Awakening

28Christmas Meditation

I will be driving most of Christmas Day. It’s a long road home after Christmas services, a pattern I’ve developed over the years of being a part of midnight masses. Acrid gas station coffee to wash down the stale sandwiches, Christmas songs that wore out by early December wheezing on the radio, and I’m plodding tiredly down flat roads through Kansas into the long night of the year, thinking that this cannot be at all what I have prepared for and waited on and expected during the season of Advent.

But finally pulling into my grandparent’s farm in the dark, it’s for a moment, then, that my breath is suspended in the cold air and so am I. I stop and wonder. The pasture unfolds down the hill into blackness — the stars shine clearly here, blinking out the message of peace on earth to those of us far enough away from the city to hear it. I stand awkwardly and insignificantly in the face of infinite space and feel as unlikely and shocked as those shepherds must have on that first night of incarnation, to suddenly notice holiness around me.

This now-sacred light washes over the old barn, leaning unsteadily in its old age in imitation of my grandfather indoors. This teetering structure is as full of old stories as he is — and tonight, the barn repeats the one from Luke to me, as though I could walk inside and find a couple of young refugees holding the promise of God.

This, then, is what I have been preparing for. The Incarnation — the hinge on which the story of creation turns. CS Lewis writes, “every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.”  Sacredness stretches over our existence, wrapping around the world and enfolding even a small Midwestern farm. The light of the stars becomes holy light. In the incarnation, God identified totally with humanity. In the incarnation, our entire cosmos is brought totally into the story of God.

In his “Nativity” poem, Lewis writes:

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.
In these moments of awakening, I feel that ox’s pondering slowness, wondering why I must re-learn all the time that God’s incarnation is something that can be missed, given God’s choices to appear in vulnerability, among the poor and oppressed, in buildings that don’t pass code. I am slow to see with eyes dim from light pollution and ears deafened by the noise around. And yet, I find that even I am invited into the story to see my world in light of the holy.

May this feast of the Incarnation find you, too, awakened to the miracle of upon which our story hinges: the word made flesh.

37175287_a_carswellby The Rev. Amber Carswell

Amber Carswell is a curate at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Beside the Feast of the Incarnation, she particularly loves root vegetables and her three younger sisters.  

Transformed by This Love

27Advent Meditation on Psalm 89:1-4, 19-29

This has been a harder year than most for many people to get into the holiday spirit. For those of us whose lives have not been directly touched by the many sorrows that have visited the world each day, a glance at the news lays them before us. In the context of so much that is wrong in our communities and in the actions of the world, we might be justified in asking with the people of ancient Israel, as the psalmist elsewhere in this Psalm, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” This is the question that has been at the root of every yearning heart since our earliest walk with God, and it has remained a refrain in the prayers of the faithful and the doubting ever since. And so, today, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of God into the world, many of us are asking this question still.

If it lies anywhere, the answer lies in the direction of the very birth we will celebrate at tonight’s vigil and tomorrow’s Christmas feast. God did not come to us in splendor and majesty or in the grandeur of the world’s power. Instead, we encountered the truth of God’s nature in the birth of a child to a family of questionable social arrangement, in the out-of-doors, and on the run. This, we might venture, is God’s natural habitat. This is where God has chosen to be most readily found. And so, as we hear the news of refugees fleeing violence in Syria, we might look to see God’s face looking back from the stories and the pictures and to ask how we, as followers of this refugee God might serve them.

In spite of the darkness of this night and all nights, the good news of Christmas, the feast of Christ’s Incarnation, is that the psalmist’s words are true, speaking of the long-awaited fulfillment of God’s promise to David: “Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm.” Present with us, empowering us to do God’s work with our hands and feet, the Incarnation allows us to be that steadfast love for the world. Christ’s birth represents nothing less than the blossoming of God’s mercy into our hearts, into our hands and feet. Eyes opened by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are invited to see God’s presence everywhere and in everyone: always drawing us closer to the sorrows and the joys of the world and always opening our hearts that we might share our sorrows and joys with one another.

Knowing that Christ, the Human One, is alive in the world enables all who seek him to meet him in strangers far and near and to see that God is keeping her covenant of love, not in power, but rather in presence and reconciliation. May we and the world be transformed by this love.

Written by The Rev. Andy Shamel

The Power of Advent

26Advent Meditation on Psalm 25:1-14

I spent the fall of my junior year of college studying in Morocco. It was an exciting, yet exhausting experience, a time of immense growth and challenge. Not only was I struggling to learn a language, a history, a culture and its people, but it was also the first time I had been outside of a primarily Christian context. It was a time of great soul-searching and exploration: what did it mean to be a Christian when all the normal markers and cultural assumptions were gone? At home, churches were always a spitting distance away and being “Christian” was the default.

Here in Rabat, mosques, prayer niches, and small chapels were, quite literally, everywhere. The default was “Muslim.” The rhythm of life was completely different. What did it mean to be Christian in this space? I wouldn’t be going to church every Sunday. I wondered, with no small amount of anxiety, what the holidays would be like. From Thanksgiving until I came home, just before Christmas, what was Advent going to be like, in this new place?

Slowly, I learned the patterns and routines of life. A minaret of the neighborhood mosque was a few dozen feet from my bedroom window, with the first call to prayer in the wee hours of the morning. At first, it was jarring and an annoyance to be awakened in the wee hours each day. But soon, the gorgeous and haunting chant, “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Bismillah ar-RaHman, a-RaHim…God is the greatest, in the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful,” was my own call to prayer. I prayed the Daily Office each time the muezzin would sing. I adopted “Salaamu Aleikum,” Insha’allah,” and “Hamdulilah” (Peace be with you; God willing; thanks be to God) into my own speech, and felt these words keep God in my foremost thoughts.

I was in Morocco during the holy month of Ramadan, and during its holiest night, Lailat al-Qadr. Lailat al-Qadr is the night when the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him, as Muslim brothers and sisters say), a night when all sins are forgiven, when the blessings and mercy of God are abundant. I experienced that Lailat al-Qadr as what some would call a “thin place.”

The children dressed up in full regalia, young boys with pantaloons and hats with tassels, young girls in beautiful, shimmering dresses. Each home was cleaned until sparkling and spotless; almond cookies, pastries with rose water syrup, and mint tea were spread out upon embroidered tablecloths. Families went out, visiting neighbors, chatting with passersby. I accompanied my host family on the evening walk, overwhelmed by the sense of joy and celebration that filled the streets. There were hundreds of embraces and even more kisses – always two, one on each cheek. The presence and love of God were palpable. You could sense it; you could see it. Whatever troubles, concerns, or disagreements there may have been between any neighbors, they were forgiven. Kindness, forgiveness, and love flowed forth from the faithful’s prayers and into their embrace of their neighbors.

That night affected me deeply, teaching me more about the immense power of Advent than I could have ever expected. For Muslims, the space between heaven and earth is made thin on Lailat al-Qadr, as they commemorate the revelation of God’s word to Muhammad. For us as Christians, the boundaries between heaven and earth are broken as God comes and dwells among us, in the mystery of the Incarnation. Annually we return to this pilgrimage, to be reminded that our God is Emmanuel, dwelling with us.

At this time every year, I give thanks – for the precious Advent gift that Islam gave me. By learning and understanding how my Muslim brothers and sisters experience God’s presence in their lives, I was able to reflect deeply on how Christ enters into my own…how the boundary between heaven and earth were threadbare that first Advent and Christmas, how the veil lifts each time we are called to the Eucharist.

allison_headshot_red_doorWritten by Allison Duvall

Allison Duvall is the manager for church relations and engagement for Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement service of The Episcopal Church. Prior to joining the staff, Allison served as the executive director of Reading Camp, a literacy ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. She was a deputy to General Convention in 2009 and 2012, and currently serves on the board of Episcopal Appalachian Ministries. She is passionate about The Episcopal Church, about living out faith and prayer through action and advocacy, and about building relationships and communities of transformation. Allison resides in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, Clay, a third-year law student who became an Episcopalian in 2014. In her free time, she is a certified Irish dance teacher and enjoys teaching her students, cooking, reading, exercising, and building community.

Not Afraid

25Advent Meditation for Canticle 9

Looking back, I think that, in my youth, I confused the coming of the Lord’s “presence” with the arrival of “presents.” The essential function of the holidays for me back then was to apply salve, however temporary, to the blinding agitation of my desire for more toys. Much of the holiday season I took for granted: the gatherings of family, the sumptuous meals, the boisterous parties, the freedom of the winter break from school. Those things happened every year, and anyways, they didn’t have anything to do with me getting a new set of Legos. On Christmas day, I sounded like Isaiah does in today’s reading, only I was talking about Santa Claus, and all his great deeds came wrapped in colorful paper.

During Advent, we draw close to our loved ones as Jesus draws close to us. The glory I once found under the Christmas tree has long since faded—what captivates me now is the love engendered by the season. The simple joys of friendship and shared meals—that is, community—are what make me rejoice in this season. In the thick of family gatherings and dinner parties is where I find the joy of Advent, and for me these are the “springs of salvation” that Isaiah sings of in today’s reading. When I first looked over Canticle 9, I was struck by the line where the prophet tells us, of his Savior, he “will trust in him and not be afraid.” Maybe Isaiah is just stating the obvious, but I thought to myself “Not be afraid? But Lord, there is so much in the world to be afraid of…” As I continued to think over the words, I discerned a different meaning, however.

I wonder if there is confusion between the anticipation of “Christ Presents” and the awaiting of “Christ’s presence.” Christmas can feel like some kind of big production, or even worse, like a commercial that somehow reaches past the confines of the television screen and into your living space. And in some ways, it is: all that good will gets turned into increased sales of clothing, food and wrapping paper, overtime pay for people with jobs in shipping and retail, maxed out lines of credit, end of the year fundraising drives by non-profits, and so on. Thinking about Christmas that way made me feel kind of depressed, but that’s when I thought about Isaiah’s fearlessness.

Advent is a special time when we enjoy community as a “stronghold and … sure defense,” and though I think one ought to feel fortunate to have friends and family with whom to share the spirit of the season, we should also remember that community is not a luxury. The gifts and the gourmet meals might be, but the love is not. We are, all of us, deserving of God’s love, and should revel in it. Salvation may seem far off in the distance, but in the celebration of Advent, we can, like Isaiah, “not be afraid.”

37175287_biopicWritten by Sam Barbour

Samuel Barbour is an eclectic contemplative Catholic (and Wild Goose Festival goer) from the Illinois River Valley. His most recent publication was of a series of haiku in a journal of economic pedagogy. His work has included playing music, line cooking, writing, tutoring, farming, and, beginning this Spring, teaching a class in economics at a community college. He lives in a small town with his partner, Molly, an organic grains and beans farmer.  

Soul-Waiting

24Advent Reflection on Psalm 33:1-5, 20-22

Let’s be honest. We are terrible at waiting. We despise having to wait.

Think about it: we huff and puff behind the wheel when it takes more than 5 minutes to get our burger and fries in the drive-thru; we cuss our internet providers when our binge-streaming is slowed by the need to “buffer” (whatever that is); when someone takes longer than 38.3 seconds to respond to our text message, we get offended and start making up reasons why we aren’t important enough to that person.

And yet, here we find ourselves in a whole liturgical season of waiting. It’s as if the church in all her wisdom KNOWS we don’t wait well and gives us a few weeks to practice it so that we might get better at it, as if there is some worth in waiting, something sacred and profound inherent in the posture of waiting.

“Our soul waits for the Lord;
     he is our help and shield,” writes the psalmist.

Soul-waiting. It seems that might be something different than waiting for our pizza to be delivered or waiting on the bus, though I’m not sure we are any better at it. Soul-waiting seems more in line with what happens during a pregnancy, the kind of expectant longing that requires preparation.

With the arrival of our twins this year, my wife, Amy, and I have a new understanding of this kind of waiting. We began preparing even before we knew we were pregnant – buying baby books and bringing Jordan River water back from Israel in the hopes of a baptism someday. When we learned we were finally pregnant, preparations began in earnest and kicked up into a whole new gear when we found out we were having not one, but two babies. We even actually read those books we bought. Excited anticipation doesn’t begin to describe it. And there was SO MUCH to do.

Maybe that’s why our lectionary readings during this waiting are ripe with reminders to prepare.

Prophets shout in our faces and angels whisper in our ears the words of ancient promises spoken to people who, like us, are living in the exile of sinful, broken messes they helped create. Their words sometimes sting, but they always call for movement, beckoning us forward into God’s dream for the world, the very reality that we longingly wait for.

Soul-waiting then is an active waiting, with the kind of work to be done that moves us toward that for which we wait. In soul-waiting, as we prepare and anticipate, God moves toward us and we move toward God. And somewhere in the middle, always in between, we meet one another again.

In these last few days of Advent, as together our souls wait for the joy and celebration that accompanies the redemption of all creation in God’s movement toward us – the Incarnation – may we practice waiting actively, ourselves inching ever closer to that moment when the divine and the human meet.

 

m&andyWritten by The Rev. Matthew Wise

The Rev. Matthew Wise is currently the Campus Missioner at Texas A&M University, his alma mater. He’s served in this role for three years and has just accepted a call to become the Associate Rector for Family Ministries, Outreach and Parish Life at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas (the city he and his wife, Amy, met and fell in love in). Matt, Amy, and their twins, Jacob and Sawyer love live music, winter vacations with family in Wisconsin, and Fightin’ Texas Aggie football.

Chosen

23Advent Reflection for Luke 1:39-56

Mary, did you know- that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?

In Luke 1:39-56, Mary visits Elizabeth. When Mary spoke to Elizabeth, the baby she was carrying rejoiced. In total darkness, the baby was able to listen for the voice of The Lord. Are you listening for that same loving voice that formed you in total darkness while chaos consumes our world? I imagine the mothers of Travon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice did not know their baby boys would be killed nor did they anticipate the surge of other victims to follow. Ella’s song is one of my favorite memories for my involvement with the Freedom Schools Movement. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon wrote this song in honor to Ms. Ella Baker, unsung hero of the civil rights movement, who believed strongly in the power of young people, the following three verses from the song reflect the sentiments of my heart:          

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ son

We who believe in freedom can not rest until it comes

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny

If all lives matter, why must there be a declaration that black lives matter? Because our young black and brown people are being unjustly murdered daily. They are also battling the cradle to prison pipeline, communal trauma, and oppressive poverty.

During this season of Advent, I find myself meditating on the ways I can see God amid personal, communal, and worldly chaos but it’s hard to see past lost childhoods, unachieved goals, victim blaming, and mourning communities. One may think its selfish to reflect on race when there are other things just as pertinent happening. I’m drawing strength from Mary, boldly proclaiming – Black Lives Matter. I have heard many people say they are tired of talking about police brutality and racism. Well, we’re tired of being killed.

When I think of Mary, I’m reminded not of God choosing her but her submission to the call. The Lord said in Isaiah 44:2, “Do not be afraid (your name). I have chosen you.” You have been chosen. It is our duty to engage in reconciliation from our own places of privilege, displacement, and discomfort. Wherever we find ourselves is exactly where we are supposed to be. While we anticipate the arrival of Christ, I’m reminded that even in total darkness, God is. We are his hands and feet. What are you laying at the foot of the cross in order to get moving? Mary did not know. She too needed the gentle reminder – “Do not be afraid. The Lord is upon you.” I challenge you to stand firm in your calling. If you don’t know you’re your calling is, get quiet and listen. If you have become complacent with your calling – be still and listen.

Holy Spirit, fall fresh upon us. Renew your spirit within us. Help us to be participatory in activating your power within us and honoring our calling. Help us to listen. Help us to stand in solidarity with those fighting against injustice and find our place as one in the number as we stand against tyranny.

Donnecia

Written by Donnecia Brown

Donnecia is a North Carolinian and University of North Carolina at Charlotte Alumna who recently relocated to Philadelphia, PA to dedicate a year of service with City Year, a national nonprofit that works to end the dropout crisis. She is passionate about the intersectionality of race, class, gender and religion. She is currently working towards a M.S in Community and Trauma Counseling at Philadelphia University and hopes to engage communities in racial reconciliation and healing. 

Joy

20Advent Meditation for Luke 1:5-25

My prayer life is deeply rooted in corporate prayer, externally praying with others. Praying collects, psalms, prayers of the people, petitions, confessions. Praying in community is how we share in the practice of being shaped by saying the words we believe in, the words we hope to enact in our lives. It is one of the reasons I love our Book of COMMON prayers so much.

But right now, I have a silent prayer that I am carrying around internally. I cannot speak it aloud, except to a few very close persons, because it is something that may or may not come to fruition as I imagine, as I wait, as I wonder. It resides in my hope, but not yet in my reality, and so I don’t want to build it up too much. I don’t want to invest too much energy and attention just yet. I don’t want to cause disappointment for myself or others should it not come into reality.  Though it is on my mind constantly, this prayer will not pass my lips until it has been answered one way or another. Perhaps you have one too.

Zechariah was given the foreknowledge that his prayer was going to be answered. His long barren wife, Elizabeth, would not only bear a child, a legacy, but someone who would be an anointed leader, someone who would bring people to deeper life in God. When an adult, this child would be a catalyst filled with the Holy Spirit, opening hearts and transforming lives with the knowledge that new life was on the horizon for so many. And even as his prayer was answered, Zechariah too, fell silent. His hope and faith in God were tempered by living life in the ‘real’ world, this temporal world. Though his lips would not be released until the day they named their child, John, I am certain he continued to pray.

Tomorrow, the fourth candle of our Advent wreaths will be lit, yet one more light brightening the pathway as we look expectantly toward our great hope. Public prayers will be proclaimed, and prayers of our hearts will be whispered to ourselves and to God. All of these prayers will be heard, held, and answered in one way or another. While our deepest personal prayers may be kept quietly under the surface, our words and actions as faithful witnesses of Christ are needed in the real world around us.

This Advent, this year, this lifetime we have the have the power to speak words of  advocacy, companionship, support, commitment, acknowledgement, invitation, community, hope, faith, peace and so much more. We have a call to speak those words, not only with our lips, but in our lives and in the lives of others who do not have the privilege of authority, presence, citizenship, economic stability, education, position to do so. So today, let us be reminded to pray always, to be shaped by our prayers and to allow our prayers to shape the world around us as we light the path toward the kingdom of God.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer. –Psalm 19:14 (BCP edited)

Mary CatWritten by The Rev. Mary Cat Young

Chaplain Mary Cat works with 20’s-30’s young adults active in Episcospal congregations around Manhattan and serves as chaplain to students from NYU and surrounding campuses. She lives in a New York with her husband, daughter and mini-schnauzer.  

Awake

19Advent Reflection on Psalm 72:11-18

If life seems dark to you just now, you are not alone in the dark. In God there is no darkness at all. Only light. Dare to open your eyes and you will become accustomed to the light. – Br. Curtis Almquist, (SSJE)

During Advent we prepare ourselves for Christ the  King’s arrival. While we watch and wait this passage by the Psalmist, (Ps. 17:11-18), reminds us of the many ways that we can find God among us right now.

V:12- God is Hope

God has promised to be the assurance that we need when we are feeling overwhelmed and alone.

V:13- God is Comfort & Restoration

God provides us with what we need and not always what we want for ourselves. Truly, God saves us from ourselves in our brokenness. God restores our strength as we feel vulnerable and worn-out. Thereby, we can rest and enjoy the anticipation of Christ’s coming.

V:15- God in Abundance

This season of the year we enjoy giving and receiving gifts. God has blessed us with the ability to sustain this exercise in altruism and gratitude. Whether a gift to a family member or giving to a favorite charity we can be God’s vessel of love and realize the joy we feel from God and those we love.

V:16- God in Nature

Take time to observe the beauty around us as Divine. God’s creation, no matter where we live, proves to us that God is the greatest artist. Enjoy a natural “thin space” among the stillness in the world around you.

V:17-18- God’s Blessing and Promise

So; AWAKE to all that God has told us; AWAKE to God’s call of love; AWAKE for God’s return showering us with true Love and Light.

MWMWritten by Michael Wood-Miles

Michael Wood-Miles and his husband live on their farm in Metter, Georgia. A source of great pride is his 25 year old daughter that is presently studying Bio-Ethics in London.
Michael is also an artist painting in oils and watercolor and painted the image for this reflection. Michael presently serves as Lay Missioner for Episcopal Campus Ministry at Georgia Southern University; Provincial Coordinator for Campus Ministry- Province IV; and as a Missionary from the Diocese of Georgia, visiting the Dominican Republic.

(photo credit Frank Logue)
(Painting, Madonna & Child, oil on canvas MWM_2015)  

Advent: Journey from Gratitude to Hope – United Thank Offering

#Gratitude2Hope#AdventChallenge (2)
The Board of the United Thank Offering has presented a challenge to The Episcopal Church, Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to benefit a special grant of $30,000 for Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Through Advent: Journey from Gratitude to Hope Episcopalians are being called to support refugee welcome in the United States through the 2015 Ingathering Challenge. United Thank Offering will match the first $30,000 given by December 31, 2015 that is marked “EMM-UTO.”  The challenge will continue throughout December 2015.

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

Each year the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries refugee resettlement service and a network of local organizations, faith communities and volunteers, welcomes 5,000 refugees to more than 30 communities across the United States. Refugees arrive in the United States having fled from the most violent and war-torn places on earth. With just a few months of support to get started, refugees become productive, resilient members of our society and economy.

“Episcopal Migration Ministries is thankful for the generosity of the United Thank Offering,” noted Deborah Stein, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. “This is the same hope that every refugee embraces as they undertake the treacherous journey away from war, away from violence, away from certain death. It is hope that drives every refugee to journey to new life away from everything they know in a faraway place like the United States.”

To Donate

Checks or online donations should have UTO-EMM in the memo line/comments section. Checks can be sent to:

United Thank Offering
DFMS – Protestant Episcopal Church US
P.O. Box 958983
St. Louis, MO 63195-8983

Donations are also accepted online at https://episcopalchurch.thankyou4caring.org/  just select UTO from the drop down menu and then put EMM in the comments.

More information

For more information contact Melton.

#Gratitude2Hope

#UTOBlueBox

Transcendent Love

 22Advent Meditation  on Psalm 72:1-8

Psalm 72:1-8

Give the King your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the King’s Son; That he may rule your people righteously and the poor with justice; That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people and the little hills bring righteousness. He shall defend the needy among the people; he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor. He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, from one generation to another. He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth. In his time shall the righteous flourish; there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

I can’t count the number of times I have been told that my college years will be the best of my life. And yet, my college years have been fraught with tragedy; police brutality and racially motivated violence mimic the injustice that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement fifty years ago, LGBTQ* citizens are still discriminated against every single day, and violent attacks both at home and abroad make it difficult for people to look past their fears and love unconditionally. Sometimes I find that when I’m supposed to be having the time of my life, I’m sitting in my room, filled with anxiety about the state of the world and worrying that I’ll never be able to do enough.

But then I remember that despite all this, God is still here. God comes down like rain after a long drought each time someone performs an act of kindness to combat these tragedies. When Geraldo Rivera so eloquently stands up for the citizens of Baltimore in the face of a journalist who came to town to condemn them, when Laverne Cox reminds a little girl that transgender is beautiful, and when Angel Le tells his son that flowers will always best guns, God is alive and at work within them and, just as significantly, God is at work within us who hear these messages. It is these little kindnesses that rescue the poor and crush the oppressor, because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Although, as it is often said, kindness is free, sometimes it can be difficult to reach out and make a difference in someone’s life. In this, the twenty-first century, there are so many things to distract us from showing the kindness that we ought to. I myself am too often often distracted. Sometimes I pass a homeless person on the street without acknowledgment or I hesitate to comfort a classmate in distress or I raise my voice to overpower a person with whom I disagree. I certainly have not defended the needy as often as I should. However, Psalm 72 reminds me that the unconditional, transcendent love that springs from God starts with each of us individually.

As we approach the anniversary of the Redeemer’s birth, I am challenging myself – and all of you, if you’re willing – to create little kindnesses every day. Whether you make a Christmas donation to a charity foundation or you choose to listen to another viewpoint to try to achieve a greater understanding of it, you have become a starting point for the world’s redemption through God’s love. I believe that there will soon be a day of joy, a time when the righteous flourish. I believe that our day of peace is coming. We just need to remember that it all begins with you and me.

 

37175287_abigail_e._pageWritten by Abigail Page

Abigail was baptized and confirmed at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wallingford, Connecticut, where her parents crossed paths for the first time. She now attends Grace Church in New York City and participates in the student organization Canterbury Downtown. Abigail studies English and American Literature and Creative Writing at New York University, and has spent a semester in London.