Christmas Cycle

One Christmas Eve, after placing a small figure of baby Jesus in its resin manger at our house, my then 4 or 5-year-old nephew asked, “But… is he… alive?”  So much was said in his look of perplexity and disbelief – If Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, then where is he?  Shouldn’t he be growing up by now?  Also… if he was born 2000 years ago… then, maybe he should be dead – right?  Then why do we act like he’s a little newborn baby?  What is this weirdness???

Nativity scene, Christmas, Jesus in manger

Of course, there is something to be said about the Eternal Now, as well as our preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord – but that something is said in other places, I’m sure, with more scholarly expertise.  What I want to reflect upon in this post is the beauty and power of the newness of our celebrations – every single year. Continue reading

Gathering Stars

Wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas and offering you this poem from decades ago.

May you be filled with the wonder of God Among Us – for the Word of God, the Lord of the Universe, was made Flesh for each and every one of you, for your healing redemption and eternal joy…

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

Gathering Stars

My mother gathers stars.  Continue reading

Blowing and Changing Minds: The Epiphany

So, these wise guys had an epiphany.

Epiphany wiseguys

Well, not like those wise guys. (Although who’s to say?)
They were probably a bit more like this:

epiphany Magi

So, anyway, they had all of these charts and books and tools for looking at things and, by using all of them through some system invented through some school of thought, they discovered a small child that would grow up to be the King of the Jews. And these guys were all about kings. They found them, honored them, and some even say that they made them, if kings were in need. But, this time… well, it was different.

Pauper King: It was different enough that this future King of the Jews wasn’t born in the Jewish Palace. That he was, in fact, born in a stable with a feeding trough for his first bed. By the time they found him, this toddler named Jesus was well out of the swaddling clothes and living in a house. But, it was a simple house, a peasant’s house in a simple, peasant town, and, in fact, the current Jewish king didn’t even seem to know that he existed. That was different, but not altogether strange. I mean, even back in that time there were plenty of rags-to-riches stories.

Weird star: And, yes, it was a bit bizarre and overwhelming that the star that they had plotted and followed seem to stay still – but, after all, these guys were called “Magi” from which we derive the word magic. They were well acquainted with the weirdness of the world, and, though they got really excited about the star, this, I propose, wasn’t the most wonderfully weird part. The really different part, the odd, strange, startling, earthshaking, and altogether life-altering part was… well…

Cosmic Message: What these wise guys, these men of wisdom and learning, these kingmakers were personally thinking at the time is something that we will never know. But we do know that, after finding the child and paying him homage proper to his future kingliness, they all had a similar dream. They all dreamt a warning not to return to the current king of the Jews as they had promised to do. Now, these were not men who would have easily broken a promise to a sitting king, telling him that they would do one thing and then totally dissing him. But, they took the message in the dreams seriously and did not go back to the Jewish Palace.

That was the thing that was really strange and different – they didn’t do what they usually did.
“They departed to their own country by another way.”[1]

Yeah, I know. Pretty simple words that can be pretty easily overlooked. You could be saying to yourself, “What? That’s it? Come on. Christina Chase, you are just another one of those people that reads way too much into every little word in the Bible. They just decided to take a different road, one that wouldn’t go to Jerusalem. That’s it.”

Yep, that’s it. But, that’s everything. They changed their plans, these men who were all about charts and plotting future paths. They went back on their word to a King, they chose to go against the wealthy and influential guy on the throne, these men who were all about paying homage and tribute to royalty. They were from the east and didn’t need to go south to Jerusalem in order to go back home, but that’s exactly what they were going to do – until their minds changed. The excitement of the weird star, the peasant child with his humble mother, and that dream – all were different enough in themselves, but together they made a magnificent difference. They made the wisemen do something different.

Why?

Because that’s exactly what Jesus, the true King of the Jews, the Eternal King of Kings, does.

When we get who he is, when we recognize that this man is God Incarnate, Lord and Savior of the World, then we smack our heads with the epiphany – and our lives change. We cannot continue on the same old road. We cannot go back to the same old way. We must do something different – we must be something different. Or else… well, if we don’t, then there was no epiphany at all in our lives. We followed the map, we saw the child, we paid the dutiful homage, and then we did everything else like we always do. No change. No difference. No epiphany. No salvation.

What did you do this past Christmas? Did you pick gifts from a list to buy and give to selected family and friends? Did you address and stamp cards for the customary people, remembering to dutifully add a little note to those people to whom you felt you owed a little something more? Did you check the church schedules to be sure that you would show up for Christmas service on time, allowing extra time for finding a parking spot and pew? Well, good. No, really, that is good – but it’s not good enough.

Because, now, Christmas is over, and what are you going to do? Stop singing the songs and take down the decorations? Start nostalgically morning the loss of another Christmas? Start dreading the credit card bill?

If you really celebrated Christmas, then you cannot simply go back to doing the usual things. Because, if you really celebrated Christ, then your life would always be different. You will go home, yes, that’s a blessing – but you will find new ways to get there. Becoming Christian doesn’t mean that you become born again – the greatest of epiphanies – and then do the different thing of becoming a churchgoer and charity supporter. That’s good. But not good enough.

Becoming Christian means that every day you experience conversion.

Every day you look up from your life to find the light of the divine. Every day you see God in the face of an everyday stranger. Every day you let yourself be open to surprises, to the weird and wonderful, to being overwhelmed and overjoyed – even in doing something as simple as taking another way home. (Or starting a blog post in a different style to get people’s attention.)

There are not just two roads from which we can choose: (1) the road of non-Christianity, upon which the wisemen had planned on continuing to travel and (2) the road of Christianity, upon which the wisemen chose to set out after the epiphany. There are myriad roads and paths from which to choose, even as we are following Christ. We are called to always choose strangely, to be different. Like this:

Enemies are to be loved and treated as friends.

Trials and tribulations, the crosses that we bear in life, are to be kissed and embraced.

Worldly poverty is to be understood as wealth and worldly wealth as poverty.

Sorrow is to be blessedness and suffering is to be joy.

It’s a weird world when we live in it as true Christians – but it’s wonderful, too. Healed by God’s mercy, strengthened by God’s love, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, we simply cannot do things the regular way anymore. We are new. Every day.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you have had your epiphany. You know where home is. And you know that the way to get there is not the same old road.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] Matthew 2:12 RSV

The Great Coming of the Lord

Advent,baby-jesus-in-manger
the first coming,
is quiet.

Silently he comes
in the womb of a virgin,
the womb undisturbed, untouched by man.

Patiently he comes
in the strength of her forbearance,
until she delivers her first born son.

Fragilely he comes,
a suckling newborn –
the Incarnation of God.

Tenderly he comes
in the arms of his mother,
needing to be swaddled, nurtured, loved.

Listen… Behold…
He is come
in the awesome quiet of a winter’s night.

Listen… Behold…
He is come…
even in the darkness of a wanting heart…

so quiet, so small, the majesty of the Lord…

is here.

© 2015  Christina Chase

 

Humble Preparations

I see this image as a visual reminder for us to make our humble preparations for Christmas. Too often are we caught up in the big, the bright, and the busy, forgetting that God came among us in the quiet bareness of a stable. We need to be likewise silent and open, with our hands empty so that we may be able to receive His Presence, His love and mercy, into our hearts and into our lives.

Like the placing of straw in a worn feeding trough, let us make our humble preparations: small acts of selflessness and sacrifice in kindness to strangers; forgiveness, forbearance, and even appreciation for runny noses, noisy neighbors, and the trials of everyday life; whispered, wordless prayers from the heart, taking just a moment to lift up our eyes in gratitude, hope, faith, and praise.

In the busyness of this season, let us be mindful of the Infant Messiah, helplessly wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in his humble manger-crib. May our hearts be as lowly and lovely as this place – fit for the King of Kings…

Christmas king-size bed

© 2015 Christina Chase

Job’s Christmas

“And you beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,

who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…”

There is so much suffering in the world. War, disease, starvation, abuse, murder… the heartache of billions of human beings. And we naturally question life, the universe, the powers that be, wondering why – why?????

I sit in the dark turmoil of my own brokenness and limitations with Job. Job, who not only lost his wealth, security, health and strength, but also his family – all of his loved ones dead. And, after all of that, he was supposed to still love God. But, how??? If this is what can happen to a good person who is loved by God, then what good is that supposed love?

Job questioned, too. His questions, in the divine light, were “words without knowledge”, merely obfuscating divine reason. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, and, so, the answer for Job’s WHY began like this:

lightning

God thunders forth marvels with his voice;

he does great things beyond our knowing.

He says to the snow, “Fall to the earth”;

likewise to his heavy, drenching rain…

Out of its chamber the tempest comes forth;

from the north winds, the cold.

With his breath God brings the frost,

and the broad waters congeal.

The clouds too are laden with moisture,

the storm-cloud scatters its light.

He it is who changes their rounds, according to his plans,

to do all that he commands them

across the inhabited world.[1]

Across the inhabited world, the Unmoved Mover has unquestionable power, unlimited might. We are but creatures, who, like the grass, may fall dead with the first breath of winter. Who are we to question God? As intelligent and imaginative as we are, human beings are dependent upon Creation and the Creator behind it all. Helplessly and hopelessly limited are we, at the mercy of the Almighty One, who makes and rules the universe and beyond.

It is only reasonable that we suffer Continue reading