to do and ways to go ——

ignore them.

Close your eyes.
Within shines a star,
a small one, gentle,
that you can see only in darkness,
in solitude, in mystery,
sometimes in unknowing,
confusion and even pain.
Real darkness.

Beyond within you shines your star,
your pioneer, always going ahead,
always guiding you,
always silent,
but reaching out its hand.

It knows where the Holy Child is.
It is set there by God,
a Word, a promise, a hint, a Presence.

What would you have to lose to follow?
What would you have to be willing to find?

When will you set out?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Three French hens

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
It may be startling news to anyone who lives at a mall, but Christmas is not over. It’s just begun. The secular world thinks Christmas runs from Thanksgiving to December 25, but it actually begins the 25th and goes for twelve days. Today is the third day. Three French hens.

Christians may object to the commercialization of Christmas, but we seldom do anything else with it ourselves, do we? I mean, my gosh, what are we supposed to do with the next eleven days, after we’ve pretty much blown our wad on the first one?

We use the twelve days to practice a faith of the Incarnation. Practice beholding the mystery that God’s Word of love is made flesh among us, in Jesus of Nazareth and in one another. Practice giving thanks that God does not just watch us, but accompanies us, lives within us. Practice looking for God.

Practice sustaining the love and peace you felt on Christmas Eve for another twelve days. Practice seeing the light in people’s faces as if they’re sitting in a beautiful sanctuary singing songs, with a candle in their hand. Practice seeing the divine child within each of us. Practice sensing that this particular time, this present moment is holy.

Practice the anticipation of knowing that you are about to receive gifts. Practice the joy of seeing others receive your gifts. Practice generosity. Practice getting a kick out of making a special effort for someone. Practice noticing the poor, lonely and hungry more than usual, and reaching out to them with joy rather than obligation. Practice treating people with blessing. Practice thinking of all humanity as family.

Practice attending to the mystery that God is present in poor and ordinary things and people. Practice awe and reverence. Practice hope, joy, peace and love. Faith is not an accident, a product of a certain event or season. It’s a choice. It’s a practice. Keep it going. If you can do it for one night, you can do it for twelve days; and if for twelve days, you can do it for eternal life.

Merry Christmas!
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Categorized as Reflections

A psalm of the Nativity

         
         

For unto us a child is born,
         unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor ,
         Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
         Prince of Peace.

                  —Isaiah 9.6

Holy One, Loving Mystery,
         Mother of Life, Eternal Companion,
you have come to us.
         You have come to save us,
to heal us, to set us free,
         to bring us into your Realm of light.
You have begun something great among us,
         hidden in the life of a child,
         tendered to us from among the poor.
You have come to us as our little brother,
         and made us all sisters and brothers.
Our salvation will unfold
         in the life of this child,
in his words, his deeds, his love,
         and even in his death.
It will take time, and require of us
         patience and trust.
But already, even in winter
         the bud has opened.
Already, even in the darkness,
         even in our doubt and unworthiness,
we are saved,
         for you are with us in grace.

In awe and wonder we kneel.
         In silence we bow.
In tender love we reach for the child.
         In gentle devotion we hold him.
In our arms, in our hearts,
         in our neighbors, we hold him.

Praise! Sing hallelujah!
         Go ahead and wake the baby!
He too will sing for joy,
         for God has married her people.
God has given birth to us again!
         God has created the earth anew!
Christ is born!
         Let there be light!

         

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Categorized as Reflections

Christmas prayer

         
         

Infinite One,
depth of night,
breath of galaxies:
come to me.

Holiness within,
gestating heaven,
revealing yourself:
let me see.

Tender One,
not afraid of my death,
gentle amidst the storm:
enfold me.

Holy Presence,
womb-warmth,
life-pulse:
enter me.

Heavenly Lover,
journeying with me,
bearing my life:
marry me.

Child from heaven,
come out
and share my world.
Let me hold you.

         
         

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

An inside job

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
The story of the Nativity of Christ is not just a lovely, starlit moment of precious magic and calm adoration. It’s the story of God’s subversion of the world, through no power at all except love. Read the stories (one in Matthew, one in Luke) without romanticizing and you see a story of God’s vulnerable presence amidst poverty, oppression and danger. The manger is not a cute image. It’s about a family that is homeless, at risk, and coping. The magi work knowingly around political and military repression. The family escapes death squads and becomes refugees. And where is God in all this? In a baby.

This is the story of God’s incursion into our power structures, to transform them from the inside out with nothing but radical presence and compassion. God does not act as a king or a warrior, but comes as a vulnerable, powerless child, who makes rough shepherds tender, who draws kings to worship on their knees, who threatens Herod and reorganizes society. God does not impose laws for us to follow: God gives us love to fall into.

The festival of the Nativity of Christ is the celebration of God’s radical presence with us, among us and within us, with nothing but love. God changes the rough world into a world of gentleness, from among the vulnerable and marginalized. It’s an inside job. And God enlists us to join the movement. God invites us to live in the world with this spirit of presence and compassion, to be gentle in a rough world, to be loving when it is a risk, to exercise the power of powerlessness, to trust grace. God extends this invitation by coming into the rough and lowly places in our own hearts, and living there with healing power, with nothing but love.

This Christmas may you be more deeply inspired to embody God’s love and emboldened to bear it into this sometimes dark and rough world. May God’s Word become flesh. May Christ be born in you this holy season, and throughout the new year.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Christmas darkness

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I’m writing this while staying up late, watching the lunar eclipse with Jonathan. The moon, lightly veiled by clouds, but still visible, is slowly swallowed by darkness. Life is sometimes like that.

I’m keeping vigil. Not that the moon needs me to make it through the darkness, just that it feels right to keep it company and bless its darkness.

It’s the winter solstice. Not since 1638, 465 years ago, has an eclipse come on the winter solstice. (A fascinating aside: scientists don’t know the next time this will happen. They’re in the dark.) This is the year’s shortest day, the day of the most darkness. From now on, the days are getting longer. The darkness is slowly swallowed by light.

Dualistic thinkers see here a battle between good and evil. But darkness is not evil. It’s just a place where we can’t see, that’s all. And it’s not a battle. It’s a dance. They both surge in and out, back and forth, turning around each other. The darkness shines in the light, and the light cannot overcome it.

Paradoxically, although the winter solstice promises the return of the light, it marks the beginning of winter. Even as it’s getting lighter it’s getting colder. Dark and light, warmth and cold balance each other, complete each other, need each other. Life is sometimes like that.

It wouldn’t be the Christmas story without the darkness. An angel comes to Joseph in a dream. Magi follow a star in the night sky. The heavenly host comes to shepherds watching their flock by night. God comes to us in our darkness. God accompanies us in our darkness, and blesses it.

When you love those who suffer, you can’t necessarily abolish their darkness. But you can keep vigil. You can accompany them and bless their night.

Don’t be afraid to enter the darkness. Grace happens there. God is there. And there, in the darkness, you can see the light return. In the darkness, light shines.

As it turns out, clouds swallowed the eclipse. We didn’t see much. But it was fun to stay up and watch together. Life is like that. And so is God.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Christmas lights

Christmas Lights


The people who walked in darkness
         have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
         on them light has shined.

                 — Isaiah 9.2
 
Little lights they are, mostly,
strung in trees and tacked along eaves:
small lights that couldn’t light a room,
and yet they brighten the street
and beautify the whole neighborhood.
 
A small light you may be,
but be a light anyway,
an Advent candle,
a radiant sign of the coming of Christ,
shining Christ’s grace.
Someone walking in deep darkness
will see, and give thanks.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Baby God

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

A little child shall lead them…
and they will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain.
         •

Christ did not count equality with God
a thing to be grasped,
but in self-emptying took the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
         •

Blessed are the gentle,
for they shall inherit the earth.
         •

Love is patient; love is kind.
         •

Love your enemies.
         •

You must become as a child
to enter the Realm of God.
         •

You shall find a child,
wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.
         •

God comes as a baby
to draw out our tenderness.
Hold the child gently
in all that you do.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections