Blue…

blue

Tonight was the first ever Blue Christmas Service at St. Andrew’s. I’ve always struggled with the concept of a Blue Christmas Service – I always enjoy the sparkle and joy of the Season. So to take time to focus on the struggle with grief or loss didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. It seemed like something that would jar me out of my joyful celebration.

However as we sang, prayed and lit candles this evening, I found something precious. A space of silence and breathing in the midst of a hectic and stressful season. This year, I have struggled to find my footing in the celebration of Christmas. I have loved every moment of worship that I’ve had since returning from Israel, but in between moments of singing and praying and listening to the word, I have found myself cranky and out-of-sorts. I think this has to do with wanting time to process all that we experienced in the Holy Land, and not having the time to do it. It also has to do with all the things on the “to-do” list which normally would have been done by now.

I have felt harried and frustrated and lacking in rest. So though I am not struggling with any particular grief or loss, I am struggling nonetheless. And this service ministered to me. My hope and my prayer is that it also ministered to all who attended, all who came broken and weary and weighed-down.

My hope is that if you are feeling that way, you too may be ministered-to during this season. That you may find a space to breathe, to reflect, to heal. And that the One who was wounded for us all, the One by whose wounds we are healed, would bring you comfort.

He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles
were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6 NLT

Sunday of Joy…

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I always appreciate being at church after a tragedy. Not that I ever want a tragedy to occur, but when they do, being in worship with my family of faith is a blessing. I remember my Dad preaching words of hope and comfort after 9/11, in those first few weeks when it still felt like maybe the world was ending. I remember how beautiful it was to sing and pray and read words of hope and of peace in that very troubling time.

On the one hand it was hard to be at worship today – my emotions over the Connecticut school shootings are still very close to the surface. On the other hand, I was so relieved and blessed to be there. For some it might have felt like it was ironic in a terrible, terrible way that today is the Advent Sunday of Joy.

But for me, it felt right. Not because I want to just smile and laugh and ignore the pain. But because I believe that joy is stronger than pain. That joy can be felt in the midst of pain. And that joy can help to heal our wounds.

So my smile was wobbly today in worship. My tissue was drenched by the end of the service, and my eyes and nose were red. But there were so many good things that happened in my community of faith today. We baptized a baby. We listened to our children sing and play the handbells. We laughed. We danced (does this mean our Presbyterian card will be revoked?!). We sang Go Tell It On The Mountain at the top of our voices and clapping broke out.

And God was with us. God was drawing us together. God was healing us. God was blessings us.

In the Gospel According to Matthew we find these words:

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:22-25 NLT

Jesus came so that we would know that God is with us. On the good days, on the bad days, on the ordinary days. Jesus came so that we would know God cares and so that we would know what it is to experience the joy of being unconditionally loved.

So that we would have a joy inside us that shines in the midst of darkness, that smiles through the haze of tears, that sings and claps, even when our hearts are broken.

Healing…

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Tonight was the Healing Service at our church. It’s always such a special service to me. It is wonderful to be able to pray with people…it is an honor that people will share their brokenness with you, and it is so touching to see how strong their faith is.

So the whole issue of healing is on my mind tonight. I am convinced that Jesus is meant to heal us. But I am also convinced that our illness or brokenness goes so much deeper than disease or injury. I believe that Jesus is meant to be a holistic healer – one who heals our spirits and our minds and our hearts as well as our bodies.

Isaiah wrote:

 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice
from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!

Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV

I believe the peace that Isaiah is talking about is meant for all – the world and all who live in it. Not just peace as an absence of conflict, but peace as in wholeness. Peace as in the restoration to how things are meant to be. The

I believe that’s the kind of redemption that Jesus brought into the world through his birth, ministry, death and Resurrection. I believe that’s the kind of healing and renewal for which this world is crying out.

I believe it all started with the birth of a child, a son, who would be called the Prince of Peace, who would rule with fairness and justice.