LET EACH NEW YEAR FIND YOU A BETTER PERSON
“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let each New Year find you a better person.” ~Benjamin Franklin
This weekend we will send out the old year and bring in the new one. Bye-bye to 2010 and hello to 2011. Is it just me, or does it seem just yesterday that saying 2000 seemed really weird? Articulating the year without saying ‘nineteen…’ seemed really odd. Now we find ourselves a tenth of the way through this century in what seems to have been the blink of an eye. In many ways this December 31st will see us not just say goodbye to the year 2010 but to the decade as well. As we look back at the first decade and dream of what will be said of us when the history of this century is written, what we are proud of and what might we want to address as a society. We have big global issues to address.
Locally, I cannot help but think of all that has transpired in the past 10 years. I am proud to say that I have experienced a full decade in Tecumseh. And that I have been able to see our growth and development. For instance, when I think about what Manning Road looked like at the end of the last decade when I moved to this area and think of what it looks like today, I am astonished. Also, for most of the decade we heard fussing and fighting about Lakewood Golf Club. Before the decade was done, the town made a couple of purchases to put an end to speculation about development on our green space and giving us open parklands to the lake. While we lost St. Anne’s to Lakeshore, there is a new public school to be built in Tecumseh. The big strike in the city of Windsor gifted us with the Dragon Boat Races – this has become a great event for us host. The removal of the steeple from St. Anne’s Church was a big moment in this past decade. In short – a lot has happened in ten years and it has happened quickly. Now, what about the next ten years? Where are we going? What plans do we have, as individuals and as a town? How can we heed the advice of good old Benny Franklin? What do we need to do to rid ourselves of poor attitudes and poor behaviours that serve to bring our town down? In the meantime, how can we better live with our fellow residents of Tecumseh? How can we, in Tecumseh, live as better neighbours in the region (Do you hear me Town Council)? Let’s hope that we can all look at ourselves on day one of 2011 knowing that we are better people for the way we choose to live in our town. We can make a difference in this next decade. We all will have a part to play.
The Rev’d Kevin George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the Editorial for this Week’s Tecumseh Tribune…..
Christmas is finally upon us. All of the hustle and bustle is near over. Although, I suspect that there are still a few of you out there picking up those last-minute items. I loathe shopping. I really get agitated and aggravated when I am in a mall or shopping plaza. I really dislike the whole messy process at any time of year, but most especially right before Christmas. Thank God for the internet and for small business owners here in Tecumseh. I will have to go to the mall at some point (hopefully by the time you are reading this I have already made that trip) but I will not be happy about it. Now I am not going all ‘bah humbug’ on you here. I think, in fact it is quite the opposite. I love the gift giving tradition. You see, I am a Priest. The market part of Christmas drives me a little crazy.
This Feast that we are about to celebrate is about the Prince of Peace. This time of year is rooted in the celebration of God who cares so much for us that becoming one with us was a no-brainer, even though it would mean great pain. When I see the hysteria that is the mall, I do not see much that is related to the Feast of Christmas. God come in the form of the Vulnerable Child. I think that we are called at Christmastime to seek to find the vulnerable child within us. We cannot purchase away our fears or worries or insecurities. Christmas allows us to embrace the promise that God is to be found in our weakness and vulnerability. I am hoping to be able to see with new eyes the face of Child Jesus in those who do not ‘have it all together.’ I am hoping to come to understand that the Light of Christ came to us in an unexpected way, time, and place. There was no Martha Stewart to set the table, put on the right table cloth, make certain the dinner is perfect, the gift wrap is perfect, warm the house with the perfect hearth, have the perfect Christmas photo, seek to make the family as perfect as possible, etc. Instead it was; no room, pregnant virgin, cattle dung, hay, cold surroundings, and a refugee family with nowhere to go and with no place to call their own. It was far from perfect! Yet, that moment delivered ‘Perfect Love’ to us. Christmas is not about the perfect image that is sold to us. My advice to you this Christmas? At this point, whatever is done, is done! Forget about the stress of getting ready. Now focus on people, relationships, and time together. Go to church and celebrate the birth of Jesus. And know this, that even if it things are not perfect – Emmanuel – God is with us! Have a Merry and Happy Christmas.
Bill McKibben wrote that Advent is “the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when you’re running yourself.”
This is an interesting view of Advent. Advent is the time that we prepare for the One who is coming. The point made by McKibben is that if we are running away all we can hear are our own frantic footsteps and the panicked pounding of our own hectic heartbeat.
We are eight days from Christmas. We have eight more days of seeking to find the time and energy to prepare the way of the Lord. In this last week or so, there will be great temptation to move with haste to get it all done. We will run from store to store. We will race from post office to UPS. We will travel night after night to all the Christmas socials and staff parties that we can muster. All the while the pressure might build and we will feel overwhelmed by the need to measure up. In these last days of Advent, perhaps more than at any other time, we need to be reminded to stop running so that we can hear the soft and gentle footsteps of Prince of Peace who is hearkening unto us.
C. S. Lewis, in his book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, wrote;
“‘He came down from heaven’ can almost be transposed into ‘Heaven drew earth up into it,’ and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned?”
A moment’s pause from running away from God and what God is doing, might allow us an opportunity to see that darkness and death are not the final answer. If we can listen for the steps coming toward us, we may come to know that God wants to draw us up to that loving bosom. This is comforting to me. During this Advent I am trying to come to grips with the notion that my limitations and weariness, my frustration and pain, my guilt and my doubt, is known by God from the inside out. That can only be true by the grace of what C.S. Lewis is extolling. God becoming one with us assures us for all time that God knows us entirely, absolutely, and thoroughly. Sometimes my limitations and fears, my frustrations and pains, my insecurities and hurts, cause me to run from God and God’s loving embrace. Advent is a splendid time for me to stop running. It is the ideal time to stop! Stop, and ask how I can make ready to accept the gift of incarnation. How can I prepare for the gift that is a God who cares enough to become one with us?
How about you? Are you on the run? Do you need to stop? Is your spiritual pace such that it does not allow for the sound of God’s footsteps approaching? What can you do to listen for the God who is walking toward us, seeking us out, and drawing us, with all of our imperfections, toward that Divine Grace that God offers? It is a good question for Advent ….I think.
This is the reflection for Advent 3 from the Henri Nouwen Society. It is taken from his book Adam’s Story.
“Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.
Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.
In Adam’s name I say to you, “Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.”
This time of year is magnificent. It is easy to become distracted and focus our attention only to places of beauty, power, and prestige. Yet as we ready ourselves for the Prince of Peace we are reminded that God takes on incarnational reality in the weakness of a child. This Child of Grace would go on to live a life that bore witness to being incarnational in all moments. That is to say that as Jesus embraced the poor, God journeyed to the poor. As Jesus embraced the weak, God journeyed to the weak. As Jesus embraced the rejected, God journeyed to the rejected. The consumer driven world in which we live is constantly selling us the idea that power and privilege and influence are by-products of accumulation. Buy the right cloths, the right car, the right technology and you will be powerful. What Nouwen reminds us all of is the radical nature of the covenant that in which we are living. We are a people of God who have been chosen by the One who is journeying toward us and embracing us with all of our weakness and all of our vulnerability. We have agreed to seek after Jesus, loving the Prince of Peace in all persons as we wish to be loved. We have agreed that there should be dignity for ALL of God’s people, not just the ones who can afford it, not just those who own the right stuff or poses the best jobs. We have covenanted to assemble as God’s people in our vulnerability and be God’s people imperfect as we are.
If we intend to embrace peace, we must embrace our vulnerability and our weakness. What is more we have to travel to the places of weakness and brokenness in order that we may be incarnational in the practice of our faith. Who needs us this week to be the incarnational presence of Christ? Where can we go to bring God to a moment of weakness? How can we embrace the poor, the weak and the lonely?
We have much to learn from each other. I have been reading reflections each day throughout Chanukkah. I have found this to be a deeply enriching experience. Today I visited Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue. I am embarrassed to say that it was my first visit there. It is a grand building and clearly a very sacred space. I went in there in search of dreidels and I found LOTS OF THEM! While I was there I also picked up a Menorah. Following the writings of people like Rabbi Falcon, Rabbi Kushner, and Rabbi Jason Miller, have been a great way to grow spiritually as I learn more about this holy observance of our Jewish brothers and sisters.
For the seventh candle, starting Tuesday evening, December 7 Rabbi Ted Falcon offers this Chanukkah prayer for the lighting of the Menorah. “I light this candle to ignite the creativity that needs to be expressed through me. Deep resources of creativity help me meet challenges in my life and in my world.” He encourages the faithful to carry a Focus Phrase for the seventh day of Chanukkah: I respond creatively.
Rabbi Falcon is reminding Jews to respond creatively. This is a call to respond creatively to the challenges in one’s life and in the world. This is a call that we all need to heed. The Christian soul also needs to be reminded to respond creatively to the needs of the world. Today I also read a reflection by my friend Rabbi Jason Miller on Read the Spirit. His reflection on this seventh day of Hanukkah is a call to action to address injustice. He writes this story:
A Chasidic story is told of a man entering a dark room. He is overwhelmed by the darkness.“Don’t worry,” said his friend. “The darkness hits only at first. Soon your eyes will grow accustomed to it, and you will hardly notice the dark.” “My friend,” replied the man, “that is our problem. Judaism teaches us to distinguish between lightness and darkness. But unfortunately, by becoming too accustomed to the situation, we begin to think of the darkness as light!”
This story is a great reminder of how we become to accustom to the darkness with which we live in the world. (please read the rest of Rabbi Jason’s message by clicking here). Rabbi Jason reminds his readers to respond to the darkness as the chosen people – to be light in the midst of darkness.I want to echo those words to Christians as well. This message of being light in darkness is a message that our Christian community also embraces. This past Sunday was Advent 2. We focused on HOPE. It is the radical hope that one day we will embrace the hope that God has set before us. We heard from the writings of the prophet Isaiah that we will be delivered by a loving and just Saviour:
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbours,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
As we prepare for Christmas, let us not forget that we are called to imitate the One who comes to be one with us – Emmanuel. The nativity is a story that speaks of God/Light/Love coming in the midst of darkness. As Christians we believe that Light was delivered in the form of the infant Jesus. But that does not spell the end of the story. We must shine as a light in the darkness. And as Rabbi Falcon as reminded his follows today be focus on being creative, I too ask our people to respond creatively to the needs in our world. We are called to build the world that the prophet spoke of…we long for the day when the wolf will be a guest of the lamb. We need to find creative ways to cloth ourselves with bands of justice and belts of faithfulness. In no small measure this will mean that we will come to better respect people of other faiths, people of different nations and races, people who do not understand, and people who have yet to see God in any way.
Rabbi Jason writes:
“To be a “light unto the nations” means that when there is darkness in our world, we must be the guiding light, the symbol of leadership, the beacon of hope, and the impetus for change. We must lead the way out of the darkness and into the light. We do this by realizing that our efforts at both justice and righteousness must extend beyond our own people.”
I could not agree more! I think we as Christians need to accept as well that being a light unto the nations requires us to think beyond Christianity, beyond our own circle and our own comfort zones. It is great that we love neighbour, but perhaps being a creative light this Advent Season, might mean learning more about those who are ‘strangers’ to us. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in The Dignity of Difference reminds us that in The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) we are told no less than 32 times to love the stranger.
Let us find creative ways to honour God this Advent by reaching out to those who may be a light to us in our own darkness.
Today is the third day of Hanukkah. Hanukkah marks the celebration of the cleansing and rededication of the Temple when it was reclaimed by Maccabees in the 2nd century BCE. One of the great traditions of this season is playing with the Dreidel. A Dreidel is like a spin-top. It has the Hebrew letters נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”)
I decided I wanted to get a Dreidel and play the Hebrew game with some friends. Before beginning, each player starts with 10 or 15 coins, and then each player puts one in the pot. According to www.milechai.com the rules look like this:
Before spinning the dreidel each player deposits a fixed proportion of the amount received into a “kupah” or kitty. One of the players spins the dreidel. The dreidel stops and lands with one of the symbols facing up and the appropriate action is taken:
- Nun - nischt - “nothing” – the next player spins
- Gimel - gantz - “all” – the player takes the entire pot
- Hey - halb - “half” – the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
- Shin - shtel - “put in” – the player puts one or two in the pot
This sounds good to me. I thought it would be appropriate on a Friday evening to honour the holy season of our Jewish brothers and sisters by engaging in a friendly game of Dreidel. One problem – I do not own a Dreidel. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll go buy one.” Easier said than done!
So far I have called: Sears, The Bay, Teach n Toys, Scholars Choice, Zellers, Walmart, Hallmark, Benix & Co., Chapters/Indigo, Cameron’s Christian Book Store, and Toys R Us! Nobody has a Dreidel. After a few calls I was about to quit but then I became increasingly curious as to how one would get a Dreidel if one was looking for it in the city of Windsor. This does not begin to address some of the reactions I received from clerks when I explained what a Dreidel is. At least three stores asked if I meant ‘cradle’…one of them went on to say, “like a cradle for Jesus for Christmas.” To which I replied, “NO – not like that at all! I am exacerbated! I cannot find this little but powerful toy anywhere. I was also surprised at how very few knew what I was even talking about. We really do not learn enough about other religions and cultures.
So if you are in Windsor and you need a Dreidel – Go to Detroit because this interested sojourner has come up empty in his search for this great teaching toy.I may have to go back to playing Dominos or Scrabble…I am calling on my Jewish friends to help me…”where does one go to get a Dreidel?”
In the meantime I offer this blessing on this third day of Hanukkah –
“Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.” …I may utter the same prayer after I finally find a Dreidel.
Today is World AIDS Day. On this day we hope to draw attention to the need for awareness and action around HIV/AIDS. The theme to this year’s World AIDS Day is Universal Access and Human Rights, through the Light for Rights Campaign. “The Light For Rights campaign strives to underscore this year’s focus on HIV and human rights by encouraging people in cities around the world to dim the lights on key landmarks to remember the devastating affect AIDS has had on us all, and to turn the lights back on to illuminate the fundamental human rights we all share but that are often denied people living with HIV.” This evening around world large cities will dim the lights in buildings and then light them up in red as a reminder of what today is. This year’s campaign calls on the world to fight for human rights around our world as it is clear that the lack of human rights for people in underdeveloped nations especially, is exacerbating the spread of HIV/AIDS. The numbers are alarming. According to lightforrights.org “a total of 33 million people now live with HIV/AIDS. Two million of them are under the age of 15. Every day 7,397 people contract HIV—308 every hour.” There is a desperate need to act. “More than two-thirds (67 percent) of all people living with HIV, 22 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including 90 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children.” The lack of medication to treat those who are HIV positive is a sad statement about the unwillingness for the global community to be called into action.
Now the temptation is to assume that we cannot make much of a difference.
Robert F Kennedy once said “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” This is true. We, all of us together, can make a difference. We must also act because we are the Body of Christ. St. Paul offers this in 1st Corinthians 12.
“For example, the body is one unit and yet has many parts. As all the parts form one body, so it is with Christ. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jewish or Greek, slave or free, God gave all of us one Spirit to drink.
As you know, the human body is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body!” Would that mean it’s no longer part of the body? Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not a part of the body!” Would that mean it’s no longer part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? So God put each and every part of the body together as he wanted it. How could it be a body if it only had one part? So there are many parts but one body.
An eye can’t say to a hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” The opposite is true. The parts of the body that we think are weaker are the ones we really need. The parts of the body that we think are less honourable are the ones we give special honour. So our unpresentable parts are made more presentable. However, our presentable parts don’t need this kind of treatment. God has put the body together and given special honour to the part that doesn’t have it. God’s purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness.
So today we pray for the will and the vision to do what we can to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. It is so true that we all suffer when one suffers. Today we pray to have the courage to speak out against negative and hurtful attitudes that continue to stigmatize those who are living with HIV/AIDS. We need to fight ignorance and prejudice as they are fuelling the spread of this disease. I am not sure who said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Today is as good a day as any other for us to speak up, to educate, to embrace, to reach out, to heal, and to proclaim that we care.