Interlude: O Come Emmanuel, by the Piano Guys, fading out at 2:30
Merry Christmas! It is the 10th day of Christmas, according to tradition, but some folks are already taking down their Christmas trees. The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music, and folks are heading back to school and work. We spend so much time celebrating Christmas before Christmas, during Advent, that celebrating the 12 days of Christmas has fallen by the wayside.
What was Advent like for you this year? Did you spend much time in contemplation of the meaning of Christmas? Did you clear a space for a Christmas tree? Or for cards on your mantelpiece? The Advent readings and some of the carols talk about Emmanuel, which means God with us. Every time we sit down to meditate, it is a kind of Advent. Preparing for God in our hearts and minds, we clear the space.
And how was Christmas? Did Santa bring everything on your list? Were your favorite gifts from the store, or were they smiles, hugs, a kiss under the mistletoe, a phone call, or maybe a visit in the coffee shop? Every so often, I do get a Christmas gift that comes from the store that I really enjoy — like this tablet I’m using. But for years now, it seems that the real joy comes from being with people I love. Even in the big gatherings, I may not have much time to talk with everyone, but just seeing them and hearing their laughter across the room is a gift of joy.
And now it is the New Year. 2017. This is another time of anticipation. What’s going to happen this year? A marriage in the family? A new baby? What will the new government in Washington do? What improvements, and traffic delays, will we see from the passage of Measure D? What are you looking forward to? Are you worried? We don’t know how 2017 will turn out, but if you’re really worried about 2017 — and even if you’re not, let me remind you what Paul’s letter tells us:
The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. [1 Peter 4:7-10]
Whatever comes, we can be sure that “God With Us”, that Emmanuel, is the desired state, keeping room for God in our hearts.
Our meditation practice reminds us that God is always close. Meditation is our personal Advent, that we practice throughout the year. We sit in expectation that God will come, making space in our minds and in our lives for Emmanuel, “God with us.” And every day of this New Year, in every interaction, we can carry a personal Christmas, the gift of our selves, filled with the Love and Holy Spirit that we invite into our hearts in meditation.
So Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. May you be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” and be the gift Emmanuel blesses you to be.
Delivered at La Selva Beach Community Church, January 3, 2017.