Is there room in the inn this year?
Here we all are, Lord.
It’s Christmas Eve 2008.
Some of us believe in You, Lord.
And some of us are so cynical about life that we don’t believe in anything much.
I wish you could touch these folks, Lord. Some of them are people I care for very much.
Most of all, I hope my own heart is ready, Lord Jesus.
The story of Your birth has been told thousands of times and so we tend not to pay much attention to it anymore.
The mystery of the story of your becoming Emmanuel — God with us is so huge, so deep we will never exhaust it’s meaning. Let me find the meaning meant for me this year 2008 that is different from last year.
I yearn for the world to receive You, Lord.
We would be so much better off if we did.
Some of us have “no vacancy” signs up.
No room for anyone.
Simon and Garfunckel sung about that syndrome years ago, “I am a rock, I am an island and a rock feels no pain.”
That’s the sorry state of our world today, Lord.
And is there room for You in our country, Lord?
Or have we shut You out — given You the bum’s rush — Go away, God.
We’re self-sufficient here in America. We can solve our own problems.
We don’t have any room for a weak God like You born in a stable with those low-life shepherds all around you.
We admire strength here in America. We cant’ stand people who are weak, Lord — in ourselves, in others.
How can we adore a God who comes to us as a homeless baby and remained homeless all his life?
I know you can only come to those who are humble, Lord, who have come to the wisdom that every single one of us is absolutely, utterly poor without You.
I pray that I may realize that I depend on You for everything. Everything I am, everything I have — my life, my family, my home, the food on my table is Your gift.
That is what St. Luke teaches us in this age-old story.
May we find You in our own poverty and in the poor around us,
especially the spiritually poor young people of our country who are so locked within themselves.
May be ready, Lord. As open as I can be.
Come, Lord Jesus — Yeshua, Messiah — come into my heart
and in the lives of people I care about and pray for.
Come into our world this Christmas 2008.
+ + ++ + + +
Dear brothers and sisters,
Even though may be cynical about life and your heart closed to the story that God lived among us in Jesus that you might just try to believe. Try it. It just might work for you. If your life is in a shambles, if you find little hope, what do you have to lose?
I wish all of my friends and readers a wonderful coming of Light and Love into your heart.
Open yourself to the gift God wants to give you this Christmas.
As for me, I spent a delightful time with my Lord in the dark and silent hours this morning and a sense absolute peace with everyone in my life came over me. What a wonderful moment that was for me, a moment I will cherish and I pray also for the gift of peace in your own heart.
I wish you joy and peace even in the midst of the difficulties of your life.
priest / writer
Christmas Eve 2008
+ + + + + +
Luke’s story about the birth of Jesus (2:1 – 10).
Note: Look is giving us the meaning of Jesus’ birth, not so much recording historical fact.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Luke: 2: 1-10 NIV
Note: Shepherds were despised and rejected outcasts of Jewish society of the time,
Presence not presents
Sometimes we get so caught up with buying the right present for our kids, Lord, that we fail to realize that our presence is more important than our presents.
Mary, your human mother, loved you so much that you became Love itself, Lord.
We can do the same thing. Help us to be present to our children each and every day. Help us to hear what they are not saying.
Help us to call forth the love inside them.
Help us realize that material things can never substitute for the love and care that comes from inside us.
And if we don’t have family, Lord, then let us be present to the others in our life.
May we call forth Your light within them. Let it light up their faces, show in their laughter, in their mischief.
Help us to realize that the most important thing we do each day is to be present to our children, to nourish their souls, not just provide for their bodies. May we get to know each child as the the unique person they are and to call forth their unique gifts.
Forgive us, Lord, for getting so wrapped up in our careers and the running around we do that we forget that being present to our children and to our family is the essential thing.
We honor You, Lord, for your great love. In Your love, in Mary’s love, may we find love. To You be glory forever. Amen.
Brothers and sisters,
A couple of suggestions: (1) Gather your household each day and share with each other what we did that day. Get to know each other. If you and your spouse, if you and your children are like ships passing in the night, you are not doing the essential thing: Loving your family.
Love involves knowing. And knowing only happens when we trust each other enough to share what’s going on inside. Only in that kind of atmosphere do we grow. Only then do we become the persons we are intended to be. (2) Do not let the TV be the focus of your family room. Arrange your furniture so you can look at (and delight in) each others’ faces and notice if there’s a twinkle or sadness there. (3) Choose games that cause you to interact with people not with tech toys.
If each of us takes time to be present to the people in our lives, we will have a meaningful Christmas. After all, it’s all about how Love Itself was born of a simple teenage girl who said YES to Love with every fiber of her being. May we also give birth to Love in our world today.
Happy Hanukah to my Jewish sisters and brothers!
monday, december 22, 2008
Light escorted by the shadows
Here they are again, Lord. Light and shadow together.
In this case, it appears the shadows on the lawn outside my apartment
are actually making room for the light.
It seems the shadows are even escorting the light!
And the golden cast of the afternoon sun is awesome, Lord. I am always in awe of it.
Advent and Christmas and Hanukah and Kwanza and Winter Solstice celebrations are all about light.
Teach us to look for your Light wherever we find it, Lord.
Sometimes we find the Light where there is supposed to be darkness
and sometimes we find darkness where there is supposed to be light.
Teach us also to see that the shadow is always right next to the light in our lives.
Teach us to be patient with the shadow and even the darkness;
may we wait for the Light to come into our lives
and once again to our beautiful land.
May we never over look it; may we always be ready “to be wrapped in light as in a robe.”
Now fade all earthly splendor,
The shades of night descend
The dying of the daylight
Foretells creations end.
Though noon gives place to sunset,
Yet dark gives place to light:
The promise of tomorrow
With dawns new hope is bright.
priest / writer
(originally created when I lived in St. Augustine on December 11, 2007)
Advent Day 5 — In the midst of the mist
Misty mornings can be cool, Lord.
They can teach us about You, about us.
There is lots of misty-ness in our lives, Lord.
We often don’t see anything clearly.
But You are still there, our sun, the Son
somehow, some way, penetrating the fog, the mist.
Help us realize that mist is OK, Lord.
Misty-ness has its own beauty.
Help us accept the lack of clarity, Lord.
May we realize You are still there in the midst of the mist.
Thank You, Lord, for what it teaches us about You, about us.
Teach us to be patient, Lord, to wait.
For the light, our light, Your light.
Come Lord, Jesus this Christmas
in our lives and in our world.
Your light will come, Jerusalem;
Your light will come, dear people of God;
the Lord will dawn on you in radian beauty.
You will see his glory within you.
— the Advent liturgy
priest / writer
“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Isaiah 40:3
Even the interstate can be a place for reflection. . .
John the Baptist was the great Advent figure who cried out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.
Where are we going, Lord?
Every day we are on a journey, Lord, that will not be complete until we meet You.
In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?
Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wilderness which is America today, Lord?
John’s message was one of repentance.
When he said, “make straight his paths,” he meant clear a way for the coming of God into our heart and soul.
If we don’t do that, our Christmas will be hollow, empty, Lord.
In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for you to come
into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?
What are we doing, Lord?
Where is our life’s journey taking us?
What is life really all about?
I-95 at 2 AM can help us ponder that question.
Thank you, Lord.
Bob Traupman / priest / writer
The gospel for Sunday, December 7, 2008 . . .
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
”Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
’Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
priest / writer
st. augustine beach, florida / october 27, 2007 / photo © bob traupman / all rights reserved
Your light will come, dear people of God!
The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty!
. . . from morning prayer for each day of Advent.
Are you looking for hope, a perspective that will get you through
whatever 2009 will bring?
Are you looking for a Rock to climb on when life swirls around
you like a raging flood that threatens everything you know?
Are you looking for guidance to help you know what to do next?
Then . . . Welcome to our Advent Reflections for 2008.
I hope these next few moments will be a sanctuary for you. Step out of the hustle and bustle of what is supposed to be a season of peace and joy and love, but for many of us is just the opposite. Relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Take a moment to place yourself in the presence of your God (or your Higher Power) if you prefer.
For some of us, this series of reflections from now until Christmas will be a time to seek and find new meaning in our great Christian story, the mystery of God’s love affair with the human race, the mystery we celebrate at Christmas.
There are others of us who have not gone deep enough to find its relevance to our own lives. May I suggest that if the world’s celebration of the holidays does not satisfy, just look at it as you might any other great story or any other great movie. See if there is something there, some meaning, for you. As they say in A.A., “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
The Christian story is that God wanted his son to be Emmanuel – God with us. He became incarnate, literally encased in the fleshiness of human existence. The Christian story (and belief for many of us) is that Jesus is Son of God and Son of Mary. (If you are inclined to say that is preposterous, just regard it as a wonderful story; it still can work for you.)
The Advent season is the four weeks that lead up to Christmas, observed by Catholics and other liturgical churches. It is based on the two thousand year accumulation of rich and beautiful, comforting and challenging scriptures, and poetry, hymns and songs in our liturgical books. Playing Handel’s magnificent oratorio Messiah has always been a wonderful way for me to enter into Advent, the world’s longing for a Savior.
When I was a kid, the Christmas tree customarily was put up after we kids went to bed on Christmas eve. The liturgical texts build in suspense and intensity. In the liturgy, our celebration begins on Christmas Eve and goes through the Feast of Epiphany. In the Eastern churches, their Christmas is January 6th! But in our world today we are often so weary of Christmas that we want to be done with it after the Christmas Day football games.
It is disheartening to me that most people have little awareness of our spiritual way of preparing for Christmas because our consumerist culture has twisted and distorted it to be far from the real thing. This blog is meant to allow you a little peek at those riches. It is my hope and prayer that they may lift you up, encourage you, console you and help you think, believe in you and your God, and have hope that there is a beautiful future in store for you, even in the most dire circumstances.
Many Christians focus on Jesus’ coming in the future; here I invite you to focus on opening our hearts to receive him right now in our daily lives.
To pray earnestly “Come, Lord Jesus!” – the Advent prayer par excellence, ¬¬which is the very last verse of the bible. I just invite you to pray this little prayer when you’re waiting in line at the store or cooking dinner.
Luke, in his familiar Christmas story, tells us that Jesus was homeless at the time of his birth. His family was poor and the first ones to receive the Good News were poor shepherds who were the outcasts of society in that time. It makes us soberly realize that God has a preferential option for the poor. And one of the relevancies for all of us – Christian or not – as we reflect on this story is that it is from the poor of our own day, not the rich, from whom we will learn the lessons that will help us through these difficult times!
Some others of my readers are not so spiritually minded. I write also for those who may be skeptical or cynical about the Christian story or never really thought about it. I suggest that you just read these reflections as a story that can convey meaning to us like any other wonderful story in literature. Perhaps you might receive something that will touch your life.
Many of us celebrate the coming of Light into our world at this holi(holy)day season, so in that we already share something in common. I wish to recognize and be in solidarity with others who also celebrate the coming of light into our darkness:
Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Hanukkah (December 21 – 28). The festival of Hanukkah (Chanukah) was established to commemorate the Jewish Maccabees’ military victory over the Greek-Syrians and the rededication of the Second Temple, which had been desecrated by the Greek-Syrians, to the worship of God. Thus, Hanukkah is a celebration of Jewish national survival and religious freedom.
Our African American brothers and sisters celebrate Kwanzaa with a seven-branched candle holder from December 26 – January 1 with its seven themes: unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, inner purpose, creativity and faith.
And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere – this year at 12:04 PM on December 21. (Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees came to us from Germanic pagan customs.)
The Consummerist Grinch. In our day Christmas carols and mall decorations appear in late October and are used to get us to buy stuff. I feel ¬¬¬¬disheartened that our consumerist grinch tries to rob us of the holiness of this season. The consumerists tell us that it’s all about gift-giving to fill their cash registers by buying frivolous stuff for Aunt Suzie and Uncle Joe. Christmas is really all about being ready to receive the gift God wants to give us this year. And it takes a great deal of effort for even the most devout to have the peace and silence to prepare for and find Christ in the middle of the frenzy and the hype.
Christmas is all about love. Poor people understand this because, for many, that’s all they have to give one another. And in these difficult times perhaps we can learn that. What our children need is our love and simple gifts that are genuine heartfelt tokens of that love.
Personal renewal and conversion. The Advent texts are all about personal renewal and transformation. The prophets of old warned Israel time and again that they had wandered far from the path of their covenant with God. They had forgotten to acknowledge that God was The Source of all they had. They warned if they did not return to acknowledging God instead of the idols which they had created (in our day, our worship of the latest technology) that they would destroy themselves.
In this, I speak here not so much to the secularists — those who openly deny the existence of God — but to those of us who say we believe but put God at the periphery of our lives and place the almighty dollar (which is not so almighty anymore) in God’s place.
Here are seven themes we will reflect on, either in this blog or in some of the “best of Arise Advent issues in my twenty year archive:
+ + + The coming (advent) of Light into darkness. We can’t have one without the other. Light will emerge in the midst of our personal darkness and the darkness of our world. Look for it! Even if it is only a match.
+ + + The emergence of hope. Persevere in unrelenting hope in the midst of the difficult circumstances of your life. (In the midst of WWII Winston Churchill’s address to a graduating class was “ Never give up! Never ever give up!” And he sat down.)
+ + + Be patient! Learn the art of waiting with style and grace. Today we expect our computer to boot in ten seconds or we grow impatient. Use your time in line or in traffic to quiet your mind, go within yourself, and have a moment of contact with your God. Waiting time does not have to be wasted time. In Advent we wait for the coming of Christ anew in our lives and our world with hope. Life happens when we’re waiting. In the waiting will be the testing and purifying that will make you stronger.
+ + + Be prepared for whatever might come. Our financial gurus did not see this thing coming. They were blinded by their own self-interest. They were not prepared. Is your spiritual house in order? Are you ready to cope with the hardships that may face you in this economy? Will you or your kids be prepared to cope? Where will you find your strength?
+ + + Be consoled by the story of Israel and Jesus (or whatever epic story transforms your life). The Word of God renews me, challenges me, comforts me, encourages me every single day. The first thing we need to do in difficult times is to stay in contact with God. If we can be instantly connected to the Internet, which is manmade, realize we can stay connected to God all the time! (More later.)
+ + + Silent music. Turn off your TV, computer, ipod, stereo, cell phone and let yourself be in touch with the music of the universe: SILENCE! Silence is the language which God speaks. If we cannot quiet the clutter of our mind we will not hear God’s gentle Soft Voice. Will your Christmas be a “Silent night, holy night?
+ + + Enter willingly into the Refiner’s Fire. Gold and silver are refined in fire. Our nation – and each one of us – is now entering that refining fire, willingly or unwillingly. It can cleanse and purify us, making us newer than before, or it can destroy us. This is my loving prayer – this is my passionate focus in our present times. We will begin in the first entry of I’m Here with this message, the message of the great Advent figure John the Baptist who preached repentance to the nation Israel to prepare the way of the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Tomorrow: John the Baptist’s call to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”
in our hearts and in our world.