The Word is Near You

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

—Romans 10: 5-13

“The word is near you, on your lips and on your heart.”

Wow! On our lips and on our hearts! But Christmas is closer—only three days away!—and you may be in the midst of the last-minute frenzy. Two days left to shop, wrap, bake, travel… not to mention the Christmas Eve service, pageant, and Christmas morning service. Isn’t there a law against Christmas falling on Sunday? There just isn’t enough time!!! STOP. “The word is near you, on your lips and on your heart.”

Why are we doing this? Why are we engaged in this craziness of getting ready? We are supposed to be waiting for the birth of a baby. Babies come when they are ready. Mary had craziness going on around her: a census, traveling while pregnant, packing supplies and food, not knowing where they would stay, not knowing if she would deliver her child during the trip. We can’t know how she felt, but we can guess that she felt some craziness about getting ready. But she did it; she trusted the word on her lips and in her heart. God had promised her a son, and she trusted the word of God.

Maybe we can sit back and wait for that baby. Isn’t that what Advent is really about? Let’s stop and feel the word near us, on our lips and in our hearts. Let’s concentrate on what we can do to celebrate the gift that has transformed the world; the gift that is still transforming the world through the power of God’s love; the gift that is in us and around us and that works through us. Let’s celebrate that transformative work of the ever-creating God.

You’ve probably bought enough. The wrappings only stay on for moments. (I have a friend who only wraps the top of boxes!) Do we really need an extra dozen cookies? Christmas cards? Call them New Year’s greetings because they’ll get read more thoroughly after Christmas.

Let’s concentrate of sharing the love on our lips and on our hearts, the wildly extravagant, never-ending, bigger-than-we-can-dream-of love of God, incarnate in a baby, quietly, humbly, born to give us hope and love forever.

***

Terri Gibbons is a member in discernment in the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of the Claremont School of Theology and plans to serve her ministry as a Chaplain for end-of-life care.

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Waiting

almost top view of fancy liturgical candles on a gold mount.Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

All this waiting.

I’m tired of waiting.

And here I find myself in an entire season of waiting.

I’m tired of waiting for friends and family to find jobs.

I’m tired of waiting for the housing market to rebound.

I’m tired of waiting for the country to stop arguing about divisive issues with derogatory discourse.

I’m tired of waiting for my denomination to stop fighting to its death over who gets to be a minister and instead start ministering to the wounds of the world—including the ones we ministers have caused.

I’m tired of waiting to find time for ritual artistry, mission vision and sermon creation at the end of the week after the administration and budget balancing work is done.

And now, in this season of waiting and anticipation of the beautiful light of Christmas, it seems there are even more things both to do and to fail to do, more finances to worry about, more details to manage and more necessary distractions.

When did we change from the children who couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive to the adults who can’t wait until Christmas is over?

How is it we find ourselves hurtling toward the Holy Child each year as one more task to get past?

Just wait until next Christmas, we promise ourselves, it won’t be this way next year!

But why wait?

Start now, with 12 days left until Christmas Eve.

Reclaim THIS Christmas right now.

There really is no need to just wait until next year.

Pause a moment now, yes, wait just a moment, and consider what most evokes the holy to you in this season. Spend another moment and let yourself be surrounded by that particular sense of the holy.

Now, in the 12 days that remain, consider one life-giving activity or tradition or memory from childhood or years past, and find another moment or two to remember it or even reclaim it.

One year, for me, this was to open a set of angel candle chimes from their 99-cent box, build them, light them and watch the angels spin from the rising heat of the candlelight. The table they were on was a mess, but I didn’t care. All I saw was the light and motion, and I heard the faint sound of a Christmas long past that became Christmas present.

What in your church, what in your home, what in your heart would give you a holy moment?

In each day, in those odd moments of reflection or even concern, pause to consider the holy.

Pause to surround yourself with a holy memory or create a holy moment.

Pause with the hope and prayer that come Christmas Eve, your season will already be filled with holy remembrances, holy moments and holy light.

Welcome the Holy Child with your heart already filled with a sense of Divine presence in your life.

We wait each year for the celebration of Divine Light in our lives, yet there really is no need to wait.

The Holy Light shines already.

Divine Creator, in this season of anticipation, guide us toward our hopes for the future fueled by our fondest memories of the past. We pause in prayer and in hope that in any moment time expands to fill with the Holy Light of Divine Love. In your most holy names we pray, Amen.

***

Rev. Karen Clark Ristine is a minister at Mission Hills United Methodist Church. After more than 20 years as a journalist, she entered seminary in 2006 and has been working in ministry ever since. After a lifelong tradition of sending out scores of Christmas cards each year, she was surprised to discover the irony that, as a minister, she no longer seemed to have time to continue that tradition.