December 5, 2018

Good Christian Friends, Rejoice!

United Methodist Hymnal – #224

He hath opened heaven’s door,

and ye are blest forevermore

 

What’s behind door number two? Haven’t we all wondered that very thing watching the game show Let’s Make a Deal?  It can be so nerve wracking to watch someone risk (or bet) their current winnings, to have what is hiding behind the closed door. Hopefully it will not be a “Zonk”. Actually, opening doors is always somewhat exciting. Opening a door invites us to another experience, maybe another place or time. Think about an ocean front hotel. You open the door from the hall and immediately are overwhelmed by the beautiful and endless vista of water and waves. Or I vividly remember an M&M’s commercial from many years ago. It started with a door being flung open wide, revealing a huge, beautifully decorated, and dazzlingly lit Christmas Tree. (There are cultures in the world where the Christmas Trees are decorated in secret, not revealing them to the children of the family until Christmas Eve, by I’m sure, opening a door.) The open door is such a fitting symbol for the coming of the Christ Child. It was through Jesus’s life, teaching, death and resurrection that we learned the secret of eternal life. It is as though that tiny child flung the door open wide, exposing the glory that awaits us on the other side. And unlike Let’s Make a Deal, there will be no Zonks! We have truly been blest with the prospect of life eternal, and it all seems to begin with an open door. Perhaps that same door through which we welcome everyone to Dayspring.

 

. . . for I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . .

MATTHEW  25: 35

      

God of love and hospitality, show us how to fling open the doors of our hearts, welcoming all into our life experience and space. Help us to understand that we are the truly blest ones, living the way you showed us, following your path to eternal life. May we embrace the stranger, love the unlovable, and practice extravagant hospitality to all we encounter.  Amen.

 

~Rev. L. Michael Kelley

 


December 4, 2018

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

United Methodist Hymnal – #240

“. . . peace on earth and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

 

Don’t you hate it when you break something valuable? There’s something so final about it, even when a shot of Gorilla Glue might be all that’s needed to restore the object. I’ve known people who intentionally purchased really inexpensive glassware, just because they knew they would be breaking all of them in time. (And in their case, not all that much time.) But that seems so fatalistic to me. How awful to assume, even with good reason or historical precedent, that something will eventually be broken. Does one then take greater care with a precious belonging? Well what about a relationship? How can one enter into a relationship with the expectation of it’s end? And if self-fulfilling prophecy is really a thing, do we unintentionally sabotage those relationships? Sometimes it’s distrust that can destroy a relationship. Sometimes it’s selfish or unkind actions and attitudes. All things that cannot be repaired with glue or duct tape, and though no special skill is required, it is far more difficult to repair a broken friendship than a treasured vase, or piece of art. Humankind is known to stray. It’s not really our fault – we’re given free will and sometimes we just make the wrong choice. But like the prodigal son, God waits for our return. God’s grace and mercy is continually offered to us. We need only accept it. it’s the Christmas message. God’s son, being born on earth, creating a bridge to reconciliation between us and God. No wonder angels sang.

 

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

ISAIAH 58: 12

 

Merciful God, it is so easy for us to get sidetracked. The stresses of the season can overwhelm. Our focus on what we need and what we want can alter our focus, from outward to inward, driving a wedge between ourselves, our colleagues and loved ones, and you. Help us to remember that your mercy is offered freely, and that reconciliation is its own reward. Amen.

 

~Rev. L. Michael Kelley

      

 


December 3, 2018

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates

United Methodist Hymnal – #213

… let us thy inner presence feel;

thy grace and love in us reveal.

 

Who doesn’t love a makeover show? In our modern day, we can observe people being “fixed” in almost every way, from clothing to haircut, from interior décor to landscaping. We even see people learn how to dance or cook. We ever so anxiously wait for the big reveal. And as we watch, how many of us secretly wish (or not so secretly wish) that one of those experts could turn their magic loose on us. We think about how our own natural “gifts” might be enhanced at the hands of a trained professional. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that whatever is changed would probably be just a superficial “alteration”. At the risk of sounding trite, it’s really about what’s inside a person. How many beautiful people do we know that struggle with horrible self images. How many exquisitely decorated homes have we visited that still seem cold and unwelcoming. I’m not suggesting that we don’t do our best at maximizing our individual potentials. Rather, during this season of Advent, we should strive for another kind of reveal. What if everyone worked toward revealing God’s grace and love, working in them and through them? Does God really care about our manicured lawns, if our striving for perfection takes away time that we might have spent caring for a neighbor, or volunteering at a shelter for the unloved and/or disenfranchised?

 

Lift up your heads, O gates!

and be lifted up, O ancient doors!

that the King of Glory may come in.

PSALM 24: 7

      

God of grace and love, come to us now and fill us. Help us to see the “you” that’s present in us. Instead of obsessing over our homes, our yards, and/or our appearances, let us reveal to the world your presence, dwelling in each of us. As we wait for your earthly incarnation, may we be reborn as your children, aglow with your inner presence, revealing your love and light.   Amen.

 

~ Rev. L. Michael Kelley

 


December 2, 2018 ADVENT I

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

United Methodist Hymnal – #211

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer

our spirits by thy advent here:

 

And so it begins. For the next month, children will make an extra effort to be good, except when they’re not. And those persons we encounter at the mall, in line at the grocery store or post office will be especially courteous, except when they’re not. And we will all be more patient and understanding with our colleagues, friends, families, and loved ones, except when we’re not. Recognizing the ease with which we can all get swept away in the details of the season, and the continuing quest for the perfect Christmas, we can lose sight of the real joys of the season. Our best memories are not usually the perfection we experienced in the most beautifully decorated tree, or the most succulent turkey. Rather, we cherish the pictures of Uncle John with a bow stuck on his head on Christmas morning, or the overturned bowl of mashed potatoes that the dog enjoyed before we had a chance to even salvage the top layer. The laughter we share around the tree or table is far greater, and of more value than even the most exquisitely wrapped gift. It’s almost as though the ninth century words of today’s carol were directed right at us, Dayspring. Come and cheer our spirits! It’s like the gauntlet has been thrown down. Are you ready to cheer the spirits of those around you, and those you encounter during the season. Emmanuel – God is with us!

 

“Behold, a Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel”, which means, “God is with us.”

MATTHEW 1: 23 

 

Gracious God, your challenge is accepted. We thank you for your faith in us, that we might be your representatives here on earth. Grant us your peace as we journey toward that most beautiful of days, remembering always that you dwell among us, alive in all we meet, both known and unknown.  Amen.

 

~Rev. L. Michael Kelley