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Showing posts from December, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid: Where Calm Confidence Comes From

(Re-posting a sermon today from 2010, because something/one prompted me to...)

Today I have a very simple question to ask.
The question is, “where does calm, joyful confidence in God’s care come from? – how can we get it, make it our own?”
As far as that question is concerned, in some ways we’re picking up from where we left off a few weeks ago:
You may recall on All Saints weekend, we were looking at the Beatitudes, and we looked at the notion of beautitudo, (beatitude), and I suggested the best definition for “blessed” is “a condition of life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions.”[1]
I said I think we’ve all tasted that at one point or another in our lives.
Even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, we’ve had a sense that all is well…a powerful sense of bliss.
(We have this giant tire swing in our back yard – literally a truck tire tied to a rope on a branch two stories high. My daughter Elizabeth, who is 13 ½, still loves to swing on t…

The Surprise Presence we get at Christmas

A sermon preached Christmas Eve, 2015 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal

The surprise presence we get at Christmas: not the presents with a t, the presents we get to open tomorrow morning -- tonight I want to talk about the surprise presence, company, showing up, appearance, incarnation, that we get at Christmas.
I recently ran across a little book with the title An Unexpected Christmas by Simone Graham.
The author wrote the story as a gift for her own children. It was made into a short film by St. Paul’s Anglican church in New Zealand and became a hit on YouTube a couple years ago.
The book invites you to use your imagination, and imagine a conversation going on in heaven as God reveals God’s plans for the very first Christmas. I like the way it gives a whole different perspective on a very familiar story.
It starts out by asking if you have ever wondered if we “could pull back the curtain of time that very first Christmas,” and imagine the story beginning in heaven,…

Softly, Christmas

Many years ago, I received one of the most memorable Christmas gifts I've ever received.

It was the Fall of 1984, and I was a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. A classmate and friend of mine by the name of Kay gave me a sheet of fine paper on which she had written, in beautiful handwriting, a poem by Margaret Bundy Moss titled "Softly, Christmas." It's been 30 years, but each year at this time I remember the gift of these words:

Softly, Christmas

Walk softly
As you go through Christmas,
That each step may bring you
Down the starlit path
To the manger bed.

Talk quietly
As you speak of Christmas,
That you shall not drown out
The glorious song of angels
With idle talk and merriment.

Kneel reverently
As you pause for Christmas,
That you may feel again
The spirit of the Nativity
Rekindled in your soul.

Rise eagerly
After you have trod
The Christmas path,
That you may serve more fully
The One whose birth we hail.

                                      -- Mar…

An irreverent reverent look at lights

This week, I want to offer an irreverent, reverent look at lights: you know, the Christmas lights that people put up on their houses this time of year. 

I love looking at neighborhood lights. Doesn't make much difference if it is over-sized and gaudy reindeer scenes or a subtle and classy one-candle-per-window display.

The irreverent thought about neighborhood lights is this: I like to think of them as little "up yours" to darkness. 

It's no coincidence people put lights on their houses this time of year: December 21 is the shortest day (i.e., the longest night) of the year. Each day since what, June, there's been a little more darkness and a little less light. These lights seem to say "enough is enough, I miss the light, and if mother nature won't bring it earlier, we will!"  

It's as though we're fighting back, saying, "give it your best shot, Daylight Saving Time! Bring it on, darkness, sadness, despair, hopelessness. I'm putting LIG…

A Third Way at Christmastime

About ten years ago, I used to write a weekly column called "Faithfully Yours" that ran in two newspapers. People would write in with whatever spiritual or religious questions were on their minds, and I'd offer my thoughts and sometimes advice.

For this week's message, I'm re-running, with modifications, one that ran around Christmastime. I hope you find it helpful.

Q:  I really want to feel "the Christmas spirit" but have had an increasingly harder time seeing through the malls and the parties and the pressures of the season.  And Christmas morning seems like it is all focused on presents. I don't want to sound like Scrooge, but am I the only one who is glad when Christmas is finally over?

A: No, you're not the only one who feels that way. For years, I've conducted a workshop called Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season, based on the book by that title, and I've heard hundreds of peo…