Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking Back

A wonderful memory this past year from our annual Preach on the Beach Eucharist at Tods Point in Greenwich (May, 2010). In this photo, I am joined by two of the finest folks we've known during our years at Christ Church Greenwich -- Clawson Smith to the right, and Kip Burgweger to my left. Our sincere thanks once again to everyone at Christ Church for your love and support for me, Cheri, Emma and Ella.

Celebration of New Ministry

Wonderful friends Toni Daniels and Ian Cron joined us for my Celebration of New Ministry service here at St Simon's on Wednesday, Dec. 5th. In fact, Ian spoke to a luncheon with a nice group of local clergy, parishioners, and friends and then later that evening preached. Cheri, Emma and Ella and I were also so grateful that our long time dear friend Toni Daniels could join us from New York City. Toni is the Co-Director of Mission for the Episcopal Church.

Christmas Eve - 2010

The bus ride from St George’s College
in the center of Jerusalem
to Bethlehem’s Manger Square - as it is called today,
is actually only 6 miles…

That’s about from here to Eglin AFB.

And so, n this particular day, I was part of
an Anglican and Palestinian Christian group of pilgrims
headed to see the birth place of Jesus.
Which truth be told, was most likely a cave…

Anyway, our bus pulled up in Manger square and just as I stepped out,
there was loud automatic machine gun firing off / in the distance.
no one panicked, in fact, most folks didn’t even flinch.

I was not amused…
but just as things settled
a young child from our bus,
who was a Lebanese Christian,
bolted across the square on a bee line for
small stone entrance to the 4th century church
which the Emperor Constantine’s mother St Helen named
the Church of the Nativity.

We all followed and just as the child came to the manger,
she yelled out in Arabic…
“I found the Baby Jesus!”

Sometimes it takes a child to discover the truth, doesn’t it?

And so on this Christmas eve night,
you and I have come here to the manager, too…
And I suspect we are all searching for that same, little Baby.

Where is He?
We need him…don’t we.
2010 has been a long hard year for many of us, right?

The old King James says,
that precious baby is now wrapped in swaddling clothes
and waiting for us to come see him.

But trouble is before we can reach the manager….
somewhere off in the distance
we stop and hear –
not gun shots,
but the soft sound of a tinkling bell.

It’s the bell of irony.

And that tiny bell reminds me
that on this very feast of the Nativity
when we so much want everything to stay same,
I can get trapped into believing
that Christmas is only about
keeping sentimental memories…

So this bell jolts me back into reality…
back to the truth
that Christmas means far more than this.

Christmas is about celebrating
the greatest moment of change in human history.
A moment when God enters into time
and nothing is ever the same again.

Incarnation means change.
God comes into our time
into our space
into our lives
and shakes things up.

In fact, my favorite theologian,
the German protestant Jurgen Moltman, says…
“To believe in God, is to believe in change.”

Christmas is nothing more than a constant celebration
that our lives will never be the same
and that every year, we are…
older, wiser, balder…
but still engaged with God,
the God of history,
who comes to change the world.
To create life out of death.

Of course, God doesn’t change…but Life does.

And how ironic, all this…
that on a day when we want absolutely nothing to change
we are, in fact, celebrating the greatest change ever.

For those of us who grew up in the 60s,
you’ll remember that John Lennon and the Beatles
lead the way for cultural change with their song Revolution.

It seems to me there is a spiritual revolution
taking place today across America.

In fact, Ian Cron and St. Francis are both right,
this Revolution is not something Christians should ever fear.
Because change is the nature of our spiritual life.

Green growth always comes after the fire…doesn’t it?
Change means we are alive,
growing from death into life.

So where is that revolutionary child
who comes to show us the changing Kingdom Of God…

Here is a tip –
You won’t need MapQuest to find Him….
from this point in your journey, it’s all about
faith, prayer and an open heart.

We need to claim God’s Kingdom now
and wrap ourselves up,
completely in this gift of Christmas night,
I'm going to.

Enjoy these visions of angels,
shepherds, the manger,
and keep it exactly the way it has always been.

Just today, just for this one more day,
let it be comforting and traditional.

Let the birth of Jesus tonight be familiar, warm and life giving.

Tomorrow can wait…
But for today,
and especially for you Christmas and Easter friends,
for this one special day,
let us relax into the peace that is silent and holy…

Into a place where time it-self seems to stand still.

May God’s Holy Spirit lead you back to Manger Square –
because tonight you can find the Baby, Jesus.
He is here. He is alive.

He is the Prince of Peace, God’s Joy to this complex world.
So, Come Let Us Adore Him!
Merry Christmas!