Marvin Repinski: Thinking on the themes of Christmas
Let us think and appropriate some of the themes of the Christian season termed Advent. We look at three words: Promise, Purpose and People.
Nov. 29 marked the first Sunday of Advent. Even while handcuffed throughout most days, a prisoner, Alfred Delp, in 1944, was alone in a prison cell.
But his writing, letters and reflections on this season were smuggled out from his cell by two friends. In one letter he wrote about Christmas. His thoughts were that against unimaginable darkness, in his heart, he was celebrating: The One termed, God in the flesh, Jesus. In his mind, there was a promise of a new day. Our days leading to Christmas Day may have us reading slowly the words of Madeleine L’Engle. She wrote in her memoir, “A Stone for a Pillow,” that it is salutary to bless those we find difficult. She advised blessing without expectation, to rely on God to be present and active in the situation. L’Engle suggested blessing six people you don’t like before breakfast each morning. Try quietly blessing one person or situation you find vexing today.
The longing for better times goes way back in the hopes, the teachings and loyalties of the Hebrew people. The Old Testament of the Bible includes a record of the striving and prayers of the Jewish faithful. Note the writing of Isaiah 26: 2-3: “A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.”
Most of us live with mentors, those who are close to us, are in our thoughts, our wills, our disciplines and the loves that shape us. They have traits that we try to embrace. One of these persons was a leader of community meetings, a source of writing and one who reached out to persons deemed out of the ordinary. He noted persons seemingly abandoned by their organizations, jobs or families.
William Cox, an “original,” was a very different ordained clergy person. Sometimes he rattled some cages (traditions), but was always a unifier. He said to friends like myself, “If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” With his wife, Fran, they filled their space with PURPOSE! May we push our lives this Advent with a similar enthusiasm?
One of the former bishops of the United Methodist Church presided at a meeting of women church leaders. In an article written by the Rev. Emerson Colaw, he quotes from a reading by Ginny Anderson of Thief River Falls. He mentions that the statement is, in his words, for those “who in our midst are in adversity.” Anderson stated, “Do you know how to relate to people like us?” Here are her suggestions:
• “Don’t tell us you know how we feel. Ask us.”
• “Please don’t tell us we deserve to fail or that we brought it on ourselves. If God gave people only what they deserve, Jesus would never have been born. You can remember that God offers mercy and forgiveness, not condemnation, and do likewise.”
• “You can know that we really are in this together – economically and spiritually.”
• “The most important thing you can do for us is to pray. Just don’t say you will pray for us, do it! I’ve been learning that God always responds to prayer. That doesn’t mean that God always does just exactly what we tell him to do, but God has assured me that no prayer goes unheard, unheeded, and I believe it. When you say you will pray for me, and then nothing changes, I start getting cynical again. When you pray, you may discover that God is asking you to be a part of the answer. You may receive new knowledge of how to respond in love to those you know are experiencing this crisis.”
Again, we must each day in this time of so many burdens, dislocation, and grief, repeat as is stated in the liturgy of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. “The Great Thanksgiving” reads:
“May God be with you.”
“And also with you.”
“Lift up your hearts.”
“We lift them to God.”
“Let us give thanks to our Creator.”
“It is right to give thanks and praise.”