New year

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
A new year is upon us. It’s time to take down the old calendar, and if it has nice pictures, save it—you can use it again in 2022— and put up the new one, or the 1984 one that you’ve saved for 2012.

As you do, ponder the old calendar. Look at all those days. God was with you on every one of them. Think of all you’ve done, and give thanks for your endeavors. Give thanks for all the people you met, the folks who did things for you, the souls you touched, the companions you had on the way. Give thanks for all you’ve seen, and marvel at how the things that you’ve experienced, and the ways you chose to receive them, have become a part of who you are. Give thanks for the challenges, the terrible days, the long hauls, for they, too, are part of the journey that has brought you to this day, and part of who you are.

And of course remember all your mistakes, and even more important, what you learned from them. And know that as you leave behind the old year, all those mistakes are forgiven. The little goofs and the profound betrayals, the odd slips and the unbreakable habits, all are forgiven. They are as past as that old year, gone. All that remains is wisdom, what you learned from them.

You have changed and grown. That’s the good news as you stand at the threshold of a new year: we can change. In the new year we can become new people. Of course we resist change, but the truth is that it’s really not change that we dislike so much as loss. It’s our resistance to change that’s hard. Change, and the loss of the familiar, puts us in a vulnerable, powerless position, a place where we’re not in control, and we don’t “know” enough. That’s what we don’t like.

And that— that place of powerlessness, dependence and not knowing— is the gospel place, the place where our only hope, and our only power, is God. It’s the place Jesus invites us to be. It’s all about dying first and then rising. Did you notice last Sunday what Simeon in the temple said about the baby Jesus? “This child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel” (Lk. 2.34). Not the rise and fall, like coming and going. But the falling (first) and then the rising. So 2012 is the year you will die.

And rise. You will surrender everything to God’s infinite love, and let God re-create you. Enter the new year ready to die and rise in the Spirit of the Eternal One who gives you life as a gift. So this new year will be great—it will include your birth-day!

As you put up the new calendar, even if it says 1984, be mindful that you are about to become someone new. This re-creation will involve loss, and you will be tempted to resist it. But God will be with you every single one of those 366 days. Be ready to accept the changes that will come, to rely on God’s merciful presence, and to be re-created in this new time. The whole year will come at you one moment at a time; you can enter into each present moment, willing and lovingly present, for you will be in the Loving Presence.

May God deeply bless your new year. It will be good.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Magi

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men 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

Hidden in the folds of the long night’s robes
gleams a star that knows,
and that shows a Way.

In the village of your soul dwells a Wise One
with sacred eyes
and the courage to leave home.

The heart does not choose a way
by the road, nor the inns,
but the love at the far end.

A bird calls out to its lover,
revealing its presence,
unafraid to alarm the hunter.

Bring provisions,
and burial instructions.
Leave the house open.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Believe

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Around Christmas time a lot of movies tell you to “Believe,” but they don’t have a clue what to tell you to believe in. It’s not helpful to just haul off and believe any old silly thing. The movies tend to be about believing in Santa Claus, but of course they don’t really mean that. I think sometimes the movie makers themselves don’t believe in anything deeper than entertainment, unless what they really intend to say is not “Believe” but ”Imagine,” or maybe “Honor people’s dreams.”

Still, it seems that Christmas wants to inspire us to believe something. Well, what? The Christmas story has as much fantastic stuff as the Santa story: a virgin birth, angels, magi following a star that somehow stops over an individual house. Are we just supposed to believe all that stuff? Or is there something more significant that we’re supposed to believe? Why is it significant that we believe? And if it’s actually true, why do we need to be told to believe it? Wouldn’t it be obvious?

Here’s what I think the Christmas story invites us to believe. Believe that God is with us, that the Holy One dwells within you. Believe that you are God’s Beloved. Believe that God would forsake the comforts of heaven in order to share your life with you. Believe that God comes to you, suffers with you and stands up for you for the sake of the eternal, inviolable well-being of your soul.

That stuff is hard to believe only because we look with our rational, thinking minds, and can’t see it. This truth we can only see with our souls. It takes practice to see God. But it changes our lives when we do.

The fact is that aside from the highly symbolic parables that Matthew and Luke tell about Jesus’ birth, we know nothing of the conditions of his birth at all. The gospel writers’ point is not history; their point is who Jesus is. I don’t think it matters what you believe about the virgin birth and the manger and all that. It matters what you believe about God. And about yourself and your belovedness, and the world’s.

You are not alone. God comes to you, to save you. God is in the world. Believe that.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Categorized as Reflections

Third day of Christmas

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Today people go back to work, return to normal life. Malls & radios stations have stopped playing Christmas music. Stores are advertising Valentines’ Day. And it’s only the third day of Christmas. Never mind them. (What they were doing wasn’t about Christmas anyway.) Now is when it sets in, the realization that we’re in this for the long haul, that this is not about a holiday, a brief flash of silent light and then business as usual. This is the long, hard work of Incarnation, of opening ourselves to God’s miraculous, indwelling Presence, and of bodying forth God’s love into the world.

It feels a little harder without the candles and the singing, doesn’t it? Now it’s not special; it’s just… well, life. Which, of course, is what Jesus came to—not some Christmas card picture, but real, regular life. Not even nice, clean, comfortable life, in fact, but the life of a homeless refugee family. Now here’s the real miracle of Christmas: not that God is present in the decorations and the special meals and the family times and all that, but that God is present in the regular times. God is beside us and within us all the time.

Be mindful today that this is the day of Christ’s birth in you. This is the day the angels will sing. This, not some day now past, is the day you have been waiting for! This present moment, God is coming into your life, into the world. And you are awake, looking with the eyes of your heart, ready to see the star, to hear the song, to embrace the child, to bear the love.

This is the mystery of Incarnation: the gift of the present moment, and the miracle of the Present One. Now. Here.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Unfolding Light

www.unfoldinglight.net

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Bethlehem flash mob

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

In the dark of a cold night, on the edge of a dusty little one-pump town at the far end of the Roman Empire, an angel sings. It’s a quiet little song, about bringing love into the world. Then a newborn baby cries. It’s an ordinary cry, and it is the sound of God with us. The mother takes up the cry, for they are homeless, and she loves her baby. The father is in a state of complete wonder, and he joins in and starts singing.

Shepherds nearby are fascinated, the way onlookers are at a flash mob—but then they join in the God-is-with-us song. It’s beautiful. Angels join the chorus, doing this really cool dance, and singing glory. They sing glory in the highest heaven, and they sing peace on earth. Anna and Simeon take up the tune in the temple. And soon the pillars of the temple are rocking and swaying. And the animals about to be sacrificed are nodding and shouting ”Amen!”

And then Magi from the east come waltzing in with swirlly robes and wicked cool hats, doing this really amazing whirling dervish and singing, “God is with us! Glory!” Herod and his security forces with their pepper spray come in and try to bust it up, but the magi lead them off into the parking lot and the dance goes on. Then people all over Judea are doing it, lepers singing like angels and paralytics dancing around in their wheelchairs, and Roman soldiers, all singing glory. Around the corner, behind a pillar, Pharisees are secretly doing it a little, just a little, kind of from the neck up, and humming along, and taking lots of videos.

People in prisons join in the song. It echoes a lot because of the cells. People in exile join in, and refugees, and the crowd is getting huge. People in hospice care and on death row are singing, everybody singing glory. Whole races are singing, whole continents dancing. Then the wind is singing and dancing, and trees waving their arms, and hurricanes whirling around, and cloud formations dancing and dancing. Then galaxies join in, whirling around with their arms flung out and singing glory, until the whole universe is dancing glory and singing “God is with us!” And you begin to feel like you’re the only one who hasn’t joined in yet.

And then the glory vanishes into the world and the angels disappear into the crowd. And the next day people get up and get their coffee and go to work and do their ordinary things, and the world goes on. But that baby is still out there somewhere, and that tune swirling around in your heart.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________

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

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Christmas blessing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
In your deepest darkness
        may the eyes of God
                twinkle like stars.

May the sounds of the world
        become song,
                become angelic.

May you always hear,
        like voices in the next room,
                glory.

May God come,
        whole,
                into your life.

May you receive
        the most holy gift
                of wonder.

May God give you the courage
        of the young mother
                in the darkness.

May you hear the song
        of the presence of God
                within you.

May your ordinary life
        be a sign of God’s nearness
                to the lowly.

May all the refugee families
        in your world
                find shelter.

May you always ponder
        the mystery of your dear,
                umbilical life.

May the cries
        of the Christ child
                keep you awake.

 
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Solstice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

The true “reason for the season” was before Macy’s and Santa, even before the Christians and their Christ Mass, even before the Romans and their midwinter Saturnalia: on the longest night of the year, in the darkest dark, the earth turned again toward the light. We remember this when we hang wreaths and lights and bring a tree inside. The Christians decided there was no better time to celebrate Jesus than the winter solstice, day the light comes into the world. I don’t think Jesus would mind the “pagan” roots of the solstice celebration. He would have thought it odd to think that he himself was the reason for the season. He came to reveal something even more fundamental than himself: the light of the grace of God. He wanted us to be rooted in Creation, in the most basic truths of our living, like the light that we live in. He wanted us to pay attention to what Is, and to see it as holy. Even as we head into winter, the earth has already begun the lengthening of days, just as God promises resurrection before we even begin to face life’s losses and challenges.

That’s all very well, but I’m thinking about all of you in Australia, where it’s the opposite solstice: today is the first day of Spring. Hm. So I guess the deal is that matter where you are, today is the First Day. And no matter what you are experiencing, it will change. No matter where you are on the great wheel of time, there is neither infinite light nor darkness. The important thing is to tun toward the light. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. God is present in it all. Where is the light coming into your world? Perhaps in the darkest places.

Today, whether you are entering the Holy of Holies or slogging through a dismal mess, be mindful of the Divine Bliss indwelling within you. Whether this day looks to be a grand one or a flop, remember that it’s the day Christ comes to dwell with you. A day of birth. A first Day. It doesn’t matter whether you are coming or going, whether the day is long or short, your fortunes rising or falling: look toward the light.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

A commercial-free Christmas

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

Some people make it sound like you’re not really a Christian unless you complain about the commercialization of Christmas. I say, Bah, humbug!

I don’t care. I don’t notice the commercialization, or pay any attention to the alleged “war on Christmas.” Because in our society not only the meaning of this season but all the teachings of Jesus, the whole Gospel, has been commercialized, politicized, trivialized, domesticated, hollowed out, dumbed down, dressed up, and turned into a Barbie doll. So what? It’s always been that way.

The mystery of God is inaccessible to dualistic thinking, so of course most people don’t get it. What Jesus taught was so contrary to conventional wisdom, so outside our understanding and judgment, and so opposed to the systems of oppression, fear and social status that we’re invested in, that of course people misunderstand it and resist it and distort it and co-opt it. Jesus initiates God’s Empire of Grace, which overthrows all the empires of this world, including the Empire of Rome, the Empire of Deserving, and the Empire of Halliburton. So even the Christmas story includes the profound resistance against itself, in the violent reaction of Herod and the slaughter of the innocents. Of course people want to trivialize the radical nature of God’s grace and its claim on us, the universal power of God’s forgiveness, the subversive reality of resurrection. Why wouldn’t they want this to be a story about a cute little baby’s birthday, on which we should buy big TV’s?

Ignore them. The whole point of walking a spiritual path is that you don’t go the way others do. The point of meditation is to let go of the world’s “Babel sounds.” Don’t expect others to validate your faith. Don’t waste your energy on expectations of them. (If you need a more commercial-free Christmas, watch less TV and stay out of the mall.) Put your own Christ in Christmas.

Open your heart to God’s amazing presence. Seek awareness of God’s incarnation in the simple, among the poor, hidden in the unheralded. Don’t be fooled by this world’s expectations. A Savior is coming, who sets us free from all oppression—the oppression of our sin and guilt, the oppression of fear, the oppression of death, the oppression of those who use power and wealth unjustly, and the oppression of other people’s opinions. The good news of Christmas is that God has come to set you free, even from people who misunderstand and abuse Christmas!

Christ is coming. Open your heart to the good news.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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O antiphons

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         •

O Holy Presence, whose love brings all things into being,
         come, and draw open by your light the ancient blossoms.

O Beloved, radiant with glory in all Creation,
          come, and awaken us; teach us to see.

O Hands of God, who has opened doors that none could shut,
who has healed and blessed, and none could defy,
          come, and hold us in your grace.

O King of Gentleness, who knows our sorrow
and yet embraces us with joy,
          come, and guide our hands in the way of healing.

O Open Eye, who sees us in all truth, and loves us,
          come, and reveal in us your beauty.

O Light of Justice, whose heart breaks for those who sit in darkness,
          come, and show us the way of courage and compassion.
         
O Companion, who makes us all one in your love,
          come, and kindle in our hearts the spirit of the Beloved.

          •

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
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A message from God

My Dear Little Ones,

I give you my peace. I want you to know how dear you are to me. I know that sometimes you feel that you are missing from your own life. I know that you are frightened, and I see how your fear turns to meanness. But you need not be afraid. I have heard your cries in the night. I feel your anguish at the shame that haunts you, the terror that stalks you. I feel the tears of your loneliness on my own cheeks, and I long for you to know that you are not alone; I am with you. I desire deeply to be with you, and I long for your healing. I want you to come back to your life. So I will come, to save you.

I want you to know it in your bones, to fee it in your chest, to hold it in your arms, that nothing can separate you from me and from life, not your selfish fear, or your deepest suffering, or even death. So I will come to be with you. I will come in your darkest night, so you know there is no place I will not be with you.

I know that your trust is hard won, that it is not easy for you to give yourself over to someone so deeply unknowable, so unheard, so invisible. So I will come to you as one of you, as a child, a poor child on a cold night in a rough place. I will come to you at your most vulnerable, and be so vulnerable with you. I will come and share your suffering and your delight, every moment. I will come to live inside you.

I will come to you as the most powerless, so that you may receive me—and yet I will come to you at your worst, and therefore as you are least able to receive me. Yes, I know that in my tenderness I will suffer. But so I choose, to remain close to you. I am telling you beforehand, so that you are not terrified at the awfulness of what you may do to me. My dears, I forgive you already.

I know what is to come, and still I will come. I will come until your guilt is swallowed up in my grace, until your shame is dried up by my love, until your pain blossoms into wisdom. I will come again, and again, and again. Watch for me. Watch for the tender child with the light of your healing in his eyes, with your beauty in her small hands. Even now I am coming. I am coming.

I will be very small and needy. Will you watch for me? Will you hold me?

My peace I give to you.

Love,
Your Holy One.

         •

         
         

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections