17-19 But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: “In the last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.” These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!
20-21 But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas - the homes are decorated, stores are full and there is now even snow on the ground. I read that Fred Craddock said he didn't even bother preaching against consumerism during the holidays because it was like spitting into the wind. That is old news I suppose.
Except that what I keep experiencing now that I no longer am surrounded by believers is that for most people this season really seems to be about buying and receiving gifts. There is a nod in the direction of Jesus and maybe singing some carols. But I notice that if I listen to the radio stations that have only Christmas music - more and more of that music is secular and not religious.
So then it seems we really do have to make a decision to "stay right at the center" of God's love and intentionally spend time in prayer and openness to the presence of God. I am grateful always for the opportunity on a Sunday to go to church or to attend a retreat like I did on Saturday. But most important to my centering myself is the daily engagement through whatever means - reading, writing, silence, praying. All of that helps me to remember again that it is in Jesus that I experience grace, peace and hope. This Christmas celebration of his birth is an opportunity to show my love for others through giving but it is also a time for reflection on the potential "birthing" that he is still doing with me. And with all of us.
Here is an appropriate blessing from Maxine Shonk
May the God of CONTEMPLATION bless you,
calling you into the still point of Divine Presence.
Out of the silent center of your being may you bring serenity and peace
to every circumstance and to each person.
May your contemplation bear fruit in the words that you speak and the work that you do.
May the God of CONTEMPLATION bless you.