Dear Reconciler Friends, and Friends of Reconciler,
I enclose a very brief Advent meditation I wrote some years ago, while working as a hospital chaplain. I was asked to write the Christmas message from the Pastoral Care department to staff and patients. I was keenly aware that not everyone staying at the hospital was looking forward to the holidays.
No matter our situation, we may have mixed feelings about the season. There were years I dreaded or felt disappointed by it. As an adult, I learned to enjoy it in a realistic way, and to recapture on a different level the magic Christmas held for me as a child. One thing that helped me do so was learning to live into the spirituality of Advent.
Advent is a wonderfully "dense and multi-layered season," as a colleague writes. Its twin themes are joy and repentance. We remember the first coming of Christ and await his future coming, while attuning our senses to signs of Christ already in our midst. We celebrate a three-fold Advent: past, future, and present. This incarnational focus on a Christ at work in the the world, though unseen, is one I am repeatedly drawn to. It helps me feel more grounded in a season that can frenetically pull us in many directions. It is also very Anglican.
I wish you the deep peace of the prince of peace during this season of hope. Prepare him room to be born anew in your hearts.
Here's the meditation I wrote at the hospital:
Opening the Present
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the carol says. And so it is!
The human race seems at its best. Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, or winter solstice, we rejoice in the light that breaks through the darkness.
Yet holidays can be difficult. Sun and shadow intertwine in every life. Sometimes we wonder where on earth peace is. We experience loss or illness. We struggle with an uncertain future or a painful past.
Life is a present. But sometimes we don’t get the gift we were expecting.
Few of us are prepared for how our lives unfold. God’s grace moves through our days, abundant but sometimes strange. Who knew the oil would last eight days? Who foresaw the Messiah would come to us in a manger?
As we encounter life’s joys and adversities, we can be open to the present. The openness of a woman giving birth. The openness of a shepherd who has come a long way to see a baby born in poverty. A child with nothing but the whole world in his hands.
“Emmanuel” means God is with us. Perhaps our lives are not unfolding as we’d thought. But God is present. And we find God by being in the present. May these holidays remind us of God’s great gifts to us: unfailing love and unfathomable grace.
The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
for The Pastoral Team
312-316-9697 The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
Church Council meets Thursday December 18th at 7:30 PM in the "Nidge. All are welcome. This meeting will be more of a congregational meeting than a Council meeting. We are looking at how we want to function as church in the new year and beyond. If you have been attending Reconciler, consider it your church home, and want to have input, please come and have your voice heard.
Mark your calendars now! We will be having a joint service with Immanuel and St. Elias on December 21, the fourth Sunday of Advent. A potluck dinner will begin at 4:00 p.m., and the service begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Immanuel sanctuary. We need people to bring food to the potluck, and to help set up and clean up. If you can do so, let someone on the pastoral team know. Thanks!
Also, Christmas eve and Christmas Day are joint services with Immanuel. The Christmas eve service begins at 6:00 p.m.and the Christmas Day service begins at 10:30 a.m. Both services will be held in the Immanuel sanctuary.
Mark your calendars for a Reconciler Party for Laura and Melissa. Laura, Reconciler's Episcopal priest, and Mellssa, Reconciler's interim Baptist pastor, will both be departing the pastoral team on Sunday January 4th. There will be a farewell party for them on Jan 4th following our usual 5:00 service. Stay tuned for more details.
Malaria Nets Challenge- Malaria is a terrible disease which has been eliminated inmost of North America, but kills the children of Africa at the rate of two per minute. The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago can put a medically treated net over the bed of a child for just $12. Kate will be collecting the funds and passing them on to the diocese. Let her know to direct your cash, or check made out to church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler (write "malaria nets" on the memo line) Malaria Nets Challenge, or drop it in the offering pot with a note; you can also mail it to her c/o Reconciler at 1510 W. Elmdale Ave., Chicago IL 60660.
Opportunities for service! If you would like to help out at Reconciler, we need you! We are currently in need of greeters each Sunday (to arrive 15 minutes before the service begins). We also need volunteers as nursery workers, and perhaps someone to help with the bulletin each week. If you want to volunteer, contact the pastoral firstname.lastname@example.org
Reconciler now has a phone- You can reach the pastoral team at 312-316-9697
10 tips from Laura for making the most of this time of year (and you can share yours with me):
1) Tune out the excess materialism. Ignore the constant reminders that Christmas is all about things. But enjoy the giving and receiving. At heart, these are spiritual disciplines.
2) Give gifts of time and attention.
3) Support charitable organizations, as your time and finances permit. Give fairly-traded gifts.
4) Take time for your spiritual life. Listen to and sing carols, the Messiah, pray the Magnificat, light candles. Reflect. Go to church.
5) Create or continue holiday rituals that are meaningful and enjoyable for you.
6) Don't over-do. This from a pastor and a parent of young children! Remind me to take my own advice. :-)
7) Open your senses to simple joys: the taste of a snowflake, a smile shared with a stranger on the street. In what quiet ways and unexpected places can you find glimpses of the real spirit of Christmas?
8) Keep your expectations realistic. The season presents us with challenges as well as reasons for joy. Just knowing that can ease the stress associated with having overly high hopes.
9) Watch good Christmas movies!
10) Allow yourself to enjoy the corny and fun aspects of Christmas. Don't worry too much about whether Santa and other not-necessarily-Christian stuff detracts from the real meaning of Christmas. You can always celebrate St. Nicholas, the 4th century bishop from Myra (now Turkey). As long as you're clear about what Christmas is about, a little synchretism and commercialism won't kill you. It's OK to sing "Frosty the Snowman."