I Believe…

Luke 1:39-45 – The 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 23, 2012

“And blessed is she who believed…” (Luke 1:45)

I am “skirting” Bethlehem this year. Click here for why.

Used cleverly, words disguise our inner self. Used honestly, words reveal our inner self.

What do you believe?

What do you think?

What do you know?

Which of the above questions—and its answer—would influence you the most when seeking a deeper relationship with another?

Since you’re a clever human bean, you might hedge your response by claiming it depends on the subject of the question and the asker of the query. True enough, but in general are you more interested in what another believes or thinks or knows about . . .

 Abortion. Abstinence. Allah. Birth control. Boxers or briefs. Cats or dogs. Christmas. Death penalty. Disarming a bomb. Gay rights. Global warming. God. Good guys finishing last. Heaven. Hell. Jesus. Love at first sight. Mindfulness. Opposites attract. Premarital sex. Reincarnation. Resurrection. Santa Claus. Sexual orientation. Shaken or stirred. Virgin birth. YHWH*

Of course, specifically . . . if two good guys (and let’s say I’m one of those good guys) were trapped in a room with a ticking bomb during Christmas, I’d prefer to know the other person can disarm bombs and really don’t care what he or she thinks about boxers vs. briefs or believes about abstinence.

What we believe/think/know about something, or what another person believes/thinks/knows about something, is always situational. Which is to say, are you planning to marry the other person or are you sharing an elevator ride to the tenth floor?

And yet I’m mostly a firm believer in belief.

During Advent and Christmas, I suspect many suspend knowing or thinking to enthusiastically (or reluctantly) embrace belief. What do we know about Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem? What do you think about those three wise men? Oops, sorry, we have no idea if there were three or thirty magi, though we know three gifts were mentioned in one insignificant (or magnificent) passage in a single Gospel. What do you KNOW about Jesus’ birth? I mean the real birth. The date. The place. The witnesses. What do you THINK about Jesus’ birth? Was Mary a virgin, did angels sing and how much fretting and scheming did Herod do? How much of a chasm exists between what you know/think and your BELIEFS? Is the difference a gap as modest as a manger or bigger than a barn?

What do I believe about Christmas? (And you can ask yourself the same question . . . what are your deepest, most real and revealing beliefs about this holy, peculiar season?)

Do you want to know what I believe? Continue reading →

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“Why In Such A Hurry?”

Advent 2 – Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Luke 3:1-6

“. . . as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:  Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” (Luke 3:4)

(This is a revised 2009 reflection. In my new 2012 Advent reflections I’m ignoring more traditional interpretations of the Advent/Christmas scriptures. Of course, you may read this and think, “Hey Larry, this 2009 piece is also ignoring the obvious!”)

I veered toward the man.

A few months before, on this walking route, construction had temporarily closed surrounding streets. Now the site—a new regional blood supply center—was complete and I could choose a recently added sidewalk or a lawn hugging the top curve of a cul-de-sac that linked me to my usual path.

As I approached the man, full-tilt in my morning stride, I debated what to do. The guy sat on a faded green utility box at the lawn’s edge, his head slightly bowed and a cap shadowing his face. Frankly he looked suspicious. A bum? A danger? Should I take the sidewalk and circle around or walk right by him? Before construction, I’d preferred the lawn.

So I chose the lawn. Stubbornness? A personal declaration I wouldn’t be deterred from my route? Maybe even a thimbleful of anger.

After all, I walked because I hadn’t biked.

My morning routines are important to me. Many years ago, unsettled because my practices of prayer were off-kilter, I sought help from a friend, a colleague in ministry. God felt distant, I said. Worse, I felt distant in my relationship with the Holy. My friend listened, asked questions and listened for a while longer. I shared the importance of mornings when I carved out an hour for sweating and to get the heart a’pumping, but also to escape phones and to-do lists. During that morning time, I felt open to Creator and creation. Continue reading →

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Luke 3:7-18 – The 3rd Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 16, 2012

“As the people were filled with expectation…” (Luke 3:15)

I am “skirting” Bethlehem this year. Click here for why.

On my most memorable birthday . . .

. . . Let’s say I was ten, though I might’ve been younger. I’m a May birthday boy, late in the second semester, and I know this occurred during elementary school.

By 4, I’m sure I was scheming for more presents…

I so desperately wanted a party.

I’d been to the birthdays of fellow classmates and Cub Scout buddies. They all had kids galore, endless cake and ice cream and scores of presents. One brave family even handed out water pistols and told everyone to have fun:  indoors, outdoors, everywhere! I couldn’t imagine my parents approving a hoard of munchkins dashing hither and yon, squirting at other children, living room furniture, the dog, the front mailbox and the backyard swing set . . . all with enough water to fill Lake Tahoe.

I made no demands for squirt guns. But, please, I wanted a mess of my friends. And truth be told, I wanted lots of presents.

Mom, the cake-maker and party-planner agreed to this.

I dimly recall her giving me a maternal reality check.

“Honey,” let’s say Mom said, “Do you really want to invite so many children to your party?”

“I want lots of kids.”

“Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a few of your best friends and–” Continue reading →

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