I’ve rarely heard a sermon on the Star of Bethlehem or even about the Magi. When I have, those sermons have been very disappointing. We actually know much more about these things than pastors are willing to admit from the pulpit. For one, the Magi were both astronomers and astrologers because in that day there was no distinction between the two. The planets were harbingers of good and bad, signs in the sky as one factor to help us understand the mysteries of life on planet Earth. Centuries later, Galileo was much sought after for his astrological readings as part of a medical diagnosis. Even in his day, astronomy and astrology were as one science.
I recently had the opportunity to see the video entitled The Star of Bethlehem . If you can rent this video, it is well worth it. Written and narrated by a lawyer, it is rather tedious. In addition, this lawyer’s Christian experience is limited to a narrow world view which causes him to fear astrology inordinately. However, the story of the Biblical importance of the Star of Bethlehem is an awesome, powerfully moving story.
In mainline churches we call this the season of Epiphany for which the star of Bethlehem is the harbinger of the Light of Christ, God in the flesh, come into the darkness of the world.

Merry Christmas to all! Every year we hope for peace to descend on us like magic from on high but this peace is already here for all of good will. God never imposes on us – but gloriously invites us: read the old familiar tale anew:
From the Gospel of Luke:

8 Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. 9 Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!

Messenger: 10 Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. 11 Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! 12 You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.

13 At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers—a vast heavenly choir. They praised God.

14 Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!

May today be a day of pleasure to God. Show God a good time as you celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

From approximately 350 AD:

Mary bore a mute Babe
Though in Him were hidden all our tongues.
Joseph carried Him, yet hidden in Him was
A silent nature older than everything.
The Lofty One became like a little child, yet hidden in Him was
A treasure of Wisdom that suffices for all.
He was lofty but he sucked Mary’s milk,
And from His blessing all creation sucks,
He is the Living Breast of living breath;
By His life the dead were suckled, and they revived.

(from DIVINE INSPIRATION: THE LIFE OF JESUS IN WORLD POETRY, edited by Robert Atwan, George Dardess, and Peggy Rosenthal, Oxford University Press)


Thank you Kathleen Parker for this quote:

“In George Washington’s proclamation of 1789, Thanksgiving was designated as a time of duty “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor … a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

A small part of my family gathered with my husband and I for a whole week of simply enjoying being together. I prepared the meal and it was truly the absolutely worst Thanksgiving dinner ever. So much for an Organic free range turkey. Yuck. But my family loved me anyway. Their presence meant the world to me. Much better than Christmas presents. Gratitude filled our home and it remains.

Power of Praise

Take heed, then, to come together often to give thanks to God, and show God’s praise. For when you come frequently together in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed and his fiery darts of sin fall back, worthless. For your unity and harmonious faith prove his destruction, and the torment of his assistants. Nothing is better than Christ’s peace, by which all war, both of heavenly and earthly spirits, is brought to an end.

-Ignatius of Antioch

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

-W.T. Purkiser

Impending Doom

I have sporadically in my lifetime had feelings of impending doom. I learned over time that it didn’t seem to correlate to any reality that I could perceive. That being said, it is a very disturbing experience. Early on, even in childhood, I decided to just pray about it and the feeling would go away. I should have stayed a child.
Turns out that this feeling is a symptom of various dis-ease. Thus informed, I informed my Primary Care Doctor. A month and way too many health care dollars later, I know that my cardiac system is amazingly healthy, anxiety is not a factor and no medical person has an answer. Then came the Hayian Typhoon. The feeling left to be replaced with great sorrow.
Now, I’m not saying my prayers would have stayed the waters. I mean really, I am not an egomaniac. I’m just saying I’m going back to just praying the doom into prayers for unspoken needs because there is great sorrow and doom on the horizon all over this world. And regardless of whether it is happening to you or to me, we are all on this planet together. May God have mercy. Come Lord Jesus. Christ have mercy. Amen

P.S. One Great Hour of Sharing is a wonderful way to send our dollars to help the victims in the Philippines.

Veteran’s Day

My Father was a veteran but minimized it’s importance because he never saw military action having joined the Navy and sailed off to the Philippines as the war was ending. Just today, I learned from my mother that he had joined the Navy rather than another branch because the Post Master in his hometown told him to saying: “in the Navy you will always have a dry bed to sleep in, good food and less chance of dying.” He joined before his 18th birthday by lying about his age (the only lie I ever knew him to tell – truly). He couldn’t swim but I don’t remember how he got around that one. I’m glad my father didn’t see action. He had such a tender heart, I don’t think he would have survived.
As a minister. I often did funeral’s for veterans. There were always other vets present. Many times, one would seek me out after the graveside service with tears streaming down their cheeks. In some form or other, I would be asked, “Do you really believe God can forgive me for what I did in the war?” My heart would break at the years of hell that had plagued them with these questions. I always assured them that God had long ago forgiven these horrors and that their tears were God’s tears.
My Dad didn’t see action but he did participate in the integration of the Navy. His memories of those days informed his commitment to move past and lead past stereotypes and prejudice. That in itself is an enduring and yet to be won war.

My father was a humble man. He could not abide arrogance. This C. S. Lewis quote describes his spiritual practice to a T:

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you….
The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”

C.S.Lewis Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch. 8

A friend of mine’s, Yvonne Lucia, art work is being displayed on two occasions. I have watched these in progress as well as the final product and found them profoundly moving. If you are near either place, take the time to enjoy. To learn more see this website: http://www.sacredartportal.com

Monday October 21, 2013
10 AM to 9 PM
Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center, Syracuse, NY
500 Brookford Road
Syracuse, NY 13224

The series of paintings, Re-Visioning Mary: Contemporary Icons Inspired by Her Titles is a personal offering, inspired by poetic titles ascribed to Mary in several ancient litanies of praise to her, exploring images of the sacred feminine symbolized in the figure of Mary. The viewer is invited into a state of contemplation and personal experience of the sacred through an encounter with the images, prayers, and walking the labyrinth, around which the paintings are positioned. Paintings will be on display and labyrinth will be available for walking meditation from 10 am. Artist’s talk “Painting as an Encounter with the Sacred” at 7 PM .
Offering: $15

Sunday December 8, 2013
12 noon to 4 PM
The Dancer’s Studio*
19 South Washington Street, 2nd floor
Binghamton, New York 13903

Contemplative Viewing and Labyrinth Walk
The season of Advent invites us to slow down, take time, and enter the transformative space of the womb as we await the birth of Christ. Walking a labyrinth is an ancient way of prayer which embodies this invitation. The contemporary icons of Mary surrounding the labyrinth offer the opportunity for deepened reflection and prayer.
Free and open to the public.
Prints, prayer cards, and note cards will be available for purchase

*door is located behind the building, across from Serv Pro

In these days of frequent atrocities, it is easy to despair and believe the lie that we are powerless against the forces of Evil. Recall these words of a saint very familiar with overwhelming acts of violence:

Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.

-Mohandas Gandhi

Abide in the peace of Christ that passes all understanding. Abiding there in and of itself is a powerful antidote to evil. Then speak your fears and requests from this place of peace. Be confident that such prayers have always stormed the gates of Hell and changed war into peace. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen