Dancing with Jesus

…Grace is something that belongs to God, but that God lavishes upon upon us. God has designed God’s world as a great dance of life and grace, with parts written in for us from the beginning. These parts we are to learn by watching and imitating Christ, the principal dancer. We are not, initially, very good dancers. We are quite clumsy, and we can’t hear the music very well. But that’s all right, because God has designed the dance to accommodate us, and varied the music, so that there are whole sequences that are appropriately danced by lumbering creatures and toddlers like ourselves. The music and choreography is designed to make us look natural and graceful, in the right place at the right time, even if we ourselves have only the haziest notion of what we are supposed to be doing. The principal dancer works around us, weaving our well-meaning efforts into the whole, drawing us out and responding to us, making us look good with his own gloriously graceful dancing…”

(From Jane Williams’Lectionary Reflections: Years A B & C, SPCK 2011)

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: Try imagining yourself stepping into God’s dance. What might be holding you back? What encourages you? Where and when can you hear God’s music in your life?

The Snow Man: A Poem by Wallace Stevens

“One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: How do you react to cold and windy winter moments? What might it mean to cultivate “a mind of winter”? What does the poet suggest we will find if we wait in “the same bare place” long enough? How well does his depiction of this waiting time align with times you have waited, in silence, for God?

Epiphany Blessing

“May you listen to your soul-stirrings urging you to leave the home of your satisfactions, to risk new discoveries by traveling into ‘the land of don’t know’.

May you allow yourself to be guided by the Star of Grace, with the assurance of an abiding faith, as you seek the path of spiritual growth.

May you be willing into journey with vulnerability in the land of darkness and obscurity when the way fills with uncertainty.

May you have the gift of discerning what draws you forward, and what draws you back, in seeking the One Love.

May you find inspiration, courage, and hope through your kinship with others who also journey by faith on the road of life.

May you have openness of mind and heart so that you recognize the divine Star in those whose demeanor conceals this light-filled love.

May you daily bring the gift of your truest self and offer this to the Revealer of Love, who knows the bounty of your virtues.

May you be filled with gratitude each time you discover the One Love in some aspect of your life.

May the joy that the Wise Travelers expressed upon discovering the Christ Child also dance within your heart.

(From Joyce Rupp’s “Prayer Seeds”, Sorin Press, 2017)

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: Which of these blessings is meant for you, as you are today? How willing are you to accept the blessing being offered?

A String of Lights

“What is it? What is it about a rope of tinsel? What is it about a string of lights on a tree? I remember one image from years ago when I found myself, one deep December night just before Christmas Eve, driving through a very depressed, dark, and deserted neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut.The street-level warehouses and other buildings were barred, bolted, or boarded up. The second- and third-story windows were empty, dingy, black. Bits of trash blew along the sidewalk where the wind stirred. I had seen such neighborhoods many times before, of course, but for some reason, on this particular night, the darkness and emptiness of the streets seemed particularly disturbing, and I locked my car door, not because I saw anyone but as if to shut the feelings out. Then, as I approached a deserted intersection, I looked up and saw among all those blank and lifeless windows one tiny string of multicolored Christmas lights, just one little string, hung across just none window, bravely blinking out its message in the dark. Who knows who hung it there? Who knows what forlorn hope, what inarticulate longing, what simple human impulse of cheerfulness or defiance or humor or tenacity or courage caused it to appear in that window? I will never know, but it spoke to this heart and I have never forgotten it to this day.”

From Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ (Fleming Rutledge, Eerdmans Press, 2018).

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: What small signs of hope have touched your heart this Advent season?

A John the Baptist Bird

“A John the Baptist bird which comes before
The light, chooses an aerial
Toothed like a garden rake, puts a prong at each shoulder,
Opens its beak and becomes a thurifer
Blessing dark above dank holes between the houses,
Sleek patios or rag-and-weed-choked messes.

Too aboriginal to notice these,
Its concentration is on resonance
Which excavates in sleepers memories
Long overgrown or expensively paved-over,
Of innocence unmawkish, love robust.
Its sole belief, that light will come at last.
The point is proved and, casual, it flies elsewhere
To sing more distantly, as though its tune
Is left behind imprinted on the air,
Still legible, though this the second carbon.
And puzzled wakers lie and listen hard
To something moving in their minds’ backyard.”

P J Kavanagh (Collected Poems, Carcanet 1992); image by Adrienne Hughes

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: What is “moving in your mind’s backyard” this Advent season? Who — or what — is promising you light that will come at last?

Advent questions

God’s voice, woven into the voices of the prophets, is what love sounds like. God will be known and heard, seen and experienced. [In Advent, John the Baptist] announces what Israel longs for and the world needs: to see God. All that has obstructed the sight of God will be removed. Indeed, the world itself will make room for its Creator. Valleys filled, mountains and hills made low, crooked roads made straight and rough ones made smooth — all will be made to angle toward the divine life present in the world. There will be no need for an alternative route to God, no need for more maps to the Divine, because God has come to us, clarified the way, and sharpened the view. John announces a new question. No longer do we need to ask “Where can God be found?” Now the only question is “Do you see the God who is coming to you?” (From Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship, Volume 1, p. 30)

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others (note — the author of this selection is referring to the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday in Advent, Luke 3:1-6. You might want to have this scripture selection handy as you reflect.) How do you experience yourself “angling toward the Divine life in the world” right now? What maps have you been using in your journey toward the Divine? How comfortable are you in putting those maps aside? How would you answer the questions the author poses at the end of the selection above?

Making the House Ready for the Lord

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: This poem by Mary Oliver invites all creation, including each one of us and every creature, to the Advent season with a glorious “Come in!” crafted from the weavings of imperfection, need, and beauty we experience daily. Which creatures would be most welcome in your house? Which, if any, would you exclude? Who will invite you to “come inside”?

Christ the King: The Last Word

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

-Ambrose of Milan c.337/340 – 397

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: The final Sunday of the Church liturgical year celebrates the surprising, ever-present, coming-soon, Reign of God. What does it mean to you to be a citizen of God’s kingdom? What attracts you most about acknowledging Jesus as your king? What, if anything, holds you back?

A Litany of Thanksgiving

Let us give thanks to God the Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea,
We thank you Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you Lord.

For health and strength work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty and justice,
We thank you Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord,
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer, page 837

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: Which of these blessings have you experienced in your life? For which are you most grateful today? Are there any blessings you would add to this litany? What are they?

A Prayer of Shelter and Shadow

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.
It is in the shadow of each other that people live.
We know that sometimes we are alone,
and sometimes we are in community.

Sometimes we are in shadow,
and sometimes surrounded by shelter.
Sometimes we feel like exiles —
in our land, our languages, and in our bodies.
And sometimes we feel surrounded by welcome.

As we seek to be human together,
may we share the things that do not fade:
generosity, truth-telling, silence, respect, and love.
And may the power we share
be for the good of all.

We honor God, the source of this rich life.
And we honor each other, story-full and lovely.
Whether in our shadow or in our shelter,
may we live well
and fully
with each other. Amen.”

From Padraig O Tuala’s “Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Commmunity”, Canterbury Press, 2017

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: With whom will you share “the things that do not fade” today?