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Archive for December, 2009

It is the 27th and the final day of our Advent Pilgrimage to Bethlehem that ends at the manger in the town of David. The angels are singing, the shepherds are seeking, the Magi are following a star, and the parents  are resting from the exhaustion of  their journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth and the birth in a stable cave. Mary is holding her beloved child of promise and Joseph is beaming. The universe is changed. The hope of new life and fresh new starts has arrived. All of creation rejoices.

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Star over the Nativity. Illuminated manuscript

Star over the Nativity. Illuminated manuscript

May the blessings of Christmas be yours. Thank you for joining me on this 27 day Advent journey of anticipation and new life. We have met some of the nativity characters, prayed some prayers and read some poetry, and looked at incredible artists’ renditions of this faith journey.

It is an amazing gift that you journeyed with me to the birth of the greatest Gift. May our lives continue to cross paths on our life’s pilgrimage.  Let us join the shepherds, the angels, and the prophet Anna in sharing the good news that Christ has been born.

We began the first steps of our Pilgrimage to Bethlehem with “Watch Out for that Star!”  on November 29 and we end today watching for that star that illumines our way to new life, transformation, and fresh new starts through Jesus the Christ.

Prayer of Christmas. Dear God, Thank you for the birth of your Son, Jesus the Christ and for the hope that I have for new life and fresh new starts. I join the Magi, shepherds, angels, and stable animals in bowing down and worshipping Immanuel, “God with us.” Thank you that through Immanuel, Jesus the Christ that I am never alone on this life journey. Amen.

Nativity from modern day hand written and illuminated  St. John's Bible.www.saintjohnsbible.org
Nativity from modern day handwritten and illuminated St. John’s Bible. http://www.saintjohnsbible.org. Luke Frontispiece. Birth of Christ. by Donald Jackson


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On this 25th day of our Pilgrimage to Advent, we encounter Joseph the husband of Mary and the step-father or guardian of Jesus. There is not much said in scripture about this good and faithful man who raised the Messiah as his own son, adopted by love into his heart and home.

Joseph’s genealogy. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph was the son of Jacob and according to Luke, he was the son of Eli. There has been scholarly discussion of these different genealogies since the 1st century A.D. We do know that Joseph was of the holy lineage of King David and that Mary was also of this lineage as a couple had to marry from their own tribe according to Numbers 36:8-9.  They probably had been promised to each other since childhood. After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had other children: sons Joseph, James, Simeon, and Jude and two daughters that according to Epiphanius of Salamis were Mary and Salome.

Joseph deals with surprising news. Joseph was startled and surprised to say the least when Mary announced that she was “with child” since they could not have marital relations until they were married. Good and righteous Joseph did not want to humiliate Mary or her family so he decided to quietly end the relationship through divorce. An angel, probably Gabriel once again showed up in a dream:

Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1 (TNIV)

Joseph obeyed the angelic dream message and took Mary home to be his wife. Two more times, an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream. When Herod was trying to kill the male babies, the angel told Joseph to take his little family and flee to safety in Egypt. Then when all was safe, the angel came again in a dream with the message to return home.

A new life for Joseph. This good and faithful man’s life was turned upside down by  Jesus’ birth. He was probably living a rather quiet  carpenter or stone mason’s life in Nazareth in Galilee, preparing a home and looking forward with anticipation to the time when he would marry his betrothed. Instead of a quiet life, he got  more than he bargained for-a bride who was pregnant with the God-child, he likely was teased by his peers for raising and caring for an “illegitimate” child, he had at least three angelic visits, he helped deliver this baby in a cave-stable, he marveled at the shepherds and Magi who came to see this newborn babe, he was amazed at the prayers and blessings of the prophets Simeon and Anna in the Temple, he went on an unexpected journey to Egypt, he taught this God-man child the skill of carpentry/stone mason, he helped teach Jesus to pray and to study the Torah, and  he helped raise, protect, provide for, and nurture his Redeemer.

Joseph claimed Jesus as his own son. Surely, it was love at first sight when Joseph first laid eyes on this baby who would be his Redeemer. Joseph loved and accepted Jesus as his own since he took Mary for the Jewish purification rites of the mother and the consecration of the firstborn son at the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was seven weeks old.

Thank you Joseph. Joseph, you get far too little credit for the good and holy and incarnational work you did for Mary, Jesus, the Trinity, and the universe. You were a very courageous husband and father.  You too were chosen. Thank you Joseph.

St. Joseph and Christ Child by Michael D. O'Brien

St. Joseph and Christ Child by Michael D. O'Brien

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On this 22nd day of our Pilgrimage to Bethlehem we find that the tension is getting strong enough to cut. The Christmas craziness is beginning to make us crazy.  I have a solution: just laugh…laugh at yourself, laugh at the situation….have a gut-busting laugh. Today, something very funny and ridiculous happened to me and afterwards while eating at Jason’s Deli, Harvey and I got laughing so hard and so much that the other diners must have thought we were two middle-aged nuts. I cannot tell you how good it made me feel to just laugh.

I realize that this is not a deep spiritual concept, but it sure can cure a lot of stress and make us see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem. You know the quote from that famous theologian Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins who laughed so hard and so long that  it lightened his load and he ended up rising to the ceiling:

I love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse ev’ry year

The more I laugh
The more I fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more I’m a merrier me
It’s embarrassing!
The more I’m a merrier me!

Laughing Shepherd by Karen Graeser. www.karengraeser.com

Laughing Shepherd by Karen Graeser. http://www.karengraeser.com

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On our 20th day of  our Advent Pilgrimage to Bethlehem, we encounter times of silence when those on the journey with us just have nothing more to say. At first the silence seems uncomfortable, but then it becomes a pleasant companion. But silence can be scary and even embarrassing. Elevator silence. Awkward dinner party silence. Disapproval silence. Cowardly silence.

But silence can be a blessing too. Silence allows us to hear the still small voice of the Spirit. Silence allows us to hear nature’s praise of their Creator. Silence allows us to listen to our lives. Silence allows us to sit at the feet of our Lord and just enjoy being in the presence of God.

Jesus even needed times to get away to a quiet place for reflection, meditation, and prayer.

Come away with me with me to a quiet place all by yourselves and rest for awhile. Mark 6.31

Mother Teresa, founder of The Missionaries of Charity was always serving the poor, sick, homeless in India and around the world,  yet silence was vital to her and to her ministry.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.

In the midst of Christmas busyness and stress… Let us embrace silence today. Let us make time for silence today. Let us go to a quiet place and rest in silence in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunrise of Silence, McKenzie Beach, Tofino, British Columbia, Nov. 2009

Sunrise of Silence, McKenzie Beach, Tofino, British Columbia, photo taken while on sabbatical Oct. 2009

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On this 19th day of Advent, as we pilgrimage together to Bethlehem, we are reminded of the the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Cleopas and another disciple were on a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. Cleopas is often thought of as Clopas from the Gospel of John 19.25. Clopas was the husband of Mary, the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.

The disciples had been huddled up in the locked room in Jerusalem after Jesus’ crucifixion, when Mary Magdalene and several other women ran to them to tell them that the tomb was empty and that she had encountered Jesus looking like the gardener tending his new creation garden. He had looked alittle different and sounded alittle different, but it was still the Lord.

The way is made by walking. On this journey home to Emmaus, Cleopas and the other disciple (probably Mary his wife), were trying to sort out the information overload from the past few days, probably going over it minute by minute hoping that they could make sense of the dashing of their dreams and the glimpse of hope that maybe their Master had truly been resurrected. A man comes alongside of them on their journey and asks them what they are discussing while they walk. The disciples respond that they are discussing what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth over the past few days. This man then explains the scriptures to them concerning the Messiah beginning with Moses and the prophets.

Invitation to break bread together. As they completed their journey into the village they invited this one who had joined the journey with them to eat dinner  as it was getting dark. The scripture scholar agreed and at the table, when he broke the bread and gave a blessing of thanks, they recognized that this one whom they encountered on their bittersweet journey was their Rabbi, their Lord, their Master, their Messiah! Something about how He broke the bread, some mannerism, some special way that Jesus broke the bread…something about how He prayed the blessing, His intonation, His passion, His wording, gave them insight into He was. He looked a little different and sounded a little different.

Encountering Christ. I wonder how often we have encountered Christ on our life’s journey and did not recognize our Lord. Perhaps He looked a little different and sounded a little different than we expected.

Be watching, we never know when we may encounter the Christ on our Advent Pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

Emmaus icon

Emmaus icon by Sister Marie-Paul Farran of the Monastere des Benedictines on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem

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It is such a joy to know that there are pilgrims walking with me on this Pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Thank you for taking a few minutes for us to join together through prayer and thought on this journey. Today is the 18th day of our Advent pilgrimage.

My husband is training to ride his bicycle on the 500 mile Camino de Santiago de Compostela. He has read loads of books and  periodicals and perused websites and blogs in preparation for this pilgrimage, but there are two books that he keeps re-reading, The Way is Made by Walking by Arthur Paul Boers and Walk in a Relaxed Manner by Joyce Rupp. Those two books just speak to him on his life journey and on his pilgrimage preparations.

Following is a pilgrim’s prayer from Joyce Rupp’s book. The prayer is written by Joyce and  her soul friend and walking companion on the Camino, Tom Pfeffer.

Let us pray this prayer together:

Guardian of my soul, guide me on my way this day. Keep me safe from harm. Deepen my relationship with you, your Earth, and all your family. Strengthen your love within me that I may be a presence of your peace in our world. Amen.

The Resurrected Jesus speaks with His disciples as they journey on the Road to Emmaus

The Resurrected Jesus speaks with His disciples as they journey on the Road to Emmaus. From an illuminated manuscript in the Lambeth Palace Library, London

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On this 17th day of Advent, let us continue our Pilgrimage to Bethlehem, dancing to the heartbeat of God.

A Prayer of Advent by Jan L. Richardson from her book, Sacred Journeys.

Jan has a wonderful advent website with her personal artwork, I highly recommend it. www.theadventdoor.com

God of new creating, who beckons us

to the dance of birthing

and sustains us

in our laboring,

hear this prayer.

From fear of the unknown

deliver me.

From doubts of my creativity

deliver me.

From ridicule by those around me

deliver me.

From my excuses about my abilities,

my age, my education,

my looks, my status

deliver me.

With your promise of companionship

comfort me.

With your creative spirit

bless me.

With your pledge of sustenance

strengthen me.

With your embrace of all of me

heal me and set me in motion.

You who called me to life

that you may be born again in me,

blessed be in this and all seasons!

Dancing for the Lord by Bernard Hoyes, 1992

Dancing for the Lord by Bernard Hoyes, 1992. Original in the collection of Oprah Winfrey


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