Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Reflection 2018

Christmas Reflection
Tony E Dillon Hansen
25 December 2018          

Merry Christmas to you and may you be blessed with the grace of this season now and through the coming year.

I write today to reflect upon the year, upon old ideas “re-visioned”, and new opportunities going forward. I am not going to try to project to you that you should believe as I do nor is the attempt to “save” anyone.  My writing is more friendly and wishing to share a personal reflection about this year and this season. Today, I write with a bit of grace in my heart, with somber humility and no expectation of how one should receive these words, but I pray from Psalm 19 that words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable.

“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) is how we begin the Gospel of John and it is fitting that I am using the word to bring this reflection to you. This also relives the beginning of the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2. Still, A word is how one greets each other.  A simple “Hello” or “Hi” begins a conversation where we can exchange ideas and learn from each other. Perhaps John uses this to let us hear, the being we know as, God speaking to us. Culturally, we follow greetings with a question (e.g. “How are you?”) and the Gospels also present to us questions.

This year, I took courses along with internship that triggered reflections upon the scriptures and pastoral work in deep and sometimes difficult ways.  The words and stories of scripture I thought I knew changed into multi-dimensional, layered lessons and questions. I know we come to the sacred text in different ways and with different ideas of what those books represent. 

For me, my perspective has evolved to understand the collection of books and stories that we know as the Hebrew Bible are a collection of graces, celebrations and legendary strength but also stories about human failing, ego and even egregious crimes. It is a collection of lessons about who we are and from where we come with hope that we might not repeat some history.

I will give an example. There are characters in the stories that I found different understandings, like with King David. For most of my youth, I was raised to understand David with some reverence, but when you read the text in Samuel and Kings, David is a complex character. Yes he helps to establish a dynasty in ancient Israel, but he does some serious wrongs. From a modern perspective, they were severe crimes.  Even so, the books tell us that the mystery of YHWH found a place for forgiveness. While I do not condone the crimes, this becomes a good question for us.  Do we measure people only by their faults? Do we have a place in our hearts for forgiveness? 

For my own, I have my share of wrongs, but somehow, I have managed to do some good in the world. This is perhaps why I am in ministry today because like many, I have felt the torture of bullying, and like some, I have felt the agony of losing family. I have been shamed, guilted, and even felt religion used as a weapon against me rather than a comfort.  Yet, somehow, there were good experiences and people that were examples of resilience, renewal and good will. All of these inform my work with an understanding of humility, success and spirit. With all of our misfortunes and injustices in this life, that goodness can direct our outlook.

Maybe, the question is whether we let people define us or if we define our being and our lives.
As Christians (and many faiths alike), we can lean into the Gospels and the epistles that provide an account of the tumultuous life and uninhibited ministry of Jesus, which we celebrate today.  Even though “the world did not know him… and his own people did not accept him”, “he came to what was his own.” (John 1:10). 

That seems to be the core of Christmas that we read in the words from John and also Isaiah (9:2-7). That despite walking in darkness, and no matter where you are on life’s journey, there is a light that can lead us.  God is not just a being aloof in the Heavens but here among us – listening and nudging.  Christmas is a time when hope can be restored because we can begin new life with wondrous child eyes. You might smirk “with child’s eyes in this old broken body?”

We “were born …of God” (John 1:12-13) means that we are all “children of God.” This invokes Genesis (1:26) that people were made in the image of our Creator -- without distinction. Thus, we all have an equal and fair share of this creation. Through the light of this season, there is hope that we are not alone, and that we do have a purpose -- if we are willing to look up and witness the light upon our souls. Further, if we are willing to be the light of hope to someone and to our community, maybe our community might live into the promise of this season with little need for walls or guns.

This speaks to the work with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry. Weekly, we prepare and deliver food and essentials to homeless and under-employed.  I am involved with UBFM for a number of reasons. For one, I cannot solve the world’s problems, but I can help a corner of our community. I am becoming aware of the privilege I have, and I realize how close the other side is (and has been).  If I were there, I would pray that there would be UBFM’s being the light of hope for me. 

So this season, we (Bret and I) reflect upon the changes in our lives and connections we have made this past year. We made great changes in our professional careers along with ministries with the wider Church. We still have questions along with costs and challenges, but we look forward with hopeful eyes that we are in a new place as a place we want to share friendship, laughs and some wine. Perhaps, light did shine upon us, and awakened a stronger connection and love between us along with a more optimistic outlook.

We would like to share some light with you. So Hello to you and how are you? Let the grace of the season be real and be yours. Go ahead, ask questions, make room for forgiveness in your hearts, and find your light. Then maybe you might be able to find a gift of hope, peace, joy and love - despite any tumult of our lives, especially as we look forward to another year.

Oh Child of our Creator, may the peace and hope of this season be with you all this season and the coming year!