Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When Love Comes to Town

I love the mystery of God incarnate moving from spirit to flesh and taking a tiny step into our world as a baby. God could have arrived in any form yet chose to show up as one of us in our most vulnerable form. Just as vulnerable and open as love when it comes into our lives in its truest form. A baby is probably as close as we can get to uncomplicated love – vulnerable, fragile and yet a powerful force to reckon with.

I’ve been thinking about how we look at the birth of Christ as the arrival of love. I just can’t seem to settle for that narrow of a story. I think it needs to be stretched much, much further. God is love – for all time. Forgive me for stating the obvious but God has always been with us even before we could sense the mystery of something more. Love was breaking through long before the birth of Christ and will continue to pierce our barriers. Why does this matter to me so much? It matters to me terribly because the Christmas story can easily become a story about anything but love. We can claim this story as our own and before we know it find ourselves believing that God loves only Christians. That is why we must remind ourselves that the son of God has always been present in God. That love, the same love that spurred the incarnation, was available long before the notion of Christianity. Christ himself didn’t bring the notion of Christianity with him but the hope of new life. New life is birthed out of love – real love.

I hope this Christmas you can look into the eyes of those people who are very different from you and remember that God loves them. The Spirit of Christmas is a Spirit of Love that transcends time and even the Christmas story itself. This Spirit of Christmas gives us reason to never consider war as an option. As the bumper sticker says to be "against the next war before it even gets started.” Love is not limited to a religion, an ideology, or race. U2 has a song titled, “When Love Comes to Town” which describes the transformation that takes place when love moves in. If only, in the Spirit of Christmas, we can let love come into our town and our hearts.

By the way, the image is artwork by Jeff Nabors.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Year 54

Year 54 and counting. As I get older I am more aware of the tension - the tension between finding my own voice and the need for community and relationships. I say that I couldn't care less about what others think but I don't know if that's true or not. I suspect I care very deeply. I have seen so many people come and go in my life for one reason or another and now I have so few good friends. At this point, I'm trying to learn how to hold onto these relationships with a healthy grip.

I took some time this morning on the day of my birth to reflect on where I stand on relationships after 54 years. I am still so insecure on where I stand with people and I find that pattern so frustrating. I know it's a pattern. This morning I was recalling my relationships with my parents and how that formed this pattern of insecurity over the first 18 years. I was never really certain where I stood with them. My parents fought as if my sister and I were not present, not really there. We could be going down the road at 60 miles an hour and mom would threaten to jump out of the car. My sister and I sitting in the back seat trapped and stunned. So many thoughts going through our young minds regarding our mother and our future. We saw enough violence that we learned relationships can turn on a dime.

Fifty four years and I am still trying to change this pattern. I am healthier in the sense that I have little or no tolerance for being treated as if I'm not present. At 54 I don't have time to be treated as if I don't exist. I am still working on finding ways to accept relationships for what they are and trying to have realistic expectations. I will be working on this the rest of my life because the old pattern is so embedded in my thoughts. The awareness of this pattern is a gift and allows me to step back and examine my responses to people. The biggest hurdle for me is accepting the fact that people are okay spending time with me. I know I have some attributes that people don't necessarily want to be around like sounding like a "know it all". I know it can also be very difficult being around a person dealing with depression and low energy. Some fun! At the same time, I know we are always extending grace to each other in one way or another. Grace allows us to truly be present in the life of each other.

Community and relationships are our most valued possessions as we get older - our most difficult and precious gifts. I still have some time and I hope some day that I will know how to receive and give these gifts.