"Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life . . . . Your statutes have been my songs wherever I make my home. I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law."
After being blessed by George and receiving the gift of peace, Max and I walked to the room of an old friend, Lucille. She lives in the same retirement home. I have known her for probably twenty years.
As we enter, I see that she is involved in some private conversation. I lean in toward her boldly, letting my right hand rest on her left wrist.
I tell her who I am and remind her that we have studied the Song of Songs together, chapter by chapter. She was an intense student of the Bible and mentored those who chose to learn more of her knowledge.
I tell her that one week from today is Christmas. I wish I had come prepared to sing a carol with her. Little town of Bethlehem comes to mind. I sing what I recall of it.
Then I remember how to enter a biblical story -- imagine being present when what is recorded occurred.
I say, "Lucille. Let's think about the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Imagine that we are two hebrew women living near the stable where Mary was giving birth to her firstborn son. Wouldn't we feel something? Wouldn't we be moved to get up out of our chair and leave our houses until we found the source of that stirring? Wouldn't we stay and care for Mary and her baby?"
Lucille's face lights up. She loves pondering the gospel stories. I do, too.
I continue, "We take turns holding baby Jesus while Mary rests and Joseph goes out for some food. This week, as we await Christmas day, let's spend time holding the newborn Jesus."
Surely, Jesus' birth was attended by the help Mary required. Surely, this young family was enveloped into the caring family of Joseph that was gathered in Bethlehem for the census. Surely God's people felt the stirring of the Spirit and found their Savior, even before the wise ones arrived from so far away.
As you remember the story of the Holy family, what role are you drawn to play? What would you like to do for them?
This afternoon I visited George, a member of our parish, who lives at a nearby retirement home. His daughter, a friend of mine, has told me that today his hall is celebrating Christmas.
My dog, Max, and I greet George, his daughter and son-in-law. In the crowded room, I think I forget to say hello to his caregiver.
We arrive in time to join in singing a few Christmas carols, hear a sister and brother violin duet, and talk with one of his neighbors.
After about 20 minutes, before the Christmas cookies, I move right up to George and say, "I am going to go visit some more folks now. Merry Christmas. Goodbye."
I wait for his response. It only takes a few moments before he replies, "Thank you for coming," and a little more but I cannot make it out.
Whatever he said reminds me of my promise to bring the Eucharist to him once a month. I try to do this around the 15th and I haven't brought it yet, this December.
So I say, "I want to bring the Eucharist to you, again. I will try to do it on Sunday. Do you think that will work?"
He responds in the affirmative. Then he surprises me saying, "God bless you. Depart in peace."
I am grateful for his blessing and especially touched by the instruction to leave his home in peace.
Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
At St. Luke's Episcopal Church Advent Day retreat I meditated on drawing water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation. What could that be in my life? Perhaps I would be able to draw water with rejoicing from God's spring by giving God some empty space and watching to see how she fills it.
If I do, when I do, would I be able to draw water from that spring promised so long ago in Canticle 9 (taken from Isaiah 12)?
Yesterday I purposely arrived to an appointment out of town more than 30 minutes early. I really don't like feel displaced, so I rarely do arrive more than 5 or 10 minutes early. But in taking this very, very small risk, I was greatly rewarded with several small experiences of delight.
A friend told me that novel experiences are required for transformation to occur. I can remember this and move myself out of my familiar paths more often so that I can be reminded that God is with me.
Sometimes I experience rejoicing as I draw water from the springs of salvation when I stay put only changing my perspective on what is given to me.
I thank God for her goodness, her incredible talent, in giving me diverse gifts of refreshing provision. I pray that the whole world will experience Emmanuel in every relationship this Advent season. For I believe that God is with us in more ways that we imagine.
"I want to hold his hand, but I know he will shake it free. His eyes are too full of guilt to really see me, to see his reflection in my eyes, the reflection of my hero, the brother who tried always to protect me the best he could. He will never think that he did enough, and he will never understand that I do not think he should have done anything more." From Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 305
I wonder how often we distant ourselves from those we hold most dear because we have not yet understood what we have shared together. I believe that shared pain can become a point of connection.