Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keeping Christmas Well

“….and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

I love this closing of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

When we served in Thailand it was easy for me to keep the focus on ‘the reason for the season’ – partly because we were in the very small minority there celebrating Christmas, and then the focus was the celebration at Church, preparations for this with little focus on gifts, shopping and decorations.

After returning to California it became more difficult to keep that focus, and I find that it is so easy to become distracted with baking, shopping, wrapping and all the preparations – not that I become a Scrooge – but rather that the incarnation of God 2000 years ago in Bethlehem becomes secondary to all these trappings.

When lay missionaries are preparing to serve in the missions those of us who have served always try to share this experience with them, and encourage them to enjoy this opportunity to ‘keep Christmas’ in the missions.
Many of us are distracted this year with concerns about finances, uncertainty about the future. Hopefully we will pause and remember what we are celebrating, “For God so loved the World” and this knowledge will deepen in us our awareness of God’s love.

One doctor and his wife will be in my prayers in a very special way this Christmas. Dr. Richard and Mrs. Loretta Stoughton are serving God’s children in Zimbabwe – despite, no because of, the difficulties the people are facing. Babies are born at St. Theresa’s people receive anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS, and this oasis of care in a country facing huge problems. Please keep them and all the people of Zimbabwe in your prayers this Christmas – If you want to give a gift in support of their work, you can go to our web site (Donate On-line using a check or credit card on our secure site.) You can designate that the gift is to support the work of the Stoughtons in Zimbabwe if you like.

“...he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”
May we all keep Christmas well – remembering what we are celebrating, honoring and comforted by the knowledge of God’s great love for us.

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

Friday, December 5, 2008


I think it is surprising that Advent is one of my favorite times of year, because like so many of us in the US, I am not one who likes to wait.

It has been my experience that people in many other cultures are often better at this. They don’t seem to be so impatient, or hurried. People I’ve met in my travels seem more comfortable in that vast stretching time that can exist when one is waiting. Maybe that is an illusion; maybe they too feel the same frustration that I experience, and just don’t seem to show it.

But the waiting that is the anticipation of Advent is my time to reflect on how God comes to me. How God comes to me in the form of a child born more than 2000 years ago and how he comes to me today in my family members, in the person with the cardboard sign at the end of the freeway off ramp, or the patient in the rural hospital in Uganda or clinic in Guatemala.

If I close my eyes I can easily see the brightly dressed women who waited to serve a meal after a makeshift clinic had been set up in their small village church in Guatemala. I can see the mothers with children in their laps lined up, waiting to see the doctor at St. Theresa’s in Zimbabwe. They wait, but greet the stranger among them with a smile and shy giggle.

The waiting that is Advent is for me this connected waiting. I am waiting with the women in Guatemala, the children in Zimbabwe. We are all waiting. We are anticipating Christ. We are awaiting his birth into the world again so that all people will care about and care for all people.

We are the body of Christ.

We wait for Jesus to be reborn in us this advent, that we can be his hands in the world.