December 18, 2011

The four Sundays of Advent celebrate four things: hope, peace, joy and love. These are “religious” sounding words, but the truth behind them applies to each and every aspect of our lives. When we live without hope, then know how valuable it is and how vulnerable we are. When things are in an uproar, we know how valuable peace is. When our lives are consumed with problems and negativities, we yearn for the joy that is missing. Claiming these things in worship enables us to better claim them in life.

This Sunday, we will look at love. We will listen for how it sounds in the real world. We will seek to reach out and touch it. Love, as abstract as it sounds, is one of the most tangible and necessary ingredients for living a “shalom-filled” life. This Sunday, our model for love will be Mother Mary. Her love for God meant yielding to the mystery of God, accepting what God offered her, and rising to the challenge. The theme for this Sunday, from the living witness of Mary, is how to lovingly surrender to the Will of God, no matter what our lot in life. Mary is the prototype for our “Thy-will-be-done” prayer.

December 11, 2011

The word “spirit” is ambiguous in our culture. We talk about a “high spirited horse” as one with energy and dose of attitude. When someone is depressed, we say his or her “spirits” are low. People have used the word “spirits” to refer to strong liquor — whiskey, rum, moonshine.

When people go to a party, they talk about feeling the “spirit” of the occasion, and at Christmas, we hope people catch the “spirit” of the season. Many languages around the world use the same word for “spirit” and “breath”: chi, ki, prana, rauch, pneuma, aloha, inspiration and expiration. Indeed, our breathing patterns reflect our inner states; changing one can alter the other.

Among the definitions in the dictionary, “spirit” refers to the “non-physical part of a person, the seat of emotions, a person’s true self.” The dictionary suggests that “spirit” is what survives death, and hence, people talk about the “spirit world.” What is “spirit?” What is the difference between “spirit” and “soul?” And what is this precious Presence we call the “Holy Spirit?”

The traditional theme for this Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, is “joy.” Many Advent wreaths switch from purple candles to a pink candle. This indicates that the third Sunday of Advent is distinct. It emphasizes something qualitatively different from the other three. This Sunday, we will explore the elusive glow of the pink candle.