Hopeful expectation

For much of the world Christmas has passed. The Christmas trees have been put out at the curb or packed away, the decorations taken down. Radio stations have gone back to their standard programming. Shelves in stores are displaying Valentine’s Day items. But in the Christian church Christmas is a season, not a day, and and it is still here! The expectation of God come to earth in human form, the waiting for God’s peace to rule over all creation – these are things we look for daily, not just on December 25.

I thought of expectation today as I plan my wedding. It will be a joyful occasion for two families to come together and meet, extending the love that my fiance and I have for each other. I am making hotel reservations, expecting the arrival of family members from near and far. Some have just started new jobs and they may not be able to make the trip but I expect that they will come. I don’t hold this expectation as an obligation to be fulfilled, but as a hopeful desire that they can be with us for this very special event.

It’s been said that expectations are premeditated resentments, meaning that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and resentment if/when an expectation is not met, but that implies expectation as an obligation, not a hope. It is the same kind of expectation that we have in Christmas – not that Christ was obligated to appear, but that he did. My expectation of his presence in my life can be one of hope, even in the dark periods of my life, because Christmas happened. At Christmastime and throughout the year I can be hopeful, knowing that Emmanuel – God with us – was here not for a day but for always.

“and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:5.

Lord, I am grateful for the gift of hope that came to earth at Christmas. Amen.

First day of winter

Sunrise was at about 7:20 this morning and sunset will be at 4:32 p.m. The day with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere heralds the approach of longer days, although it will be months before warmer temperatures arrive. People in the northern hemisphere celebrate Christmas in the same season as the earliest Christians, and the theme of light overcoming darkness has this seasonal touch to it. I wonder how Christians in the southern hemisphere experience the theme of darkness at Christmas time. Do they revisit the Christmas story in June when they are having their winter solstice?

Of course, we can experience darkness any time of the year. Our hearts can be heavy with grief or fear at any season. Illness, homelessness, betrayal and disappointment can come at any time. The fact of God coming in human form to live among us is one we recall every time we come together to worship, and anytime, anywhere in prayer and praise, not only at Christmas. Just as there is no season specific to our experience of darkness, there is no season when the light of Christ is not present. Some days the light of God may seem like a barely discernible ember not strong enough to offer warmth, but we are assured that it is here. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to bring together our embers (or our flames – whatever the strength of our faith today) so that we can build a strong source of light and provide warmth and care to each other.

Dear Lord, fan the spark of light that is within me so that I can share it with others who need some extra light and warmth in the darkness. Amen.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Changing plans

Changing plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12.

How important it is to stay flexible and fluid, especially when it comes to driving in winter! My plan for this morning was to pick up my son from the bus in New York City, spend time with him, and then hit the road to Maine where I will spend Thanksgiving with my “Maine man” and his kids. As of last night the impending nor’eater was putting a crimp in those plans, with its rain projected to turn to snow, steadily precipitating throughout the day and into tonight. I was thinking that it would be smarter to stay put today and make the 400 mile drive tomorrow, still arriving on Thanksgiving day.

The phone call last night, an update from my son about a mix-up with the bus ticket, meant that I’ll be driving to Philadelphia today to pick him up. Weather forecast: rain, no snow south of here. Good news! I’ll get to spend more time with my son, and Plan B (drive to Maine tomorrow) still is in place. No worries, no upsets, and (I hope) no accidents along the way.

I am well aware, however, of the saying “When we make plans, God laughs” so I know that my plans may have to change yet again. Like trees that bend in the wind but do not break, being both flexible and steadfast today will help me to weather this storm. I will pray for safety for everyone who is traveling to spend time with loved ones, whether their travels take them on plane, train, bus, car, boat, bike, or on foot.

Lord, today I will cherish the journey and the destination, blessing the strangers along the way as well as my loved ones at the end of the road. Amen.

e-cards and greeting cards

e-cards and greeting cards

After listening to “All Tech Considered” on NPR today I thought I’d re-post this essay from my former blog.  Are you sending Christmas or holiday e-cards or paper cards? It doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts! – Anne
I haven’t been a big fan of e-cards. I think it might have something to do with the ease with which they can be sent. This tells you something about my family’s Puritan roots and our adherence to a strong work ethic. (Translation: if it takes hard work, it has value.) My aversion to e-cards also may be related to the fact that they come into my e-mail inbox which I often feel is overflowing already. One more e-mail, I sometimes think, is not what I need!

Today, however, as I started to think about sending Valentine’s Day cards, I thought of how greeting cards might have seemed when they were created. Prior to greeting cards, people sent letters or notes, and they had to come up with the words all by themselves. Greeting cards added pictures, and that probably was a welcome addition. They also added words. What a revolutionary idea! All you had to do was add your name! But I’ll bet that not everyone thought greeting cards were such a hot idea—so impersonal, you know? Someone else wrote the words. All you had to do was buy one, sign it, and send it. And so it goes. New ideas gain traction—slowly at first. Maybe greeting cards were for birthdays first, then cards were added for sympathy, thank-you’s, anniversaries, and weddings. Now you can buy a greeting card for almost any occasion or day of the week. And now I can see how an e-card is no less a message of love than a greeting card that arrives in the mailbox at my house. It has been selected just for me and sent because someone was thinking of me and wanted me to know. Not only that, but e-cards are free! My ancestors would be proud.

Lord, thank you for prayer, which is the epitome of fast, free, loving communication. Amen.