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Christmas

We’ve been celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas at our house, with enthusiasm – or at least dedication – for more than twenty years. Hard to believe. In the beginning I was an eager and well-intentioned, but mostly uninformed young Baptist. I gave my husband (who was still my fiancée that first year) 12 gifts in the days leading up to December 25. The next year at Christmas, when I was about to begin seminary, and we had been married for a few months, we shifted the tradition to the days after Christmas.

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Advent VIII

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” (Anne Sexton) This is the work of Advent. If I can listen to my own soul* and give you even an inkling of what I hear, I have given a gift far greater than all the stuff or the fluff that fills most of the sound and fury of our waking hours. But giving this sort of authentic self revelation to those with whom we are already most familiar. . . now that is a challenge.

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Advent VI

But finding a book in the mail stack or on the front porch is nothing unusual. The surprise in this book today was the author. And the topic. The real surprise is that I had overlooked this book for so long.

It has been 11 years since I first sat down in silence and began the practice of centering prayer. It has been 20 years since I first sat down in a classroom with Dr. Wayne Oates to learn the tasks and the art of pastoral care. It has been more than 30 years since he wrote Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart. I was still in middle school.

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Advent V

Tomorrow is the Sunday of Advent in which we invite and celebrate joy and a good Sunday for a baptism. I will attend a baptism for a baby I know tomorrow. He and eight other little ones will be blessed and welcomed into the church. I assisted at the wedding of his parents a couple of years ago. It will be a joyful time for many reasons. Yet, it is not a joyful time for all children.

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Advent IV

It actually started almost a week ago. Sitting at my desk in St. Paul, I realized I had extra time. The snow was pouring. My flight had already been delayed by an hour. That’s an email, by the way, that you really don’t want to see when the snow is pouring. Even in Minnesota where they have the world’s best snow removal equipment and more plows and de-icers than Garrison Keilor has jokes. An extra half hour. I tell myself: Surely that’s enough to put together all the receipts for my credit card bill and turn it in before leaving campus! I start printing and gathering, sorting and checking. Then I see I’m missing one hotel receipt.

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Advent II

What are we going to do with Jesus?

A dozen or more years ago I was invited to be on a panel of Baptist leaders in Georgia to forecast the future of our kind of Baptists (the moderate and progressive kind). I was too young and inexperienced to do much forecasting. And I’d been asked mostly out of tokenism. They needed to have at least one woman say something.

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