This year, February 18 marks Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. The forty days of Lent offer us an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the healing blessing of Easter. Our Lenten season is to be a time of deeper spiritual reflection, silence, study, and service, helping us in our soul’s ongoing healing process.
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In a recent issue of a newsletter from a NYC Church, those who had attended a retreat, along with groups from other churches, were asked three questions when they arrived back home.
The three questions asked are important ones. They were crafted to help them understand the dynamics of both the retreat they attended and, hopefully, their participation in the life of their faith community now that they were back home. I will alter the questions just a bit, but their focus will be the same. How do we fare as we engage in church life here at Old South?
January 6 marks the beginning of the season of Epiphany, defined as “manifestation, disclosure, revelation.” Spiritually, this season asks us to release some of our old ways of being in order to allow new light to enter our lives. We are invited to explore new awareness, new consciousness, new perspectives that come to us as the light of Christmas grows with each passing day.
The UCC Advent Devotional for December 18, 2014:
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Matthew 3:1-12
Church, can I confess something? I think I might hate the week before Christmas. Because at C-minus one week, all I can see is the wrath to come.
It is the wrath of express shipping on extra candle drip protectors, and office parties that make an audit seem painless by comparison.
It is the wrath of frantic and unpleasant shopping trips that leave me kicking myself for sleeping in on Black Friday … again.
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem’s stable is a wonderfully celebrative event. That is as it should be. It is what Christmas is all about. But I fear we have domesticated it and sanitized it way too much. We celebrate the Nativity with angels singing, shepherds kneeling, cattle lowing, Magi coming, Handel’s music playing, and on and on. One of my favorite hymns has a verse: ‘The cattle were lowing, the poor baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.’ What kind of a baby is that? Thus Jesus was born? Or so we think.
December brings us the season of Advent, when we are invited for four weeks before Christmas to live into a pregnant waiting, a time of reversals, an anticipation of the unknown, and a joyful preparation for the coming of the One who offers us a new perspective on life, a new way of being. Madeline L’Engle reminds us:
“It is the irrational season, When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason, There’d have been no room for the child.”
The UCC Advent Devotional for November 30, 2014:
“Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” Mark 13:24-37
As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, a prayer for the feast, for the gathering, for life itself, undergirded by God’s mercy and grace, is certainly appropriate … yea even required! Here are some prayers, gleaned from several sources, that might be helpful.
November ushers in a season of bright orange pumpkins, steaming cups of tea, brisk frosty mornings, and cozy evenings by the fire. It is the month we celebrate our American tradition of Thanksgiving, which has its roots in Hebrew scriptural practices offering God the “first fruits” of our harvests. We honor God whose creativity and grace has given us these gifts. We are to remember with gratitude that life itself is a gift from God. Gratitude is at the center of a healthy spiritual life, growing out of the awareness that we are all the offspring of God’s wellspring.
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