Thursday, December 27, 2007

Daily Meditation 12/27/07 On the 3rd day of Christmas; Feast of St. John the Evangelist


motley crew

what a motley crew
to welcome you into the world!

a horse stamping its feet
to keep warm;
a cow murmuring
because you've disturbed her calf;
a dog whimpering and twitching,
chasing, in his dreams,
the cat in the corner of the barn,
who stares wondering
what all the fuss is about.

(of course, it's no surprise
they are there, at that moment:
since they sprang from this Child's imagination
at creation's birth)

and then the folks
who show up from
Bethlehem's welcome wagon?

(why else do they spend their nights
on cold, rocky hillsides);
(who else enjoys a job where
you never meet another person);
the strong, silent type
(why else would would they want to spend
all their time with sheep?!?)

and yet, there they go:
running and grabbing everyone
like they are best friends,
almost shouting:

"You won't believe who we just met!"

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman


Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM: Psalm 97, 98; Proverbs 8:22-30; John 13:20-35
PM: Psalm 145; Isaiah 44:1-8; 1 John 5:1-12

From Forward Day by Day:

1 John 1-9. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

On a rich, full day (zipping from one appointment to the next, never quite catching up or catching my breath, always just a minute or two late) I sank into a chair across from my spiritual director. "Where have you seen God in your life this past week?" she asked.

It was a week overloaded with work, with family matters, and with a minor medical emergency. It was a week in which I had less time than usual for reflection, organized prayer, and just listening.

And yet it took only a glance over those days to reveal gleaming flashes of God's presence in the interstices, a golden pattern in the frieze of my life. Surely God was working through those who swiftly fit me into crowded schedules, the medical specialists who saw and aided me, and the colleagues and friends who helped out. And I have no doubt that God was working to bring together my daughters and me, nudging us closer.

Looking back, I found myself overwhelmed not by the stress, but by the grace of that week, and by the light of God's presence.


Today we remember: St. John the Evangelist

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Ysabel (Melanesia)

From: Christmas CLARESHARE December 2006
Ty Mam Duw Poor Clare Colettine Community

27th December
St. John the Evangelist
Read the first chapter of John's gospel.
Write out the sentence that strikes you most. Stick it up on your fridge
If you only get as far as the first line that will do!!!

Twelve Days of Christmas

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Day 3, December 27
Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Faith, Hope and Love

These three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love; even after the Christmas gifts are all unwrapped and we clear the paper and ribbons away and stash the decorations in the attic.

At this time of year, it's Hope that stirs so strongly in my heart. The winter solstice is past and each day is slightly longer than the last. There is hope for the return of bright, sunny mornings and late summer evenings.

Seed catalogs appear in my mailbox with their colorful promises of brilliant flowers and mouth-watering produce. In just a few weeks, amid days of snow and cold, it will be time to claim the promise of spring by setting seed trays in a sunny window or under a light.

More bright rays of hope come with the new calendar. Like lined paper waiting to be filled with writing, the days of the new year spread out in front of me and Hope springs to my side unbidden to announce that this year things will be different.

I've heard many people claim to make no New Year's resolutions because they always fail to keep them anyway. Their assessment is so much more realistic than mine. I tell myself, I should give up these dreams of doing better tomorrow. Yet I find Hope to be unquenchable in my heart. The joy of reaching even the smallest goal has me hooked on setting more.

I admit it: I make New Year's resolutions. Yes, I determine to exercise more, eat less, and be a better wife and mother. Those are the obvious goals. But I also try to spend time in prayer and allow God to focus the hope within me into spiritual goals. Usually, it's a matter of verbalizing to myself the direction in which I sense God moving me. It's so satisfying to assign a label, such as transparency or spiritual risk-taking, to the lessons I'm learning and to embrace those lessons as paths to being more like Christ.

Hope and Joy come together. Both provide breathtaking views as our spirits soar high above the harsh rocks of Reality borne by the wings of the Spirit of God. Faith lets us relax and enjoy the ride. And Love is so evident in the patience of God as He guides us gently on to become the persons He wants us to be.

~ Marsha Lynn
Odon, Indiana, USA


Thank you for letting the rush subside. And yet, on this Your day, let me not forget the promises I have made through the journey I began at Advent. May the love and hope that I have rekindled also stir my faith into activity. Not only a faith that believes, but a faithfulness that with Your grace makes me become a better person; an easier person to live with. Oh Father, I believe, help me in my times of unbelief.



As is the case with so many people in the Bible, there may be a little confusion as to who St. John is. He might not be the person who wrote the gospel named for him -- maybe it was someone else by the same name. Or someone else entirely, who knows?

Another person he might not be is the Beloved Disciple -- that person, who is never named, is designated as the BD only in the gospel of John, and the popular reasoning has always been that he must be the author himself, modestly refraining from identifying himself by name. Who knows?

He also might not have written the Book of Revelation or the three little letters named for him and might never even have heard of the island of Patmos, let alone lived there -- parts of those books seem to arise from a time after John the disciple lived. Unless he lived a very, very long time.

Does this trouble you, this uncertainty about the specifics? Does it seem to call the whole religious enterprise into question, if we don't know all the facts? Can't even control the chain of evidence for our own sacred books?

It's okay. There is more than one way to read the Bible. There is much more to it than just the things that happen in it. There is even more to it than the context and the intention of its writers -- the beginnings of things aren't the whole of them: I don't know the whole story of your marriage just because I attended your wedding. Stuff happened after that. Some of it was known by many: the children you had, where you lived. Other things were known to you alone. Some things in your marriage were not as they appeared from outside it. And some things looked different years after they happened, even to you, from the way they looked when you were going through them.

The Bible is like that. It is alive, even now, old as it is. The Bible isn't just its writers -- the Bible is also its readers. It always has been. We bring ourselves to it when we read it. We interact with it. We even argue with it, as one does with the living and cannot do with the dead.

It is said that St. John once drank a cup of poisoned wine and was none the worse for having done so. You won't find that in the Bible -- it's a story that came along later, one of those tales you are liable to hear at a family gathering or at a wake, one of those stories that get a little more interesting with each telling. Perhaps they are not facts, but that doesn't make them lies.

What they are is stories. Ponderings. Poems, even -- take another look at the opening of the fourth gospel. Read them for what they are. Let them remind you of things in your life, or of things you wish were in your life. Let them make you wonder who God is, what it meant to whoever penned the lines that God loved the world enough to give an only Son for it, and what it might mean for you today. Let it mean nothing or everything, but tell your truth as you see it now, and then strive to remain open to your own growth and change.

More than that we cannot do.

Copyright © 2006 Barbara Crafton -

Speaking to the Soul:

John's icon of Jesus

Daily Reading for December 27 • St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

The icon of Jesus painted by John is his gospel is not a naturalistic rendering. The other gospel writers also created distinctive impressions of Jesus with an artistry wholly unlike modern biography or journalism. But John has taken the boldest steps away from reportage into the creative realm, using distortion and selectivity and elaboration with shocking freedom. What we recognize as some of the most emphatic features of John’s portrait of Jesus are, I believe, the very features that we ourselves will acquire through conversion. John has Jesus continually return to certain themes so that we can see as in a mirror the new features of our own converted lives.

Three very prominent characteristics of John’s portrait of Jesus are as instantly recognizable as the elongations and storminess of an El Greco painting. The first is an intense awareness of being sent by God. The theme of phrases such as “this is the will of the One who sent me” resound again and again. But the intensity and saturation of this coloring of all Jesus’ words and actions with the sense of “sentness” is not meant to separate us from him, and thus degrade our discipleship by comparison. The opposite is true. The believer in Jesus gains in conversion exactly the same conviction of having been given life and of being brought into the world to fulfill a mission from God. The new vision that comes with conversion brings with it the gift of a sense that one’s life is purposeful, that one has been given a mission, a life-task for God.

The second and intimately related feature of John’s icon of Jesus is agency. Jesus knows what he is doing and when it is time to do it, and he knows that he is doing it. We can be pretty sure that this is based on actual memories of Jesus. All the way through, Jesus’ words emphasize his own authority and responsibility for his actions. Now it is just this sense of agency and responsibility that comes as a gift from God in the converted life. In profane life, human beings suffer from a sense that not only are their lives accidental, but the fate to which they must resign themselves is that of being forever pushed around, manipulated, and dictated to. In the converted life, we are endowed with responsibility and with power.

The third feature of John’s gospel, which blends into the other two, is that of centeredness. The Jesus of John’s gospel can say “I am” so powerfully because he is totally understood and known by God. He is so known by God that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. And this is the authority that comes to us as converted believers. If I know myself to be utterly known, utterly known and completely loved, then I am. I really am. I really exist. I mean everything to God and therefore my life has meaning.

From “The Converted Life” in Nativities and Passions: Words for Transformation by Martin L. Smith (Cowley Publications, 1995).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

God is in the prepositions -- beyond, among, within, beneath.
— Sharon Daloz Parks quoted in Plain Living by Catherine Whitmire

To Practice This Thought: When you are reading and come across one of these words, pause to remember God.
++++++++++ Reflections

I should like to respond by spending my earthly life as Our Lady did ... I unite myself to the soul of the Virgin at the moment in which the Father was covering her with His shadow, while the Word was taking flesh within her and the Holy Spirit came upon her to accomplish this great mystery.
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Reading from the Desert Christians


As a pilot calls on winds and a storm-tossed mariner looks
homeward, so the times call on you to win your way to God. As
God's athlete, be sober; the stake is immortality and eternal

St. Ignatius the God-bearer

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

A Nonjudgmental Pressure

To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; ... do not condemn; ... forgive" (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.

From the Principles of the Third Society of St. Francis:

Day Twenty Seven - The Second Note, cont'd

The Third Order is Christian community whose members, although varied in race, education, and character, are bound into a living whole through the love we share in Christ. This unity of all who believe in him will become, as our Lord intended, a witness to the world of his divine mission. In our relationship with those outside the Order, we show the same Christ-like love, and gladly give of ouselves, remembering that love is measured by sacrifice.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Good News of Great Joy
December 27th, 2007
Thursday’s Reflection

THE ANGEL SAID TO THEM, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
- Luke 2:10-11

Loving Creator,
We give thanks for the birth of joy
in our lives at Christmas.
Let us go forth as messengers
of the good news
of great joy for all people.

- Alive Now

From p. 52 of Alive Now, November/December 1999. Copyright © 1999 by The Upper Room. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

Good Friends Help Us to Remember

It takes a prophet of sorts, one who has traveled the highway before and remembers everything, to guide us beyond our blind, selective remembering. Choose your friends carefully and listen to those who speak truth to you, who help you remember all things, "so that you may value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10).

Ask the Lord for companions (sometimes Jesus alone!) who will walk the highway of remembering with you, mentors in the Spirit who can help you fill in the valleys and level the mountains and hills, making the winding ways straight and the rough ways smooth. People are going to support groups for those spiritual friends because we have too often failed them in the churches. When the soul is ready, the teacher will be found.

from Sojourners, "The Energy of Promise"

From John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Tradition Day by Day: Readings from Church Writers. Augustinian Press. Villanova, PA, 1994.

This wonder fills me with amazement

In what way was the Lord with her, who soon afterward came forth from her? As a craftsman upon finding some suitable material fashions a beautiful vessel, so Christ upon finding a virgin holy both in body and soul fashioned for himself a living temple. There, in the way he willed, he formed the human nature in which he clothed himself and this day came forth, unashamed of that nature's deformity. For him it was no cause for shame to put on what he himself had made, and for his creature it was a great glory to become the cloak of her Creator. As in the first creation the human race could not be founded until the clay came into his hand, so now our corruptible nature could not be transformed until it had become the garment of its Maker.

How can I put this into words, how express it? This wonder fills me with amazement. The Ancient of Days becomes a child, he who sits upon the throne, high and exalted, is laid in a manger. He who has broken the bonds of sin is wrapped in swaddling-bands, for this is his will. He wills opprobrium to become honor, disgrace to be clothed in glory, and the most outrageous abuse to demonstrate the extent of his goodness.

John Chrysostom

Daily Readings From "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers


"If thou wilt return, 0 Israel, saith the Lord. . . ." Jeremiah 4:1

The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world. The Spirit of God apprehends me and I am obliged to get alone with God and fight the battle out before Him. Until this is done, I lose every time. The battle may take one minute or a year, that will depend on me, not on God; but it must be wrestled out alone before God, and I must resolutely go through the hell of a renunciation before God. Nothing has any power over the man who has fought out the battle before God and won there.

If I say, "I will wait till I get into the circumstances and then put God to the test," I shall find I cannot. I must get the thing settled between my self and God in the secret places of my soul where no stranger intermeddles, and then I can go forth with the certainty that the battle is won. Lose it there, and calamity and disaster and upset are as sure as God's decree. The reason the battle is not won is because I try to win it in the external world first. Get alone with God, fight it out before Him, settle the matter there once and for all.

In dealing with other people, the line to take is to push them to an issue of will. That is the way abandonment begins. Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God - My Utmost for His Highest.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 27, August 27, December 27
Chapter 69: That the Monks Presume Not to Defend One Another

Care must be taken that no monk presume on any ground
to defend another monk in the monastery,
or as it were to take him under his protection,
even though they be united by some tie of blood-relationship.
Let not the monks dare to do this in any way whatsoever,
because it may give rise to most serious scandals.
But if anyone breaks this rule,
let him be severely punished.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

"Stay away from your enemies but guard yourself against friends," Ben Sirach wrote in Ecclesiasticus. The rule knows that false friendship is bad for the person and bad for the community as well. In a life dedicated to spiritual growth and direction, there is no room for multiple masters. Friends who protect us from our need to grow are not friends at all. People who allow a personal agenda, our need to be right or their need to shield, block the achievement of a broader vision in us and betray us. Supporters who risk dividing a group into factions over personal tensions rather than to allow individuals to work their way positively through the hard points of life, barter the spirit and peace of the whole community. We are taught in the Rule not to take sides in issues of personal interpretation and spiritual challenge. We are to hold one another up during hard times, Chapter 27 indicates, but we are not to turn personal difficulty into public warfare. The groups that would be better off if individuals had refused to turn differences of opinion into moral irreconciliables are legion. The Desert Monastics say that one of the disciples asked Abba Sisoes one day, "If I am sitting in the desert and a barbarian comes to kill me and if I am stronger than he, shall I kill him?" The old man said to him, 'No, leave him to God. In fact whatever the trial is which comes to a person, let them say,"This has happened to me because of my sins," and if something good comes say, "This has happened to me because of the providence of God."

Life is not perfect; some of life just is. A great deal of mental, psychological and spiritual health comes from learning to endure the average heat of the average day and to wear both its banes and its blessings with a tempered heart. No warfare. No armies mobilized on the plain. No identification of enemies. Just life.

Dynamis is a daily Bible meditation based upon the lectionary of the Holy Orthodox Church.

Thursday, December 27, 2007 The
Proto-Martyr Stephen the Archdeacon
1st Vigil Nativity: Genesis 1:1-13 Apostle: Acts 6:8-15; 7:1-5,
47-60 Gospel: St. Matthew 21:33-42

Our Creator: Genesis 1:1-13, especially vss. 1-3: "In the beginning God
created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void,
and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was
moving over the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,'
and there was light." The joyous Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ is come! In the Divine Liturgy as we celebrate His birth,
we will affirm our belief in "the Holy, Consubstantial, Life-giving, and
Undivided Trinity." As we join with the Church and take our part in the
prayers and hymns and actions of the Liturgy, commit yourself also to
God. Child of God, make the words of the Nicene Creed your own!
Declare your allegiance to your "Father Almighty, Maker...of all things
visible and invisible," for you are His visible and invisible creation.
Acknowledge your "Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Whom all things
were made," for He not only created you, but took your nature as His
own. As you take the Name of "the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of
Life" on your lips, meet Him in your heart for He lives in all your
senses. Without Him, you would know neither Jesus Christ nor your
Father in Heaven.

In the Nativity Liturgy you come face to face with the great mystery of
the birth of Jesus Christ, your Creator Who lies in the cave of your
soul, divested of the glory of His heavenly majesty, having "made
Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming
in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). Think of the immensity of the
universe to the extent that men have researched and described it. Can
you receive the immensity of the Divine embrace of God limiting Himself
to your finite comprehension, imperfect speech, and limited thought?

"In the beginning was the Word" (Jn. 1:1), God the Word, saying, "'Let
there be light;' and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). The choosing by God
the Father, the uttering of God the Word, and the moving of God the
Spirit, yielded creation: "there was light," and water and earth, and
living plants - this beautiful planet. And you exist also because He
chooses, utters, and moves. Delicacy and intricacy blend with enormous
forces, massive materials, and immense powers, all of which God speaks
into existence. Be in awe. And then, bow before the manger.

How humbling, that God the Word would choose to become one with you and
me in an elemental way - a babe born of a mother into the flux of
history at a moment that split time in two. There was time before the
Christ and there are the years of our Lord, BC and AD, respectively.
Creation spans both segments of time. See, touch, taste, smell, and
handle the world around you. At this moment, you feel at home here,
settled in. At other times are you not overwhelmed in your tiny self?
You and I only see, touch, taste, smell, or handle the very smallest
pieces of the universe immediately before us. But take heart! Declare
that "God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). Glory in the
Highest, for He became one of us and that staggers the mind.
How do you approach the overwhelming mystery of your Creator? Try this:
go back to the tangible bits and pieces of the ordinary life that He
made. Touch and handle Him every day, and adore Him in these
commonplace, approachable, and understandable realities.

"Come, ye believers, let us see where Christ was born. Let us follow
the star whither it goeth with the Magi, kings of the east; for there
angels praise Him ceaselessly, and shepherds raise their voices in a
worthy song of praise, saying, Glory in the highest to the One born
today in a cave from the Virgin Theotokos in Bethlehem of Judea. Since
God willeth, the order of nature is overcome, as it hath been written,
Christ hath been born of the Virgin in Bethlehem of Judea."

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath given rise to the light of
knowledge in the world, for from the east of the Highest Thou didst
come, O Lord. Glory to Thee.

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