Questioning Advent: Day 14 – Pink Candles

nfl_e_newton_logo_b1_300Tomorrow morning the church will mark the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday which traditionally focuses on the idea of “joy”. Last year at this time, that was a hard sell for many of us. A year ago today, just before that joyful Sunday, we all learned about a place called Sandy Hook Elementary School. And for those of us preparing for worship, joy felt more than just unlikely. It felt inappropriate.

If your church has an Advent wreath you might notice that this is the Sunday when a pink, and not a purple, candle is lit. Purple is the color of penitence. It’s one that calls our hearts to reflect on what needs to change both in ourselves, and in the world. And as people and as a society, we needed to do some of that last year.

But the story goes that in the midst of the dark winters and more reflective Advents of years past, churches thought that about now people needed a little glimpse of what was coming. And so they made the third candle pink, which is supposed to be sort of a mix between the purple of Advent and the white of the Christ candle that we light on Christmas eve.

And they called this Sunday “Gaudette Sunday” which means “rejoice”. And so, we lit the candle on that morning last year, not because we were rejoicing, but because just as the white mixes with the purple and transforms it, we are waiting for Christ’s light to break into the pain and violence of our world and bring the joy that feels so elusive.

We stood, and we still stand, here at the junction of where pain and hope meet, and we look for something better. We long for joy. And we sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, o come God, and be with us. We know you are not done with us yet. You can’t be if we are still doing this to each other.

The day after the Sandy Hook shootings, at sundown, we rang the bells of this church once for each life that had been lost. The idea was that as the light went out of the world, we would sound a reminder that God’s love never does.

When I let people know that we were going to do it, I didn’t realize that the kids would be at the church rehearsing their Christmas pageant at the same time. But the parents decided it was appropriate to do it anyway, and even better, to let the kids help. And so that day a group of shepherds in bathrobes and angels with homemade wings filed out into the narthex here, and took turns holding onto the rope of a bell heavy enough to pull them off the ground every time we pulled. Again and again they held on and flew up and down.

I’m not sure how many times the bell actually was rung. Once we got started, the kids kept wanting another turn. And they were so filled with joy, and so filled with life, that as long as the kids wanted to do it, it felt right to let them. For the first time in many hours I saw joy. And it was, most fittingly, on the faces of children. It was a reminder to me that the world can do its worst, but in the end joy can never be destroyed. It always finds a way to return.

Question: How do we acknowledge the truth of a broken world, yet still proclaim joy?

Prayer: Merciful God, on this day when we remember and mourn, we ask your blessing on Newtown, Connecticut. Comfort those who mourn. Challenge those who would forget. Inspire those who would act. And even in the darkest hours, may we see your light creeping in. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day 13 – Breakfast

294090_808396564688_2465085_nMy wife and I have a routine. Every Friday morning, before we both get to work, we try to have a breakfast date together. Each week we rotate between our favorite breakfast spots around our valley. It’s not a big valley. We tend to go to same places again and again. But there’s one place I’ve never been able to take my wife. At least not until today.

In August of 2011, Tropical Storm Irene flooded our community. Heidi and I hadn’t been together long, and I hadn’t had a chance to take her yet to Dot’s, the iconic small town diner in Wilmington. We had been planning to go the week the storm hit, but we never made it. By the time the rain stopped, Dot’s had been ravaged by the river that flows below it. Later that day we walked the streets around Dot’s, stepping over the pavement the waters had literally ripped from the road.

For the last two years and four months Dot’s has sat closed. The whole building had to be salvaged, moved back from the river, and rebuilt. For a while it wasn’t clear whether or not it would ever reopen. It became a symbol of the flood’s devastation, and the town’s tenuous recovery.

The first Christmas after the flood was hard here in the Deerfield Valley. We are a seasonal economy, based in large part on skiing, and it was a bad year for snow. Add to that the number of people who were rebuilding homes, laid off from businesses, or dreading the next storm, and the holidays took on a melancholy tone. Recovery is a process, and hope is often the last thing to get rebuilt.

In Advent we look for the coming joy, but we don’t ignore the realities of life. We acknowledge that this is often a broken, unfair, and incomplete world. We proclaim that we are a people more in need of hope, peace, joy, and love. We tell the truth. Because, if we know the truth about this world, if we don’t acknowledge that it is so in need of change, why would the promise of a new and better life in Christ mean anything to anyone?

Yesterday morning, the doors of Dot’s opened again. The counter was full. The tables were spread with pancakes and Vermont maple syrup. This morning we drank our coffee, ate the bacon and waffles, and said “hello” to our neighbors. The diner looked a little different, but there it was, perched above that same river and filled with new life. Destruction and disaster did not have the final say.

In Advent we proclaim a message of potential. We tell the story of what is to come. We pray for change. We wait for, and participate in, the birth of something new. We refuse to let devastation have the last word. We rebuild, not in ignorance, but with faith in the potential of the one who came and who is coming to us still. And in our rebuilding, we say “we are ready”.

Question: In your life, what has been destroyed, and what have you rebuilt in faith?

Prayer: God, you will not let the waters destroy us, you will not let the fires consume us, you will not let hatred crush us, and you will not let destruction win. In these season of Advent, help us to build. Let us build up the places of love in our hearts, the places of peace in our relationships, the places of hope in our communities, and the places of joy in the world. And let us see the potential for new life in everything. Even pancakes. Amen.

If you’d like to read more about Dot’s, check out this article that came out in the New York Times the day after this devotional was published: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/us/in-vermont-a-town-that-would-not-let-its-diner-go.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Questioning Advent: Day 12 – Ecumenical Peace

IMG_0886This Advent my congregation, a typical New England Congregational parish, is holding joint mid-week services with the local Episcopal parish. Last week we worshiped in the Episcopal sanctuary where I preached and their priest celebrated communion. This week my church hosted, their priest preached, and I celebrated communion.

Some clergy friends wanted to know more about how this arrangement worked. “What about the different theologies?” “But you don’t have the same understandings of Communion!” “Were your people really okay using the Book of Common Prayer?” There seemed to be disproportionate amazement that two different Christian traditions could worship together.

I can report that nothing, not even the suspect pairing of a Congregationalist and a prayer book, was capable of keeping us from successfully worshipping Christ together.

In the second week of Advent we focus on peace. We explore what it means to be people of peace on every level: non-violence, inner peace, and more. But this week I’ve been thinking about another kind of peace: the peace that we Christians can extend to one another across denominational lines, and the potential that peace brings for reconciliation.

In the old mainline Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, UCC, and more) there are deeply entrenched denominational identities. Often if you ask a member of one church what they believe, you’ll hear more about what they don’t believe. A member of the UCC might say, “Well, we don’t believe in having bishops to tell us what to do”. Or a Lutheran might tell you they don’t believe in waiting until you’re an adult to be baptized. Or a Methodist will tell you they don’t believe in predestination.

But the landscape of the American church is changing dramatically. In twenty years denominations won’t look anything like they do now. We simply are not going to be able to sustain so many large denominational headquarters and hierarchies. And, for many of us, that is rather terrifying. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The reality is that many of the historical Protestant churches are clinging onto identities forged in theological conflicts from the 1500’s and 1600’s. Others are still defined by regional differences from centuries past. And despite the fact that we have much more in common than we realize, we remain separated centuries later.

We don’t have to stay that way, though. I’ve never been one to believe that the church is dying. The church is the body of Christ, and if we are truly people who believe in the resurrection of Christ, that means that the church cannot die. But we are changing. And it could be that the situation American mainline churches find themselves in is just radical enough that it will give us the “gift of desperation” that shakes us out of our comfortable places and into a place of new cooperation.

Last night as we passed the peace of Christ, I wondered what it would take for that peace to find its way into every denominational meeting, and what it would mean for that peace to reshape everything. What would it mean to really believe that the peace of Christ is so great that our theological differences, while real, don’t matter enough to keep us apart? What would it mean to put our first faith not in our prayer books or polity documents or faith statements, but in Christ himself?

In Advent, we who are the church can look for new starts. We can look for ways that Christ’s peace is creeping into our life together. And we can reach out across the aisle in that peace, and find that together we can do far more than we ever can apart. That’s what Advent is all about: preparing us for God being with us, and us being with one another.

Question: What are the small things keeping our churches from extending peace and reconciliation to one another?

Prayer: God, you have reconciled us to you through Christ, help us to reconcile ourselves to one another. Save us from the false idolatries of what matters little, and grant us a peace that can overcome all, until all your body is one. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day 11 – Wading In

IMG_0941

East Branch of the Deerfield River, Green Mountain National Forest

Vermont is a great place if you like to fly fish. The cold trout streams hold their fair share of browns, rainbows, and brookies throughout the late spring and summer and into early fall. During trout season I often find myself heading out to the national forest early in the morning, or rushing out after dinner to catch the dying light. I’ve found that even on a day when I catch nothing, the beauty of the river and peaceful rhythm of casting are good enough for me.

Vermont streams aren’t always easy to fish, though, particularly if you try to wade in them. They’re rocky, the stones get slippery, and the bottoms are so uneven that one step you can be standing on fairly solid ground, and the next you can be chest deep in water. I’ve found myself thrashing so loudly in the water that I’m sure I warned every trout in the river to stay way.

After a few full-body dunks in the Deerfield River I tried to fish from the shore. It didn’t work. The fish are smart enough to stay in the deep waters, and there are enough trees around the bank that my line didn’t last that long. I realized that if I really wanted to do this, I had to wade in.

John the Baptist didn’t get his name by accident (or because he went to First Baptist Church of the Wilderness). A better translation for his name might be “John the Baptizer”. He stood by the river baptizing the people who came to him, eventually including Jesus himself. For the ones who were baptized, the waters were the mark of something new. A rededication. A physical reminder of their immersion in God’s love and grace. All the while that John was telling the people to get ready for something new, he was baptizing them. The water became a symbol of what was next.

There’s something about standing in water that reminds me that I’m a part of something bigger than myself. The winter’s snow melts into the headwaters of mountain streams in Vermont. Those streams join to form a river that merges with others south of the border with Massachusetts, and by the time the Connecticut River gushes out into the Long Island Sound, there’s no stopping it. The ocean carries those Vermont waters further than I can imagine.

The same is true of our baptism. Whether we are sprinkled with water that came from a well, or a church faucet, or a bottle of Jordan River water that someone swears their aunt brought back from her visit to Israel, or whether we are dunked headlong into a lake, it doesn’t matter. That water changes us. And it makes us a part of something bigger and greater than ourselves. It gives us the potential to participate in something we can only imagine.

Just like I’ve learned that standing on the shore of a trout stream does little good, I’ve found the less I pay attention to the waters of baptism, the less fruitful my life is as well. In fact, what I’ve learned wading trout streams has taught me something valuable. When I wade into a stream, the more I try to stay in shallow water, the more likely I am to lose my footing. But the deeper I wade, the more I become one with the current, and the more I find myself standing on a solid foundation.

In Advent we are invited to stand in deeper water. In this season Christ calls us into our baptism in new ways. We are asked to step into a small stream that is heading towards incredible places. But we get to make a decision about if, and how far in, we will wade. Sometimes that river seems cold. Sometimes it seems treacherous. And sometimes it seems rocky. But I’ve found that every time I’ve waded deep, there has been a blessing in it.

Question: Where in your faith life do you find yourself holding back out of fear? What would it mean to immerse yourself?

Prayer: Creator of the the waters, the rivers, and the seas, bless those of us who stand on the shore. Call us into the living waters. Steady our feet on rocky ground. Keep us safe in the midst of the deep. And join us with one another, bound by the blessing of our common baptismal waters. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day 10 – Not So Silent Night

20131210-140908.jpgOn Christmas Eve two years ago our sanctuary was packed to capacity. We filled the pews to the max, then added folding chairs in the back. Then, finally, people took up standing positions in the back and down the side aisles. By the time we made it to the end of the service, when we sing “Silent Night” by candlelight, I was pretty sure that between the over fire capacity crowd, the 150 year old wooden building, and the candles we were going to burn down the church.

So last year we broke with tradition and went from one Christmas Eve service to two. We decided the early service would be a “family friendly” one that was earlier in the evening and featured a children’s pageant. The later would be the traditional, relatively quiet candlelight service.

The children’s service was wonderful. The kids sang “Away in a Manger”, they brought the “Baby Jesus” (a recycled doll) up to the creche, and they “lit” their child safe “candles” with the lightbulbs on top. And, yes, they made a lot of noise. They made the sort of happy, joyful noise that children make when they are in a place where they know that they are valued and loved. I couldn’t be happier.

On Christmas Eve we celebrate the fact that God became one of us. And the remarkable thing is that when God became human, God didn’t choose to be someone who was strong, or respected, or powerful. God chose to come as a powerless newborn child. That’s why seeing the joyful, boisterous children at church last Christmas made me especially happy. They are reminders to me of the way God chose to first show us Christ.

But after worship, as I stood by the outside door, one man I’d never seen before made clear to me that he didn’t see it that way. “Those kids were such  distraction!,” he told me. “The service would have been perfect if they hadn’t been here.” Then he disappeared into the snowy night, never to be seen again.

I suppose I could have gotten mad about it. I could have indignantly reminded him that it was the family-friendly service, where kids are allowed to be kids. I could have said that even if they had been loud at the later service, that would have been fine by me. But instead I just said, “Merry Christmas” and wished him well.

But what I really wanted to say to him was this: Yes, those kids were a distraction. They broke up our silent night. They brought chaos to order. They lit their candles at the wrong time! They made sure nothing went as planned.

But, really, isn’t that the exact same thing that the baby who came 2,000 years ago did too? Didn’t Jesus make us shout about a new way? Didn’t Jesus shake up the order of things? Didn’t he bring light to the places where it wasn’t expected? Wasn’t that child a distraction?

And aren’t we better for it?

In Advent we get ready for a holy distraction. We prepare ourselves for something that will change everything. And in order to really receive the joy that Christ brings, we have to be ready to give up all the quiet and orderly places in our life and let them be filled by a child who has something much more joyful in store for us than anything we could imagine.

Question: What places in your life are so well-ordered, and run so perfectly, that you are afraid of letting in the messiness of Christ’s love?

Prayer: Holy God, when you became like one of us, you came as a child. God, help us to welcome the child, whether it’s the one who came to us 2,000 years ago, or the one who comes today. And when we welcome them, help us to allow them to turn our order into holy chaos, and our holy chaos into joy. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day Nine – Plowing the Road

photoIt snowed last night and this morning in Vermont. By the time I headed out of the house this morning to run errands the road was an icy, slushy mess. The normally speedy cars on the state road were slowed to well under the speed limit. The snow plows and salt trucks hadn’t been through yet either, and as I pulled in and out of the post office, the village market, the hardware store, and the coffee shop, I took my time and hit the brake more than usual. I’m not what anyone would call an overly cautious driver, but I’m a volunteer first responder, and I’ve seen what these same roads can do to cars full of people in the winter.

In this week’s Gospel reading John the Baptist tells us to, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight the paths!” I’ve often read that wondering why God needs us to do that. I mean, God could probably straighten out God’s own paths, and with a lot more accuracy than we can do it. Why does God have this guy out in the wilderness calling to us to be God’s divine road crew? Jesus came, and is coming, whether we were, and are, ready or not.

But John’s call to us is different than that. Indeed, Christ will transform the world, regardless of what we do, but John is offering us something incredible: a chance to participate in that transformation. In Advent we are called to prepare a special path for Christ to come into our hearts. While the Reformed part of me believes that God’s grace is irresistible, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some say in what happens next when that grace comes in the form of Christ and wants to transform our lives.

On my six mile drive back from town, I was stuck behind a state snow plow. I didn’t particularly mind. The truck pushed the ice and snow off to the side of the road, making it safe to pass once again. “Prepare ye the way of the CRV,” I said to myself. (It was a lot funnier in the moment.)

In Advent we prepare the way of the Lord in our own lives. We make decisions about how we will respond with gratitude for the grace that surrounds us. We clear the paths to our hearts that are impassable, put down a foundation that lets grace take hold, and get them ready for a new season. We choose whether or not we are going to get ready for what comes next. We choose in Advent whether we will participate in Christmas. And sometimes that choice starts with something as simple as clearing a path for something incredible.

Question: Are there any pathways inside of you that are too blocked to allow grace to flow through? What would it look like to make straight those places in preparation for Christmas?

Prayer: Holy God, we know something big is coming, and we know you are calling us to get ready. Show us the paths you will take, and help us to prepare them for you, so that we may participate in what is coming next. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day Eight – Get Ready

saint-john-the-baptist-09We read about John the Baptist every second Sunday of Advent. Here in the middle of the Christmas joy and preparation is this story of this guy who lives down by the river eating locusts and wild honey, and shouting at everyone to repent.

There’s a good reason no one is putting John the Baptist on a Christmas card.

Maybe it’s John’s call to us to “repent” that scares us the most. I hear “repent” and I either think of a religious revival where some preacher is calling everyone sinners, or a dour confessor doling out penance. Neither is particularly joyful anytime of the year, and particularly not at Christmas.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth hearing. And that’s especially true if we hear what “repentance” really means. If you go back to the root of the Greek word that’s found in the original text of the New Testament, you find that the word is “metanoia”. Metanoia is roughly translated as “to change your mind”. It’s a call to “think differently”. And, not just a call to change your mind, it’s a call to change your actions as well.

That may sound like an odd Christmas message, but it fits perfectly in Advent. This is the season when we who follow Christ are getting ready for something new. This is the start of something big. And if we are going to get on board, we have to make room for what is coming, and we have to change the things that are keeping us from getting ready.

This repentance isn’t about feeling bad or ashamed or guilty. It’s about being willing to put aside the things that are keeping us from fully participating in what comes next. It’s about believing that our mistakes and our past don’t have to define out future. And it’s about deciding to believe that we can be a part of God’s own work in our world.

And, when you think about it like that, John the Baptist was all proclaiming out chance to share in the joy to come. It may not fit on a Christmas card, but it’s worth remembering just the same in this holy season of getting ready.

Question: How are you repenting this Advent? What changes are you making in order to make room or to get ready?

Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the chance to change, and thank you for the people you put in our lives who remind us that change is possible. In this season of Advent, help us to make the changes we can make in order to make room for a love that will change the world. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day Seven – Breaking In

IMG_1926Several weeks ago I went to bed after a long day. It didn’t take me long to fall into a deep, sound sleep. But not long after that, I was awakened by a voice coming from someone standing next to the bed.

“Get up,” my wife said. “Someone is breaking into the house.”

Half-awake I turned on a flashlight, debated grabbing my heaviest putter, bounded down the stairs and, because I would be the first person to die in a horror movie, opened the front door and called out, “Is anyone out there?”

No one was out there. As we sat on the couch we heard the same noise my wife had heard a few minutes before. It was so windy that night that the storm door was blowing open and the doorknob was doing something that made it sound like someone was trying to force it open. I would have thought someone was breaking in too.

In this past Sunday’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us, “if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matthew 24)

I was reminded of that passage this week while watching yet another yearly round of anger about the “war on Christmas”. Here’s my short take: Christmas is not under attack. Not from outside the church, anyway. People who say “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” are not killing the baby Jesus. Really. (For more on this, see this piece: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/on-keeping-christ-in-chri_b_1152761.html)

But, that’s not to say that we who are Christians shouldn’t be a bit concerned. I’m not talking about outside attacks here. They are as imaginary as the person I was sure was breaking into my house the other week. I’m talking about the way that in the Christmas season we Christians sometimes become so short-sightedly focused on perceived threats outside of our doors that we don’t see that Christ has already broken in to the world around us.

When Jesus said that the owner of the house wouldn’t know when the hour was coming, he could have been talking about us and our misguided anger over those who fail to “keep Christ in Christmas”. What if, instead of getting mad at every cashier who fails to wish us “Merry Christmas”, we looked around and saw the places that Christ is calling us to make Christmas merry for others? What is instead of growing angry over “holiday trees” we instead planted the seeds of peace that this world needs? What if instead of waging wars about nativity scenes on public lands we instead opened our churches in new and radical ways? What if we stopped charging after invisible intruders at the door and focused on looking instead for Christ’s coming?

This Christmas season there are signs of Christ’s coming all around us. We just have to pull ourselves away from the distractions long enough to look. And when we do, we just might find that life is a lot less scary, and a lot more joyful. A lot more like Christmas ought to be.

Question: This Christmas how are you living out the Gospel in ways that attract others, rather than attacking them?

Prayer: Holy God, help us to always be ready to greet you when you come to our door, and teach us to welcome others, whether they will ever believe like us or not, and to invite them inside our hearts. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day Six – The Hope of Mandela

Copyright, AFP/Getty images

Copyright, AFP/Getty images

There’s nothing that can be said about the life of Nelson Mandela that hasn’t been said better already. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s remarks this morning sum up his legacy well, so most of us shouldn’t even try. But as I sit to write about hope today, on the day after Mandela has died, I feel that I cannot do so without writing about him.

When Mandela was released from prison I was nearly 14 years old. He had begun his imprisonment 14 years before I was born. I remember hearing about his release and thinking about a man being in prison for the entire span of my own life, times two, and wondering how any person could survive that. This was before I knew about what happened to him in prison; the beatings, the forced labor, the isolation. How in the world could anyone emerge from that without being completely broken?

And more importantly, how could anyone experience the worst that humanity has to offer, and still emerge with hope?

This first week of Advent we speak about the hope that comes in Christ. In Advent we remember that God became human, like one of us, to bring hope to a broken world. And in the Christmas story, there in the background, is the knowledge of how this all ends: that broken world will do its best to break the child who comes in hope. But in the end, new hope will come from the one who rises above the worst that world has to offer.

Nelson Mandela was not Jesus Christ. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying that. But he was a man who, despite the worst the world was able to do to him, still believed in hope. And more than that, he shared that hope with a changing country that needed it more than ever. To put a man in a jail cell for 28 years with nothing but hope, and to have him emerge 28 years later and have hope enough for a country…there are no words to describe it.

Nelson Mandela once said, “I am not an optimist, but a great believer of hope.” That’s an important distinction. To be a hopeful person is not to be one who sees the world through rose colored glasses. To be a hopeful person is to be one who sees the brokenness of humanity, and yet who refuses to believe that reconciliation and new life are not possible.

That’s what being a follower of Christ in Advent is like too. We cannot gloss over the pain and injustice and violence in this world. We have to name it. But, more than anything  we have to refuse to become incapacitated by it. We have to choose hope, and we have to share that hope with others. I can’t imagine any better modern witness to that than Mandela.

Question: Where have you seen the brokenness of the world, and how have you chosen to hope anyway?

Prayer: God of hope and justice, we commend to you our brother Nelson and all who have chosen hope over hatred, over resignation, and over defeat. Bless those who tread in the most broken places of our world, and strengthen them in hope, that their hope may also strengthen others. Amen.

Questioning Advent: Day Five – Creating Hope for Others

Copyright, Sotheby's

Copyright, Sotheby’s

My wife Heidi is a member of Old South Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Boston. If you don’t know Old South, you should check them out. They do amazing things in the city of Boston, including helping the city to heal after the Boston Marathon bombing happened, almost literally, right on their doorstep. Their ministry since 1669 has included everything from hosting planning meetings for the Boston Tea Party to being one of the first churches anywhere to reach out to people with AIDS in the very early days of the epidemic. I’m not sure I know of another congregation that has been so on the cutting edge of ministry so consistently for so long.

Last spring Old South had an important congregational decision to make. The congregation was the owner of two copies of the first book ever published in the British colonies, the Bay Psalm Book. Published in 1640, only eleven still exist, and only five are complete copies. Old South’s copies have been safely ensconced in the Boston Public Library across the street for some time now, but have remained dear to the hearts of the church. They are a beloved part of their history.

Which is why when the proposal came before the church to sell one copy, it was not an easy decision to make. Was selling one of these books tantamount to selling off their heritage? Were they making a short sighted decision that they would later regret? Were they being good stewards of what they had been given?

In this first week of Advent the church traditionally talks about hope. We talk about the hope that Christ brought to us when he was born in Bethlehem, and we talk about the hope which is to come. And, if we are really looking closely, we even talk about how we see evidence of that hope all around us. But what we sometimes forget is that as important as it is to look for hope, participating in that hope in bold ways is even more important.

Old South voted to sell their Bay Psalm Book. And last week, two days before Thanksgiving, it was auctioned off in New York City for $14.2 million dollars. $13.1 million of those dollars will come directly back to the church, which will use that money to continue to fund their ministries to the city of Boston and to the world. Because they sold the Bay Psalm Book, people will be fed and sheltered, a church that welcomes all will be strengthened, and a witness to the world of Christ’s hope will shine a little brighter.

That’s not to say that this was a decision that cost the church nothing. It is hard to let go of something that you cherish so greatly as this congregation cherished this part of their heritage. But in the end, they took seriously Christ’s call to us to “sell all you own and follow me”. And even as they let go…because they let go…they found hope. And that hope will be shared with others for years to come.

Question: Are you holding on to something in your life so tightly that you don’t have a free hand left to grasp hope?

Prayer: Holy God, you can use anything to create hope. Show us the places and things in our lives that we can use to create hope for others. And then, give us the will to use those things in new ways that we may find Christ’s hope for us, and for the world. Amen.