Saturday, November 30, 2013

Out with the Old Year and in with the New!

On this celebration of Saint Andrew the Apostle, I post this Daily Reflection from in its entirety as we say goodbye to another Church Year and welcome a New Church Year...
Daily Reflection
by Mark K. Roberts
Ending the Year and Looking Forward with Hope
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

(Ephesians 1:18)
Today is the last day of the year. No, this reflection was not written for December 31. And, no, I have not fallen on my head recently. I know today isn't the last day of the secular calendar year. But it is the last day of the Christian Year, sometimes called the Church Year or Liturgical Year. This year, which gives order and meaning to the worship and prayers of millions of Christians throughout the world, ends today. Tomorrow is the first day of the new year, the first day of Advent. (If the whole notion of the sacred year is unfamiliar to you, you might like to check out an article I've written called: Introduction to the Christian Year.)

Beginning tomorrow and extending to Christmas Eve, the Daily Reflections will focus on Advent themes. Many of the reflections in the next 25 days will be mine. Others will be written by trusted colleagues and friends. Some of these reflections will address the Advent idea specifically. Others will be more muted, though always engaging Advent yearning, hope, or vision.

Today, I want to circle back to a verse from Ephesians upon which we reflected a year ago. It reads: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people" (1:18). Here, Paul prays that the readers of his letter might "know the hope" to which God has called them. The word "hope," when used in Scripture, does not mean "wishful thinking." Hope is not pretending as if something will be the case when reason tells us otherwise. Rather, biblical hope is more like confidence, a sense of quiet certainty about how things will be.

Did you know you were called to hope? God has called you out of hopelessness into hope, into confidence that God has the future well in hand. You have been called to live with assurance that God is working all things out according to his will, that one day he will unite all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10). In that day, God will claim you as part of his glorious inheritance. You will belong fully to him, along with all of God's people, and God will rejoice over you.

Advent is a season of hope. In Advent, we remember the promises God once made to his people, promises that were fulfilled in the first advent (which means "coming") of Jesus Christ. In this season, we also remember the promises God has made to us, promises that remain to be fulfilled, promises that will come to pass in the second advent of Christ.

Thus, as we end the year and begin a new year together, may I invite you to join me in our celebration of Advent. May God renew in us a genuine hope, so that we may live out our calling as his people.

When you hear the phrase "Christian hope," what comes to mind? What do you think? How do you feel? Do you need more hope in your life? Are you ready to begin the new Christian Year with Advent, a season of waiting with hope?

Gracious God, on this last day of the year, as we look ahead to Advent, may the eyes of our hearts be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance in your holy people. Amen.

Wishing you all a Blessed New Christian Year and a Holy Advent,

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quotations in Honor of Thanksgiving

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist and poet

"I thank God for this most amazing day: for the leaping green spirits of the trees and a blue dream of sky." 
~e.e. cummings (1894-1962), American poet and artist

"O Lord, that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!"
~William Shakspeare (1564-1616), British playwright and poet

"The very fact that a man is thankful implies Someone to be thankful to."
~John Baillie (1886-1960), Scottish minister and theologian

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues."
~Cicero (106 BC-43 BC), Roman philosopher

"A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things."
~Plato (c.428 BC-c.347 BC), Greek philosopher

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
~John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), American statesman and President

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
~G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), British poet, writer, and Christian apologist

"The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live." 
~Ann Voskamp (1973-), Canadian writer and blogger

"Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel."
~Author Unknown

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and the blessings of faith, family, harvest, and home,

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quotation of the Week: All Souls Day

Yesterday was the remembrance of All Souls Day, a day for celebrating the lives of those who have gone on before us. Living only 17 miles north of the border with Mexico, we've become familiar with the Day of the Dead festivities that are common in the Mexican culture. Wikipedia tells us,

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where the day is a bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Day of the Dead "Catrina" dolls
For me, All Souls Day brings to mind the difficult autumn of 1991. I was pregnant with our first child, and both of my grandmothers and my long-time boss were ill. I was often in the loo ridding myself of my breakfast, and seeing so many beloved people around me so ill was extremely difficult. My boss Dennis was in the hospital in October with AIDS. He had first hired me in 1983 at B. Dalton Booksellers, then transferred me to a larger store when he was promoted. Dennis also hired me twice (both before and after graduate school) after he moved on to managing the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Bookstore in downtown San Diego. For more about Dennis, follow this link to an earlier blog post about him: Dennis.

I was too sick to see Dennis in the hospital, but in our last phone conversation, he asked, "Are you barfing, Maynard?" ("Maynard" was our pet name for each other...from the old Malt o' Meal commercials.) He died on October 11. My maternal grandmother died two months to the day later on December 11 which was just about the same time that my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers.

So when All Saints and All Souls come around each year, I find myself thinking about Dennis and my grandmothers, remembering fun times (like rubberband fights through the bookstore with "Maynard," and watching my maternal grandmother paint; she also taught me to set a table properly). So when I ran across this quotation on Twitter earlier this week, it resonated with me:

"Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship."
~Henri M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

So I do choose the ongoing companionship of Dennis and my grandmothers, knowing that their loving influence will be with me always. The "great cloud of witnesses" who accompany us on our lifelong journey are made up of these beloved presences who may be beyonf the veil for now but are waiting for us to join them. The veil always seems a little thinner during this Christian triduum of All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day--and the memories of our beloved ones are that much the sweeter.

Wishing you a blessed week,


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