New year

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         “Fast away the old year passes.
                  Fa la la la la la la la la.
         Hail the new, ye lads and lasses.
                  Fa la la la la la la la la.”

         Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
         for the first heaven and the first earth
         had passed away, and sea was no more.

                  —Revelation 21.1

I like calendars: they have a new picture every month. So I save them, and re-use them. (In 2013 you can use calendars from 2002, 1991 and 1985. Well, and, ’74, ’63, ’57 and 1822, for that matter) The patterns and pictures return, but the time does not.

Deep snow covers everything and turns it into a new world. I know it will some day vanish and the old world will return. I need to stop knowing this. It is good to trust that the world is here and will be here. I love the friends who light my life, the woods I walk in, the sea that sings to me, the heavens that fill these nights with the music of the moon. But I can easily begin to expect the world to continually repeat itself like an old calendar.

Everything is passing, even the whole world, and the world reminds me of this: in the passing of time, the passing of seasons, the passing of loved ones. In my grief and fear I cling to the world, not for its sake but mine. I cling to the world without loving it. But the snow that follows each stone wall so carefully, that attends to each branch with loving devotion, and that will soon fall from the branches and melt away, says, “No, love the world without clinging to it.”

This is only the first world. There is another, and we are passing into it, always, always slipping mysteriously into that new gift that waits inside this world like a child in its womb. Every loss is a promise, every death a preparation. As we turn through the light spangled heavens into a new year, I pray that I may be ready for a new life as well. Let this new year be one in which I am mindful of the new world just barely invisible beyond this one, ready to be changed. May I love the world without clinging to it. May I live in this moment, not a vanished one, or an imagined one, but this one precious, passing moment in which, even now, God is bringing forth a new heaven and a new earth.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Lost and found

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         After three days they found him in the temple.
                  —Luke 2. 46

At Christmas time we think of the “Christ child,” though we know nothing of Jesus’ childhood. But there is this: Luke says when Jesus was twelve, when his family went to the temple in Jerusalem they accidentally left him behind. After three days they found him, in the temple.

Insert your own funny family story here of the kid being left somewhere (ours is a gas station). But wait— three days? Clearly, this is not a biographical story, but a symbolic one. It’s a story about losing and finding, being with and without, separation and reunion. In the Bible three days is not chronological time, it’s symbolic time: Abraham and Isaac on the mountain… Jonah in the whale… Jesus in the tomb. Three days means loss and transformation, death and resurrection. And it comes at Christmas time.

Because Christ comes to us to be with us in our death. Christ comes to us because we are broken hearted. The peace and joy of Christmas is not just for fun, but because we need it. We need the healing for our sorrows, the mercy in our terror, the company in our wanderings. Christ comes to be with us because we are lost, and searching, and alone. Sometimes, like his parents, we feel like we have lost the Holy Child with us or within us. We feel death’s shadow. But the good news is that we haven’t lost God; we are not alone; death does not have the last word. The light of Christmas shines on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

For many people the ribbons of Christmas are braided with sorrow. And this year it has been for us, too. My wife Beth’s youngest sister Paula passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend, two days before Christmas. Family is gathered, yet sundered, both lost and united. We have been more aware than usual that the promise of Christmas is not happy times; the promise is that God is with us, even in the sorrowful times. Sometimes we have to search for three days to know it. But when we return to the sacred center, we find that it is we who have wandered, who have not seen the presence of God. We are not alone. And death never has the last word.

There will be sorrows and fears; there will be times when we feel without God. But “after three days”—beyond the appearances of time and space— we will be reunited with the Beloved, and we will find ourselves in a holy place.

This Christmas pray for all those who do not yet see light in their lives, who are in sorrow, or searching and feel alone. May God’s presence enfold them, God’s love and hope be with them always.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Christmas star

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

In the tiny villages of the night sky
a star’s windows gleam, waiting,
longing us home.

Your being, quiet as a star,
leads the hopeful
to a place of belonging.

                  •

The simple star
offers its gift with open hands
to the plains
with their little towns,
to the star-blind cities
and the furrows of the sea.

You do not need to know
that your compassion extends
to all living beings
for it to be so.

                  •

Deep in the black sky
a star gleams
its glory and hope
upon the little child.

Bright one,
never doubt
that your light is beautiful,
nor that what it shines on
is holy.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Christmas

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
The day has come, the carols sung,
the bells of Christmas have been rung,
the gifts were given, the feast was served,
and one day off of work observed.
But all of that was yesterday,
and even now you’ve put away
the Christmas plates and started to
return to what you always do.
The living room that had been strewn
with toys and clothes all afternoon
has now been tidied up and swept,
(while on the couch your uncle slept).
And with the garbage you might see—
already!—someone’s Christmas tree.

But Christmas isn’t over yet.
We have twelve days in which to let
the child be born in us anew,
to let the holy light shine through,
twelve days to love and give our gifts,
to do some simple thing that lifts
another’s spirits, or their load,
or shines a light along their road,
twelve days to fight the world’s pull
to be asleep and comfortable,
but be awake in trust and care
because the Holy One is near,
twelve days to shine with love, made sure
that we are just the way we were
(and always are) on Christmas night:
in love, at peace, and full of light.

So every day for twelve good days
embody love in simple ways:
share food, write cards, befriend the poor,
do someone else’s dirty chore,
stand up for justice, sing a song—
let all you do for twelve days long
be what you give and do and are
for Mary’s child beneath the star.
Let each day be a Christmas prayer
of joy and thanks and loving care,
each day, though it be bright or blah,
a day of gratitude and awe:
amidst the dark, a day of cheer
for our Beloved One is here.

Merry Christmas

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Christ is born

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
                 
                 
                 
Christ is born?
the Prince of Peace,
reigning in your heart
and throughout the universe;
the Word made Flesh, Light of Life,
shining from deep in your soul.
The Beloved will never leave your side,
never disdain your place in life,
never abandon your darkness
or leave you in your suffering.

Christ is born,
and Love is in the world.

Christ is born.
The tender child is yours.
Care gently for him.

                 
                 
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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O Borning God

      
O Come, Beloved,
in this night of our travail
in which we cannot see;
breathe with us, in us,
and be the saving arm around us.

O Life-making Word,
speak your light in our heartbreaking darkness,
and call this word into being anew.

O Borning God,
on this night
wrap all our understanding in your mystery,
shroud in darkness all our knowing
of how you are among us,
bundle tightly our wisdom
in your smallest box,
and come to us otherwise.

O Intimate Dawning,
bear us through the night,
bestow your secret gifts,
and birth us into a new day,
childlike again.

O Dearest Child,
on this holy night
gather us around you
and draw out from us
our deepest love
for you and for this world
in which you are hidden.

O Loving One,
come and be with us.

         

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Solstice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         Comfort, O comfort my people,
                  says your God.
         Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
                  and cry to her that her time is over.

                   —Isaiah 40.1-2

There is a limit to everything,
even the infinite darkness.

Our loneliness and dereliction
are held in God’s arms;
at the farthest end of the road,
our home awaits us.

Of our fullest sorrow,
our foulest shame and terror,
God says It is enough,
and offers grace where we cannot.
The Word is made flesh,
and this life of blood and dust
is made holy.
God comes to be with us,
so that earth is heaven,
no dark is absolute,
and hell itself
is incomplete.

In our deepest night,
most shadowed day,
God says to the darkness
Come no farther, and it bows,
blessed to be given a sabbath,
an end to its labors.

The smallest moment
is expansive with glory,
the dreary and the frightening
are radiant with hope,
the infinite darkness
is bounded by light.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Christmas peace, Chriwstmas justice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord…
                  who has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
         God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                  and lifted up the lowly;
         God has filled the hungry with good things,
                  and sent the rich away empty.”

                  —Luke 1.46, 51-53

Mary sees herself as part of how God is changing the world. Her song is not about piety, but justice. The Biblical model of justice is not just charity for the needy; it’s the exercise of complete compassion among all people as sisters and brothers. This requires the elimination of all that separates us from each other: the end of exploitation and dehumanization, and a radical upheaval and complete re-ordering of power and wealth and the economic and political systems that maintain them, a turning inside out and upside down of our society for the sake of the poor and the suffering. God doesn’t just lift up the lowly, but also brings down the powerful. It’s not just a change in certain people or behaviors; it’s a new world.

Christmas—the coming of Christ—is not a sentimental birthday celebration. It’s an act of God’s anguish at our self-centered ways, God’s judgment of our injustice and violence. It’s the initiation of God’s insurgence into the world to bring about justice and peace. God is sending an undercover human to totally disrupt our abuse of power and the very structure of evil itself. The Undercover Christ will defeat bitterness with forgiveness, subvert suffering with mercy and healing, and even overthrow the inner operation of death itself. Mary sees what’s coming. She sees the empire overturned.

To see the world through Mary’s eyes, through the eyes of Christmas, is to see the world from the place of the outcast and the downtrodden—and to see hope. In Mary’s eyes Christmas doesn’t make us think of comfort food around the family table; it makes us think of prisoners and the homeless, refugees, victims of discrimination, war and human trafficking. And thinking of them, we have hope, because God is among them and for them, and therefore so are we. In the birth of Christ, God is a poor refugee child and the emperor is powerless. If God is truly in the manger, our divisions are illusions: we are all in this together. We all are needy and powerful, all poor, all gifted. God brings us all together as sisters and brothers, and eliminates the illusions with which we separate ourselves from each other.

Seeing the world through the eyes of Christmas we see power in a peasant girl, we see hope in an empty manger, we hear angels when others hear only wind. We know that heavenly messengers visit lowly shepherds, not mighty kings. We see God’s infinite power and glory in every poor, vulnerable child. We hear hope even in the weeping of those who mourn, and we see glory and beauty in everyone, even the most plain. We know that God is among us in love and healing. We know, like Mary, that we are part of how God is changing the world, and we give ourselves over to that change. We know that even in the darkness and evil and suffering and sorrow, we are truly, gently, mercifully, lovingly saved.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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In the night sky

In the night sky a small star,
winking glory, silent, steady.

In the headlines terror,
sorrow’s heavy blanket.

In the maiden a baby,
hidden, beloved already.

In the darkness soldiers
gathering, taking orders.

In the stable a manger
prepared since the beginning.

In the streets low murmurs,
fear and longing.

In the fields shepherds,
half sober, unsuspecting.

In the silence angels ready
with songs of healing.

In the window a child’s face,
waiting, waiting.

The mother, and the angels,
take a deep breath.

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com.

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Making sense

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
We call something like a school shooting a “senseless tragedy” and people ask “Why?” People say they’re “trying to make sense of it.” As if there ought to be some sense, ought to be a reason. As if suffering and evil are somehow subject to logic and everything has an explanation and if we just understood it then we would see that it was fitting and then we could accept it. Or that, understanding it, we could control it.

But this world is not subject to logic or reason, or our control. We are vulnerable to germs and emotions, to natural forces and unnatural acts, bad laws, cancer, mental illness, fear, poverty, violence, oppression, despair, bullets, the abuse of power, greed and a thousand other things that can ruin us. That has been the human landscape since Eden, since Cain murdered his brother Abel. None of that “makes sense.”

So into this senseless world full of suffering and evil comes a child who will love us, a child who will awaken us and bring us to our senses, if he can live through it. A child is the most vulnerable to poverty and abuse, the first to suffer from war and disease, the one who will most surely die in a school shooting. In fact this child will not live through it. A child of homeless refugees, he will survive for a while, but before long we will kill him, and we will have our reasons; it will make sense to us to execute him. But not before he loves us so deeply that we are changed, and occupies our suffering with such divine grace that it is blessed, and reveals to us God’s faithful presence, God’s mercy and justice. He will die our own worst death, and yet come again— and again, “risen with healing in his wings.” This saves our lives, but you can’t say it really “make sense.”

Christmas doesn’t “make sense.” It’s about wonder and gifts and redemption, not reasonableness. Coming among us, undeserving and unreliable as we are, coming as a vulnerable child whose only power is love is an act of unreasonable grace. Coming to a poor, unmarried peasant girl, having angels announce his arrival not to the people in power but to irrelevant shepherds, singing of glory amidst animal poop and the threat of soldiers— this is not sensible. It is not logical for God to forgive us without any reason other than loving us. It doesn’t make sense for God to come with gentleness that we will meet with violence and love that we will reject, promising resurrection when it’s clearly impossible. All this grace and glory and beauty and tender love for such troubled people just doesn’t make sense.

But the child comes. And in this child we will see God’s Word of love made flesh. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. “The Word,” in Greek, logos, is the “logic,” the meaning, the sense of things. And the logos is love. It turns out the world doesn’t make sense, not at all. It makes love. In the beginning there is love, and all things are made through love. Even in the darkness, even in the suffering and evil, beneath and within it all there is love. We will senselessly twist the gift of life, but love will prevail. Evil will be forgiven, all life will be healed, and the dead will be raised. God is with us in love. What blessing, to receive a gift so far greater than anything merely sensible.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

Published
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