Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating St. Thomas, "The Doubter"

Adapted from William Bright, in The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Phyllis Tickle)

How often, Lord, your face has shone
On doubting souls whose wills were true!
You Christ of Peter and of John
You are the Christ of Thomas too.

He loved you well, and firmly said,
"Come, let us go, and die with him";
Yet when your Easter news was spread,
Mid all its light his faith was dim.

His brethren's word he would not take,
But craved to touch those hands of thine;
When you did your appearance make,
He saw, and hailed his Lord Divine.

He saw you risen; at once he rose
To full belief's unclouded height,
And still through his confession flows
To Christian souls your life and light.

O Savior, make your presence known
To all who doubt your Word and thee,
And teach us in that Word alone
To find the truth that sets us free.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent pick-me-ups

I struggle with holidays. The last couple Christmases I've been sick and/or depressed. Often on Easter I don't feel very alive, or very joyful. Advent is usually so busy that it's hard to remember what it's all about. This year, as my faith sharing group, pastor, and others have reminded me to look for where God is coming into the world every day, in little and big ways, I've instead become overwhelmed by all the ways I'm not seeing God. Sure, I can relate with the Old Testament prophecies about the need for a Messiah... I believe I can empathize with the people of Israel who were/are longing desperately for such a Savior... but looking at the way things are around me - in the world, in the church, even in my own struggles with sin and questions about evil - it makes me want to ask, "Really? The Messiah has come? Shouldn't things be different, then?"

So I'm wrestling with all of this, and it's not easy, but I've noticed some bright spots which I'll share here:

Putting up a Christmas tree in our apartment helped. (I'm infinitely grateful to my roommate for that!) Sitting by the tree and taking time to reflect helps.

A group of friends who came over the other night and shared about how they are experiencing Advent helped. We all share a passion for serving poor and broken people... the kind of people Jesus came to save, yes? ...and it helps me to be with them, hear their stories, lean on them for support, watch them for glimpses of hope.

This morning, Scripture helped. For some reason, I had Psalm 46:10 in my head so I decided to turn there - only, I went to Psalm 146 on accident, and read the entire Psalm before realizing it was different than the one I meant to read. But it's ok - both were helpful to me! Both are about the Lord being an abundant helper, reminding me that I can't live this life - this worshiper-and-disciple-of-Christ life - alone, in my own strength. Also, kind of a side note but what was also encouraging to me - about the verse "Be still and know that I am God...": in my version (which I've often noticed before) it says "Cease striving and know that I am God." Today I noticed that the word "striving" is in italics, which means that it has been added by translators. So, to take the verse literally, it says: "Cease and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." What is interesting to me is that the previous two verses are about the works of the Lord in the earth - essentially, putting an end to wars and violence. And then it goes right into God speaking for himself: "Cease". Not that I don't appreciate how I've always before understood this verse - that we as people should stop and be still and be aware of Who God is - but it makes me excited to think that God is talking to all the evil things going on in the world, and saying: Stop. I'm God, and I will triumph.

Another bright spot for me (anytime, not just in Advent) is spending time with children. Fortunately, this week, I've been able to do that every day. This afternoon I'll do it again, babysitting two three-year-old boys (yup, that should be fun!). It's easier to have hope when I'm with little ones.

I'll end this with some words my Mom wrote recently, which I'd like to share with anyone who, like me, has difficulty celebrating in the midst of a suffering world.

"I pray you all are enjoying Advent trusting God’s promises of righteousness, justice, and peace for our hurting world and our sometimes discouraged spirits, and living in the hope that God has something good in store for all in the future."

Because it's true, it's true - we have a Messiah in whom we can hope. I just need to be reminded often.