Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Luke 1: God’s Yardstick – Elizabeth

In God’s Wisdom and Time

Tuesday, January 3, 2016

Jacques Blanchard: The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist and the Infant Jesus

Jacques Blanchard: The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist and the Infant Jesus

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

All four Gospels tell us the story of John the Baptist who goes before Jesus to announce the good news of God’s coming to the faithful but it is in Luke’s telling that we hear about John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah. Today we spend time reflecting on the power of God to do the impossible, the fidelity of God remaining with the faithful, and the love of God who guides, consoles, rescues and transforms.

Using the scripture link, we read different versions of this story that weaves the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, John and Jesus into a fabric that serves as a mantle to protect us from the winds of time and place. We allow the power of these verses to bring us the wisdom of God’s time, God’s space, and God’s plan. We allow the understanding of God’s yardstick in the life of Elizabeth to bring us the quiet peace and radiant joy of the Christmas season. And we determine to bring this wisdom and peace to bear in our own lives.

To better understand the story of Elizabeth, visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.4.Elizabeth.htm 

Image from: http://artgalleryenc.com/en/Encyclopedia/Author/Works/13707/Jacques-Blanchard 

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIisaiah62-4

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The significance of the name Tirzah in Hebrew is “favorable” or “she is my delight”; yet we have the picture in today’s reading of something once valued being left behind for richer fields and stronger walls. If we were to name our own capital, what would it be? Would there be sacred places within the limits of this city along with places of commerce? Would these places welcome all and be a gathering place where new ideas are as important as tradition, and old wisdom as important as new growth? When later generations excavated, would they find a site with remnants of a life well lived, open in hospitality to weary strangers who harbored there awhile before moving on?

Tirzah, a place of favor and delight, but abandoned. What happens with us that we tire so quickly of a place and her people that we move on without taking much time to think?

Consulting a concordance, we find a great number of times that writers of the sacred text use the word delightGod delights in Jesus. The crowds listened to Jesus with delight. We delight in God, God’s Law, and God’s holy ones. We delight in our salvation and vindication by God, God’s justice, mercy, righteousness and kindness. With St. Paul in his letters to Corinthians, we even delight in the weakness, hardships, persecutions and difficulties suffered for Christ’s sake. (2 Corinthians 12) We find delight in our family, friends and work. We may delight in the obstacles, hardships and rejections. And we must certainly delight in all gifts we receive from God.

We can spend hours with this word and still not plumb its depths, but let us linger a bit longer over the words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:17) who tells us: The Lord your God is with you, God is mighty to save. God will take delight in you, God will quiet you with love, God will rejoice over you with singing. 

So we may want to return to the places of Tirzah that we have abandoned. We may want to excavate the secrets that lie hidden there, the secrets that we ourselves have left behind.  And in these hidden places, we may once again realize just how much God takes delight in us.

For a quick analysis of how the population in the USA sees God, click on the image below. As a Christmas gift to ourselves, we might want to reflect on our own view of God and the world we inhabit. Touching Earth

Tomorrow, as we end another year and prepare to celebrate newness, a prayer for a fuller understanding of God’s delight in us.

Adapted from a favorite written on December 22, 2009.

Images from: http://thepreachersword.com/2013/03/20/whats-your-view-of-god/ and https://dailybible.co/p/HkbSZDfoEg/web/

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part Igood-creation

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

As we move through the Christmas season, let us pause to consider what delight we take in God’s great gift of self to humanity, and what gift we give to God in return. 

Tirzah, located in the Manasseh tribal region, rose to importance under King Baasha (900 – 877 B.C.E.).  This king was buried in Tirzah and is, in fact, the only Israelite king whom the Bible specifically states was interred in the city. Tirzah’s significance dwindled after Omri shifted the northern kingdom’s capital to Samaria. At that time Tirzah was abandoned as is evidenced by materials left behind: partly-dressed masonry blocks alongside well-dressed masonry, and the absence of ruins. “Song of Songs 6:4 sets Tirzah alongside Jerusalem as one of Israel’s two great cities, indicating that the Song was written during Tirzah’s glory days”.  (Zondervan 509)

The Tirzah Valley

The Tirzah Valley

This city, once so important that the king wishes to be buried within her precincts, is later abandoned and we do not know why. We might use this Noontime to examine the history we see attached to people and places. It also calls us to examine our own contribution to the common history we leave behind. What will future excavators find when they exhume our lives? Will they find forsaken shells of something once important? Are songs written to our beauty? Do we leave a legacy that indicates that we were once loyal and faithful followers of Christ? What is the treasure we have amassed? Does it have a positive influence here in this world? Does it live forever in the next? What is the significance the sum total of our actions? What is the name with which we tag the space and time we have occupied here on earth? Is there anything about this record of ourselves that we wish to change?

Tomorrow, gifts accepted, and gifts abandoned. 

For Biblewalk through the Tirzah Valley, click on the image above or visit: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Makhruk.html

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 509. Print.

 Adapted from a favorite written on December 22, 2009.

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Philippians 4:1-9: Joy and Peace

Monday, December 26, 2022

Carl Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child (detail)

Carl Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child (detail)

Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! 

St. Paul establishes this first community in Europe on his second missionary journey sometime around the year 50 and though his subsequent travels, he reminds the Philippians that . . .

Your kindness should be known to all, the Lord is near.

He sends the Philippians advice which we might take today . . .

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

While in Philippi, he converts a wealthy business woman, his jailer and the jailer’s family, and he later writes to this community to remind them of what is truly important . . .

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . .

This letter was written while Paul was imprisoned elsewhere, perhaps Rome, Caesarea or Corinth; but wherever the prison, he continues to exhort his fellow Christ followers in Philippi to . . .

Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child

Carl von Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child

During this Christmastide, may you all know the Joy of Christ’s Hope, and may you all rest in his Serene Peace . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! 

A favorite from December 26, 2007.

Images from: https://www.jsonline.com/story/entertainment/arts/2017/12/25/carl-von-marrs-adoration-depicts-virgin-mary-different-light/968413001/ 

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Esther 3 (B): Preamble – Part III

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 2022

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther

This week we spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to new grace and blessings.

We see how God’s grace enters Mordecai, Esther and Ahasuerus. We see how God’s power comes through a vulnerable and frightened, yet brave woman. We see how God acts through inversion. We see how God dwells with the lowest and the poorest. We see how God guides, protects, calls and loves his faithful. We see a foreshadowing of God’s most wonderful gift to come, the saving and redemptive power of the gift of Christ.

Mordecai remains true to his God and for this he draws the venomous envy of Haman. He goes to God when the decree of destruction is read out, and he does as God asks, he goes to Esther.

Esther remains faithful to God and believes that God loves and protects her even as he calls her to take on in a dangerous mission. She overcomes her fear and acts from her position of weakness, not from any strength, to become an agent for good.

Zurbarán: Madonna with Child

Francisco Zurbarán: Madonna with Child

Jesus comes to live among us as one of the world’s most helpless. In this way, he places himself in our hands and asks that we place ourselves in his. This is the amazing story of Jesus that we know so well. This story of Esther is a fitting preamble to understanding the gift of Christ. Let us spend some time with this story, and with Christ, today.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Francisco_de_Zurbaran_-_Madonna_and_Child_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg and 


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Esther 3 (and B): Preamble – Part I

Friday, December 23, 2022queen-esther

We have visited the story of Esther frequently in our Noontime journey and this Christmas as pause to spend some time in Chapter 3. Because of various redactions, different Bibles have divided this story with both numbered and lettered parts but today we are looking at both Chapter 3 and B, the story about the letter of King Ahasuerus that decrees death to the Jewish people on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar. When we read the entire account, we know how the king finds out that Queen Esther is Jewish. We know how Esther and her uncle Mordecai intercede with God and king for the preservation of the Jewish people. And we know what becomes of the envious Haman and his family. This may be an unusual story to consider in the last week of Advent, but when we pause we see a connection with the Christmas Story: signs of God’s grace coming to a nation through people who are easily overlooked in a world that focuses on the supremacy and authority of powerful men. Today’s stories are about the surprising influence of the most vulnerable among us: a baby, and a woman.

While we are not in any way suggesting that Esther is the equivalent of the Christ child, we may want to consider the parallel these stories offer as analogous to our own feelings of defenselessness. And we may want to take direction from both Esther and Jesus as we watch them obey the Father who created them. These stories show us that the human life is best lived in search of and in preparation for our divinity. They show us that fidelity, simplicity, honesty and courage are essential to one who seeks to arrive at the potential God breathed into each of us at our creation.

Spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to a new coming.

Tomorrow, God’s sign is simplicity.

Image from: http://growing4life.net/lessons-from-esther/queen-esther/

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.


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James 5: A Prayer for Harvesting Hope

Wednesday, November 2, 2022earth-from-space-day-night

We have prayed for union, we have prayed for boldness. Today we pray for a harvest of hope as we reprise a Christmas MiniNoontime from 2013 when we spent time with James’ words.

Modern humankind has established an outpost in space, giving us a perspective of our world that the ancients could only imagine.  Perhaps in our century we have strayed too far from the simple tasks of reaping God’s gift of bounty.  Perhaps we have taken too much for granted the miracle that is our world.  Perhaps we have learned to ignore the miracle of the Nativity.

God says: In your rush to understand me you may lose me. Abide with me for you are Christmas people who bring the Good News to the world.  In your eagerness to explore my universe you may forget me.  Remember me for you are Christmas people who bring authenticity and honesty to the world.  In your haste to acquire and store up you may overlook me.  See me in those who have little for you are Christmas people who bring Christ himself to the world.  Behold and celebrate the importance of the Nativity.  Behold and share my generosity with others who have nearly nothing to sustain them. Behold and love those who suffer.  Behold . . . and be Christ in the world.

We will soon approach the Advent season when we will again celebrate Christ as the truth and light and hope of the world, we pray.

Open book with pages forming heart shape

Dear Lord, you have blessed us with more than we can fathom as each new day reveals. You have rescued us more often than we remember as each new dawn breaks up the darkness of night. Keep us always united with you as we move through our days and nights. Speak always so that we may hear your Word. Nudge us constantly so that we may act in your Word. Continue to call us every moment of our existence as we struggle to find our place in your immense universe. Continue to bring us your courage and energy so that we might harvest your outrageous hope and in turn might carry it to others. Abide with us in our struggle to follow in our labor of sowing and reaping, of loss and gain, of sorrow and joy, of anxiety and hope. Amen.

Images from: http://dailyreadingdevotional.blogspot.com/2015_08_01_archive.html and http://www.designsoak.com/world-day-night-space/

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Genesis 1:9-31: The Mystery of IncarnationNativity_450x259

Monday, June 13, 2015

Richard Rohr, OFM in his June 5, 2015 tells us: “If incarnation is the big thing, then Christmas is bigger than Easter (which it actually is in most Western Christian countries). If God became a human being, then it’s good to be human and incarnation is already redemption. Francis and the Franciscans were the first to popularize Christmas. For the first 1,000 years of the church, there was greater celebration and emphasis on Easter. For Francis, if the Incarnation was true, then Easter took care of itself. Resurrection is simply incarnation coming to its logical conclusion: we are returning to our original union with God. If God is already in everything, then everything is unto glory! Much of the early church did not have trouble with what many would now call universal salvation (apocatastasis, as in Acts 3:21). We are all saved by infinite love and mercy anyway. ‘God alone is good’ (Mark 10:18), so there’s no point in distinguishing degrees of worthiness. Everything in creation merely participates in God’s infinite goodness, and our job is to trust and allow that as much as possible.

“As Matthew Fox said, we made a terrible mistake by starting with ‘original sin’ (a phrase not in the Bible); we absolutely must begin with original blessing. ‘God created it, and it was good’ is stated six times in a row in our Creation story (Genesis 1:9-31), ending with ‘indeed it was very good!’ But, up to the present time, most of Christianity concentrated on what went wrong with our original goodness . . .

“The Franciscan starting point is not sin; our starting point is Divine Incarnation itself. So our ending point is inevitable and predictable: resurrection. God will lead all things to their glorious conclusion, despite the crucifixions in between. Jesus is the standing icon of the entire spiritual journey from start to finish: divine conception, ordinary life, moments of enlightenment (such as his baptism, Peter’s confession, and Jesus’ transfiguration), works of love and healing, rejection, death, resurrection, and ascension. That is not just Jesus; it is true for all of us.”

Richard Rohr, OFM, Adapted from an unpublished talk and posted on June 5, 2015 at: https://cac.org/richard-rohr/daily-meditations

Christ is present in all of creation. Christ is present in each of us. This is the mystery of incarnation. We know that God creates the universe and the microverse out of great love and deep compassion. We know that Christ comes to walk among us as salvation and redemption. We know that the Spirit abides with us to console and heal. This we know and yet it is mystery when we wonder . . . how is it that God loves us this deeply and this well? And how is it that we fail to trust this great love?

To read a commentary about the mystery of the incarnation, click on the image above or visit: http://www.catholica.com.au/ianstake/023_it_print.php 

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Numbers 9:15-23

The Bidding of the Lord

In Numbers 9 we see the Hebrews put all of their trust in God. May we learn to be faithful to the Lord in our daily wandering rather than be lured by little gods.

In the Exodus story we know that the Hebrews stumbled in their journey of fidelity. May we turn back to God in all of our drifting and forgive others as God forgives us.

In Numbers 9 we see the Hebrews do the Lord’s bidding when the Fiery Cloud settles into the desert sand to rest; we see them rise to follow the pillar of smoke and flame when it is time to journey. May we place all trust in the Lord rather than resort to our own schemes and small plans.

In the Exodus story we know that the Hebrews grumbled about God’s care of them in their journey of transformation. May we always seek counsel in the Lord and share the Word we hear with fellow pilgrims.

In Numbers 9 the Cloud tarries for days or rises after only one evening’s rest so the Hebrews are unable to predict God’s movement in their lives; yet they know that the Lord is with them in the Fiery Cloud. May we learn patience in the Lord and give thanks for the many surprises that await us.

In the Exodus story we know that the Hebrews grew impatient with God’s timeline and grumbled about God’s provisions. May we keep in mind how great is God’s generosity and share God’s love with others.

As a child, I loved to hear my Mother read out the chronicle of the people who wandered in darkness for generations, doing God’s bidding despite their frustration. Somehow I knew that there were great lessons to be learned in this long story of turnings. Mother’s calm and steady voice would rise up to give emphasis to the peril the Hebrews endured; it would fall to a low and gentle register to underscore God’s constant presence and encouragement to the people. Closing my eyes, I stored those reassuring sounds and images for unknown times in my future. As I grew I began to encounter my first overwhelming obstacles and remembering the comfort and safety of those drowsy evenings with Mother reading about the Fiery Cloud that served as guide and guard, I drew on those stored images.  When fear threatened to paralyze me or lead me in the wrong direction, I allowed that pillar of fire and smoke to draw me toward God. Even today when I meet with an obstacle that threatens my physical, mental or spiritual life, I move toward the Fiery Cloud to step inside. And there I find a sanctuary that none can penetrate.  I find a peace that none can rattle.  I find a floating solidness that both sustains and carries me toward God.  And in God all problems both great and petty melt away.

In a few short weeks we celebrate the season of Lent, a time of God’s sacrifice for us as Jesus walks among us. It is a celebration of Sacrificial Love, of Hope against Desperation, of surety in a world that offers only turmoil. Let us turn to the story of the people who once walked in darkness (Isaiah 9), let us follow the Fiery Cloud as we wander through the dangers of the desert, and let us step into the pillar of smoke and light when the chaos of life menaces.  For there is no better sanctuary than God.  There is no better hope than Christ.  And there is no better peace than the serenity we find in the Spirit.

And so, we pray . . .

Let us rise as the Hebrews rise to do the bidding of the Lord.  Let us rest as the Hebrews rest to await the wisdom of the Lord.  Let us follow as the Hebrews follow . . . to do the bidding of the Lord.  Amen. 

Adapted from a reflection first written in December of 2011.

mage from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/41559827

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