A Christmas Meditation

A Christmas meditation

I have a confession to make, I don’t much like Advent or Christmas.  Oh, I like the liturgy and ritual, those remind me of why I believe as I do. I just don’t like all the other stuff: insipid Christmas movies, gift giving, Christmas cards, all of the socializing, and the commercials. Don’t get me started on the commercials!  Such things all seem to be totally unimportant and not in keeping with why we have this time of remembrance.

The thing of it is, all of the stuff people do at this time of the year has little to do with remembering the birth of God in human flesh.  I don’t mean the ridiculous little memes or signs that say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” those have nothing to do with God’s rebellious act of an immigrant baby  who claims the title of King and Son of God. That birth is revolutionary, that is prophetic, that is miraculous.  The stupid memes that spout Jesus are really all about the gift giving Santa God that people hope will bring them ponies, or cars, or that one gift that will make them popular.

This Son of God wasn’t born to ensure that anyone got that fancy new Lexus, rather Jesus was born because the world needed the reminder of who they are, the Children of God. Two thousand years later we still haven’t remembered. Two thousand years later we still haven’t absorbed the message of the miracle that began with the announcement to a young woman and the birth of her baby. We still haven’t learned the lessons taught by the Man the baby became. Listening has never been a strong trait in us humans.

History has shown that the excessive acquisition of material goods, hoarding of monetary resources, and the desire to rule, intimidate, demean, abuse and destroy the weak, and to see ourselves as gods leads to the destruction of our very being and as a result whatever society we create. Notice I said ‘we’ as in you, me and the gatepost not as in you, me, and God. Throughout history when leaders of societies forget who the real societal creators are, when leaders feel they are entitled to benefits they have not worked for, the collapse is inevitable. When enslaving the population becomes the means of economic reward, when we, the citizens, allow  leaders to deflect their responsibility for the failures of government and social welfare away from themselves and place it on the most vulnerable, and when we citizens fail to accept our part in the deception, then the culture and society we humans created becomes toxic and unable to sustain itself for very long.

What does any of this have to do with Christmas? Well, the birth of Jesus was supposed to signal a new age where the covenant with God would rule our lives. Every year we have the opportunity to renew our covenant and learn to live with God, however we define God.  Yet the ‘good will’ we profess never seems to last through Christmas Day let alone a year. Every Christmas I see people donating to charities in a spirit of good will, yet on January 1st the demeaning and dehumanizing of the most vulnerable continues as if Christmas never happened. Food banks will again have to beg for food donations, men, women, and children will still be homeless and hungry. We will continue to let our government put babies in concentration camps where they are abused physically and sexually and allowed to die. All as if Christmas never happen.

I am not sure how, or if, any of this can be changed. I certainly cannot change how people feel or change how they behave. I do try to give all year round, instead of at years end, to charities that feed the poor, care for the homeless, and fight injustice. But I am only one person, and an old woman, who tries to do her small bit. The tears I shed only feed my frustration at the lack of humanity I see in our political, social, and so-called religious leaders, but I can’t change them either.

I am heartened by the stand of young women world-wide who are fighting an uphill battle against ignorance, climate destruction, and injustice. I am placing my hope in them, praying they have the strength to fend off the assaults they have, and will continue to, experience because they speak out against the established rulers of our day. I pray they will not become discouraged; they will continue to voice the truth and continue to call to account those who would destroy us.  They are the new voices in the wilderness, the new voices of reason, and the new voices of truth. I pray they will not lose heart, that they will not be deflected from their chosen path by those who would marginalize them. May the light of whatever God they follow be with them.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 19, 2019

God’s Prayer

Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets, M.S. Burrows & J.M. Sweeney
Hampton Roads Publishing, 2019, pg. 70

Yesterday I received my copy of Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets and with some excitement opened the book, to this random page. It took me only a moment to read the few lines of the poem, but a lot longer for the shock to quiet, and the wonder set in. You see there have been more moments in my life than I care to admit that God has offered this prayer for me. This 7-line poem, inspired by Eckhart’s Selected Writings, was an unlooked-for blessing in a moment of need. Because today, you see, I needed to be reminded that God prays for me, that God wants me.

In the hours since I read the poem, I have thought of the many different ways I’ve answered Gods prayer and how many times I’ve ignored it. Over the years I’ve spent time talking to God asking why God would want to be born in me, me, a not so good, not so joyful, not so loving human.  A human filled with anger, frustration, confusion and, I’m just going to say this, hate. What would the Divine Being find worthy in me, despite my constantly ignoring the gift?

I’m afraid, even to this day, I haven’t found a whole lot of answers to my questions for God. Unfortunately, God can be quite silent on the reasons why, but persistent in praying. I guess I will have to be satisfied with knowing God wants me to have grace, especially since I remember many of the strange, wonderful, and mystical moments I have experienced. Before I offer a story that illustrates this, let me digress for just a bit.

The idea that God wants the Spirits grace to belong to me, us, that God prays we will want grace given, full abundant grace, without strings attached, has always felt just a little odd. God’s grace is a gift fit for royal/holy beings, and it is being given to you and me! Why wouldn’t any of us want such a gift? As humans we are used to knowing that nothing in this life is free. There are always strings attached, we may not see them, may not even be aware of them, but they are there. Yet here is the Divine just handing it out, for free.

God says the gift of grace is freely, abundantly given and without the necessity of paying back. To me that means in God’s eyes you and I are royal, holy beings, all we have to do is accept the gift. More importantly God wants to be born within us, to become part of us, and that means you and I become part of God. Now that is an offer we cannot turn down, right. Well we can and do turn it down for many reasons such as stubbornness, stupidity, or more likely fear. To be part of God, part of the creator, means we are partners in creation, and that means we are responsible for the care and wellbeing of creation and each other. That means we are to care for the weak, the young, the elderly, the stranger whether they are like us or not. So, yes all of us have turned God down, repeatably. The thing is God keeps asking, God never gives up on us. That is the God I know, a God who keeps trying, and keeps asking no matter how scared, stubborn, or stupid we might be.

Pride can be both a good and a bad trait, unfortunately for me pride is not always the best trait to have. Thirty or so years ago I thought I knew it all, I didn’t need God in my life, I didn’t need anyone, and, in my arrogance, I chose to do some things I’m now not very proud of. I didn’t break the law, but I hurt people who had trusted me. When I came to my senses, I realized somethings had to change but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Life can be funny sometimes and in one of those moments I had an experience that changed how I saw myself, my relationship with the Divine, and my relationship with the rest of creation. So, here is the first time I found God’s grace freely given.

As a graduate student at the University of Houston School of Public Health I often had the opportunity to go along with the biologists on bird banding trips in the Gulf of Mexico. We would band baby gulls and terns in the morning and then spend a couple of hours swimming in the gulf before returning to school. On this occasion I was floating along, I don’t swim so I was simply bobbing along while wearing a life vest, I was enjoying the warm water and the sun when I felt something brush against my leg. I looked down into the water and couldn’t see anything, so I thought I was imagining it when I felt it again.  My friend called from the boat and told me to be very still and hold my hand out at the surface of the water.  I didn’t know why I should, but I did.

To my amazement a fin appeared under my hand and a dolphin rose up and pulled me along in the water. I looked into the water and there were 3 or 4 dolphins swimming around me. At first, they moved me away from the boat and just let me “ride” against them. I could hear clicks and squeaks and they seemed to want to talk to me.  So, I talked to them, I was told later for about 15 to 20 minutes, which seemed to pass like seconds. For some unknown reason I told them about my fears, how confused I was, and how unkind I’d been. Amazingly they moved in closer and seemed to “hug” me, the air around me took on a golden color and I felt something within I had never felt before. Slowly they guided me back to our boat and sank into the gulf. Before I knew it, I was being pulled from the water. My friends told me they had never seen anything like it before. I, on the hand, seemed to be in this bubble of serenity. For the rest of the trip friends told me I had this rather goofy smile on my face.

I can’t say that everything was wonderful following that experience but, inside I felt a wall come down and the Divine stepping in. Life is still life, and not all events are perfect, but I found that letting go and letting someone else lead me gave me a new perspective on how to live my life. God’s prayer that I would want the grace given, that I would welcome the birth of God within had been answered that day. There have been other moments when I have forgotten the God within. But after going my own way and needing to be reminded as to who I am, who I belonged to, I would renew my relationship with God. I have found this is an ongoing process for me and suspect it is for everyone. But that moment in the Gulf of Mexico was the first time, and a special moment that has helped me recognize God’s presence, and God’s reminders.

When I opened my copy of this book of poems and saw this prayer it made me smile, it made my memories smile, it made me open my arms and once again welcome God. If nothing else this little prayer has made the whole book worthwhile. I desired God’s grace. I opened my heart and God has moved in. I am part of God, God is part of me, I am God’s partner in this amazing creative universe. I pray I am a good part (at least most of the time). Now my prayer for you:

May you desire God’s grace,
grace freely, abundantly, given,
so that God will be born within you.
Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©September 25, 2019