Sunday, December 25, 2011

All Things in Peace and Silence – Lawrence

All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when thy almighty Word leapt from thy royal throne in heaven.
Wisdom of Solomon 18: 14, 15
Meister Eckhart, in his Sermon 101, cites this passage and claims that the eternal Word from the Father is new born in time, in human nature.
[Eckhart is quoted in Bernard McGinn’s book, The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart. Pgs. 55/56]

When all things were in the medium, in silence, then there descended down into me from on high, from the royal throne, a hidden Word in the ground. The birth of the Word takes place, Eckhart says, in the purest thing that the soul is capable of, in the noblest part, the ground, indeed, in the very essence of the soul’s most secret part, its silent middle.

So in each one of us the Word, the Christ, is born. When we are open in silence to God’s almighty Word, Christ is born in our soul’s centre. This is not only possible on Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Christ on the earth but at any time when we wait in silence for God’s coming to be born in our soul.
© Judith Lawrence December 2011 

Still Centre

Return to the still centre,
Wait in patience for him who comes.
Clear the brambles from the pathway,
Open wide the gate in welcome
For him who comes to you.
Welcome him who comes
To your still centre,
Blessed Triune God.
© Judith Lawrence

Friday, December 23, 2011

Truth Greater Than Fiction -- Peter A. Black

The following post was my article published in "The Watford Guide-Advocate" Dec. 22, 2011. I share it here, wishing you and your loved ones a joyous Christmas graced by the presence and peace of our Lord Emmanuel -- "God with us."

All too soon, it seems, Christmas rushes upon us again. The Big Day is just around the corner. Kids in the multiple millions – especially in the West – just can’t wait to see what gifts 'The Big Guy' will bring them.

Some of us, while casting a disdainful eye at the rank commercialism and seeds of greed sown in young hearts this season, welcome the employment that’s generated and the goodwill that blossoms at many levels of society. And so, we get into the spirit and set up our artificial tree, or obtain a fresh-cut pine or spruce, bedeck it with garlands and tinsel, and ornaments and twinkling lights.

The livingroom – cosy and inviting, laden with a host of seasonal trinkets and trappings, with angels and fairies guarded by cute sentinel nutcrackers – complements the tree. Perhaps the exterior of the house is adorned with colourful lights and illuminated stars. Many a front yard sports a Las Vegas-like diorama of illuminations – such as rope lights spiralling around porch pillars and trees, cute reindeer and sleigh forms – and even huge, inflated Santas.

Let’s not overlook those creches depicting the Holy Family – the Christ Child with Mary and Joseph, attended by shepherds presenting a lamb and Magi bearing gifts. Yes, some of us intentionally keep in view that Christmas is about God’s gift to the world of The Christ Child, our Saviour and Redeemer, the Son of God from heaven. Let us also give thanks to God for those from all walks of life who reach out to those in need, those who help keep our communities safe, for those who generously provide for others, and those who offer various forms of support.

Who is (that is, who was) Santa Claus? He was born during the third century to a devout Christian couple in a village called Patara in what is now the southern coastal area of Turkey. They named him Nicholas. They were wealthy, but died in an epidemic when Nicholas was still young.

However, they had raised him with a deep commitment to living out the commands of the Lord Jesus, and he applied personally the words Jesus spoke to a wealthy young man, “sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.” Nicholas gladly used up all his inheritance, providing assistance to the poor, and helping the sick and suffering.

His selflessness and generosity didn’t go unnoticed, and while still a young man, he was appointed Bishop of Myra. His love for children and concern for the dangers sailors faced were widely appreciated. Despite this, Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned for his faith.

Various legends of miraculous events surrounding his life surfaced over time, and after his death he was canonized and became known as Saint Nicholas. Yes, the historical truth about Santa is way more remarkable than the fictionalized caricature we have today.

Similarly, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Nicholas loved and served, has been mythologised. And yet, the accounts of His miraculous conception and birth, His life and death and resurrection as recorded in the gospels are heart-warming and believable, inspiring love and hope.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

Life beyond this life and joy beyond compare through the gift of God’s Son . . . that’s Christmas for me – truth greater than fiction!

Peter A. Black writes a weekly inspirational column for the Southwestern Ontario newspaper, The Watford Guide-Advocate, and is the author of "Parables from the Pond" (a Word Alive Press Finalist, 2007)-- a book finding a readership from school kids to senior citizens.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Assembly Line—Carolyn Wilker

Recently, I worked a shift at a processing centre for Operation Christmas Child, having come on the invitation of a friend. My first experience had been some years ago, attending with my youngest daughter’s Grade 6 class. We arrived at a factory warehouse, signed in and waited for training and the third member of our group.

In the training room, a cheerful woman in jeans and sweater, topped by a green apron and a pointy hat, showed us the video about the shoebox program and answered questions. She pointed out the charts showing acceptable and inacceptable items for the Christmas boxes. It might have been an elves training session except that a chaplain led us in prayer before we began our shift.

Jane and I and other volunteers from churches, schools and community groups followed our trainer to the warehouse floor, past other volunteers wearing green or red hats. She introduced us to the shift supervisor, who instructed us on the tasks that needed to be done.

While we weren’t making new things out of raw materials, we were an assembly line, making sure these boxes were safe and appropriate for children around the world. Jane chose to tape already inspected boxes as they came to her, and I chose pre-inspection, looking for and handling the donation envelopes. The young women already at station 1B had boxes ready for Jane.

It felt a little like the North Pole in that cool warehouse with Christmas music playing, a cheerful atmosphere, and volunteers wearing Santa or elf hats. And Santa nowhere to be found, since it’s not his workshop after all. As we got our line moving, Peggy entered with the next group of volunteers, saw us and came to work at our station.

I took one box at a time from a large carton on my right, and opened the boxes— tied with string, held together with elastics and some taped really well. The donation envelopes and loose cash, I put into separate slots in a wooden box in front of me. I also had to open any other envelopes and check them as well. After taking personal cards, and sometimes a photo, out of the envelope, I put those items back in the shoebox with the other things, and disposed of the envelope. Next I put the shoebox on the shelf in front of me, ready for a more thorough inspection of its contents, which was Peggy’s job.

Peggy emptied each box, checked for items that could not be sent, and added fillers to some boxes. Sometimes she had to label boxes that came with no age, boy or girl designations on them. Jane was next on the line. After taping the boxes, she placed them on a conveyor belt that took the boxes away to be packed for shipping. The same job over and over, with young men constantly replenishing the emptying carton with more full cartons at my end of the line.

After breaking a fingernail, getting a box from the tightly packed carton, I called on the shift supervisor for a band-aid. She escorted me to the first aid box, and very soon I was back in production. My son-in-law would have been familiar with doing a particular task over and over since he has worked on a car assembly line, putting in windshields. He’d also be familiar with the location of the first aid centre. While our operation was not that technical, it worked well, and we kept the line moving with only a few questions of the supervisor.

While I worked, my thoughts went to the children who would receive them; I pictured a girl or boy, somewhere, delighting in the small gifts, even the elastics or strings that came with the box. The thought of these children getting the gifts I handled drew deep emotions within me and brought me near tears.

These boxes might be the only gift some children receive. Whether they live in a previous war zone or not, whether they have known some form of Santa Claus, or whether the children or their families know God does not matter; the gifts come through a Christian agency. While we are certainly not elves, we and the donors of these shoebox gifts are helping the children to know that someone cares about them. We are God’s hands in a confusing and often dangerous world.

With fifteen minutes left on our shift, we were asked to stop our work and watch a video— a verbal thank you for our contribution of time and energy. Someone reported that we had processed over 2 thousand boxes in those two hours, boxes that were ready to ship out to countries around the world. That too was mighty awesome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When your post gets 65,000 visits - Denyse O'Leary

Recently, I had the odd experience of writing a post (for an education site) that suddenly got 65,000 hits. The big problem was convincing my bosses that I didn’t know how it happened and was sure it would never happen again: Here's the post:
Recently, a Canadian high school teacher broke the silence about where cultural relativism really leads.
He told his Ontario students the horrific true story of the mutilation of an Afghan girl fleeing her abusive husband. He wanted to begin a study of moral philosophy with a case that students would surely agree on. But they didn’t. Most could not “pass judgment on another culture.”

Which sheds an interesting light on tolerance and diversity education: Apart from the idea of justice and injustice (moral judgment), all they can teach is moral imbecility.

A couple of other posts on related subjects that many readers found helpful were:

When we celebrate diversity, what exactly are we celebrating? And “Does a man’s honor really lie between the legs of a woman?”, unpacking the same issue using different news stories.

Our regular education offerings may also be worth a look:

Should a student go into social science? Social science’s house is on fire, and top guns don’t seem to notice.

Should a student go into criminal justice? Consider the obstacles first. The obstacles are very real, and many are misrepresented.

That’s what our The Best Schools site is like: hard-hitting. In an age when many angry students are hitting the streets because their degrees and debt don’t lead to jobs, we offer a real world look. We don’t say, you can’t. We do say, know and work with the risks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas is about giving- HIRD

By Rev Ed Hird
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. What is it about Christmas time that brings out the best in us? 33% of all charitable giving by Canadians is given during the December Christmas season.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is ‘It’s a wonderful life’ where Jimmy Stewart plays the part of a generous but discouraged businessman who discovered that he really was making a positive impact.Written by Frank Capra in 1946, the movie was initially seen as a box-office flop. It did not win one Academy Award Oscar, but later went on to become one of the one hundred most popular movies of all times. It is now seen as the number one inspirational North American movie ever made.
You will remember how the Christmas angel Clarence had to earn his wings by helping out Jimmy Stewart (aka George Bailey). George was so discouraged at Christmas that he was about to jump off a bridge. Clarence the delightful angel showed George what an amazing impact his generosity was making, and how much poorer his town would be without him.
Generosity is never wasted. Love is never wasted. Goodness is never wasted. Sometimes it feels like we are not making a difference, but Christmas reminds us that love wins over despair, love wins over darkness, love wins over emptiness.
At the heart of Christmas is a tiny baby, the Christ child, born in a manger. God so loved the world that he gave his only son. Christmas is about giving. God gave. We give. Everyone wins when we are generous at Christmas and year-round.
Rev Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-an article previously published in the December 2011 Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Remixed

by Glynis M. Belec

I read an article a while ago about the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas." Typically this song is seen as simply a nonsense musical rhyme for children with secular origins. However, some believe it dates back to the 16th century (English religious wars) and is a song of Christian instruction with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Christian Faith. An interesting perspective. Here are some of my own reflections:  

On the first day of Christmas I discovered that my first true love was/is God and life has never been the same! He is always 'giving to me.' I have to remember to give back each day. I long to become all that God created me to be. But I also know that we live in a fallen world so I plod on with hope in my heart. On that final day when I get to stare into those beautiful Divine eyes, then I will be transformed and my journey here will cease. Until that day, I have a responsibilty to keep my own eyes on the goal and try my very best to do whatever I do unto Him. Emmanuel.
On the second day of Christmas I think of the two Turtle Doves and they remind me about the Old and New Testaments. Can

I even begin to fathom the wealth of instruction, love, hope, encouragement, grace, joy and the heart of God that are between those precious pages? No wonder the Bible remains the bestselling book ever. He will not be moved. I don't need to set up any book signings for God. But I do have to remember I have a responsibility to share His good news as I live and breathe. Now there is a special gift for that hard to buy someone.

On the third day of Christmas those three french hens kind of make me think about faith, hope and charity. Faith is believing without seeing - a hard thing to do in this 'prove it' kind of world. But in my heart, I know God is real and He sends us reasons to believe every day. Hope is that feeling I got when I was first diagnosed with cancer and I felt initially like I was spiralling out of control He caught me and lifted me up and whispered that He was in all this. I am living proof that my hope is in Him and He works all things for good! Charity - I go crazy sometimes wishing I could help everyone and send money to all the charities that bombard my mailbox with requests, beautiful Christmas cards, address labels, pens and more. I have found that if I pray about my quandry, then He will direct me.
On the fourth day of Christmas, those four Calling Birds illuminate the Four Gospels. When I first became a Christian people kept telling me to start with the Gospels. I thought that a little odd, because I always figured when I read I should start 'in the beginning' of any given book. Then I realized that the Bible was no ordinary book. "Now the birth of Jesus took place in this way..."  "...John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness..." "In the days of Herod, King of
Judea..." and "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God..."  Then I knew.

On the fifth day of Christmas I am thinking that those five Golden Rings refer to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace. I dare not even think about how many times I have fallen from God's grace. But the amazing thing is that He takes me back and allows me to start over. I need to remember those Old Testament lessons and learn from them. I need a wallop somedays but God knows I am trying.

On the sixth day of Christmas those 6 Geese A-laying represents the six days of creation. I can barely imagine the magnificence of what God was doing. I get up in the morning and absentmindedly blunder my way through another day without one thought of how God created. I saw a play once at the Sight and Sound theatre in Pennsylvania about Creation. I remember leaving with tears in my eyes, struck by the incredible performance and portrayal of how God created. I know it was only a 'rendition' if you like of how God worked, but nonetheless I was awestruck at the mere thought. What possibly could it have been like to been there? What might we be doing if Adam and Eve hadn't succumbed to the lie. I need to be careful of lies...

On the seventh day of Christmas those seven Swans a-swimming might refer to some of the gifts God has already given us through the Holy Spirit:

Wisdom. Jesus is the Word made flesh.  He came to seek and to save that which was lost. I was definitely on the list!
Understanding The gift of being able to perceive the hidden spiritual meaning of the Holy Scriptures - I have a long way to go here some days it seems.
Counsel - I have to admit that I don't know everything. I need to listen more and heed the wise in God.
Fortitude  I learn to endure and persevere through all my difficulties, I am able to do all things in Him who strengthens me. [Philippians 4:13],)
Knowledge  This is a little different from wisdom in that I need to learn in my head and then it will transfer to my heart.
Reverence - The Bible doesn't say we have to go to church every Sunday but it does remind me that we are to not give up meeting with one another and lifting each other up and supporting one another in our faith. I need to not get religiosity and relationship mixed up. There is a big difference and His name is Jesus.
Fear of the Lord. They say that the fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom. That is a mighty thought to ponder as we celebrate the Christmas season!

The eighth day of Christmas talks about eight maids a-milking and gets me thinking about the eight beatitudes of JESUS:
1.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

2.  Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

3.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

4.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

5.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

6.  Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

7.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

8.  Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-10

So am I truly blessed? I need a little time to go through these and assess where I am at. I am thinking that I need to do some serious homework over the holiday season.

On the ninth day of Christmas. Remember those nine ladies dancing? How about I refresh myself with the  nine Fruits of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? And in the Bible God indicated that against these there was/is no law. What does that mean? I can freely institute them in my life, no exception? Then I had better start making a list and checking it twice.

On the tenth day of Christmas.  This is where the song talks about the ten lords a-leaping. Well I know there is only one Lord and He does not need to leap so I am thinking that a good thing to think about here are those wonderfully convicting Ten Commandments. Do I think if I can adhere to at least 50% then I am home free? I don't think so. These are not the ten suggestions. They are the Ten Commandments on which society is based. I can only imagine what this world would be like if everyone stuck to them, myself included. Well...I suppose it would be heaven! One day...

On the eleventh day of Christmas I consider faithfulness. Judas betrayed Jesus. He sure wasn't faithful. That left eleven faithful disciples. Am I counted in the ranks of a faithful disciple? I am quick to point to the disgusting choice that Judas made choosing money over Christ. But then I contemplate how money motivates so many in this

world. Where do I fit in here? I often think how much better my life would be if only I had more money. I hope I would never even be tempted like Judas should I be in that position. I pray my choice would be Christian joy over worldly happiness!

Finally...on the twelfth day of Christmas. Can you hear those twelve Drummers Drumming? The Apostle's Creed has twelve points that I need to drum into my heart -
1.  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2.  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3.  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
4.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave].
5.  On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the  Father.
6.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
7.  I believe in the Holy Spirit,
8.  the holy catholic Church,
9.  the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
                                                                   12. and life everlasting.

Now that I have made it through all twelve days, it is time to contemplate number One again - my first True Love and all that He has given to me. How blessed am I? Thanks be to God for the Precious Gift of Jesus.  

Merry Christmas to all...Emmanuel

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cleaning Up - den Boer

One gusty, grey, garbage-day morning while waiting patiently in the van in the driveway for Angela and Allison so I could drive them to school, I noticed some of the garbage from the townhouses across the road had blown into the middle of the intersection next to our home.

I had an urge to run out and pick up this garbage, but I noticed a garbage man in a reflector vest pacing on the other side of the road apparently waiting for traffic to subside so he could do it.

Then I realized he didn’t intend to pick up the garbage; he was merely watching it. Now why would that be? Maybe the garbage people were fed up with the way garbage was always allowed to blow around. Maybe this was evidence for a supervisor to behold.

On the drive to the girls’ school and home again, I pondered the garbage situation. I came to the conclusion that the only neighbourly thing to do would be to pick up that garbage myself.

Sure enough when I came back to the intersection, the garbage was still in the middle of the road, but now a garbage truck was parked right beside it—and not a garbage man in sight. There was hardly room for my vehicle to drive by.

I parked the van, then marched into the intersection where I picked up a Tide box and a much larger box. For boxes that had blown out onto the road, they were surprisingly heavy. In fact, I noticed they were packed with garbage, but I doggedly carried them to the sidewalk.

“Ma’am, ma’am. What are you doing?” I heard as I heaved the Tide box onto the garbage pile in front of the townhouses where I was sure it had come from. I was about to drag the larger box over as well.

“I’m cleaning up,” I proclaimed indignantly. “There is no reason to keep garbage in the middle of the road.”

“Yes, there is, ma’am,” he explained patiently. “We spilled hydraulic fluid here. Our line sprang a leak. If a car drives over that it could cause a serious accident.”

“Oh sorry,” I mumbled as I dropped the big heavy make-shift pylon back onto the road. For the first time I noticed the slippery oily fluid all over my hands.

When I got home I had to scrub my hands and wash both my coat and pants.

Moral of the story: don’t be too quick to judge other people’s garbage.

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:4)

How often do we as good Christian citizens judge and try to clean up someone else’s garbage? What we judge as garbage may really be pylons. Wouldn’t it be better to come alongside? Be a friend. Listen. Find out what’s really needed. Offer to be available. That way we’re less likely to end up with oily goo all over ourselves.

Excerpt from the book Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress.  by Marian den Boer. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

During Christmas Grief, God is Close-Gibson

Grief is an unruly visitor, and even more so when it drops in near Christmas. Surrounded by the mirth of others, the knife of loss cuts on both sides. For a time, the death of a loved one shuts normal faculties down. Leaves only what’s necessary to survive the next moment: our own breath, though every puff feels like a new wound.

One snowy November, my oldest sister’s husband sent word to our scattered family: “If you want to see Sandra again, you should come,” he said.

From separate provinces, my sister and I, along with our elderly parents travelled to the province in the middle. Beside Sandra’s bed, holding Sandra’s hand, we said the necessary things, then we watched Sandra go home.

Our faith told us something glorious: she’d gone to live with Jesus, pain-free. Our frailty told us something shattering: she’d simply gone, and far too soon. The pain of her absence sliced us, and twinned with the complexities of regret, devastated us.

Sorrow like that carves a gaping hollow in a body, making even simple things impossible. Picking up the phone. Driving a car. Answering easy questions. Remembering to eat and drink. Choosing what to wear. Making a choice, period.

Someone has said that God comes to us in the people who come to us. He came to our family through four earthly angels that year. Too close to Christmas, in a strange hospital far from home.

The angels, strangers all, arrived just after my sister died. They came simply to be with us. Their presence loaned us strength. They brought juice and coffee. Made necessary phone calls. Stayed with us until it didn’t hurt so much to breathe, until we could get up, limp on to do the necessary things.

In the dark hollows of your own crises, perhaps you’ve met earthly angels too. Maybe you’ve been one; a neighbour, a passer-by, a pastor, friend or family member, even a stranger. They come without beckoning, simply to be with the hurting. To do what must be done, even when what must be done is simply sitting together in one place.

I’ve wondered, in the years since my sister’s death, if it took that for me to truly appreciate the deepest meaning of Christmas—that God is never absent in our darkest moments. That when emotional paralysis prevents a victorious grasping onto him, he has already grasped onto us.

“The virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a Son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

What we celebrate at Christmas is God’s answer to the most universal prayer of humanity: “God, be with me. God, stay with me.”

Through Jesus within us, and those who come to us in his compassionate spirit, God answers, “Beloved, I’m right here.”

If sorrow haunts you at Christmas, remember. But if loss has carved a chunk from someone you know, go.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Kingdom Poets Anticipates With Luci Shaw - Martin

Luci Shaw is one of the most significant Christian poets of our time. She takes on topics of significance to people of faith, yet refuses to undermine her art with preconceived, didactic ways of thinking, or sentimentality. One important topic for Shaw is the incarnation.

Since childhood, Luci Shaw has annually written Christmas poems; originally the practice was simply for inclusion with her Christmas correspondence. As her poetic skills grew, so did the quality and quantity of these poems. In 1996, she and her friend Madeleine L’Engle released the book Wintersong — a joint collection of Christmas readings. Ten years later Eerdmans published Accompanied By Angels, a book of Shaw’s incarnation poems, many of which had appeared in her earlier books.

Since then, this tradition continues to result in fine Christmas poetry. In 2004 Luci Shaw sent me an early version of the following poem — followed by a revised version in 2005. The poem was further revised (as reproduced below) for inclusion in her 2006 collection What The Light Was Like (Wordfarm). Knowing how she continually returns to fine-tune her work, I would not be surprised to find she has since revised it further.


When in the cavern darkness, the child
first opened his mouth (even before
his eyes widened to see the supple world
his lungs had breathed into being),
could he have known that breathing
trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs
as it brushes in and out through flesh
to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating,
tramping the crossroads of the brain
like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and
invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes
and toenails? Did he have any idea it
would take all his breath to speak in stories
that would change the world?

Posted with permission of the poet. This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Luci Shaw.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

This is this week's post from: Kingdom Poets Follow this link to see dozens more. I have just added a new index to help you access all of the Christmas poems I've posted; more will be posted throughout December.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Perfect Day...A Perfect Tree.. M. Laycock

The day was perfect. The ice fog had lifted to reveal a clear blue Yukon sky and the temperature had risen to a mere 25 below. The hike to the back of our property in search of the perfect Christmas tree looked like it would be an outing we would enjoy. As a special bonus we took our two Huskies with us.

It took a while to reach the trees, but we enjoyed the relatively mild air. The dogs romped in the deep snow. I was feeling the tingle of what they call the “Christmas spirit,” as we continued into the bush. Then we saw the tree, and it was perfect: not too big, not too small and fairly well proportioned. We cut it down and strapped it to the toboggan. As we headed back, we even hummed a well-known Christmas song, something about the peace and joy of the season.

We were almost home when that mood was instantly changed. For some unknown reason our dogs chose that moment to engage in one of their all-out, let’s see who’s top dog, go for the throat, fights. They were full-grown Huskies, both about the same age, weight and strength. When they went at each other, it looked like one of them would end up dead. We tried everything we could think of to make them stop, but they were oblivious to us. All we could do was stand and watch as they tore at one another.

By the time it was over, one dog had a gash from the base of one ear to the end of his jaw, the other was limping badly and both were covered in blood. So much for our idyllic, peaceful Christmas excursion. When we got home we had to doctor the dogs, so the tree was left outside. Decorating would have to wait.

By the time we thought about the tree again, the temperature had plummeted to -60. When we dragged it inside, it was so frozen most of its needles fell off. Tinsel doesn’t look quite the same on bare branches. Charlie Brown could have used it for his Christmas show. About that time I found out the present I’d ordered for my husband would not arrive before the 25th, and the one grocery store in town had run out of turkeys. Some Christmas this was turning out to be - a bare tree, no presents, no turkey. It was enough to make even one who loves Christmas shout, “Bah Humbug!”

Well, things did improve somewhat. I found another gift to give my husband, and a friend, an early shopper, invited us to share the turkey dinner. The tree was still a Charlie Brown special, but it grew on me as time went on. By the 25th, I almost had the Christmas spirit again, but I couldn’t help but feel something was missing.

It took me a few more years to figure out what that something was. The year I declared my faith in the One for whom the day is set aside, none of the trappings of Christmas mattered. The need to have the perfect decorations, the gifts, the food, even that illusive “spirit,” faded. A deeper need had been met. That year I discovered the Christ. I understood why He came.

“Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

That “rising sun” is Jesus, the one called Immanuel, God with us. He came for me, and for you. Nothing else matters.


To read more of Marcia's work visit her website

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My Messiah - Nesdoly

I shiver under my goat hair cloak. It’s cold at night on the hills outside Bethlehem. I wish I were at home in bed. But a few weeks ago my father said, "Joel, you're 12. You need to learn the night watch." And so here I am, cold and sleepy, but I have to stay awake because it’s my turn to watch the sheep. I look over at the flock, an island of wooly pebbles. Beside me, father snores a soft rhythm. Nearby, Abiram and Kohar, still awake, talk quietly.

"Plugged with travelers," Kohar says.

"Caesar is insane to command a census at this time of year," says Abiram. "He just wants more names for his filthy tax list." Then, lowering his voice so I barely hear, "I met a man in the village who's gathering an army to fight those Gentile thieves. He's training them to use swords." When he notices I’m listening, he stops. "The lamblet has, big ears." He winks at Kohar.

He doesn't want me to hear because of my father. Father’s the chief shepherd and he doesn't approve of resistance fighters. He has one passion. It’s to see the coming of Messiah.

"Messiah is coming," he always says, "and when He comes, He will be a true Savior. He will bring freedom and set up God's kingdom in His own wonderful way."

In the past, I never doubted him. But the talk tonight reminds me of the anger I feel when I see the Roman soldiers. They ride into Bethlehem and inspect it on snorting horses. They beat people who don't pay taxes. They make fun of synagogue teachers. They treat us like animals.

Above me now, the black sky is dotted with stars. Is there really a God up there? All my life I’ve heard there is, but lately I wonder. Maybe God and Messiah are only wishes. My father serves God without question. Yet for our family, things only get worse. The price for wool goes down, my mother has to open a stall at the market and my father works longer - for what? Just to give Caesar more?

I imagine my fingers tracing the cold metal handle of a sword under my cloak. I shiver, get up, toss a few sticks into the fire. The flames lick and began to dance.

Then blinding brightness!

At first I think something has flamed in the fire pit, but then I see the light is coming, not from the fire but from a man. Is this God? Has He read my doubting thoughts? Is He going to punish me? I want to run away but I can't move.

Around me the others sit up.

"Don’t be afraid," The shining man's voice booms. His bright eyes look right into mine. "I bring you the most joyful news ever told. And it’s for everyone! The Savior has been born tonight in Bethlehem! Yes! This is the Messiah, the Lord. How will you know him? You’ll find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger."

Then the sky gets even brighter and as far as I can see are more shining men. They stretch way into the distance like an army, and they are chanting. "Glory to God in the highest Heaven. Peace on earth, good will to men. Glory to God in the highest Heaven. Peace on earth, good will to men."

It’s grand. Majestic. The most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard! I wish they would never stop. But gradually the sound gets quieter and the shining army fades. Finally only the flickering firelight shows a ring of stunned faces. I hear the t-whoo, t-whoo of an owl.

Then everyone starts talking at once.

"Angels! Those were angels"

"Thousands, millions!"

"Messiah! He said Messiah!" It’s my father. "I'm going to Bethlehem to find that baby."

"We're going with you!"

"Father, what about the sheep? Can I come too?"

"If God can fill the sky with angels, He can surely watch a few sheep," my father says, with a laugh. "Joel, I wouldn't have you miss this for the world!"

As we hurry into town, the talk turns to how we’ll find this baby in the whole town of Bethlehem, and at night. Father's faith is unshakable. "If angels told us about the baby, we'll find him," he says. "It’s a baby in a manger."

"Many mangers here," Abiram says as we enter the town.

Bethlehem sleeps. As we pass house after house, inn after inn, no one’s awake. Then I see a light.

"There Father," I point to the dim glow, coming from a shelter behind an inn.

We trot across the courtyard and push open the door. Inside, a man leans over something in the manger. Then I hear the cry of a newborn baby.

"God be praised!" Father exclaims. The others crowd into the doorway.

The man straightens up and looks at us. "We have permission," he says. "The innkeeper—"

"We're sorry to bother you,” Father says, “but we were told about the baby by angels."

"The sky was full of them," I add.

A young woman sits up from a pile of hay. Bits of straw stick to her hair and cloak. The man picks up the wailing baby and places it in her arms.

My Father walks over and crouches down beside her. "The angels called this baby Messiah," he says as he reaches out and touches the child, then kneels. "My Messiah."

The stable is full of a holy presence and we all fall to our knees.

As we troop through town on our way back to the hills we sing and talk and laugh.

Someone in a house along the way flings open a window and shouts, "Quiet down you drunks! How's a person to sleep?"

Father calls back, "We're not drunk. An amazing thing just happened!" Then he tells it all.

As he’s talking other windows open. He tells and retells the story.

"Incredible! Amazing!" the people say. "Do you believe it?"

At our hillside encampment the sheep are still there, all safe. Only embers glow in the fire pit. I toss in some sticks and sit close to the warmth. It feels like days since I was last here.

A minute later, Abiram comes and sits beside me.

"No need to tell your father about the resistance army, Joel," he says. "I won't be joining."

I think, neither will I.

"My Messiah" was first published in Celebrating the Season (Essence, 2001).



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