Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Today’s text

Matthew 2:10-12

The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.


Once again, the wise men listened to their hearts.

Maybe they didn’t need a nocturnal warning to avoid Herod. They understood his interest in a newborn heir was a threat to him, and everyone knew Herod’s blood-soaked reputation.

Still, the wise men’s action protected the holy family and gave them time to escape Herod’s soldiers. But they also protected their souls.

They listened to the way the Word of Mystery comes to us. They took seriously that God is and God speaks.

They didn’t cut their minds off from their bodies, their intellect from that deep internal intuition where one knows love and truth, beauty and wonder. The wise men listened and knew to depart another way.

They listened to what their inner being was saying to them as they went their way, knowing they could never go home the same way they’d come. They may not have understood who Jesus was or what he would do, but they knew they’d seen a heavenly promise fulfilled.

The light of the star had drawn them, and they believed something ordained by the power and Soul of the Universe was unfolding.

Contemplatives and mystics of every tradition urge us to let the surface chatter of our lives drop away so we might listen, … listen until that deeper voice emerges from the center of the soul where our souls and the Soul of God are like two sides of a coin.

Some call this the virginal point within us from which we know our deepest truth, our truest voice, the worth and value of our lives, the mystery of love and the reality that our lives are the speaking of another Life into our little moment of time.

Every spiritual practice we might do seeks to clear away the chatter so we can hear that voice that is both our truest voice and the Truest Voice. That Voice speaks of the love in which we are held, and let’s us know what we must do to be ourselves and know such peace and joy as we can.

It speaks in dreams, intuition, in nature and in sudden surges of awareness that come over us. It speaks in moments when we just know something we truly need to know.

The wise men listened, and the truly wise among us know to listen beyond the surface noise of life, for there is another Voice speaking love and truth.

As we hear, the heart grows quiet and assured, knowing the wonder of life--and the certainty of Love and Life who bubbles at our core.

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Today’s text

Matthew 2:7-11

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, 'Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.' Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.


I have always thought the wise men were older, in their 50s or 60s, maybe older still. The story offers no hints other than to suggest they were learned in ancient arts of astronomy. That took time.

As a child, older people, grandmas and grandpas seemed to know things the rest of us didn’t. They looked at the world through eyes less driven by ego and the need to prove something.

They seemed more secure and relaxed with themselves and didn’t always feel the need to speak. They had less to protect or prove and could hear better.

Not all of them, but enough to make me think that had I met the wise men they would have reminded me of some of those older people I knew growing up.

I wanted to be like them. They were less about themselves and more open to receive life as it came them. They were also less concerned with making a name for themselves and more interested in my name.

Here lies some of the difference between Herod and the wise men. Herod was a driven, suspicious man, constantly on guard to protect his power and position. He saw threats everywhere and had no compunction against brutality stomping them out.

The wise men were protecting nothing. They came to see and receive, surrendering their bodies to the risk of a long journey. They risked their minds, too. Not knowing what they might find at the end of their search, their considered understandings of the world might be shattered by what they discovered.

Or they might find nothing at all and discover they had been fools for setting on the journey in the first place.

At the end of the journey, they found delight that their lives had been guided by a force beyond their own minds and decisions. They had been led to something, someone worthy of worship and fell on their knees.

They gave their gifts, of course, but their wisdom lies elsewhere. They received the gift to which the mystery of God had led them, and they worshiped.

Each new day comes, a gift from the One who leads us, too, even though we may know nothing of it. Somewhere today I want to receive the gift of this day to which I am led … and worship with delight.

Pr. David L. Miller

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today’s text

Matthew 2:1-2

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, 'Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.


Many of us travel during the days of Christmas. The question, ‘Where are you going?’ is common among us.

Most answers are predictable: ‘Going home … going to see my wife’s family … taking the family south to catch some sun … or north to find some snow.’

On Christmas Eve, I asked a young man I hadn’t seen in a while where he was headed, and one word was quickly on this lips, “Nepal.”

It wasn’t a Christmas trip. There would be no holiday celebrations, but there would be gift gifting. The primary gift was the young man himself, his open and heart and mind, along with those of his companions.

They were going to listen, learn and work among poor children, especially those caught up in the sex trafficking rampant in that part of the world.

They would not return unchanged, which is why they are traveling in the first place. They want to be changed, to have their minds enlightened, their hearts moved and their wills steeled to live with greater compassion.

They are not on a trip but a pilgrimage where they hope and expect something holy and deep to happen to them, something they cannot control or force.

They go with open hearts, willing to let the sights and faces, stories of pain and redemption take them to places in themselves they cannot predict.

Who knows what they will find or what it will do to them?

They are pilgrims, not tourists. The difference between tourists and pilgrims is that the pilgrim travels in order to be changed.

Pilgrims do not seek to control what happens on the journey but move with faith, trusting there is another will, another power and grace at work that will do its work in them … and through them.

The pilgrim trusts this power seeks the redemption of his soul, moving him to greater life, purpose and compassion.

The wise men were pilgrims, not tourists. They brought gifts to Jesus birthplace. But their greatest gift, symbolized by their willing journey far from home, was openness of heart.

They trusted there was something they needed to see and hear--and that it would change them into beings more alive and human than they had been

The trick, of course, is to live each day as a pilgrim, not knowing, but always trusting.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Today’s text

Matthew 2:1-2

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, 'Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.


And now we return, but not too soon.

For most of us return to so-called normal life won’t happen for a few days. Christmas parties and family celebrations continue, the best of them with giddy children eager to rip through boxes beneath the tree.

Hearts will remain full. Joy will be found in the joy of those we most love, and we will feel connected (or we certainly hope) with a few other souls and realize we actually have missed them.

But we also have missed this awareness, this feeling of being connected to larger realities from which we receive life, as though we each are small branches in a great intertwining vine.

Separation from the vine diminishes, while the connections we may feel in these days stir joy and a welling goodness in our inner being.

We don’t make it happen. We just feel and know, sometimes with surprising pride, sometimes with tears, our connections with family and friends. We feel the intertwining of our lives with other lives, … which is to say with life itself, … which is to say with the great vine of life from which all grows.

In these connections, we grow larger with life and joy as we are more connected with the vine, the One vine which is the Source of this aliveness we are given and of which we always want more.

So we make trips through crowded airports and down wintry roads. We cook, clean and prepare for hours for those who will descend on our living rooms, hoping that the sacrament of human connection will awaken our hearts to love, life and beauty.

We hope, too, to feel connection with that great something we cannot name, the vine of life, the Source, the Love that wells up within during this holy season, for it is that connection that makes this season holy in the first place.

This is the 21st century, and we are far removed from wise men traveling to find an infant king with only a star to guide them. Or … are we?

Are they, like us, on a life journey in search of their souls, hoping to find the one who will awaken their hearts and minds to see and feel the Life to which we are all connected?

That’s why they followed the star. It’s why we all follow it.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 2012

Today's text

And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told (Luke 2:20).

In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him. What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; and the light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it (John 1:1-5).


Be born in us, O Lord. Illumine our souls with the light of your loving presence for this is the birthday of life.

As once you were born into the darkness of our world, be born in our hearts that our coldness might be overwhelmed by your warmth;
That our confusion might be washed away by the certainty of a love that always was and always will be; 
That our mortality might be filled with your immortality; 
That our narrow hearts might be expanded by the immensity of your encompassing compassion.

Let Christmas come and banish all sadness. Let every soul see cold winter’s darkness drenched in sunlight. Fill us with the joy of your eternal morning as the light from our savior’s cradle seeks every corner of creation, leaving no forgotten place.

Be born in us. Raise us from the lethargy of grief, from preoccupation with what we have lost and from anxious fears of what may come. Warm our flesh with the light of your love deep within that we may know that you are with us and will never depart.

Assure us once more that you are greater than every sadness, stronger than the anxieties that erode our joy and more powerful than the forces of death that cloud the future.

Make our souls like a bright winter morning.

Bare trees rejoice amid winter’s cold for the world is clothed in laughing light. It plays across the yard and stretches throughout creation. 

Your light draws shepherds to the brightness of your rising and sends them dancing into the daylight of your presence, swallowing every fear.

Teach us to dance with them in the laughing light of your loving nearness. Open our eyes and hearts to see your light in the places we live our days.

Be born in us every day and most certainly on Christmas Day, for today is the birthday of life.

Fill us with the light of the morning that gave you birth that we may live each day … like its Christmas.

For prayer and reflection

  • Remember a Christmas Day that was particularly happy or meaningful to you.
  • When do you most need Christmas to come to you and fill you with the joy of God’s light and life?
  • What do you want and need to receive from Christmas and carry with you into the new year?

Another voice

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; oh, come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!
(“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Phillips Brooks, 1890)

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24, 2012

Today's text

As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19)


What did Mary see as she gazed at her infant son, pondering the night that gave him birth? What moved in her heart as she stroked the tender flesh of his palms and learned each line? I think I know.

About 30 years ago, I stood before Salem Lutheran Church on Christmas morning and nodded at Lisa, holding out my arms for her to hand me her infant son, Cody.

I cradled him in my arms and preached a sermon, speaking softly, barely looking at the congregation. I looked at Cody, studying his hands and wondering aloud what they would do, what they would touch, who they would love and bless.

What pains and joys would these tiny hands know on the plains of rural Nebraska or wherever life might take him? At the end of the sermon, we baptized him into the life of Christ to prepare him for his journey.

We were all Mary that day, every one of us pondering a child, our hearts filled with a love only tears can speak. We knew her. We felt something of what filled her heart as she traced the lines and creases of these precious hands.

But there was so much she could not know that first Christmas morning.

She could not know that the hands of her child would bless and heal billions. They would welcome the weary and cast out demons that disfigure human souls. They would brush away detractors and beckon children to come and be enfolded in his love.

These hands would reach out and touch those others rejected. They would hold the bread of life and break it to feed thousands. They would wash the feet of his friends and forgive them when they failed him.

These hands would send men and women on the holy mission of loving this crazy world with all their hearts … because he loves it so much.

And at the end, his hands would bear the brutality of the executioner’s nails, wielded by those who could not risk being loved and changed by the grace of his touch.

Mary didn’t know all this. But we do.

We know: Jesus’ hands bear the touch of heaven to the wounds of earth. His are the hands of the One who is Love Unbounded, Mercy Unsurpassable, Beauty Inexpressible.

In his touch, we see and know the Love who draws us to know him, so that we may know the home, the peace, the total welcome for which our hearts have never ceased longing.

Look at his hands. They tell the story.

This year, on Christmas morning, we will baptize Harper Noelle Taylor at St. Timothy, and I will look at her hands. Once more, I will know Mary … and the God who comes in the tenderness of human touch.

For prayer and reflection

  • What images, feelings, ideas or stories came to you as you read the reflection? What does God’s Spirit say to you?
  • When have you felt like Mary?
  • What have you been pondering as Christmas approaches? What does your heart need and want this Christmas?

Another voice

And who could be the same for having held the infant in their arms, and later felt the wounded hands and side, all doubts dispelled. Who could but sigh: Immanuel! Who could but shout: Immanuel!
(“Peace Came to Earth,”  Jaroslav J. Vajda, 1984)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23, 2012

Today's text

So they [the shepherds] hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them (Luke 2:16-18).


Joseph stands watch, silently listening. He never speaks. But he hears with his ears … and in his soul.

Mary shifts her weight and tries to sleep. The infant whimpers, crying out from time to time, and Mary instinctively pulls him closer. Sheep in the stall shuffle in the hay.

It’s a poor place for a newborn, and there is no one to call if the child and his mother need help. The sound of his aloneness closes around Joseph as he realizes it is all up to him and Mary, and she has all she can do to keep the child warm and fed.

He is alone with his thoughts and fears. Is the story true? Is this child the presence of God visiting his people? Could this child actually be the savior who brings … what?

How can a child save anyone? He is entirely dependent on us or he dies. Joseph’s mind trails off in a fog of fatigue, stirred at the sound of footfalls outside the stable.

Cold fear grips his gut. Who is out and about at this hour? Thieves? Drunks? Beggars looking for a handout? He steels himself for confrontation.

But none comes. Several shepherds appear in the stable opening. Two of them bend at the waist, breathing heavily from a hard run. The others look in, mouths hanging open, startled at what they see.

 It is just as it had been told them. Their feet scrape in the dirt as they step inside and stammer, “Did you see? Did you hear?”

A tale of light in the night sky and angelic messengers tumbles out of them, as Joseph stands agape, listening. Mary lifts her head toward them for only a moment, her gaze steady on the child she cradles.

Joseph had heard and seen nothing, and now these messengers come with a story as fantastical as the one Mary told him about the wonder of this child on that awful day he learned she was pregnant.

This child is the savior, the new king descended of the great King David. He is the Christ, the anointed one who uniquely bears the presence of God to cold stables on dark nights, when doubts distress and fears gather..

The shepherds believed what they’d heard and brought the message to the manger. We hardly think Mary and Joseph needed to be told what was happening.

But God sent messengers even to them that they might truly know their lives were caught up in the great story of God making his mind and heart flesh.

So is yours.

So look at the child … and know. God is not to be found by climbing mountains or in fits of spiritual ecstasy. God finds us in our common lives and stories where the love in Mary’s arms becomes flesh and blood.


For prayer and reflection

  • What moved you or caught your attention in the reflection as you imagined the scene?
  • Do you identify with Joseph or anyone else in the story? What do they show you?
  • Do you think Mary and Josepha needed messengers to remind them of the wonder of which they were a part? How and when do you forget that you are part of that story? What brings you back?

Another voice

Who is the baby an hour or two old. Looked for by shepherds far strayed from their fold. Lost in the world though more precious than gold? This is God with us in Jesus.
Who is the man who looks on at the door, welcoming strangers, some rich but most poor. Scanning the world as if somehow unsure? Joseph, the father of Jesus.
(“The Aye Carol,” John L. Bell, 1987)