Greetings, dear ones,
As I sit to write this reflection, our area of the world is anticipating our first significant snowfall of the winter to come. It’s almost 5 p.m., and the shadows of twilight have given way to the depth of darkness that comes so very early at this time of year. I light a candle not because I need the light to see (the electricity is working just fine!), but because I am centered by the ritual of doing so. And when I light a candle mindfully, I always say the same quiet Celtic prayer that I memorized years ago:
“Christ, as a light, illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield, o’ershadow and cover me. Christ be under me; Christ be over me. Christ be beside me on left hand and right. Christ be before me, behind me, about me. Christ this day be within me and without me.”
It’s a simple ritual that never fails to quiet my spirit for at least a moment or two. And, let me tell you – my spirit has been anything but quiet lately, given all that continues to rile me up and break my heart about our world. It seems as though every day brings new sorrows and new outrage: from the horrific acts of anti-Semitism (yes, the shooting in PA, but also so many seemingly smaller acts of hatred that are rising in frightening frequency), to the environmental destruction we humans have brought to our Earth resulting in such fiery devastation in California and elsewhere, to the hubris-filled power grabs of national leaders, to the inhumanity encouraged by those same leaders that demands that we turn our backs on the people that Jesus himself told us are most precious in God’s sight: the last, the lost, and the least. I’m grateful for the ongoing willingness of our communities to gather and light candles and shout for justice in light of these horrors, but wish with all my heart that those gatherings weren’t needed. I light a candle when I attend rallies. I light a candle when I write “Get Out the Vote” postcards. I light a candle before (and sometimes after) particularly troubling hospice visits, or before I preach a sermon that I’m sure might cross a line or two as it calls us to have the courage to stand up against oppression, violence, and hatred. I light a candle whenever I need to remember that, in spite of what the world looks like when we hear the news of the day, love is. Love is strong, love is powerful, love is tender, love is real. Love is.
“Love is the only answer to every question. It is the only thing that will serve you in every situation. It is the route and the destination. It is medication, liberation and should be at the heart of and expression of your vocation.” So wrote Rasheed Ogunlaru, a motivational writer about whom I know pretty much nothing. (He may be a complete charlatan, for all I know. Still, these words ring true to me.)
Not long after Thanksgiving, we begin the liturgical season of Advent, in which we’ll hear stories of terrified refugees and angelic messengers, of shepherds and kings, light and shadows. We’ll hear the old, old story of a silent night long ago, and remember that into a world every bit as broken as ours, a child was born whose name is Love, whose gift is Light, and who reminds us to be not afraid. I invite you to join us for all of that, whether you claim the name of Christian or not. Love, after all, is universal. Love, as a light, illumine and guide me. Love, as a shield, o’ershadow and cover me. Love be under me; Love be over me. Love be beside me on left hand and right. Love be before me, behind me, about me. Love this day be within me and without me.
Wishing you and yours and all the world peace and love,