I’m typing this article in the middle of Advent, knowing that it will get to you in the middle of Christmas, right around the first of the new year. It seems appropriate that I share gifts of the season with you.
The first is my gratitude for the opportunity to sojourn with you these four plus years, with hopes for more to come. I’m thankful for each of you and the myriad ways you contribute to the life of our congregation, advancing Christ’s mission in Waukesha and beyond. I am thankful for your expressions of support and encouragement that you extended to the staff and I a few weeks ago in worship. Your notes and gifts were heartwarming. In fact, one of those gifts is an amaryllis bulb, which now sits in my office that will soon send forth its first shoot in the bleak midwinter. A sign of God’s resurrection power and abiding presence. Thank you! (Perhaps next month, I can include a photo of the blossom.)
The second is a prayer. But first, a bit of background. When I was a kid, I used to wish that it were Christmas all year long. It wasn’t just that I wanted presents, and presents, and more presents. It seemed that people put differences aside and found time to be together, to share a common meal, and bond as family. Never mind the biology or marital status, we were together and that made us family. As an adult, I’m far less concerned about the presents and much more focused on the presence. Even so, I don’t always live up to the ideals I strive for. A famous preacher of the past, D.L. Moody was once asked why he urged Christians to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit. “Well,” he said,” I need a continual filling because I leak!” Well, I leak too. Perhaps you do too. And so, I share with you this prayer, written by Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston:
"Fill me again, great Spirit, with all that I need to make it through this life of mine. Give me the vision I need to see clearly. Give me the strength I need to keep going. Give me the love I need to share what I have with others. Let me have a little courage and lot of wisdom, as much hope as you can spare, and that quiet determination to hold my ground when the world around me seems so uncertain. Please give me your blessings again, dear Spirit, for I use them up so quickly in these dark times. Please come into my life once more and fill me up that I may empty my heart each day in gratitude for what you have given me."
Finally, I offer you another prayer titled, An Affirmation of Peace, by Steve Garnaas Holmes. I am conscious of the fact that while many of us are optimistic and joy-filled at this time of year, it is difficult for others. The shorter daylight hours, memories of loved ones departed, regrets over actions taken, avoided, or failed, families that are far away, or distant in other ways, can all lead to loneliness, grief and/or depression. No matter how you’re feeling today, I hope that as you read this prayer you hear God’s words to you today and through all the years to come.
“I give you the quiet peace of this present moment: without hurry, fear, or need to be elsewhere, but right here, right now, as you are, at rest.
I give you the strong peace of yourself: the peace of forgiveness and my delight in who you are,
with no need to prove yourself or do better.
I give you the vibrant peace of oneness
with all living things, the peace of deep belonging,
and reconciliation with all people.
I give you the life-giving peace of my own spirit,
my love, trust, and courage beating in your heart,
my presence in your soul.
I give you the joyous peace of trust –
trust in your life and goodness,
trust in the Beloved and your belovedness.
I give you the renewing peace of healing,
of blessing hidden even in struggle and pain,
of trust that even in suffering all shall be well.
I give you not as the world gives, from the outside,
but from within, by your being created,
and it cannot be taken away.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Amen.”