Friday, December 11, 2009

A Blessed Christmas

Orig: 12/12/08

I had thoughts of sending you a bright Christmas message, one of laughing, joyous, good cheer. Certainly we need some. But then, this last week, events of the world weighed on my mind, and thoughts about them need to be quieted first.

So my friends, I do wish you much Joy and Peace this Christmas holiday! But I think the best way for me – and perhaps, you – to make that happen is to spend some time in preparation, clearing these anxious thoughts from our minds, changing our hearts. The attached thoughts have floated in my mind this past week. They are helping me to bring a peace to my heart, to enable me to appreciate this Christmas, to appreciate what it means, and the blessing that was and is.

And so, I hope this does end up being a note of good cheer! It is certainly what I intend, and pray for you.

An Ongoing Commandment

Today is December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We celebrate the fact that the mother of God appeared to a poor Mexican farmer, Juan Diego, there in 1531, only 39 years after Columbus arrived, and she told Juan that she would bless this land. Today, on December 12, 2008, it sure doesn’t feel like it. “Experts” write of the collapse of our financial system, millions of people unemployed, and a depression. Blessed?

People, including myself, are afraid.

A very wise friend’s reaction to recent events is anger – at the stupid decisions her company is making in reaction to the crisis. Another worries whether she will have money to survive. Respected financial journals rail against Congressional decisions. No one understands the problems, but everybody knows the answers. My own trust is sorely tested – and I want to get angry, too.

To my friends, the angry ones and the scared ones, I have previously spoken a message of trust: one of my everyday prayers – said very often lately – is: “My Jesus, I trust in You”. It is a good prayer, but this week I realized that it is not a prayer I can just recommend to others. Trust comes from the heart, and the prayer assumes that you REALLY DO trust. But what if, in your heart, you don’t? What is in your heart is anger and fear? Then your heartfelt prayer is just another pleading with God: Do this; do that; don’t let this happen; and perhaps even a “and let a lightning bolt hit that guy right over there!” And we end this prayer, having said aloud what’s in our hearts with a “And I trust in You”. Kind of like an Amen at the end of a prayer, often said without much thought and NO meaning.

So my message of trust, although a good one, is not something I can help you make happen. You have to do it yourself; you have to make a reality of Trusting in God settle into your heart, so it is as much a part of you as your love of your kids; as your fears; as your anger. When your adrenalin rises, fear and anger are your natural responses, but these have to be gradually replaced by natural responses of peace and calm: “I know everything will be all right. I will do my best to make things right, with the talents I have been given, and then, my Jesus, I WILL trust in You.” Natural responses.

So, where do you start to build this natural response of trust?

This Advent season and this feast day today reminded me of a commandment which I had forgotten. This commandment was given to a scared old man who would lead his people out of Egypt, it was given to a frightened young virgin in Nazareth, it was given to some terrified disciples huddled in an upstairs room, and it was given to a worried Juan Diego in Mexico. This ongoing commandment has been echoed to a scared mankind throughout our history, and it applies equally well today: Be Not Afraid.

If you believe in God, who He is, why He created us, then you have to know that He loves us. And this loving God, this loving Father, wants to take us and hold us in his arms when we are scared and don’t know what to do, and say to us: “My children, be not afraid.” We need to turn our thoughts there when we’re scared, scared of anything: His arms, his “Be not afraid”. If you can’t calm down in His love at that thought, then read the words again: “Be Not Afraid!!!!!!”

It’s a commandment, not a request. If we, in our “great worldly knowledge” find the words uncomforting, then read them again. As our Father, as our God, He is commanding us: Be Not Afraid!!!!!! There’s even an implied “Or Else!” somewhere in there. And even if still, in our stubbornness, we don’t want to accept this command, then --- He loves us. He loves us. He still loves us. He wants and will do what is best for us. Anything. He’s always said so. He’s always done so. Can’t you accept that?

If we want peace in our hearts, we need to trust in God. If we can’t let ourselves go to really do that, to trust, then let us at least start out with God’s commandment: Be Not Afraid. And accept THAT, even if somewhat begrudgingly, because “Dad said so”. And we know He loves us – even if sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. We know Dad loves us.

And so, this Christmas season, let us resolve, despite the markets crashing, despite our jobs being at risk, despite our homes being lost, despite crazy Aunt Martha not liking the scarf we looked everywhere for – despite being very scared – let us remember what Dad commanded us: “Be Not Afraid”. And then we will begin to say with confidence, to ourselves and others: “My Jesus, I trust in You”.

And then, despite all our fears, we will say with confidence to others (and ourselves): “May you have a very merry and blessed Christmas”. There is nothing to worry about.

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