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Jan 7 18

Beach music

by davesandel

This is the last of 2017’s Advent, Christmas and Epiphany devotions.  Thank you for sharing them with me.  God bless the coming weeks of what the Catholic Church calls “ordinary time.” 

I hope to begin sharing devotions again with you the day before Ash Wednesday, on Fat Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

Beach music

The Epiphany of the Lord, Sunday, January 7, 2018

Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”– from Matthew 2

Winston Churchill and his wife stood barefoot in the sand, the English Channel’s waves beating the shore behind them as they had for thousands of years. She said to him, at this turning point in their relationship, “But I live around your edges, Winnie.” He looked at her, stunned. And the waves roared their terrible roar.

The next day Winston said to Clementine, “I want you to live your life. I don’t want you to live around my edges.” And they began to repair the damage. Winston began painting again, allowing others to guide the country he loved so much. Clemmie allowed herself to … be herself.

Epiphany takes many forms because there are so many of us. God’s creativity knows no bounds – and human beings that we are, we are proof positive of that. We settle for DOINGS, but we are BEINGS. And in rare precious moments that happen in all our lives, we know it.

We just ARE. There is nothing we need to do in order to become, because we already ARE. Jesus insisted that we are no different from the birds of the air and lilies of the field. Just as we are, we are all so loved!

Jesus was certain of this. And so he knew how we should live: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. And do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6).

Do you need to hear this today? As God is kneading you? I need to hear it every day, and when I breathe, when I sit still and let God lead, I do.

Tuesday is the first weekday of the first week of Ordinary Time. Feasts and holidays and celebrations are few.  Times of silence, and consequent epiphany … abound.

Come be blessed by this Ordinary, and laugh out loud.

I am never, not even on the most ghastly day, out of your sight, Lord. How will you show me this today? Will my eyes be open? Open them for me anytime, Father. I want to see how you see me, see into your eyes, see how much you love me. In your light, I see light. Through your eyes I can see eternity rising.

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Jan 6 18

Inside the silence

by davesandel

Inside the silence

The eve of Epiphany, Saturday, January 6, 2018

Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – from 1 John 5

The Amish around Arthur and Arcola close their stores today. A sign outside Beachey’s reminds us and adds, “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Because, as you know, most of don’t celebrate Epiphany with store-and-school-closing celebrations. What exactly is Epiphany, anyway? We’re don’t even agree on what day of the month it is: Roman Catholics celebrate Epiphany tomorrow, not today.

I see unsuspecting magi on tired camels, wending their way through killer traffic to the White House. Admitted to see the president, they ask where they might find the young king of the Jews. They are given an iPhone and instructions about using Google maps, and they head for Bethlehem, PA.

The star is up on a lonely mountain, but there’s a note, and the magi come downtown to find the babe, lying in a manger near the Historic Bethlehem Hotel, where there had been no room. They bring out their gifts for the king. They aren’t quite sure what to think, because the king is just a baby, and there are certainly no kingly trappings for him.

Thinking that perhaps they were followed by federal agents, they leave by the back door at midnight, and walk their camels through Monocracy Creek for awhile to erase the scent. They each feel changed by this experience, and without knowing quite why, they are more generous and more peaceful than they’ve ever been before.

James Joyce wrote about his own experience riding a camel after midnight, so to speak, through the back door into the rest of his life. The Eucharist mattered to him, but as a young man quivering with intelligence, he couldn’t grasp the theology or the logic behind it. Instead, he described a trans-substantiation of his own, “transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life.” He called this “epiphany.” The sun had set, but now it rose again. He could re-approach the Church and breathe in its incense:

“The radiant image of the eucharist united again in an instant his bitter and despairing thoughts, their cries arising unbroken in a hymn of thanksgiving.”

If I let it, what Joyce called the “whatness” of my own soul can burst out today. It can burst out any day, but why not on the day it is named after? Epiphany presses in on us all today. Stores are closed, schools are shuttered, and we are all asked to settle into silence until God’s presence blows us away.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,

Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;

Star of the East, horizon adorning,

Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,

Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;

Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,

Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

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Jan 5 18

Finding my way

by davesandel

Finding my way

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Friday, January 5, 2018

Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” – from John 1

These guys really didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. Jesus famously said that while foxes had holes to sleep in, he and his disciples often had nowhere to lay their heads. He didn’t sound too happy when he said that. The status of a traveling rabbi must have been insecure and uncertain, to say the least.

Traveling home from Texas, we stayed one night with friends in Murray, Kentucky and an earlier night at a motel in Little Rock. We were coming north, and the weather is cold! In Arkansas they are not used to this. A couple was sitting in the motel lobby, bundled up in huge coats. She said she was pregnant. They had no money, and no place to stay that night. No place to lay their heads.

I don’t know what happened to them when the lobby closed. I wondered about that all the next day, and felt vaguely guilty for having slept all night in a heated room when they might not have. In the context of their deprivation, I felt far too privileged.

I think of Jesus as having choices and resources, and making healthy decisions to take care of himself. But that’s just because I see myself that way, and Jesus … well, he may not have had so many choices or resources. And his decisions surely had more to do with God-moments, and ministry, and compassion than reflexive self-protectiveness.

Jesus, I think, would have found a way to care for the couple in the motel lobby. For him situations like that were not complicated, whether he was healing on the sabbath, sharing a meal with sinners and prostitutes, or sleeping outside in the cold. He just did what was in front of him. As he put it, “I only do what the Father is doing.” And God the creator is nothing if not creative, right? No telling what he might do. Jesus watched, and Jesus did the same thing.

Thinking about the haunted eyes of the girl in Little Rock, I’m caught in sadness and regret because I did nothing. The example of Jesus changes me, but sometimes not often enough or quickly enough. God’s forgiveness pours out like an unending waterfall, but still there are consequences for my sin. I don’t move through life like teflon. What I do, and what I don’t do, matters.

O Lord, we’re home now, and I hear the furnace roaring underneath our house. Electric blankets heat our beds. Warm food fills us, and sleep comes quickly. This is a comfortable place to live, Lord, and you have provided it for us. Thank you for it all. Please forgive me for holding it too close. How can you fill our hands if we don’t open them? O Lord, yes, you are the Father of us all.

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Jan 4 18

Who told you?

by davesandel

Who told you?

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Thursday, January 4, 2018

It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus.– from John 1

Our big black friend Gilbert occasionally preached a sermon in Waynesville, Illinois when we lived there. He stared out at us with his intense glare and said, memorably, “WHO TOLD YOU you were not God’s kid? WHO TOLD YOU that you couldn’t be redeemed? WHO TOLD YOU heaven was not meant for you?”

Gilbert stared silently at us all for a long moment. And he turned around, and then turned around again. “The devil told you, that’s who! And the devil WAS WRONG!” His white teeth shone in the biggest, most welcome smile I’ve ever seen in a pulpit. “What does GOD TELL YOU? That you’re loved, that you’re forgiven, that YOU’RE FREE!”

His wife Sharon shouted “Amen!” and clapped her hands, and us white guys shyly joined in. What joy in Canaan-Land when Gilbert preached. And there was always a potluck afterward, and we sat around on Sunday afternoon and whiled the time away. Jesus is alive!

And on that special amazing day in Galilee, around four in the afternoon, Jesus’ disciples began to find him. “Who told you to come?” he asked. But more importantly, he told them about themselves, and how their lives were about to change.

Simon simply became Petra – Peter, “the rock upon which I will build my church.” What’s that you say, Jesus? “Follow me, Peter and Andrew and James and John, and I will make you fishers of men. God will fill our stomachs, and every day we’ll work to turn the hearts of the children to the Father.”

We have found the Messiah!

Jesus felt so much joy, to be joined at the hip this way by men and women who recognized God’s power in every step he took and every word he spoke.

And can you imagine the joy they felt? As they trailed along with Jesus, they began to take each step with the confidence they saw in him. They heard his stories and his sermons and knew how much he loved everyone, not just them. Often outdoors with their teacher, whenever they fell asleep and woke again, they saw him praying nearby, already awake. And they learned from him. When he was gone, they carried on …

So much to do, so little time! Gilbert by now has passed away, but his sermon remains in my heart. Our words, our smiles, and our actions carry great weight with others. They last longer than we can imagine. Jesus speaks through each of us, working every day to turn the hearts of the children to their Father.

Teach me to wait, Lord Jesus, and let the words you give me rise up to quietly become the words I speak. Let our meditations be acceptable in your sight, and the words that accompany them be like honey from a honeycomb for those who hear.

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Jan 3 18

Highway in the desert

by davesandel

Highway in the desert

On the tenth day of Christmas, Wednesday, January 3, 2018

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world … I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.” – from John 1

The desert where John lived was alive and active. Deserts always are. I spent a night in the Arizona desert when our car broke down on a dirt road fifty miles north of Route 66. The stars were brighter than I’d ever seen. The day’s intense heat turned very cold. Unseen animals wailed and sang. Our fire’s embers crackled. We took turns sleeping. In the morning a car came by on the track leading from Havasupai and picked us up. That adventure ended well.

John was often alone and he learned to listen beyond his ears for the sounds of spirit. Pascal over-generalized, “All of humanity’s problems stem from one man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” For sure we’ve unlearned what John and the Nazarites over-learned. And it’s bad for us.

St. Anthony inspired many pilgrims to make their way away from Christian cities to the desert in Egypt. They learned at first to live alone, but soon to live as well in community. Finding that balance became much of their life-work. How to be men and women of contemplation AND action? How to know God and keep his commandments, many of which have to do with loving others and sharing with each other?

Jesus is going to be our way-maker, the Rabbi/Teacher that brings God to earth and shows us how to live. His life is easy for us to idolize and idealize. We rightly worship Jesus as God, but then we lower expectations for ourselves.

I put Jesus on a pedestal, but he won’t stay up there for long before he jumps off and says, “Follow me.” The problem is that when he jumps off, I can easily get stuck just looking up at the empty stage. Eventually I might even put something or someone else up there to gaze at. Which gives me something to do while I’m not following Jesus.

This is not a good way to live.

John baptized his cousin Jesus, and Jesus promptly followed John’s example and left to spend forty days in his own desert. Coming out, he knew for sure that his Abba Father would never leave him. God showed him the imagination and compassion that would guide him every day of the next three years. He wants to show us too.

That is the path taken by Anthony and the desert fathers. That is the path of Benedict and Dominic and Francis and Luther and Zwingli and Wimber and Graham and Merton and … it’s the path we are all called to follow, however imperfectly, in this brand new year.

Jesus, give me strength to put my actions where my mouth is. Make my life less excuse-driven. Let me claim your presence and receive your forgiveness every day, and do the good you call me to. I want to follow you. There is nothing else.

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Jan 2 18

Fertilize compassion

by davesandel

Fertilize compassion

On the ninth day of Christmas,  Tuesday, January 2, 2018

As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false. Just as it taught you, remain in him. – from 1 John 2

What I think John means here is that Jesus’ touch, his pouring on of the spiritual oil, his anointing, changes the way we learn. When we look through our own eyes we’re also looking through his. As Peter Weiss said in his play Marat/Sade, “The important thing is to pull yourself up by your own hair, to turn yourself inside out and see the whole world with fresh eyes.” For me that means the eyes of Jesus.

I think Jesus used his imagination to discover his intimacy with God, whom he learned to call “Abba, Father.”

A wonderful definition of imagination is “a violent pairing of opposites.” The warm friction I feel when I rub my hands together is available in my mind when I rub differing ideas together. I think that is something Jesus did ALL THE TIME.

In a book I’ve been reading about story-telling the author suggests that a story begins when the trouble starts. And usually the trouble equals the conflict between what we want and what we have, the gap between our hope and our reality. “Trouble is all the obstacles standing in the way of happily ever after.”

So the first question my character asks is, “What do I want?” Jesus really got that.

When I use my imagination the way he teaches me, the result in me is wider mind and other-people-point-of-view. After that, worry-free, generous compassion and thought-free sacrifice guide me into the way of Jesus.

St. Anthony gave away everything, walked out into the desert, lived to be a hundred, and was happy as a lark. Augustine read a book about St. Anthony, immediately walked away from his gluttony and lust, and became the father of modern theology. And it all started with a little anointed imagination.

I remember again my alma mater’s motto, “In thy light we see light.” And what amazing lights we see. With quiet confidence Jesus said to his disciples, “You will do greater things than I have done.” It is so hard for me to believe that.

But Jesus insists that I turn my worry-ing into warrior-ing, embrace my imagination and give myself away. He pours out his holy oil, and I don’t want it all to just drip off my self-protection. I want to soak it in.

Lord, it’s so cold outside! So I can’t just walk out there with no clothes on and let your anointing soak in with the sunshine. But please, Lord, even when I’m inside in my PJ’s, pour out your precious oils of gladness and give me a blessing of beauty to share. I promise I won’t duck. Show me how to lick my lips, and laugh.

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Jan 1 18

I’m in charge of celebrations!

by davesandel

I’m in charge of celebrations!

New Years Day and the eighth day of Christmas, January 1, 2018

This is how you shall bless the people. Say to them, “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you, the Lord lift up his countenance  upon you, and give you peace.” – from Numbers 6

Would I be lonely in the desert? Not if I’m in the book with the one in charge of celebrations. Not with “the beargrass and the yuccas and the cactus and the rock. Not with the “deep ravines and the hawk nests in the cliffs and the coyote trails that wind across the hills. Lonely? I can’t help laughing when you ask me that.”

The Lord bless you and KEEP you! What a great day for a party, for a blessing party. In the Unification Church we called this “God’s Day.” Once on God’s Day a group of us went to see Rocky. The music stoked fires inside us, and we watched Rocky run up and down the steps, the famous 72 steps of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art. We ran with him. There was applause in the theater when he reached the top.

In those moments God touches you, and nothing’s gonna stop it. All things are possible.

In the desert our book friend gave herself one hundred and eight celebrations, “besides the ones they close school for.” She wrote them down, because she plans to remember them for the rest of her life.

Would I be as choosy as she is? I can feel some celebration blood rushing in me almost every morning. But still, there are special days. The Lord make his face SHINE upon you! “You can tell what’s worth a celebration because your heart will POUND and you’ll feel like you’re standing on top of a mountain and you’ll catch your breath like you were breathing some new kind of air … at a time like that, something goes kind of crazy in you.”

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you! Our book friend’s New Year celebration isn’t dictated by the calendar. She waits for the SHINE to come. “I wait until the white-winged doves are back from Mexico, and wildflowers cover the hills, and my favorite cactus blooms. It always makes me think I ought to bloom myself. I have a drum that I beat to signal The Day.”

What will give me peace? For our friend, it’s re-entering the lived-in world where God has given her dominion – loving, caring, hopeful, sacrificial dominion. “I go wandering off, following all of my favorite trails to all of the places I like. I check how everything is doing. I spend the day admiring things. If the old desert tortoise I know from last year is out strolling around, I’ll go his direction for awhile. I celebrate with horned toads and ravens and lizards and quail … and Friend, it’s not a bad party.”

Sacrifice, you say? She gets more out of her giving than she would ever get in the receiving. Isn’t that always the way? This year like all years, it’s in the giving that we grow.

Mr. Miles slowly learns to open his hand and release what he has so he can pick up what comes next. And on God’s Day, what that might be for you and me? How about this: his blessing and his keeping, his face shining, his countenance lifted upon us, and all the peace that we can bear.

It’s what Ebenezer Scrooge received, and then ever after, he gave and gave and gave. “To Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”

Oh, yes! The Lord bless and keep you.

Lord, I ought to be afraid to enter this new year, new world, new place. But that would be without you, and that will never be. It’s you that holds my hand, so we can push open the door together and close our eyes together to the biting dark winds that push through the cracks. You remind me to wait with you for sunrise. You point me to the east as I lean against your warmth. It will come. The sun will come.

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Dec 31 17

A thousand generations

by davesandel

A thousand generations

New Year’s Eve, on the seventh day of Christmas, Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Lord remembers his covenant forever, for a thousand generations. – from Psalm 105

What’s in your wallet? What prayer do you count on when you need one? Last night, I joined in with the British readers and technicians of their daily five-minute podcast, “Pray As You Go” to pray the “Glory be.” Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Sometimes in the morning Margaret and I kneel beside our beds and pray the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. What’s in your wallet?

The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me! The apostles’ creed: I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. The Rosary: Pray for me, pray for Margaret, pray for Miles and Aly and Jack, now and at the hours of our deaths.

My morning mainstay is “Gratitudes.” Dear Lord, thank you for this day. And hopefully two or more specifics will follow. Like, Thank you for this breath, Lord. And this one. And this one.

Margaret found another daily prayer and proclamation, which has been sitting there quietly for a long time, waiting for us to claim it for ourselves, like Jesus did. It’s in Isaiah 61.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.

Of course it’s especially powerful to hear these words from Jesus. But I am pretty sure that Jesus wants his listeners to own the same idea, that at our creation we were given dominion over all the earth (not each other, of course). Dominion means to lovingly and thoughtfully care for what I’ve been given, with strength of will and the courage that comes from sacrifice.

Do you hear that we proclaim a YEAR of favor but only a DAY of vengeance? Just getting that one idea under our skin would make the world safe for us all to live in a constant state of jubilee, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

The Lord remembers his covenant for a thousand generations. David used, and perhaps wrote, these words in Psalm 105 to commemorate the carrying of the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem. That was three thousand years ago or so. If a generation is 15 years, then we have seen 200 generations come and go since then. 20% of God’s promise.

A thousand generations? God’s memory of his promises is long, even as his memory of our sins is non-existent. He pours out his mercy on us, and then it’s obvious that between us too, he desires “mercy, not sacrifice.”

Generational studies fascinate me, as much because of our similarities as our differences. And as we live our lives and pass on to make room for the next generation, we all can know that the Lord is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Lord, protect us tonight in our foolishness and your wisdom. Give us joy to pass over from one year to the next. Release us to proclaim freedom and a crown of beauty. Ashes be gone! Let us rise tomorrow morning to meet the new year Sun.

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Dec 30 17

Mild he lays his glory by

by davesandel

Mild he lays his glory by

On the sixth day of Christmas, Saturday, December 30, 2017

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him. – from Luke 2

No, thirteen month old Miles does not yet strut from place to place with his head held high. But perhaps it won’t be long. He’ll be walking very soon. And his home is his castle. Already, you can feel his hegemony, that confident claim on all that he can see.

Sometimes Miles stands straight, with one arm behind his back like a soldier reviewing troops. He’s learning to swing his arms just so, with precision. He’s not quite walking but even so, in turns and sweeps, he moves along with grace. He’s firstborn, a golden boy with jet black hair, melt-away eyes, and a  spontaneous, cheek-splitting smile.

Miles waves goodbye, but usually after the departing parent has left the room. He stands on his own, and appreciates our applause. He’ll clap for us sometimes, and we all know his words are coming soon. He has ample opportunity to learn humility, even as he comes into his confidence and strength. In his room Andi and Aki have hung a simple drawing of a running rabbit with a thought from artist Dave Eggers: “Courage – may it be common.”

Of course we’re accustomed to think of Jesus the young boy as Jesus the young boy-god. And our creed makes it clear that this is what we believe. But we also believe that Jesus was the young boy-boy. “… Being of one substance with the Father … and was made man.” Just like Jesus, like his dad and like his mom, Miles will have some complicated days now that he too has been “made man.”

In the Ignatian Exercises, retreatants are asked to rely on their imaginations to return to the days of biblical yesteryear and become part of the stories that they read. “The child grew and became strong.” Along with Jesus and Miles, I sit on the floor in Joseph’s workshop, smell the sawdust, listen to the hammer and the saw, and play hide-and-seek now and then with Joseph.

Then we all go in to lunch together. The bread is warm, and the olives are ripe and sweet.

“ … filled with wisdom.” Reading is a wonderful thing. But before the letters come together into words, and the words into sentences, and the sentences string out into stories, what then? Jesus and Miles pick up books and turn pages as fast as they can. There is something special about getting to the end of just about any picture book.

I look forward to when Miles discovers his own love of story, begins to share once-upon-a-times with us, and embraces the rhythm and rush of one new idea after another. It’s coming … it’s coming.

Last Christmas, when Miles was seven weeks old, I shared with him whatever I was reading at the time. Maybe it was theology, maybe it was fiction. Miles was quiet, listening. Of course baby Jesus would be listening too. Holding them close, we can watch them both fall headlong into our soft murmurings, not yet anchored to anything but sound. Lullaby words, by and by. Fall asleep words. Goodnight moon.

“And the favor of God was upon him.” Every morning Jesus wakes up, and the favor of God is on him again. Mary won’t give him the run of the house, not yet, so she picks him up from bed and sets him down on his own two feet.

Mother and son feel the floor, squeeze the dirt between their toes, and walk into the kitchen. Miles comes along too, and along with both the toddlers, all of us know for sure that God loves and loves and loves us all.

It’s time for breakfast.

You’re right here, Jesus, in all my moments of growing and wisdom and favor. You were a baby like I was once, and  Miles too, and Margaret, and Andi and Aki, and each and every one of us. Lay your gentle hands on all our brows. You’re so close and you’re so full of love. Raise us up and teach us all your ways.

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Dec 29 17

Let all nations call him blessed

by davesandel

Let all nations call him blessed

On the fifth day of Christmas, Friday, December 29, 2017

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel. – from Luke 2

The temple aisles are empty and dark, but Simeon, the old man who virtually lives in the temple now, rests easy and full of joy. He has seen the baby Jesus.

With difficulty, Simeon leans on his walking stick and eases his way outside. Morning sun shines on marble pillars. Cold air blankets Jerusalem. The temple market is quiet. His eyes are dim, but he  watches the parents carrying their son. They have been to the temple for their baby’s blessing, and now they head home.

“Who am I, that I might be able to see my Lord? I am just a poor man, and my story’s seldom told. But my Lord and my God, you have appeared before me and made me righteous, made me happy, made me whole!”

Simeon’s ears rang with tinnitus. For him, the bells of Christmas rang all day every day. But really, he barely heard them anymore. They left him with just a faintness about his hearing that he could forget most of the time.

Most days, no one spoke to him.

Then, when Simeon saw Jesus, the ringing stopped. He heard far beyond his ears, right through the air into a place of heaven. He felt his way slowly, while  his mind caught up a bit and moved quietly into revelation and understanding.

Watching the small, vulnerable family, anticipation pierced his soul and once again, with a rush, he felt his age.  Hundreds of years later, T.S. Eliot found words for Simeon:

The stubborn season has made stand.

My life is light, waiting for the death wind,

Like a feather on the back of my hand.

Dust in sunlight and memory in corners

Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.

Would there be anyone left to be saved by the savior? Simeon felt the chill of Satan’s whispered threats, turning him … turning him. Simeon held him off:

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation

Grant us thy peace.

Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,

Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,

Now at this birth season of decease,

Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,

Grant Israel’s consolation

To one who has eighty years and no tomorrow.

No matter that decease will come. God’s presence and God’s peace soften birth and death. Angels accompany us up and down old Jacob’s ladder. We move smoothly from earth to heaven.

Jesus is at home in both, and so, therefore, are we.

According to thy word,

They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation

With glory and derision,

Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair. – from “The Song of Simeon,” 1928.

Jesus, I might love to sing a song that says this world is not my home. But it was your home. It IS your home. So I claim it too, and hold it precious in your sight. You are the cattle on a thousand hills, and you are the sun that shines above every bank of clouds. You are here, and so I am glad to be here too. Hold me close, oh Lord – hold us all. Leave us not unto our fears and our temptations. Every day you deliver us from evil. Glory be!

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