Monthly Archives: December 2010

JOY TO YOU, TOO

The angel said unto them: “I bring you GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY, which shall be to all people…”                                                                                                                                                                      (Luke 2:10)

During the days and weeks before Christmas, I’ve invested much time in prayerful thought, just pondering the meaning of some of the words used by those who attempted to describe events relating to the birth of Jesus. Just words. But wonder full words, packed with beauty and power!

Words can be used to convey ideas. And ideas have consequences. While I’ve never attempted to tell people what to think, I have tried to encourage them to think. Some ideas or words are worth the effort to explore, even if we’ll never be able fully to define or confine them. At best, we may be able to see the glory of the Lord, like someone standing on a seashore gazing at a beautiful sunset on the horizon. “Glory” and “Joy” are two of those words, or ideas, which have caused me to look more carefully at the Nativity.

Luke’s account of that eternal event says the angel announced the “Good News’ and adds an adjective. Not just “joy.” He speaks of GREAT Joy.

I don’t know all it means. I’m certain I do not fully grasp it, so I know I cannot explain the meaning. But I also know this: No one ever sees anything unless their eyes and minds are open. No one ever understands anything without thinking. . . at least honestly thinking!

So, I found myself pondering the wonder of the simple word “Joy.” Feeling that the Bible is God’s word, every word has weight to me. If He truly says something, I feel compelled to pay attention and try to understand it’s importance.

What is JOY?

(As you ponder that question, my prayer is that you understand the entrance of Christ into human history can bring joy to you, too. That should add enormous extra meaning to Christmas and all your coming new years! )

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student                                                                                                                      ~donkimrey

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A GUEST POST

(Don’s note: It was a privilege to meet the priest who recently conducted a beautiful, wonderful, worshipful marriage ceremony for Morgan, the daughter of our friends Joyce and Bill Miller. He and I talked for a while after the wedding and have corresponded several times since. In my opinion, we’re forming a somewhat unusual friendship. I shared an idea I’d posted earlier on this site ~ “Ever Think About It This Way.” What had prompted my thinking on that subject was when I tried to consider how “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, And how the Apostle Paul said that even though Christ was “in the form of God, He took upon himself the form of man.” My new friend, the Priest, picked up on it, and look below at what happened next. With his permission, I’m posting Father David Noone’s Christmas homily for his parish. What an unlikely but welcome sharing between a Catholic priest and his new friend! who just happens to be an ordained Southern Baptist minister.)

If there is anything that truly symbolizes Christmas, other than the baby in the manger, it’s the Christmas gift…..something all wrapped up in colorful Christmas paper, usually with a bow on top….like this box right here….

And the reason why this box is here is to remind me that I have a gift for you this Christmas and the gift I have for you isn’t something
electronic
or digital
or a toy
or a game
or a book
or something that you can wear or eat
or something for your home or office…
Instead, it’s something that you need more than all those things and I know that to be true for you because it’s true for me.

And, the gift I have for you this Christmas is words…
twelve words
which people refer to as “The Twelve Words of Christmas”
and those words are:

‘TODAY IS BORN FOR YOU A SAVIOR WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD.”

Let me repeat them:
“TODAY IS BORN FOR YOU A SAVIOR WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD.”
And, those twelve words are the best Christmas gift you could or will ever receive.

This past October I officiated at a wedding in Raleigh, N.C. and one of the other invited guests was a retired Baptist minister by the name of Don Kimrey. Don and I connected in the parking lot after the ceremony and somehow the conversation got around to Christmas and he told me that he had been thinking about a new way of understanding the birth of Jesus, which we call the mystery of the Incarnation.

He began by talking about the atom and what happened when scientists learned how to split the atom….all the power and energy that splitting the atom had released…. a power that was first used to inflict more damage and death than had ever been inflicted in the entire history of the human race but how since then that energy has also been used in ways that have greatly benefited the human race.

But, my new minister friend said that he had begun thinking about the Incarnation as having been just the opposite of the splitting of the atom.
That rather than it being an “explosion,” it had been something more along the lines of an “implosion,” a drawing inward rather than an exploding outward.

That what really happened in the Incarnation was that the great God of the universe:
the Creator of the heavens
the designer and maker of the earth
the One who formed the light
and created the darkness

took everything that he is…
all his power
all his intelligence
all his wisdom
all his creative ability
all his healing energy
all his compassion
all his concern for us
all his LOVE
and his desire for us to be so much more than we are
and placed it or “incarnated” it in a single human person…
and sent him to live among us.

In other words, everything that God ever
was
is
or ever will be
and everything that God has to give us he put into one person, Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth in Bethlehem we celebrate tonight….

And what that means is that….
the truth about God
and everything you and I need to know about God
and about God’s love for us
and everything you and I need to know about ourselves
and about others and the way we are to love them
and about life
and about how we are to live and not live
and about what makes us truly human or less than human
and about where we have come from and where we are going
everything we need to know can be found in Jesus.

And, this is not information that you’re going to find anyplace else…
you’re not going to find it on anyone’s Facebook page
or by Googling
or by researching Wikipedia
and it’s why the angel used the word “Savior” to describe the birth of the baby in Bethlehem
“Today is born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

And why did God give us this gift?

All throughout Advent, as you drove along Maria Drive or pulled into church, you’ve seen the banner that sits adjacent to the roadway. The words on the left hand side of that banner read, “God so loved the world that he sent his son” and that says it all. The birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was a gift of pure love…God’s love for us….and throughout Advent I’ve been suggesting that this gift of God’s very self to us, his person in Jesus, demands a response…. not out of any sense of obligation but out of a sense of appreciation, which is why the right hand side of that banner reads, “What gift will you give God this Christmas?” because I wanted to get you thinking about that for Christmas and I used the Advent scriptures to suggest some gift possibilities.

On the first Sunday of Advent I suggested that maybe what God wants from some of us is a greater awareness of his presence in our lives, a bit more of our time given over to developing a deeper relationship with him
On the second Sunday of Advent, when John the Baptist was calling us to repentance, I suggested that maybe there is something in our lives that God would like to see us eliminate, not for his sake but for ours, so that we might enjoy richer more meaningful lives and a pledge to work on that might be our Christmas gift to him.

On the third Sunday, I focused on the ministries of Isaiah the prophet, the apostle James and, again, John the Baptist, each of whom, in the words of Mother Teresa, did “something beautiful for God” and suggested that maybe there is some service God is looking for us to do, some ministry he’d like us to engage in.

On the last weekend in Advent, in light of the gospel story that focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her great faith, Bishop Hubbard, who was here for a baptism, suggested that one of the greatest gifts we can give God is the gift of sharing our faith with others.

And, then, throughout Advent, I’ve been telling you that when you came to church on Christmas I’d ask you to bring your gift with you and identify it by writing it on one of these little strips of paper which would then be collected and placed on or under our giving trees.

So, if you didn’t pick one of those slips up during Advent there is one in the bulletin you received when you came into church and, if you’re ready to do this, I’m going to ask you right now to write the nature of your gift, whatever it is, on that little slip and then draw it up into a circle and stick the two ends together by licking the end that has the glue. There are pencils in all the pews, behind or under the hymn books. (If you want you can link it with the strip of the person you came with or as a family and form a paper chain.) Show examples.

I know that some of you weren’t here during Advent but maybe you’ve heard enough by way of an explanation and have enough desire to think of something that you might want to give God for Christmas.

This past Sunday, three or four parishioners who weren’t going to be in town for Christmas, gave me their completed strips representing their Christmas gifts to God….one read: “My gift is to watch what I say;” another read, “ “Stop interrupting people when they are talking,” and the third read, “I’m giving God all my fears so that he can turn them into confidence.” And the last one read, “My gift to God will be a renewed effort to be more honest with people.”
I can’t help but think that God appreciates the sincerity of all of these gifts, including yours.

As you drive around town and look at the decorations on people’s lawns there are very few manger scenes which could lead you to conclude that Santa, reindeer and snowmen are the gift of Christmas, but don’t be fooled. The gift of Christmas is one person and twelve words, “Today is born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” You’ve heard it before but I wanted you to hear it again tonight.

Father David Noone
Diocese of Albany, New York

HOW EXTRAORDINARILY ORDINARY!

JUST A THOUGHT: Christ doesn’t expect us to ascend to His level. He descends to ours.

“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become Sons of God.” John 1:11

“He made Himself of no reputation and was found in fashion as a man. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death. . . even the death of the cross!” Philippians 2:8

If these accounts of the Lord Christ’s entrance to history say anything, they speak of the incredible humility and humanity of Jesus. It shows how low He will go to love the least among us. He does not place Himself above us. In coming as He did, He has forever identified with the poorest, the lowest, the least important, least accomplished, most sinful among us. From the outset he was identified as a “friend of publicans and sinners.” And “common people heard Him gladly.” Even little children commanded his caring attention. For those reasons, none can ever claim: “He does not understand. He does not care.”

Look, for example, at the people who were selected to “star” in the greatest drama in history. Consider those who were trusted to share the message with the world, and the time, place and drab circumstances in which the drama was cast. For the most part, the characters were unwashed, unshaven, unkempt, unknown, uneducated shepherds, carpenters, an unsophisticated, frightened teenage Jewish girl and a beleaguered anonymous innkeeper on the ancient edge of nowhere.

What could possibly be less impressive?

Notice how ordinary all this is. Ordinary people ordinary times (in those days…just like today), unexpectedly, suddenly Eternity intersected time. Extraordinary is a classic understatement!

Understand this, please: We are not required to master mind-boggling mysteries, or acquire understanding of profound thoughts. We do not have to amass a large fortune to offer in exchange for this Gift. We aren’t required to “clean up our act”, or be famous, or anything. The story is so beautifully, profoundly simple: God loved the World so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son. And if we receive that Gift, we also receive forgiveness, purpose for living, and peace in any circumstance.

He’s done the giving. Have we done the receiving?

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student

GLORY? What does that mean?

The Gospel of  Luke gives a vivid description of the birth of Jesus and some strange and wonderful happenings surrounding it .  I’ve tried to weigh some of the words used in his narrative about the Nativity.  Trying to probe more deeply and gain a better understanding of this happening which I’m calling an Eternal Event.  Here’s a bit of his description:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them and the GLORY OF THE LORD shone round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them: “Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. . . “ (Luke 2:8-11).
In considering the concept of “glory,” for some reason I thought of Albert Einstein’s early efforts to find employment.  Fresh out of graduate school, he couldn’t get a job in his native Germany. I read somewhere that early in his academic career a professor had advised him to pick any career he wished: No matter what he chose. he’d fail at anything he selected. With a young wife and a baby to support, unable to find work, young Albert was desperate. Being a Jew in Germany was not exactly in his favor, and with an attitude some of the professors considered cocky, his options were very limited in his own country.

So, he finally wound up in a remote outpost almost at the edge of nowhere, on the bottom of the totem pole salary wise trying to chisel a living out of what even then was a granite-like Swiss economy as far as foreigners were concerned. But he was ambitious, confident, brilliant, and had some ideas in a massive mind, and an unquenchable imagination and incredible curiosity and patience. He had time on his hands in the slow-paced office, so he pondered and wondered and unlocked some of the great mysteries of the Universe.

Just by studying and thinking quietly, his general theory of relativity rocked the scientific world and has led to unimagined developments in almost every area of modern technology, and the end of that impact has not even yet been measured or approached. He had never seen an atom (nor, for that matter, has anyone else.). He didn’t know what he was searching for, but as he explored and imagined, he gathered information and discovered things no one before had seen and most of us can’t even imagine.
My point is simply this: Einstein did not invent or create anything. He was a theoretical physicist. He took time to think, and study, and his theory E=mc2 is a secret of the universe which had been there all the time and he took time to uncover it.
Trust me. I’m not an Einstein even after having read two of his biographies. But his discipline and thinking amaze me.  There are so many wonders and mysteries we’ve not yet explored. Vast areas where there is no evidence of a human footstep or fingerprint. Outer space and the ocean depths are only two such areas.

That’s speaking only of the physical universe.  What about hidden, equally reality?  In my opinion, the “Glory of the Lord” may be one of those ideas worthy of further consideration. I realize it isn’t a concept which can be reduced to a mathematical equation or a chemical formula contained in a test tube. It does strike me, though, as being worth more than a passing glance.
My personal view of Scripture is that God doesn’t waste words or ideas. If He says something, it is trustworthy and noteworthy. It is, therefore, worth taking time to try to understand if we can.
So: Here I am still pondering the question: “What is the Glory of the Lord.”

I feel very certain it is more than the sights (beautiful, colorful, twinkling lights, snow scenes, etc,) scents (of cedar/pine, cinnamon, etc.), sounds (Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Away in a manger, etc.), tastes (gingerbread, fruitcake, peppermint candy canes, etc.) and the treasure chest full of frosted memories of your yester years. If none of the great masters in art have been unable to capture it on canvas, rest assured that neither will Thomas Kincaide.

A prayer of mine is that I will somehow be able to get beyond the wrappings, tinsel and trappings and distractions and discover the “Glory of the Lord” and understand the some of the  meaning of the magnificent, hope-filled message the angel announced. And that I’ll be able to experience something of the joy and wonder of that night when a feed trough in Bethlehem cradled the King of Kings.

That, also, is my prayer for you as well, and those whom you love.
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student ~donkimrey

Post script. I thought a lot on just the idea of “The glory of the Lord.”  Read a lot of places in the Bible, looked up definitions, read encyclopedia articles, sermons, etc. on the concept.  My conclusion is that in its purest, simplest form, it is evidence of the Presence of the Lord God Almighty. It is a sign that He is near.  A very poor analogy in my mind would be that the warmth and brightness of the sun are not the sun itself.  But convincing evidence that it’s there.  Whatever it meant that night, the shepherds became convinced that God is near.