The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah...for I will forgive their wrongdoings and never again remember their sins.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ.
Everybody loves Lent.
Actually...no. But, then again, it really isn’t meant for enjoyment. Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday, (February 14th this year), and continues through Easter on April 1st, is a season of prayer and reflection as we spiritually walk with Jesus as he willing- ly made his way to Jerusalem; knowing that what awaited him there was a cross. The season concludes with Holy Week, which begins with Jesus entry into the Holy City on Palm Sunday (March 25th), and continues through his celebrating the Last Supper with his original disciples on Maundy Thursday, followed by his betrayal, mock trial and crucifixion on Good Friday.
It is hard to think of such tragic and unjust events as celebrations. Why would anyone want to celebrate the pain and suffering Jesus experienced so long ago? And why would anybody think that the Friday of the crucifixion was “good?”
The truth is that we do not celebrate the events of Lent. We remember with thanks- giving the sacrifice Jesus willingly faced for our reconciliation with God. But what we celebrate this season is the unconditional love that our Savior has for us and the op- portunity Lent provides us to reflect on who we are and who we can be through the grace of God.
The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for spring. And, like spring itself, Lent is a season of transition, leading us to new life and new hope.
I invite you to join us as we continue to journey through this holy season together. May it be a time of examination and reflection as we seek to become closer to God as we prepare ourselves for the pure joy of resurrection.
See, I am making all things new...I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
from Revelation 21.5-6
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ;
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...it was the season of Light, it was the sea- son of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Those are the opening words to A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickinson’s best known work that does not include any references to yuletide ghosts or “Bah, humbug.” While it was set during the French Revolution, it could also describe how many people think of the world around us today. We live in a time of major transitions – political, social, economic, techno- logical – just to name a few. The world seems to be changing at breakneck speed. Even among the young, life today is significantly different from what we may remember just a few years ago.
Chances are we have different attitudes about the transition we experience. Some we would consider positive – even essential. We recognize that they improve the world around us. For example, advancements in health care can add to the quality and longevity of our lives. And it would be a sacrifice for many of us to go back to a time before cell phones or microwaves.
Other transitions, however, may be rather disquieting; especially in a time when it seems that we may be retreating from the principles of justice and opportunity that has helped define us as a society. Times like these challenge us to look at the world around us, or even ourselves, a bit differently. We find comfort in that which is familiar and expected. When something happens to disrupt what we expect, we find it uncomfortable and perhaps wish for the “good old days” when life seemed more familiar and predictable.
But the Jesus Movement has always been about transition. God did not bring us a Messiah in order for us to remain the same, but that we, and the world around us, might be transformed through the love and justice of the Good News. We are Christians because God has intervened to bring hope and New Life to us and our neighbors.
Change is not always easy, even for the church as we seek to make the Good News relevant in a new age. But God is always there to guide us through the transitions of life and remind us of what is truly important, and truly constant; that the grace and truth made real in Jesus Christ is always a part of life, filling us with hope and possibility.
And now, GOD, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalm 126.4-6 (The Message)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ;
Something strange happens this time of year. For the first 11 months of the year our lives progress at a somewhat normal pace (whatever “normal” happens to mean for you). But then, as soon as the Thanksgiving dinner is over and the leftovers are stuffed in the refrigerator, someone fires the starter pistol and the race is on. What follows is a full month of shop- ping, parties, decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, cards (and oh, did I mention shopping). December seems to be a whole month dedicated to prepare for one day.
Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing inappropriate with parties or decorating or time with family. And I certainly would not wish to discourage the spirit of giving that reflects the unconditional caring that God has shown to us in countless ways. But with all that takes place in our lives during these few weeks, it can be easy to simply race through the days and check off our to do list, while forgetting about why we do what we do.
As the marathon of the “Christmas shopping season” begins, I would like to make a sugges- tion. Take some time from all the activities and busyness of the coming weeks to remember what the season of Advent is all about. Ultimately, it is not about shopping or decorating or parties. It is about preparation – preparing ourselves to receive a precious gift. This gift of new life was born to us in the most humble and inauspicious of circumstances, but offers a joy and peace that can transcend a holiday to bless us each day of our lives.
May this season of Advent be one of discovery as we discover together how the joy of new birth can transform our lives and, through us, help transform the world.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ;
Okay, now what! We have just experienced a month of preparation and festivities, all dedi- cated for one special day. But that day is now over. The presents are no longer under the tree and the tree itself has either been recycled or stuffed into a box in the attic, awaiting its return next year. The season is now over, and life is returning to “normal.”
Or is it? Perhaps we would not want to continue the rapid pace of activities and movement that comes with the holiday season. And seeing many of us will be paying for Christmas over the next few months, the idea of year-round gift-giving may seem less than appealing.
But before you close the shutters and hibernate until Easter, try to remember why we went through all we did this past month. It wasn’t to stimulate the economy or to get in as much as we could before winter settled in. Christmas was, and is, all about celebrating God’s intervention in the world, and our lives, to provide us with new life and new hope. God’s love for us is so great that we are given a precious gift to assure us that we are not alone in the world; the saving, transforming presence of Jesus is with us.
The coming months may not be as frenzied as December. However, the reason why we cele- brate Christmas is not dependent on calendars or weather. Jesus was born to bring peace and goodwill to the world. As we live that goodwill, and share it with our neighbors, we help keep the spirit of Christmas growing throughout our community and world. As we begin a new year together, may the hope and joy of Jesus’ birth renew us in our lives and our mission.
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
- Psalm 28:7
Dear Sisters and Brothers;
I have to admit that I have always found November to be a curious month. On one hand, it is rather stark. The trees have shed the brilliant colors of October and now stand bare with their remains littered upon the ground. The day is shorter, the temperature is colder and, as New Englanders, we realize that this is merely a transition to an even darker and more frigid season to come.
And yet, November is when our country has chosen to celebrate our thankfulness to God. Why not during the blooming of May or the warmth of July? Granted, November is the month when the Pilgrims and Wampanoags held their feast to give thanks for a successful corn harvest. But still, there are plenty of other, more joyful seasons for us to feel thankful.
Perhaps, though, that is the point. Perhaps it is too easy to give thanks when the days are warm and sunny, and our lives seem carefree. So easy, in fact, that we even forget about giv- ing thanks or our need to live grateful lives.
Perhaps it is more appropriate to offer our thanks to God during those other times; times when our lives, as well as the world around us, seem dark and gloomy. As hard as we may try, we can’t always remain in those warm, sunny places. Things happen – sometimes very unpleasant things. And when they do, we are reminded that, as followers of Jesus, we have a strength that is beyond us to help us through any circumstance we may face with the confi- dence and hope that we are not alone. The God who loves us is there to walk the path with us; each and every step of the way.
So, no matter what the circumstances of your life may be this Thanksgiving; if it will be a great celebration with family and friends, or a more personal time when we may wonder what the coming season has in store for us, we can trust in the assurance that, no matter what we face, we do not face it alone. The One who created us in that perfect image of love is always with us to transform our lives – and the world through us.
May this season, and all the seasons you face, be one of hope and possibility.