Saturday, November 30, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas by Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

Christmas tree hunt 2012 069

Keeping Christ in Christmas for our family means preparing ourselves during Advent, so we are ready for Him when He comes.  We listen to Him in His Word, we seek Him in our prayers and in our extra efforts to see and attend to the needs that around us. There are so many good ways to prepare the way,  it can easily become overwhelming. My best advice is trust Him, and trust His Church to guide you to Him. He can take a little desire on your part inflame it with a passion ordered unto Himself, and you will scarcely know that anything is happening at all.  His coming is usually small, and still.

It does take a wee bit of planning.   What sort of prayers will you say? What gifts will you prepare for the Christ child?  How will you awaken the wonder of the Advent of Christ in yourself and your family? How will this Advent make His voice more recognizable to you and your children, so that you are prepared for His coming, so that you can alert others? What part of the secular celebrations will you take part in, what will you let go of? 

Mostly it takes a firm hope, that our fumbling and awkward fiats, which are all we have to offer Him, will be enough. We see through the glass darkly, it is very easy to not recognize His movements in our efforts to bring Christ into our Christmas preparations. It is too easy to convince ourselves that our efforts are not accomplishing anything.  His desire for you is greater than yours for Him.  So great He will enter into this broken humanity of ours, just for you, and just for me.

Even with this knowledge, sometime near Gaudete Sunday, if not sooner, I begin to have the creeping feeling that I am failing to do Advent right.  Because we have not done enough volunteer work, or the right kind of volunteer work.  Because our Christmas tree is up already -- or maybe it is not up yet.  Because I love Christmas music and it is already playing.  Because my children behave like this:

Naughty or Nice? Please note that Luke rarely goes about with his fly open anymore, but as for the Sass-master….well, she IS the Sass-master!

 Many nights our Advent rituals feel distracted and poorly done – what with the fire hazard and little children who are fighting over whose turn it is to blow out the candles and the older, sulky children who have piles of homework to do there are often a lot of side bars during our prayer time (which may or may not include a parent who has lost all patience and finds him or herself screeching at the children in a not so peace-on-earth way).  To top it off, all too often I feel our Advent prayer time was hastily done; the Holiday activities make for later evenings and children must be put to bed. Mom and Dad need to have a little time to chill, maybe even with a glass of wine (We do!  We really, really do need it!).

Why do I always, every year, think that I must first set up the perfect environment for Advent to truly be fruitful?  Why am I always fighting off a feeling that my efforts are hopeless, and that I am alone in my failure?  Why am I always afraid that He won’t come for me, or my children?  That we did not do it right.
Every season I have to learn and re-learn that even my fumblingChristmas fun! 047 efforts, done with love and great yearning, are all Jesus needs to come to me, and to my children.  It is my awkward, broken fiat that I offer Him. It is all I have. I yield to the structure and sacraments that Mother Church has provided, to help me and help my children order our hearts and our desires to Him.

Yes, (surprisingly) Santa will come, but the presents will not be remembered. Yet, if I ask my older children about what they remember about Christmas, they always remember that baby Jesus came, and we sang songs and prayed prayers, lighted candles and prepared the way for Him all during our Advent. They remembered that we longed for Him in the darkness and He came, and they know He will come again.  

Peace and Grace to all, Heidi

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Exploding Heads and the Kingdom of Heaven

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
anand no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”
Lk 17:20-25

Channel surfing last Wednesday I watched a snippet  of a History channel production that was going to reveal secrets of the Bible!!!! Not usually my thing, except that the only other acceptable option to watch was a Nova production on the JFK assassination which  had “new” facts that showed that Oswald was the only shooter. Okay.  Not being in the mood to watch Kennedy’s head explode in slow motion over and over again,  I flipped back to the  History channel…but that was a mistake,  because now it was time for my head to explode!

It was the same old and  reductionist theories about Jesus and His kingdom, which -- for those of you who are ready to take a secularized leap of faith   -- has nothing to do with a heavenly kingdom, or even  a church for that matter!  No way!  That was all added later on by misguided, power hungry, misogynistic and/or ignorant leaders of the early Christian church.  Leaders who were trying to justify their doctrines by creating a divine messiah out of an itinerant preacher/ zealot / nice dude (whichever you prefer to sell your book) therefore obscuring His true message until modern intellectuals could sort it all out. Thank heavens (by which I do not  mean  life beyond this world, no way, that would be ignorant, and anyway, where is the hope in that?)!  As for the Kingdom of God it was here in this political view or there in those subversives against that governmental system.  It might even be me, myself, and I, who knows… but it was not supernatural.

It is also not an honest and complete assessment of the message of the Gospel, which is  good news beyond your deepest desire, and  which emerges like a lightning flash even in the darkest most hellish, hopeless places in this world.  The companions of Maximilian Kolbe during their  torturous deaths glimpsed it, and I do not think the    banal theories of TV scholars could ever explain how or why their deaths differed from  the deaths the Nazi’s were hoping to give them; deaths that were supposed to be used as a horrific reminder that there was no hope for their prisoners,  either surrender your humanity or suffer horribly and die like an animal.  With the Kingdom of Heaven so powerfully present in Maximilian Kolbe, those prisoners did neither, they died with heaven overtaking them.

In the end, my husband and I gave up on TV and streamed Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which may explain the extreme heckling tone of this post).  I apologize for that, but well…my head exploded!