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. 

Advertisements

Mr. Santa Chase

Nevertheless, those who receive instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6: 6-10 (TNIV)

I was seven years old when Santa Claus appeared on my doorstep-long white beard, skinnier than I imagined and dressed in ‘normal clothes’ (perhaps he was going incognito for Christmas morning). But there he was! Carrying a package just for me!

My parents were delighted and looked relieved, and I was overjoyed to receive a handmade SASHA doll that Christmas! What a joyful day!

Charles Chase, aka SantaAs I grew up, I recognized Santa Claus in our small town. He worked in a shop called the Folk Music Center and was known-in his Claremont, California home as Mr. Chase. Mr. Chase (my Santa) made appearances throughout the year at the shop that sold those special dolls, along with guitars, ukuleles, banjos and drums, music from all over the world and the most fascinating coloring books I’d ever seen. The Folk Music Center, I imagined, was the southern California outpost of Santa’s Workshop, specializing in all-things-hippy.

Later in my life I heard the story from my parents’ perspective. As they were doing their Christmas shopping at the Southern California outpost of the Santa’s Workshop. they mistakenly picked up the display model container without the doll inside. They did not realize the container was empty until Christmas Eve when they were wrapping up the gifts for the grand unveiling on Christmas morning. Panicked, they phoned Santa at his home late Christmas Eve and asked him for some help. Instead of a cranky daughter who would open an empty package on Christmas morn, they woke to a delighted and amazed little girl who’d been privileged to a personal visit from Santa himself.

Mr. Chase, in his decision to help out a frazzled and panicked set of young parents, is the embodiment of Paul’s words in Galatians 6: 9-10:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

If we sow the seeds of love, joy, peace and hope in the busy holiday season, we will reap the harvest of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Conversely, if we sow the seeds of anxiety, distraction, stress and dysfunction, we will reap the harvest born of those negative things.

In our franticness and stress have we given up trying to do good? When does our activity become a spiritual detriment? How can we be the embodiment of the good news for others this season?

***

Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens is a native of Southern California, where she began her work experience as an artist. She achieved her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art from Scripps College in 1994. Her call from God occurred rather suddenly in 1998 and God provided a path to attend seminary. Krista is a proud graduate of the Claremont School of Theology achieving her Masters of Divinity in 2001 and her Doctor of Ministry degree in 2007. Her doctoral thesis was centered in Ethics and pertains to the disciplinary rule for single pastors to be celibate and is titled: A Choice for Whole Love: Single and Celibate in the United Methodist Church. Krista’s previous appointments include an Associate Pastor position to the congregation of Kailua United Methodist Church in Kailua, Hawaii and a Senior Pastor position to the congregation of Westchester United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. She was ordained as an Elder in the California-Pacific Annual Conference in 2005 and has been the pastor at Hamburg’s International United Methodist Church since 2007.

Presence and Praying for Peace

Two nights ago I attended a candlelight vigil, I had received a text message about it earlier in the day and knew only that a man had been beaten. The text cam from my husband who had heard about this through his volunteer/community ties. From the context of the message I received I suspected hate of some form had to with the beating. I did not have much to go on, but I was moved enough to go to the vigil, and to wear my vestments, although no one had asked me to.

When I arrived at the vigil it was a small gathering and this surprised me, but not for long. I soon found the “organizer” of the event and spoke with him. It turns out that the man who had been beaten, Jason, had been living in a local canyon and someone had beaten him in the head with a rock. No words were said at the vigil no statements made or prayers pronounced. Rather people stood around and talked quietly with others that they knew as they held candles, while Jason fought for his life in the hospital. Many the people gathered knew Jason, some were from the local GLBT community. It was simply a gathering of solidarity.

Shortly after I arrived I was approached by a man in a collar. Turns out this man who spoke with me was a gay Independent American Catholic priest who had left the Roman Catholic Church disheartened by what appeared to be the Catholic Church’s refusal or inability to protect victims of the sexual abuse scandal. The priest reported to me that he was there because he knew Jason; the priest explained that he had met Jason while teaching in the local community. Both the priest and I were there simply to show our solidarity with the victim of this senseless crime and his chosen family, as Jason lay in a hospital bed, reportedly, with a very poor prognosis. We were there to provide presence to those who had gathered; all those who had gathered had gathered to be present.

Later in the evening a group of people came out of the hospital and physically leaned on some of those who had gathered for the vigil. They were Jason’s chosen family. One of the women in this group spoke with me and thanked me for being there. I did not do anything, but I was there. It was a reminder for me of how powerful our simple presence can be for others in time of crises.

So what about the vestments? I thought about this, particularly as the media came in and took pictures of the gathering. It may seem presumptuous, and perhaps it could be seen as such. At moments I felt a bit odd standing there, holding a candle in my clergy robe. But it was not presumptuous. It was not presumptuous because in many ways this event was the parable of the good Samaritan made real in the contemporary context. Here was a man and his extended community in crises and of course it was the role of the clergy to stop and bear witness to the pain of the other in crises. I was not there to fix anything I could not do that. But I could bear witness.

That is not the only reason I was there, though. We live in a society of great violence and marginalization of the poor, the GLBT community, the disability community, those who live with mental illness, those who struggle with addiction or propensity toward violence, and anyone else who steps beyond our norms. The truth is I do not know if Jason belonged to any of these categories expect being poor–he was living in the canyon. I do know, however, that we can not continue to accept senseless and extreme violence toward others within our community and continue to consider our society civilized, period. So I wore my vestments to show that God is with all who suffer, and that the marginalized are noticed by the communities who seek to bring God into the world. I wore my vestments, and I was there silently witnessing the suffering senseless violence perpetrates on its victims and on the community around the victims of violence. I did not offer to pray and I was not asked to pray; Jason’s family told the reporter who covered the “story” they were praying for his recovery. It was a gathering of presence and silent prayer. My prayer was one of peace not only for Jason, but for the community immediately around him, and our larger community that has become so fractured that such violence can occur without community uproar but rather be noted on the evening news before we all tuck into bed for a brief night’s sleep. God help us all.
A photo of  Jason, a homeless man who was beaten in the head with a rock, a candlelight vigil held in his honor.