Tuesday – December 15, 2020
The Gospel According to Luke 2:40 (NRSV)
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
A Word of Hope
“Deeper Meanings – Eternal Truths”
When I was 6 years old my family moved from East Texas, where I was born, to Fort Worth, where I grew up. I distinctly remember the following Christmas because it was a time when my skepticism of the existence of Santa Claus was growing. I wanted greater proof than had been provided by my parents, and I had a plan!
We had a small bell–no larger than a tiny Christmas ornament—which served various purposes through the years. Mom would place it near the bed whenever one of us was ill so that we could ring it in the night if we needed her. The whole concept was ridiculous since our house was small and my sister or I could have easily been heard if we needed help. It was probably Mom’s way of cheering us up or making us feel special. That same bell hung on our Christmas tree each year, for no particular reason. It was just our silly “family bell,” but it became a key part of my plan to test the existence of Santa.
We customarily opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, and Mom and Dad told my sister and I to wait in the other room while Santa was there. Mother was very dramatic about Santa’s visit. She would pretend to usher him in the front door, carrying on a boisterous conversation to assure that we could hear it through the closed door of the living room. Of course, it was a one-sided conversation because we never could hear Santa’s voice (he spoke quietly, Mother said). She would say good-bye to Mr. Claus, slam the front door, and announce that we could now come into the room to see the gifts he had placed under the tree.
That year, I implemented my “proof-of-Santa plan:” I insisted that Santa ring the bell on the tree to prove that he was really there. From my young perspective, my parents would never try to mislead me, and if I asked Santa to ring the bell, Santa must have stopped by or the bell wouldn’t ring! It rang; I was convinced; and my wonderful, magical belief lasted another year!
Mother and Dad were not tricksters or deceivers, they were loving parents who helped to make our childhood as marvelous and joy filled as it could be. They shared bedtime stories, provided for our education, but also took my sister and I to church and helped us to cultivate traditions of faith and to seek deeper meaning in life. Santa Claus is a custom that began with a bishop’s good deeds. Christmas is a celebration of the miracle of God’s great love. It proclaims the truth of God’s wondrous gift, incarnate in the life of the Christ.
My father died in 2008 and Mom passed 4 years prior to that. My sister has Christmas with her adult children and their families, and that bell lost its clapper and was tossed long ago. Like a
wood fire in the hearth, traditions may gradually die-out over time. Life may change, but there are truths that remain constant. When the church bells toll each Christmas, they are a different sort of reminder for me: God is real and loves us; Jesus was born to show us.
The meaning of Christmas is a Truth that need never fades away as long as there are faithful people who tell the story.
Holy and gentle God, this wondrous Advent/Christmas season reminds us how blessed we are by your sacred gift of the Christ child. May we be bearers of this Truth: that you are real and love us, and that Jesus was born to show us. Through word and deed, may that be our Christmas gift to all. Amen
Rev. Dr. Gary Kindley
Monday – December 14, 2020
You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
A Word of Hope
On the third Sunday of Advent, we lit the candle of Joy, the rose candle. You might remember that it is also called Gaudete Sunday, referring to the first word in a Latin Hymn, Gaudete, meaning “rejoice.” The entire sentence translates as “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” The origin of the hymn can be found in Philippians 4.4–6.
What all of this means is It’s time to rejoice. Your patience is about to pay off, the arrival of the one you had hoped for is close, so close that there’s no need to be anxious. Relax. Give thanks. Open your heart to God. What a thorough and beautiful description of what unrestrained Joy really means! Joy is not just another word for happiness. I’m happy when I don’t burn the toast, but Joy is the feeling we experience when something we have waited for, worked for, hoped and prayed for finally becomes a reality. The joy we feel during the ceremonial lighting of that pink candle comes from the assurance that Love is about to be re-born into the world. That is what the story of Christmas actually tells us; knowing that, like that infant born in a simple stable, we once again have the chance to experience unconditional love born in us.
With that glorious truth assured to us who can blame our ancestors for wanting to light the candle of joy a couple of weeks early? How many of us are ready, right now, to experience some joy in our lives? Advent is the season of waiting, of anticipation. Like children who experience the wait for Christmas morning as being seemingly endless, we may be feeling that we’ve been living in an Advent has already lasted for over nine months and counting. How much longer will we have to wait? Have you heard any friends saying, “will 2020 ever be over?” -As if the grueling challenges we have faced together are somehow the fault of a calendar year?
If we insist on personifying 2020, this year has taught us quite a few lessons about patience, about change, about adapting to a world none of us would ever have dreamed could exist. Better times are out there. We know it, but the wait isn’t over and it’s okay to allow a little early joy into our lives knowing that new beginnings are imminent.
I thank God for Advent. It is our constant in an unpredictable period of our lives. How joyful to realize that, as always, this year’s Advent Season will culminate with our annual new hope, the birth of Love Incarnate into the world.
May Love be incarnate in each of us. May our joy shout out that love to all your children. Amen
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – December 11, 2020
New Revised Standard Version
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; it this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
Words of Hope
One of the gifts of growing older is perspective. That is the ability to look back at where I have been and then see where I am today, to take into account not just my present condition but the journey here. It is not mere nostalgia, for that only looks backwards. The perspective I have gained shows me all that behind me and hints at what may lay ahead.
What lays ahead? That I do not know, but I do know I have more to do and more life to live and if I continue to follow God’s guidance, I am sure it will be as wonderful as the best days of my past. To maintain that perspective, I have to keep my eyes on my goals. Not goals like get a better job or get a new car, but a more lasting goal. As Paul says in the Letter to the Philippians, “I press on toward a goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ”.
How will I know when I hear it? How will I know which way to turn? It seems to me the best way to attain that goal is to do my best to follow Jesus teachings, to live a good and abundant life. I firmly believe that God will put the path before me if I do the work Jesus instructs.
It is a journey that will never be finished for me until my days are over and until then it is the greatest adventure I can imagine.
God of inspiration, show me the path I must take to reach the goal you have set for me. Give me the strength to follow it and the faith to press forward. Amen
Thursday – December 10, 2020
O God, may I be an instrument of your peace.
-Prayer attributed to St. Francis
A Word of Hope
Our current world order is certainly a place where peace is like a starved orphan in the corner of most countries and a missing part in the lives of many people. Today, there are dominant and active forces which act to disrupt individual and societal peace. This phrase from the prayer attributed to St. Francis points out the fact that peace comes from God! Human ego and fear tender war against the expression of that divine peace. God’s desire for the creation always has centered on peace and harmony among all of the elements of creation.
Because of our strong conflicting psychological drives, it seems almost impossible for humans to create peace with each other. It’s only when we borrow from divine peace that we can generate peace among each other. By that I mean, it’s only when you and I project God’s loving peace into our social interactions that we can share true peace. God alone seems to be the origin and well-spring of true peace. The daily challenge is: will we (you and me) carry God’s peace into the lives of other humans? It’s a matter of our choice! We must desire to become peacemakers with God’s help. God allows each of us to take this sweet balm of divine peace and, by our words and actions, heal the wounds and fears of others. O God, may I be your instrument to share your divine peace with all those in my life this day.
How do we become peacemakers? The St. Francis prayer continues: “Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union”. Let’s modify these words to make the message more personal: “When I find hatred, let me show your love; when I am hurt or maligned, let me forgive; when I find those around me in conflict, let me help them find a just resolution.” In these words, each of us finds a way we can use God’s loving peace to create good out of a bad situation. In your daily interactions, how often do you encounter situations of hate, hurt and conflict?
There’s an easy human response, and there is also the opportunity for you to share God’s peace and transform the destructive effect in your life and the lives of others. The second of these pleas asks you and me to always be willing to forgive others when we have been hurt by their words or actions. In essence, the act of forgiveness is making peace with the other party who maligned you. When you forgive, you are acting as a peacemaker and giving example to the forgiveness which God offers all of us. It’s a great way to mirror the love of God to others, and a great witness of your relationship with the Holy One.
O God, may I be your instrument to share your divine peace with all those in my life this day.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Wednesday – December 9, 2020
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in God’s mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the evil one’s schemes.
A Word of Hope
I’m sure like many of you, We’ve all been blindsided by the impact of events of the year. I’ve heard so many people longing to get back to normal. Not only has our lifestyle changed without much notice, we’ve had to buck up and realize that change is not only normal but should be expected. Gradually, I have learned to embrace the new things I’ve had to incorporate into my daily routine. I’ve been determined to face the fact that I need to be through with my reactive decisions and therefore become proactive. I’m sure I’m not alone in altering my reality and it’s not easy. Life is just much better when we stop being so concerned about adverse circumstances and carry on, being good earth scouts and deciding how we can deal with any situations that come out of nowhere.
It reminds me of a Bible verse from Ephesians which is about putting on the armor of God. In other words, the Bible gives us much wisdom about being as prepared as possible… Pro activism! Personally, I like that idea. To me the “evil one” is hopelessness. After all, who wants to spend the better part of their days reacting to the unexpected rather than preparing a place in our minds for the beautiful things change can bring?
Another healthy aspect about this is what happens to our brains when we have to continually rethink our lives, gradually creating this new normal. Science tells us that there are many ways that our brains create new neural paths, therefore evolving our brains and building up those certain reservoirs of information to help us cope with our new “day to day” situations. I have no doubt that’s true, but I confess there are certain things about change that I don’t like.
I can’t make the perfect utopia for myself, but I try to be a creative thinker and consider that there are ways to incorporate some of these changes in order to keep standing while bending in the wind. I know from experience that being rigid doesn’t usually work, while flexibility allows for a more fluid day; a more peaceful life. I invite you today to think of how you can bend in the turbulent winds of change.
This month we approach the holidays with changes all around us. It’s not going to be the same. I doubt it will ever be the same again. But I’m starting to list the aspects of the differences that I am ready to embrace in our new world. I am learning to put on the armor of God, the helmet, shield, gauntlets, and pull out my best “sword” that I’ve been given, the use of my brain to get busy preparing a space for inevitable change.
What would happen if all of us were to put on your full armor? Give us the vision to see the possibilities when we become more proactive in the divine plan. May we all become your soldiers of change to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)