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Spirituality

Dec. 23 Swaddling Cloths: Contain Love’s Form by Kris Light

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She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Luke 2:7 CEB

“Hold me tight,” she says to Joseph. Like a kitten held at arms length, limbs splayed, fearfully searching for the ground, her eyes repeat, “Just hold me tight for a while.” Sometimes a body needs to be held together, to reclaim those pieces centrifugal force is pulling apart. We need swaddling.
Did the Author of the Universe emerge from Mary’s womb limbs splayed, body quaking, searching for human comfort in the tight circle of her arms? Did she, grown herself within the wisdom of women, reach for bands of cloth to contain Love’s shimmering, shivering form, to hold his exquisite need for her within torn strips of linen?
Love’s fullness grown within womb’s embrace meets a yeasty explosion of scents and sounds in the dark shelter Mary accepts as home for the night. “Hold me tight,” God bellows. And she does.

Author of space and time, hold us tight as we attempt to hold you tight in our hearts this holiday season. Amen.

Dec. 22 Manger: It’s Still News! By Betty Brewer-Calvert

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Luke 2:7 CEB
She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a
manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger – a manger, the feed trough for the animals! Certainly not where you would expect to find the Messiah! Undoubtedly not where Mary expected to lay her baby to rest his head. Perhaps she smiled in wonder at the unexpectedness of it all – the surprise of carrying the Holy Child, the blessings that came from visiting her much older cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant, the faithfulness of Joseph despite the unorthodox events, and now the delivery in a stable far from home. There was nothing usual in any of it!
The humble birth of the Christ Child reminds us that God comes to us in unusual places, in unlikely people, and at unexpected times. Jesus was born into a world where the powerful sought to kill anyone who might challenge the status quo, where the chasm between rich and poor was deep, and where many longed for a Savior. Centuries later, Christmas still comes in the midst of chaos; and some might ask, why celebrate? We celebrate because God enters into our brokenness with a sign of hope. God responds to the world’s ills with the gift of love, made real to us in the birth of a child. The news of great joy given to the shepherds – a babe, God’s son, born and to be found lying in a manger – is still news. It is life-transforming news. Will we hear? Will we believe? Will we share?

Surprising God, thank you for the many ways you break into our lives – shining light in our darkness and hope in our despair. Help us to celebrate and share the gift of your love. Amen.

Dec. 21 Love: Love is an Open Gift by Ashley Sherard

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The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8 CEB

God is love. Wow, what a wonderful reminder for this time of anticipating the Christ Child’s birth!
Sometimes I look at my children and feel an overwhelming love between us, it’s an amazing feeling. I wonder what Mary felt when she looked at Jesus the first time. I wonder if her feelings of being overwhelmed by the love of this tiny baby in her arms was the same as mine or intensified by the fact that this child WAS love, in the flesh.
Christmas has become a time in which love is equated with the number of gifts under the tree and dollars spent on said gifts. Let’s take some time today to remember that love has walked among us on this earth. That God loved us so much He sent His Son in the form of a tiny baby. That Jesus is love and will provide an example of how to love one another as God intends us to. What a wonderful Christmas gift!

Loving God, open my eyes to see love in this world, to act in love as you taught us and accept the love you freely give to us. Help me to shed the scales from eyes and see the true miracle of love this Christmas and know, without a doubt, that the gift of love is the only thing I truly need. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Ideas for Families: Week 4 (a video from Disciples Home Missions)

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December 20 The Gifts of the Wise Travelers: The Span of a Lifetime by Kimberly Russell

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“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories I returned to work after a wonderful vacation visiting family. As I look through my email, I quickly piece together that while I was away, one of my patients died. This patient chose to go home and respect the life she had left. She was old enough to make decisions and she was educated enough to know what each option meant. For her, death was not the worst thing in the world. She returned home and thrived in the short term, and then her body began to shut down. Doctors wanted her to return so they could attempt a radical treatment, the same treatment she refused a few months earlier due to the agony and suffering attached. My patient was able to identify what she needed; family to be present and medicines to help with pain. She died peacefully, surrounded by love.

Our culture fears death and, as a society, we do everything in our power to avoid death. It would be frowned upon to give burial preparations as a baby shower gift yet that might have been exactly what one of the Wise Men did. In the time of Jesus, myrrh was mixed with aloes and anointed as part of the burial ritual. Life is limited and the next day on this earth is not guaranteed, even Jesus experienced death. Can we turn away from the fear of death and embrace our life as a complete beginning, middle and end? Can we respect one another enough to embrace each moment of life, even the last moment?

—Loving God, thank you for each moment, from the first breath of life to the last. Help me respect the entirety of lifetime and provide strength when life becomes difficult. When fear starts to take hold, I pray for peace and comfort. When I am gone and my loved ones are grieving, God, breathe life into my memories. Do not let my end become their end. Amen.