Saturday, 7 January 2017

Wisdom from the stable

Even though we will be celebrating Epiphany tomorrow as a congregation, yesterday was the official day. As a consequence, with the Christmas season now over, Glen and I finally pulled down all of our decorations and retired our tree to the basement for one more year.This also meant putting away the nativity scene, not unlike this one below.

As I wrapped the figures in tissue paper and carefully stored them away, I was reminded of RHUC's worship service on Christmas Day. Going by the assertion that December 25th on a Sunday is a "Christmas Day that just happens to be a Sunday" rather than a "Sunday that also happens to be Christmas", I generally resist the impulse to have a Christmas Day service when on other years the worship services are just on December 24. But that is not the tradition in Richmond Hill so a small group of us gathered on Christmas morning.

Knowing I would be preparing a sermon for the evening before, we opted to make the portion that would have been a sermon a time for personal reflection instead. I set up several "stations" where people could ponder the Christmas story. There was a table to reflect on poetry, another with copies of the text where people could meditate through lectio divina, and another on which was set a globe and people were invited to write prayers on post-it notes. There was also a station to light candles as well as a partition on which I had placed several paintings of the nativity from around the world.

One station was the congregation's nativity scene. I had set out pages of reflection questions, inviting people to decide which nativity character they were and why. That was my first stop and for some reason I felt drawn to the camel.

As I pondered her I was struck how excited she was to be part of the journey. She wasn't entirely sure where her magi was taking them but she was caught up in the hope and expectation. That seemed fitting. The journey of faith is like that. I'm not entirely sure where I am going but I know I need to be part of it nonetheless. The same is true of being in a new congregation. As a newbie, I don\t yet know where the journey is going to take us as a whole, but I need to be part of the caravan. As I pondered why I was the camel, I realized it is because she has internal resources. I was being reassured by the Spirit that I have been equipped with the gifts needed to be part of this congregational journey.

I moved on to the lectio divina station and prayerfully considered Luke 2:1-16.  As I read through it I was moved by one line: "...the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go now to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place'..." I felt a stirring inside of me to go deeper in my spiritual life. The resources that I am going to need will come not from me but rather a deeper relationship with Christ. I need to take time to go to my own inner Bethlehem.

This idea was reinforced as I went to one more station, the wall of images from around the world.

As I looked at an image of children playing with nativity figures, the message was clear. I cannot be a bystander to the story. I need to be a participant. And the only way to do this is to go deep in prayer, to take time each day for meditation, for contemplating scripture, for listening to the still, small voice of the Spirit inviting me into the heart of divine love. It's an invitation to take more time simply "being" rather than to spend all my time "doing".

I still hope that when Christmas Day lands on a Sunday again we won't have a service. But I'm thankful for the insights I received this time around.


  1. Getting that time for personal reflection and reconnection, James, is always low on the list, for some reason. But it's what gives the energy and the vision to grow. I wish you the very best in this new congregation and community.

  2. Thanks Sam. Wishing you a blessed 2017.