Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season...

Well, folks, here we are at the end of November. It's hard to believe this year is almost over already. Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. Three more Sundays of Advent, and then we find ourselves at Christmas.

This is also the season of "end of the semester crunch." That sounds like a cereal tagline. "Stressy-O's-they've got that great end of the semester crunch." Haha.

Anyway...In chapel today, our senior preacher talked about the hustle and bustle of the "Christmas Season," meaning how secular culture hijacks the month of December to hawk their wares and get out of the red. He talked of how Christ's birth means more than that. These words were a good reminder.

I find it hard to believe all that has happened since last Christmas. I am a person who often measures time by looking at significant events that have occurred. I remember when X happened because it happened near when Y happened, or on the anniversary of Z, or whatever. Since last Christmas, the hubster and I went on the "Tour de Sushi" vacation, Hub and I celebrated our first married Christmas and Valentine's Day, I made the trip back to Illinois twice to be with my sick and dying mother and then for her death and funeral. I chanted in front of 400 people during Easter morning worship as the intern pastor, among other duties I held as an intern until my experience was over on May 30th. Housewifing for a couple of months held my time, as well as another vacation, skydiving, bringing two of my three nephews to stay with us in ND for a week, and then moving back to school the same weekend as a good high school friend got married. My first semester of senior year is quickly drawing to a close, but not before my first birthday as an orphan, and the dawn of "the Holidays" with this same reality for me and my siblings and countless other people in the world who have experienced the death of loved ones this year.

With all of these truths, with all the joys and sorrows that have come this year, the importance of Christ's presence with and for this world is a great truth to remember. The love of God in Christ Jesus is not something that takes away the hurt and grief of no longer having mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and other loved ones, but this presence IS a reminder that through it all, we are not forsaken. We are not forgotten. The ones we have lost are not forsaken or forgotten. I take comfort in Jesus words in Matthew 28:20, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

The world DOES change. Things happen that we wish wouldn't. Pain and happiness mingle together; poignantly at such a time in the year when so much time and energy is spent on "family." And so, with the new reality for me that has only come through my orphanhood, I am learning to embrace "the Holidays," not with a fake, plastered on smile, but with authenticity, with a renewed sensitivity to others, and with the assurance of my Lord and my God: "I am with you always," to love, to forgive, and to offer life where once there was death.

Monday, November 01, 2010

For All the Saints

Today is All Saints Day; a day in the Church where we remember the saints triumphant (those who have died in Christ) and the saints militant (those who are still living).

In chapel this morning, the leaders read off all the names that were given to them of people related to the community who have died since last year's All Saints celebration. What struck me was how MANY names were read off. I personally knew of several of the people, and some that weren't mentioned. But there were a lot of names brought forth to remember this day. What a reminder of the faith around us and how we all live in the ripples.

I am grateful this day for the example of faith that has been shown to me through many saints. This year, obviously, All Saints Day has taken a slightly different bent, and yet I remember my mom at the same time that many people remember parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends.

This community is one that has experienced loss this year. We have grieved the loss of a friend and classmate, the loss of parents (I'm not the only one by far), the loss of loved ones. And yet we still gather to worship, to embrace one another in friendship, and to serve the God who has called us in our baptism to be in this place for a time. We prepare to be sent out in service to the God who calls us to be salt for the earth.

We do so because God has given us people to love and to serve for Christ's sake in the power of the Holy Spirit. For those who have gone before, rest in peace in the love and mercy of Almighty God.