Dear People of the Parish of Church of the Ascension,
Be born in me...Make my heart your Bethlehem. Be born in me.
These words come from the refrain of a song entitled, "Be Born in Me", that is sung from the perspective of Mary. She confesses her confusion and even fear when the angel shows up to tell her the big news, that she will be the mother of God. When she comes to her "yes", which she acknowledges will be a path of not only joy but of pain, she realizes that she is saying yes not only for the world, but for herself as well.
If we hold the birth of Christ at a distance - that is in a story from long ago, or in the quaint scene of the creche at the front of the church - Christmas is no more than a time for pleasant get togethers, good food and some good cheer. If we, like the Mary portrayed in this song, allow the Christ Child to be born anew within our own hearts, then Christmas becomes something altogether different.
It is hard to find the time, the space and the energy to practice any kind of spiritual contemplation this time of year (this is coming from a priest!!). Yet I am struck by this notion of asking the Christ Child to make my heart his Bethlehem this year. I'm not completely sure what that will mean, but I am open to the possibilities. I invite you to take a few moments to contemplate where this might lead for yourself. One of the most powerful ways in which God is seen and known in this world is when God's people are reflecting the light of Christ. If Christ is born in new ways in our lives, people are going to see new things and that light is going to appeal to them.
I'm not sure there is any greater truth than the need for God's love to bring light into this world - through us!
As we come to the end of our first year together (can you believe it has almost been a year since I arrived??), I am filled with a deep gratitude. For this little church (with a very big heart), for your welcome of my family, your offers of friendship and care, and your baking gluten-free treats. The Spirit of the Christ Child is very much alive in this church, and I have been so richly blessed in my short time with you by that.
With one year past us, and all the busyness of getting to know each other, learning new ways of doing things, listening together to God's Spirit as we think about the future, I have a number of hopes that I hold in prayer for us as we enter a new year. I pray for continued conversation - that we will always be learning how to listen to each other and to God in new and growing ways. I pray for our hearts to hold all that they can as we explore how to continue to connect with our local community, as we explore our participation in healing and reconcilation with our indigenous sisters and brothers, as we dream and experiment with ministry directions that are either familiar or new. I pray we will live out of grateful hearts, focused on the abundance of resources we have (energy, time, people, vision, creativity, money) not the scarcity of what we think we should have.
What are your prayers for the next year for this community? Please share them with me, I would love to know.
This letter comes to you with my heartfelt hope that your Christmas celebrations will bless you with joy and new life and that you will enter the New Year with hope - a hope that is founded in the experience of the Christ Child being born anew within you.
With Peace, Ruthanne