Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from Troy

Today we went Christmas caroling in North Central. There were six of us wandering the streets and singing. We picked carols that proclaimed the Gospel, and it was great fun.

My favorite times were when people flung open their doors or windows and yelled out "Merry Christmas!" to us. A number of people looked at us like we were nuts, but couldn't help smiling and feeling a bit special that they got Christmas carolers this year. One teenager yelled the first line of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" at us from a window, so we obliged him with the other 11 days. Don't think that was what he was going for, but it was fun. All in all, I think this needs to happen again - spreading the Gospel and making people stop, smile, stare or just have fun.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "O Holy Night." I love it mostly for the last verse, which most people don't know. Especially the bit about "Chains shall he break, for the slave is a brother and in his name all oppression shall cease...Christ is the Lord!" To me, it seems like the heart of the Gospel for North Troy, and it gave me great joy to proclaim it loudly in song all the way down the main street.

So, this Christmas, as you contemplate the wonder and the majesty of our God made flesh, accompanied by the praise of angel armies and the amazement of shepherds, this is my prayer for you - that the redemption and freedom described in this hymn is yours. And, if you would, please pray this for Troy.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
Merry Christmas! We love you all tons!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ordination reflection

A year ago today, I was lying face down on the stone floor of St. John's church, while this was prayed:

"Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new."

Rereading this prayer today brought tears to my eyes. It is this for which I live, this for which I fight the battle each day. It is to see the power of God raising up those who have been ground down to the dust, to see people who have been abandoned and considered hopeless find a home and hope and love in Jesus Christ. To see those who are cast down and trodden on be raised up to be sons and daughters of God, and to see the palpable feeling of anger, pride and unforgiveness be remade into something new: the kingdom of God.

And when I see how vast is this vision, how impossible to topple spiritual edifices that have been in place for generations, how hopeless it is to tell people that they are beloved of God who have come to North Troy only because nobody else wanted them and they had nowhere else to go, I begin to wonder: do I fight in vain? What weapons do I have for fighting the war against evil in this place?

This morning, I again sat in St. John's reading the words of the Song of Mary. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...he has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich has sent away empty."

It is the Lord who casts down the works of darkness. It is the Lord who lifts up those who have been oppressed and forsaken. It is the Lord who protects and sustains the hungry child afraid of its parents. It is the Lord, the Alpha and Omega, the one who makes all things new.

And it is for the Lord that I fight. This battle is not mine, it is God's. He has called me to be a foot soldier in this battle, and I will fight against the works of darkness and evil with all that I have in me. But as David said, "The battle is the Lord's." And our Lord has already won the victory. No stronghold or work of darkness can ever prevail against him, because he has broken the hold of death, the power of evil, and the gates of hell. And he has given us his authority.

Therefore, this impossible edifice against which we strive, this darkness into which we work to bring the light of Christ can be fought. The things that were cast down will be raised up, and the old is being made new even now. But this battle is the Lord's. I fight in his name and his strength and his power. Lord, have mercy on this place and on these people.

Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the church and in Christ Jesus forever. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus.