Speak Lord: that we might find you.

Arles Nativity

The Gospel reading for Sunday – the second Sunday of Christmas, and the feast of the Epiphany – comes from Matthew and tells of the wise men’s search for, and finding, of the infant king of the Jews.

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’

When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

Matthew 2:1-12

Wise men travelled from the East, following a star, to know and honour Jesus.

  • What helps lead us closer to him?
  • What helps us to know him?

Detail showing the Nativity and wise men from Sarcophagus in collection of the Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence antiques. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

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Taste and See: Growing up

Finding in the temple 2

On Sunday last, Holy Family Sunday, and the first Sunday of Christmas, the Gospel came from Luke’s Gospel, and is the only account we have of the time between Jesus’ birth and his adult ministry.

The life of the Holy Family was not without its challenges.

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

Luke 2:41-52

How could their life be without challenges? Jesus own life would lead to the agony of decision whether to betray himself and his mission, or flee to the hills to escape execution. Our own lives, while rarely pushed to that pitch of crisis or incident, every day contain choices. Those choices can make or mar our life and the lives of those nearest us, and – in this global economy – impact on those far away who would never dream of our existence.

At any time most of us have only a modest grasp on the circumstances of our lives and the import of decisions we make. All the more important then to seek that sort of healthy collaboration – often a very tough working together – that we see in the Gospel story.

Jesus does the will of his Father, but returns home under the authority of his parents. Mary expresses her distress and anger at Jesus, but also is ready to store these things in her heart, and – we are told elsewhere – ponder them.

Theirs is a life lived careful for truth and purpose.

New Year’s resolutions loom.

What might be a realistic one that will help you to live and work more collaboratively with God and neighbour?

 

A second image of the child Jesus in the Temple. Hill of Apparitions, Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Getting in order

Disordered treasures

The Second reading on Sunday,  for the Feast of the Holy Family in year C, the Year of Luke, speaks of God’s love for us and what will be our future, by his love.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.

His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

1 John 3:1-2,21-24

What we are to be in the future has not been revealed – but, as we prepare for the turning of the Year, it is something that  we might give some thought to.

Not so much as to what work we will be doing, or what events might or might not take place, but to the sort of person we are and want, through God’s grace to be.

  • What qualities, by God’s grace do I want to grow in?
  • What qualities, with God’s grace, would I like to lose or temper?
  • What steps, with God’s grace, might I take in this direction?

Fundamentally, of course, the call is to love as we are loved – and for those and that we love to be those and that which God loves.

  • Where is there convergence between God’s love and mine?
  • Where divergence?

Disordered treasures? Shop front in Venice. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Your kingdom come

Nativity VeniceTwo alternative Psalms were offered in the Lectionary for yesterday, Holy Family Sunday – the first Sunday of Christmas.

The psalm offered especially for use in Year C – this year, the Year of Luke, and the Year of Mercy – speaks of communion with God. It speaks of the courts of the Lord: back to backs often had courts, but maybe here the idea is that of a grander set of courtyards, fitting to a king. It speaks, rather  more domestically perhaps, of God’s ‘house’… but in these days we hear a lot of the House of David…. It speaks of Zion, Jerusalem, seat of king and God, and a place of pilgrimage for the people…

The psalm speaks of communion, and of the psalmist’s longing and yearning for this communion.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

Psalm 83:2-3,5-6,9-10

 

We heard in yesterday’s Gospel how Jesus, Son of David, makes himself at home in the courts of the Temple.

Yet in his discourse he offers a more familial image to consider God – simply as Father. The head of the domestic family – as well as head of people and nation and King of kings.

When we pray, as Jesus teaches, ‘ your kingdom come’, we may have in mind the kingdom of heaven, and God’s dominion here and now over the nations of the world. But it starts – at least for us, existentially, it starts – with our self, our home, our family…

  • How evident is the Father’s leadership, his rule, there?
  • In me?
  • My home?
  • My family?
  • How would anyone know?

As the civic year draws to a close, take stock and speak to God with gratitude for his care and ask for his help where you seem further from him.

Bethlehem in Venice. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: make us yours…

Altar and Ambo Dresden

The first reading today, the feast of the Holy Family, the first Sunday of Christmas, comes from the first book of Samuel.

In this season when we remember and give thanks for the birth of Jesus, the story of Samuel reminds us that the birth of Jesus reveals its deeper meaning when we remember those events of revealed salvation history that have preceded it. Jesus brings to fulfilment all that has been promised, and all the good that has been attempted.

Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

When a year had gone by, the husband Elkanah went up again with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow. Hannah, however, did not go up, having said to her husband, ‘Not before the child is weaned. Then I will bring him and present him before the Lord and he shall stay there for ever.’

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her together with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’

1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28

Jesus is also the anticipation and enabler of our fulfilment. It is by him and with his graceful assistance that we are able to keep trying to make ourselves ‘over to the Lord’.

That phrase can seem constraining, limiting, diminishing. Yet our potential is itself God’s gift. He longs not for our diminishment, and does not wish to rob us of his very gift. Quite the contrary: it is in our communion with him, ever-deepening, ever-developing, that we find ourselves, and receive that precious gift so to as most fully live it.

  • What does constrain you?
  • What does diminish you?
  • In what way does God call you to greater fullness?

Altar and Ambo, Dresden. (c) 2005, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: to your family

Bethlehem in Boldmere

Two alternative Psalms are offered in the Lectionary for Holy Family Sunday – the first Sunday of Christmas.

The psalm below is that offered especially for use in Year C, this year, the Year of Luke, and the Year of Mercy.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

Psalm 83:2-3,5-6,9-10

As with the life we live, so too the Church’s Liturgical Year can sometimes seem overloaded – Christmas, Holy Family, Luke, Mercy…

It can seem like an overloaded pudding, too many good things, and too soon leading to indigestion!

So, especially if Christmas feasting was extended, maybe a little quiet family time is called for… a time for digesting of bringing together self, others, life, faith, past, future… a time in the present for quiet refelcting and pondering…

It all begins with family in some sense… Harm done in the family often can never be fully repaired, and a good start in the family can never be taken away from us. Family matters, very much.

We often identify ourselves almost exclusively with our human family. Yet Jesus comes to remind us of something prior. Before we were born, perhaps before we were conceived, the idea we were known and loved in the heart of God. Our most fundamental identity comes from being the children of God: he is Father of us before there was an us and in his love and faithfulness is the bed-rock of our lives as individuals, families, communities, civilisation.

Often we do not acknowledge this, sometimes our actions put it in jeopardy (or seem to). But in these days it is good to ponder on the Fatherhood of God –  and our responsibility, under God, and with Jesus, in the Spirit – to sustain and develop the family connections, starting at home and extending to all our brothers and sisters in God.

  • Pray to be a faithful child of God.
  • Pray to be a good sister or brother.

Bethlehem in Boldmere. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: To your family

Nativity SJW

Christmas is here and today’s posting prepares us for Christmas’s first Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family.

The are a number of options for the Second reading on Sunday – the following reading, from the first letter of St John is the option provided for the Feast of the Holy Family in year C, the Year of Luke.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.

His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

1 John 3:1-2,21-24

The season celebrates God’s Son taking flesh and living as one of us in all things but sin.

The purpose of the Incarnation and the season is to help us remember that we too are called to be children of God. It is this that allows us to ‘dare’ to call God Father.

In our culture the Lord’s Prayer is so familiar, so safe…. yet it invites us to something truly remarkable – to be God’s children.

  • What difference does God make to your life?
  • In what way is God your Father?
  • In what way do you show that you are his child?

Photograph of Performers in Nativity Play, St Johns Wood. (c) 2007, Andre Camara.