Thursday – December 26, 2019
“If you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish.” Marian Anderson (a highly acclaimed American singer of classical music and spirituals).
A Word of Hope
It is that time of year when people are celebrating Christmas. Some are enjoying gifts they got yesterday. Others are recovering from the overindulgence of food that they consumed yesterday. In many varied ways people are celebrating the Christian holiday – Christmas – the celebrated birth of Jesus.
Well today is the beginning of another holiday season called Kwanzaa. It is an African American holiday season that is filled with cultural traditions that reminds people of their ancestors, traditions, and faith. There are seven days of celebration between December 26 and January 1. As part of Kwanzaa tradition, there is family, friends, music, food, gift giving, and gratefulness for the Creator of the Universe.
In 1966, Dr. Maulena Karenga created seven Swahili principles to distinguish our social and culture heritages in the midst of a growing homogenous society. This holiday season’s purpose is for people to remember their African American ancestors and celebrate their heritage.
The seven principles are:
- Unity (Umoja) – to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- Self-determination (Kujichagulia) – to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
- Collective Work and responsibility (Ujima) – to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems to solve together.
- Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa) – to build our stores, shops, and other businesses to profit from them together.
- Purpose (Nia) – to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Creativity (Kuumba) – to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
- Faith (Imani) – to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
As Marian Anderson’s quote points out, when you have purpose you can accomplish a great deal. The Kwanzaa principles reminds us that we are all created for a purpose as individuals, family, and community. Each race and each nation collectively can solve the world’s problems if we collaborate cooperatively and creatively together. Our faith in the Supreme Being working in each one of us can make a difference in this world. To be thankful for our gifts, our talents, and our lives is worth celebrating Kwanzaa this year to learn the principles and exemplify them in our interaction with one another including family, friends, and every day during 2020.
Dear Creator of the Universe: You created each of us and we are grateful for You, our heritage, our race, and our communities. May we each day during the season of Kwanzaa learn, share, and celebrate the principles so that we embody them throughout the New Year 2020 in everything we do and in everything we say to one another. May it be so. Amen!
Rev. Winner Laws
Cathedral of Hope Staff
Wednesday – December 25, 2019
“Love must be sincere. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Share with those among you who are in need…Be happy with those among you being happy, and be sad with those with you who are sad. Live in harmony with each other. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:9-18 (selections)
Peace Among Queer People
One of the most radical declarations of the Christ is that there will be peace among humanity. This is the news the angels brought: “Good news! Peace comes!” True peace requires justice. It is not a sappy, fake emotion. It is a deep rightness, the making-right of all wrongs so thoroughly and profoundly that there truly is no longer enmity.
This year, I’ve found myself thinking on this in the LGBTQIA+ community. How often is there enmity between the letters of our Alphabet Family? This winter, there is a bisexual person who feels erased by the words of a gay person who thinks their very identity and orientation can only really be a stepping stone to being gay. This yuletide season, there is a gay woman whose soul aches because there is still oppressive sexism directed at her by gay men, rejecting her, othering her. This Christmas, peace has still not yet come to the asexual person who still doesn’t really feel accepted by the largely sexual queer community. This season, there is a trans person who hopes that this year at Pride they won’t be misgendered, that maybe gay people there will finally take even the mildest interest in trans experience. As Advent pushed on, there was a non-binary trans person who recently heard a binary trans person complain that non-binary people “aren’t really trans people” and “distract and confuse others.”
As I write these words, something in my heart just aches and breaks. We have come so far, my queer family. The Spirit of God and we together have brought greater justice into the world. But the peace of Christmas, the great work of God across the eons, is still not complete. And I am not talking about how the cis, straight people treat us. I’m talking about between us.
How much effort do we take to truly empathize with and understand the other letters of our family? How deeply do we truly listen? What caricatures and myths still live in our minds about each other? Myths and fictions as painfully oppressive as the ones we had put on us?
My family, we must love one another. And that love must be so deeply sincere. We must honor one another in our queer family more than we honor our own letter. We must, as far as possible, live in peace.
Infant Royal Jesus, you who live and die and work and breathe to bring the deepest peace, bring justice within our rainbow family. Teach us to love one another. Make us more like you, queer God. Let the good news of Christmas seek into the cracks in our own community. Heal us, open us, make us new, just as you always have, just as you always will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Tuesday – December 24, 2019
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2.11
A Word of Hope
The story of Christmas Eve and Day has been engrained in Christians since the early days of childhood. It is a story that is happily passed along from one generation to the next for centuries. As adults, we know that the events may not be totally accurate or reported as they would be by today’s news outlets. Can we imagine the sort of ride Mary had from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey as her body was preparing to give birth? What sort of Inn Keeper would not have made some sort of accommodation for a woman about to give birth? How is it that Joseph remained so calm through it all?
The artists’ renderings of the time soon after birth show Mary kneeling next to the manger. We also see angels singing and shepherds gathered to greet the Magi. Really? Most women would suggest that Mary’s posture would be remarkable! The bottom line is simply that Emmanuel, God with us, was born of Mary to be Saviour of the world and that amazing things happened in his life from the moment of his birth to his Ascension into Heaven.
The Christmas tree is the essential element and NOT all of the ornamentation. The same is true of the Christmas story. Don’t be blinded by all the “extras” in the story. Focus on the fact that you are loved by name and that Jesus was born for your salvation.
Holy One! Grant us the wisdom to see through and beyond the noise of Christmas to hear the silence (and not so silent) baby in the manger as His first hour of life’s journey has begun. Help us be grateful for the incredible gift of life infused in all the earth and let us share our joy with others whenever possible.
We pray these words through your many names, O Holy One!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – December 23, 2019
Luke 1:41 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
A Word of Hope
Luke 2: 39-45 relates a powerful family story that is central to our celebration of Advent. I love this part of the story of Christ’s birth. I find it appropriate that this is also “Family Roots Day”. I have a passion for family history and writing stories about my own family. I believe that stories we grow up with, are powerful teaching tools. Many of them include accounts of people praying and prayers being answered. They are testimonies of God’s love and grace, but this is the most amazing of all family stories!
The angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she would conceive and bear the Christ Child. Mary accepted that truth and hastened to visit her relative Elizabeth. Mary was a young, unmarried girl and Elizabeth was much older, even past her normal child bearing years. I imagine that Mary may have worried a bit about how she would be received, but God had all that worked out.
Elizabeth was already pregnant with John who was to prepare people for the birth of Jesus. Mary arrived at the home of Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and felt the babe leap for joy in her womb. Imagine that!
Here is a lady who finally conceived, and her baby is leaping for joy in her womb. She immediately confirms what the angel has already told Mary. Elizabeth cries out, “Blessed are you among Women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
These were extraordinary women, extraordinary times. I am so glad these precious details are written in the scriptures and handed down to us.
Oh God, I welcome the Holy Spirit in my life. When you call me to service, may I answer with courage and commitment, as did Mary and Elizabeth.
Carole Ann Sarah
Friday – December 20, 2019
Proverbs 4:6-7 (NIV)
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
A Word of Hope
The internet and social media exponentially increase the amount of data – both factual and erroneous – our brains must process. Markets react to tweets, reputations rise or fall on a strategically placed comment, and the credibility of institutions can hinge on a review by an unnamed source.
On a more personal level,I’ve realized
how often, despite my intelligence and an abundance of information, the way
forward in a given situation still remains unclear. Data and intellect do not
necessarily clarify the path. And yet, I tend to rely on my understanding and
subjective experience to make what I hope will be the “right choice.” The
missing element in navigating these matters seems to be discernment, or wisdom.
If ever we needed the direction of divine wisdom, it is now.
In his Ted Talk, “Our Loss of Wisdom,” Barry Schwartz states, “The good news is you don’t need to be brilliant to be wise. The bad news is that without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough. It’s as likely to get you and other people into trouble as anything else.”
Wisdom gives us discernment beyond what our learning and our senses can provide. She points the way forward in those times when an abundance of information still leaves us at a loss about what to do or how to respond. Wisdom shows us the best way to move through the world, considering the who, what, where, why, when, and how of the situations at hand. Wisdom is knowing when to overturn tables in the Temple and when to remain silent before Pilate; when to confront and when to seek peace.
You’ll never lack people to give you
their opinion about what you should or should not do. The Proverbs of Solomon
encourages us to seek out wise counsel
and take it to heart. If it resonates with the soul, follow it. Wise counsel
opens us up to insights and actions we may not have considered, but does not
demand that we respond in kind. The wise do not respond in anger or offense if
their counsel, once considered, remains unheeded. Avoid the advice of anyone
who insists that you do exactly as they have said. They’re not sharing wisdom
they hope you’ll consider. They’re trying to control you.
We all have people in our lives who would tell us a version of: “I told you exactly what you needed to do, but you went and did your own thing anyway. Don’t ask me if you’re just going to ignore my advice.” Rather than protesting or explaining, just agree to the terms. Don’t ask them again.
While the wise counsel of others can be beneficial, Wisdom repeatedly compels each of us to listen to Her directly. “I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.” (Prov. 1:23). When we lack wisdom, we most likely have not asked for it or are not listening. Let us recognize our need for this discernment in our every decision. Let us remain open to the voice of wisdom when the world’s chatter competes for our attention. For then we will see the best path before us.
Most Loving God,
Impart your Wisdom to us so that we may do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons.
May our actions and decisions reflect a desire to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons.
And So It Is. Amen.
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