Good News: A Weekly Update from St Thomas—December 15, 2016
It’s still Advent! Despite what commercials, retail stores and the seemingly constant sale ads that keep showing up in emails, it is not Christmas yet. It is still Advent. It is still that time of preparation and waiting. Of course, this means there is still time to obsess about the perfect gifts, getting the shopping done, and all the last minute details. But there is also still time to reflect on the wonder and the beauty of this season, and all the memories that may arise. Over the last two weeks I have learned of the deaths of two women who were extraordinary figures in my life. One was my grandmother, Catherine Madeline Steinberg (known as Medeline to her friends and my grandfather, as Nana to me and her 15 grandchildren and several great and great-great grandchildren), who left this life at the age of 108. I am the oldest grandchild, and the bond we had was very special. She told me some time ago that she didn’t want to see another Christmas; that she had loved her life, but it was enough. She has had her wish fulfilled. There are so many memories of Christmases past: times that were good for our family, and times that were not so good. Memories that are joyful and sad all at once.
The other woman was The Rev. Dr Margaret Guenther, an extraordinary teacher and spiritual director, a woman of great wisdom, common sense and humor at the whole human endeavor. I met her later in her life – she did not enter seminary until after age 50 – first as a professor, and then as my spiritual director during the early years of my ministry. She was also the author of several books, and in her writing I could hear her speaking voice, sometimes whimsical, often thoughtful, always down to earth. She spoke often of our time together as “Two poor Christians, finding our way home together.”
And so we are – humans finding our way through this life, finding our way home. Along the way we have many companions – and we are companions to many. We learn from every relationship, and often we grieve the loss of those who impacted us most, and whose presence we miss, especially around holidays, and especially around Christmas. So, if you find it a little hard to find your “fa,la,la,la,la” sometimes, you are in good company.
One of the gifts of Advent is the invitation to take time: to be reflective about times past and experiences we have had; to remember those who have shared our lives in times past, and are no longer here; to think about events in our own lives this year that change our place or manner of celebrating Christmas.
This Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Advent. All four of the candles in the Advent wreath will be lit, reminding us of the light that has come into the world and continues to enter our hearts and lives. After this Sunday we will still have five days of Advent. May each of us find a bit of time to remember, reflect and give thanks to God for all the people who have touched our lives – and who have allowed us to touch theirs.
Let us pray:
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Peace and blessing,