Advent & Christmas Reflections

Advent Candles #1

ADVENT 1 — DO NOT BE AFRAID

It is what the angel said, you know?
“Do not be afraid…”
I Wonder if this angel knows what it is to fear,
knows what it means to try to not be afraid
when the fear is sufficating you?
I wonder? Depending on your version,
in some form or another
the phrase, “Do not be aftaid,”
appears over 360 times in scripture.
That’s a lot of distress.
It is almost as if the future
of the whole world depended on the answer.
and so it does.
God keeps scaring us and
angels keep telling us
to not be scared.
From God’s perspective,
God needs us for God’s work
because we are the only ones who can do it.
On the human’s (our) side,
that work is always life-altering, scary, hard,
and, as finite beings, really beyond our
skill-set and pay grade.
Still God keeps asking, we keep being afraid.
and God keeps sending angels
to tell us not to have anxiety attacks,
and, still, we keep saying, “Yes.”
But without us saying, “Yes,” there would be
no BIG stories, no myths, no great sagas,
no heros, no successes-writ-large, and
by extension, no hope, no salvation,
no joy, and certainly no Jesus
The Advent stories, the Christmas stories:
these are our stories.
These stories are about who we are, not so much about God.
I like that, but it does put some weight on my answer
when I am the one called.
A “Yes” or a “No” does indeed mean
the future of the whole world.

# # #

ADVENT 2 — PRAYING WITH MARY

Praying with Mary is a strange concept for many
Free Church Protestants. We say things like,
it sounds really Catholic,
we pray on our own, we don’t pray like that,
and I wonder, Why not?
The answer probably lies
somewhere between
“I have no clue what you’re talking about,”
and
“Asking a dead person to pray with me
seems really yucky, so why should I?”
Well, we, as Christians,
do believe that we are not alone in the cosmos,
and that there is life after death,
and many of us have had experiences
of Presence in one way or another
that many times we pretend we haven’t had,
but nonetheless know full well ocurred.
My point here is that
there is something that makes us bigger
when we pray with others.
So praying with Mary as she
prays a prayer that engages the Power of God
within the human condition,
the God which has raised up
and delivered and made whole
the least of the least,
is a powerful and life-changing way to pray.
So I ask can we pray with Mary,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”?
Can our souls do that? Can our spirits rejoice?
And then can we recognize
God’s power to change the conditions within the world?
This was Mary’s prayer of acceptance
to a world that would be forever changed by her Yes.
I think that it took an innordinate amount of courage for
her to pray that prayer. Can we find that courage
as well and pray with her, and how will our world be changed if we do?

# # #

ADVENT 3 — IMMIGRANTS AND SOJOURNERS

Long drives.
Destinations we know of,
but have never seen,
and to which we journey
with trepidation.
Feeling like strangers in places
where we should be welcomed
and embraced.
Stories of hope
morphing into dread.
Always leaving the known
for the unknown.
Pilgrims, caravans of the helpless,
praying for a welcoming that does
not happen but is turned
into hate and affliction.
Pregnant and turned away in a border town.
Pregnant and turned away in a Capital city.
Living lives at the whims of uncaring politicians
and hearts hardened to their plight.
Defying death by living in spite of threats,
aggression, Roman soldiers, border guards,
inhuman laws, shut doors, and hatred.
Settling into the filth and wreckage of living conditions
designed to stultify, beat down, smother the dream out of even
the greatest dreamer the world has ever known.
But stultifiers and dream-crushers lose in the end,
because the dream will not be silenced.
Whether asylem-seekers from Central and South America,
Africa, or the Middle-east,
be they Greek, Roman, Jew, Christian, or Galilean,
their salvation is at hand,
and they will be delivered—set free.
God has made promisses God’s people are commissioned to keep.
Set the captives free, lead the those in need to their salvation,
open the doors of a stable so the weary
sojourner can find rest, and
make a way for Jesus to find a safe haven.

# # #

ADVENT 4 — MESSENGERS

Who is that who comes to me?
What is this fearsome creature
who pauses before me?
What is it that this otherly being
is trying to tell me?
It/He/She, the apparation is gone now.
But I wonder what is it I have missed? What?
God sent angels, messengers,
joined by huge angelic choirs
to announce the coming of Jesus.
I have been on a tear this past week —
getting things ready for Christmas,
buying stuff, fixing stuff, getting stuff — stuff, stuff, stuff…
It comes to me that while I might think
I am ready for Christmas,
am I really? Is my heart ready? Is my soul ready?
Are my relationships road-worthy
for a four-week trip by donkey to Bethlehem?
And then, after all is said and done on Christmas morning,
have all my Advent preparations been worthless or worthy?
Have I seen and paid attention to the angels
standing by my busy path, and who call out to me:
“Here, right here is Jesus! This one, that one, those over there,
they will lead you to Bethlehem, if you will but let them.
They have an open room for you
if you will only have an open room your heart…”
And I pray this morning that I will meet and greet
the angels who come to show
me the way to Bethlehem
with grace and love.

# # #

CHRISTMAS EVE — LOVE

The child is birthed
and is held
and lives
and dies
and is raised
and is carried
and is re-birthed
as long as our hearts
are willing
to carry out
the cycle of
Hope
and Peace
and Joy
and Love
and Passion
and Glory.
And you know this already:
it is all God asks,
or expects,
you to do.
It is a nativity
of love
a claim upon
our hearts
and an eternal
statement that
love will always win.

“CHRISTMAS PRAISES”

WONDERS AND GLORY

Wonders and Glory

Psalm 19:1-4 — Common English Bible

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
One day gushes the news to the next,
and one night informs another what needs to be known.
Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
but their sound extends throughout the world;
their words reach the ends of the earth.

# # #

Wonders and Glory
Have you ever been absolutely
stunned by God?
I mean
brought-to-your-kneesflabbergasted,
flummoxed,
dumbfounded,
or
come to the abrupt conclusion
that God was in fact — God?
And then looked around yourself
with the realization
that the WOW that is God
dwells in all that is:
every living and breathing creature,
every grain of sand,
fleck of dust,
sparkle of starlight,
breath of life,
gasp of death,
cosmic motion,
lover’s smile,
or dreamer’s tear?
Have you ever
looked at a star,
blade of grass,
morning sunrise,
or heard the
call of a quail,
the breeze through meadow grass,
roll of thunder
and known,
I mean just known
that God is, was, will be
not just God,
but your God — forever?
Have you ever?
Evidently this psalmist did.
If it is possible
that you have never heard
or seen,
or forgotten you have,
I encourage you take the time,
pay more attention,
And let God blow your mind…

TO THE SUN

To conclude my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am using past work from around 1972 that was written after a cold night in the Sierra. It indeed infers an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of God/Nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described… nonetheless, discovered in unconditional love of small creatures — death, and the sacredness of summer’s sun…

To the Sun

TO THE SUN
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

That which
was not poem
and
death-locked
in ever-winter-earth
now
beats with poet-rhythms
and
heart-heat
of summer-sun blaze.

You have melted me—
Like summer-heat snow-melt,
I seem to no longer stand
inviolate
against a safe winter’s sun.

You have melted me—
I pour,
fluid-like stream
from my ice-high eerie,
and my dissolution
floods stream-hollow channels.

You have melted me—
and I do not recognize
this I have become:
mist to
sky–breeze-blown vapor.
I seek life
in your heat.

You have melted me—
I reach out
to touch
that which was not
yet. and
I feel heart-heat pulse beat
where once
ice-locked
and protected

A NEW YEAR’S REFLECTION

A New Year’s Reflection

Psalm 104 — The Message

O my soul, bless GOD!
GOD, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away—
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.
You started the springs and rivers,
sent them flowing among the hills.
All the wild animals now drink their fill,
wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Along the riverbanks the birds build nests,
ravens make their voices heard.
You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;
earth is supplied with plenty of water.
You make grass grow for the livestock,
hay for the animals that plow the ground.

# # #

A NEW YEAR’S REFLECTION

Building and blessing,
appointing and commanding,
starting and setting,
and filling and quenching:
I see what you have done
in the universe,
the beauty of your creation,
and how good it is
and how lovely is all that you touch.
You have touched me with that beauty,
too,
but it is hard for me to see it in myself.
Open my eyes to see how
I am as delicate as the song
of a nesting bird,
as powerful as a spring river,
and as glorious as sunshine itself.
I know that the grandeur
of the entire universe is of you,
and that each part of it functions
has part of your own incredible, cosmic,
and holy flow,
and that
even time moves as if it were
your
own holy blood pumped
by the consecrated rhythms
of your own sacred,
blessed, and majestic heart.
Change frightens me,
so help me now to
know how to trust
that rhythm of your heart-time
as I step into the river
of this season’s flow
and move into
yet one more new year
that is simply,
and lovingly,
the next beat
of your own
glorious heart.

ADVENT #3, DANCING JOY KNEE-DEEP IN DEPRESSION

Advent #3

Psalm 4:6-7 The Message
Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say.
“More, more.” I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day

# # #

So many things, so little happiness.
Many of us want so much more
than we can have.
As a people we are dissatisfied
with almost everything we do have.
In our nation,
depression has reached epidemic levels.
We just want more.
There is an ever-growing gap
between the haves and have-nots,
and I am witnessing a spiritual impoverishment
created by that gap that is overwhelming many
and is deadly for the soul.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one
of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.”
The one who wrote this Psalm tells us,
that he, and by extension, we,
have, “God’s more-than-enough.”
God’s more-than-enough: we all already have that.
Day to day, as we wade knee-deep
through a world of
people who are spiritually depressed,
who desperately need the Joy offered by this
more-than-enough God,
we should be dancing.
We can offer the very thing they need—
God’s more-than-enough.
We can teach them this dance.
We might not notice we have
more than enough,
but, by the grace of God, we do.
The commission we are given
by God is to be dancers of Joy,
proponents of the idea
that there is more-than-enough for all,
This week let us introduce those around us
to the idea of more-than-enough—
and dance.

A DAY OF REMEMBERING

Isle of the Liminal — Where Remembering…

Exodus 12:1-14

Do you have any days
set aside
for remembering?
What are those days?
What is it
you remember?
The Exodus Story
is a story of a happening.
It is a story of remembering.
Altars,
cairns,
monuments,
holy days,
national days,
holidays —
all these are about happenings
and are days
set aside for remembering.
My birthday is August 9.
Cherie’s and my wedding day is May 1.
Shannon was born May 25.
Our son, Joel,
was born September 16
and died October 28.
My first Sunday at the
Geyserville Christian Church
was January 16, 1994.
Remembering is a vital part of living.
Sometimes it is not the date
that is so important
as is the place where
the thing remembered
occurred:
a first date,
the coming of an idea,
a place where many times
our hopes are wrapped like
little presents in our past memories
as gifts to our present.
At this table
where we share Communion,
where we eat and drink,
together,
in this time,
in this place
we remember another time,
another place,
another happening —
Jesus’ blessing of bread and cup and friends
at a meal that was itself
a remembering
of a long-ago meal in another time,
with another people,
in another place —
where we are told
time itself began.
What are the rememberings
you bring
to this time,
to this place,
to this table?
What has happened to you
that is sacred
enough
for remembering?
as gifts to our present.
At this table
where we share Communion,
where we eat and drink,
together,
in this time,
in this place
we remember another time,
another place,
another happening —
Jesus’ blessing of bread and cup and friends
at a meal that was itself
a remembering
of a long-ago meal in another time,
with another people,
in another place —
where we are told
time itself began.
What are the rememberings
you bring
to this time,
to this place,
to this table?
What has happened to you
that is sacred
enough
for remembering?

WHY PRAISE?

Psalm 105:1-5
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

So why should we praise
God, anyway? I mean,
why bother?
I think God knows
better how we feel about God
than we do ourselves.
So I repeat the question,
Why praise God?
I have heard many reasons,
but none of them are
sufficient for me.
Usually
they just revolve around
getting
something from God
that we really, really want.
Praise in this scenario equals
bribery.
As if God is dumb
enough to fall for that!
Don’t get me wrong, here,
I don’t think it is a bad thing
to give God praise,
because it does show we recognize
from whence