The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year.  It is.  And it isn’t, not for many who are alone, those living in poverty, prisoners.  The children who see the expensive toys on TV, but know they are not going to receive anything.  It has always seemed odd to me that we celebrate the birth of Christ by going into great debt.  Yet, I still love Christmas time, the generosity of  many, the good cheer, the anticipation of Christmas day.  As Christians, however, I think we should be celebrating the birth of Christ everyday, we need to have the spirit of Christmas with us always.  We should always be generous, always visit the sick and those in prison, always sharing the good news.  What is the good news?  I think this poem by John Shelby Spong says it most beautifully.  May all be blessed this Christmas time and every day.

Christpower by Bishop John Shelby Spong

Far back beyond the beginning,
stretching out into the unknowable,
unfathomable depths, dark and void,
of infinite eternity behind all history,
the Christpower was alive.
This was the
bursting, pulsing
generating, creating
smoldering, exploding
fusing, multiplying
emerging, erupting
pollenizing, inseminating
heating, cooling
power of life itself: Christpower.
And it was good!
all things that we know
began their journey into being.
light separated from darkness.
Christpower began to take form.
life became real,
and that life spread into
emerging new creatures
into ever higher intelligence.
There was a sacrifice here
a mutation there.
There was grace and resurrection appearing
in their natural order,
occurring, recurring,
and always driven by the restless,
life force of God, called the Christpower,
which flowed in the veins of every living thing
for ever
and ever
and ever
and ever.
And it was good!
In time, in this universe,
there emerged creatures who were called human,
and the uniqueness of these creatures
lay in that they could
this life-giving power.
They could name it
and embrace it
and grow with it
and yearn for it.
Thus human life was born,
but individual expressions of that human life
were marked with a sense of
and a hunger
that drove them ever beyond the self
to search for life’s secret
to seek the source of life’s power.
This was a humanity that could not be content with
anything less.
And once again
in that process
there was
sacrifice and mutation,
grace and resurrection
now in the human order,
occurring, recurring
And it was good!
Finally, in the fullness of time,
within that human family,
unique and special human life appeared:
at one
at peace
at rest.
In that life was seen with new intensity
that primal power of the universe,
And it was good!
Of that life people said: Jesus,
you are the Christ,
for in you we see
and feel
and experience
the living force of life
and love
and being
of God.
He was hated,
he was never distorted.
For here was a life in which
the goal, the dream, the hope
of all life
is achieved.
A single life among many lives.
among us, out from us,
and yet this power, this essence,
was not from us at all,
for the Christpower that was seen in Jesus
is finally of God.
And even when the darkness of death
overwhelmed him,
the power of life resurrected him;
for Christpower is life
without beginning,
without ending.
It is the secret of creation.
It is the goal of humanity.
Here in this life we glimpse
that immortal
most blessed
most glorious
almighty life-giving force
of this universe
in startling completeness
in a single person.
Men and women tasted the power that was in him
and they were made whole by it.
They entered a new freedom,
a new being.
They knew resurrection and what it means to live
in the Eternal Now.
So they became agents of that power,
sharing those gifts from generation to generation,
creating and re-creating,
transforming, redeeming,
making all things new.
And as this power moved among human beings,
once more separated from darkness.
And it was good!
They searched for the words to describe
the moment that recognized the fullness of this power
living in history,
living in the life of this person.
But words failed them.
So they lapsed into poetry:
When this life was born,
they said,
a great light split the dark sky.
Angelic choruses peopled the heavens
to sing of peace on earth.
They told of a virgin mother,
of shepherds compelled to worship,
of a rejecting world that had no room in the inn.
They told of stars and oriental kings,
of gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
For when this life was born
that power that was
and is
with God,
the endless beginning,
was seen
even in a baby
in swaddling clothes
lying in a manger.
Jesus, you are the Christ.
To know you is to live,
to love,
to be.
O come, then, let us adore him!

What is Worship?

What is worship?  Why do we come to church? Pastor Susan posed these questions while I was visiting last month.  Yesterday I attended a clergy gathering here in Iowa.  One of the ministers shared about the Wednesday evening meal that is served at her church in Council Bluffs.  A few members of her congregation started the meal program a few years ago as a way to serve the homeless.  Most of the people who come, however, are not homeless.  Many of those that come for the meals are from group homes in the area, people with special needs.  People who are not welcome in most public places because they are different; this dinner offers them an opportunity for a night out. Others have jobs, but are struggling in the current economy.  Still others come just to have a place to be, to be with others so they aren’t alone.  The numbers have grown so that now there are usually over 100 people who come for dinner each Wednesday evening.  The atmosphere seems like that of a coffee shop where friends gather to share the events of the week.  People come early just to get a cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade and visit with friends.  Often the coffee is gone before the dinner begins.  There is usually a big mess to clean up after people leave since many of the diners have poor motor skills.  There is a joy, however,  that seems to permeate the fellowship hall which lingers long after dinner.  A member of the congregation thought they should start a regular worship service after dinner.  Pastor Jann, however, thinks there is more worship on Wednesday evening with coffee and dinner than what happens on Sunday morning.  So I thought of Susan’s question again.  What is worship?