DH Update 5, Week of Christmas, 2022
Wed. December 28, 2022
Wednesday Meditation (Isaiah 7:13,14)
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Many questions. Yes, too many questions come to mind. But this is not the week for questions. Indeed, this is the weak for glorifying and praising God. Yet, since Boxing Day I have been amazed. Amazed at all these people who have felt that somehow they missed a day of shopping or outing because of the terrible snow and wind storm on Christmas Eve. They are out in full force at every store. They are determined to get the bargain before the year end sales are over. It is a sight to behold–the packed parking lots and packed stores.
We may sing carols and attend worship on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, feeling kind of happy to have attended to our spiritual needs. Now we are out in full force to have fun and spend time together with parties and shopping. Glorifying and praising are subsiding everywhere. Indeed, the Sunday after Christmas is known as the low Sunday. It is the Sunday for many people to enjoy rather than worry about our spiritual needs.
I am not begrudging any partying or shopping. In a way, Christ’s coming means peace for all–time of rejoicing and being who we are called to be before God who created us. I am simply pondering why so many people are out and about busily buying more as if they have not bought enough or why they feel so geared to buy more in these last days of the year.
It appears that many of us are simply unable to know what it means to be filled with joy and peace to glorify and praise God as we contemplate the good news of Jesus’ birth. Instead of being full of joy for our lives–now that we remember again God’s love for us in Jesus’ birth–we seem to search for that something which is missing in life, depriving us of joy. Our joys are simple. Sometimes it is nothing more than being together with our own loving family enjoying each other. Yet, today, most of our houses are empty because everyone is searching to buy something to make oneself happy. If we truly believe and know that our spirits, souls and hearts are filled with joy and peace, one more bargain is not what we would be after. If we genuinely understand that our lives are full because of Jesus’ birth, then, glorifying and praising would be our daily expressions of being alive. Surely the birth of the Messiah can be enjoyed even more enthusiastically if we come to know that God satisfies all our needs through the love of Christ.
The Storm of the Centuries
There is nothing much to see when a blizzard hits and winds are howling. When a blizzard begins, it is not a time to be outside. We were warned for many days that it was coming. People were asked to prepare and not venture out. I remember blizzards we used to have in Winnipeg. Everyone knew what to do. We hunkered down and no one moved until everything was over. Then, we would dig out. Usually winds would move snow to one side of the house as high as a roofline. We used to make tunnels. We used to talk about the big one that made people who worked downtown stay in Eaton’s for three days. Even when the offices and shops closed before noon many people could not go home. Stragglers were always invited into the nearest house.
The world is different now. Some people have to work no matter what. It is a tragedy to hear that some employees were not let out until after their shifts. The news spoke of a young woman who got stranded in her car and was found dead in Buffalo. Many people were unable to prepare. It appears that they could not get ready because of their personal circumstances. In other cases some people chose simply to hunker down in their homes and emergency crews could not get there in time.
There were many stories of rescues and grateful people, but it is so sad to hear about those deaths. We pray for their families, friends and communities. It is shocking to hear about these tragedies. Our hearts cry with all those who lost their loved ones. These big disasters seem to be more frequent now. Somehow we seem to be less prepared than ever before. No matter how good the warning systems we put in place, there are always unexpected numbers of deaths. There is little or nothing we can do in helping when these disasters damage our world, taking lives away.
Yet, in these moments, we learn to love and care for one another. We realize the fragility of life and put more love into every relationship we have with each other. We look at every person and see how delicate and frail our lives are and take special care. After all, our Lord’s birth reminds us that we ought to love one another so that each person can live life fully in love, compassion, mercy and grace. This is not a lesson taught by these disasters. If we share the life of love, compassion, mercy and grace, we would cry together and hold each other tight so that lives are valued as wonderful gifts from God. We would be sad if someone dies, but in love we would surround each other with God’s love. Though lives get taken in these powerful disasters, the Life of Christ will sustain each and everyone.
A new calendar year is just around the corner. Of course, we are into remembering what 2022 was like and looking forward to 2023. Mind you, marketers are already ahead of the curve. They have been touting the 2023 cars since September. All our television program schedules will either change or be refreshed. Different colours or design elements will be introduced to give us visual cues that something new is happening. In order to get there, however, we have to get through New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day rituals.
Of course, our Christian new year began with Advent. Unlike the secular new year celebration that takes place mostly counting down on New Year’s Eve each second until the zero hour of the New Year’s Day, we celebrate four Sundays with praise glorifying God and participate in the God’s saving act of sending Jesus into the world. In those four weeks of preparation, we remember God’s promises for our future. Hope, peace, joy and love are essential elements in Christian life. These are four blessings we continually receive from Christ.
All rituals, including secular rituals like New Year’s Eve Countdown and setting new year’s resolutions make us get in touch with things that are meaningful in our lives. A major difference between Christian and secular rituals is that Christian rituals connect us to and let us experience God’s presence among us. Secular rituals on the other hand is an attempt at marking time by events which allow us to entertain and pleasure ourselves. By experiencing pleasure and through entertainment people try to hope in these wish making activities.
Unlike what we have been taught, Christian rituals are not work. It is participation in peace and joy of God that have been extended to God’s creation. It is a foretaste of being present with God. As God instituted Sabbath as the rest in order to complete the work that has been done in the previous six days, our Christian rituals call us to cease our work and be part of that rest which completes all that we have done up to that point in time. In rituals of worship in all our Christian holidays, we connect with God through our sabbatical rest.
Worship is not work. Worship is time away from work. When we sing praises and pray, we rejoice in gladness and gratitude, not as work we must do, but as offerings of our hearts, minds and spirits. When we hear the Scripture read and interpretations of what was read, it is an occasion for us to be silent–that is, stop working with our minds and intellect, but receive God’s gifts for our lives.