Bethany Renew
Midweek Email Devotion
22 December 2015  

I welcome you to Bethany Renew! This is our church's weekly online spiritual connection.
Every midweek, you will receive a devotion, a prayer, or an essay that are intended to stir up conversations and ideas of how we will proceed on the path of renewal. Feel free to forward this email to anyone who you think will be interested in receiving these readings.  You are welcome to respond or make comments, or otherwise just sit back and enjoy your weekly readings and reflections!  

Dec. 24 
Please don't miss our annual Christmas Eve Candle Light Service (11 p.m.)
Rev. Barbara Brown will lead the service. 


 Week Off
I have asked for a one-week-off starting Dec. 26 to Jan. 1
I will be in Bothell (family), Bellingham (Youth Camp), and will also do some writing. The service this Sunday will be led by your lay church leaders. 


This light could have entered the world with such shattering power and staggering radiance. That could have forcefully dispersed all forms of cruelty, evil, and despair. But no, the light of Advent is gentle. The light of Advent started with a small spark. Instead of a military entrance with a massive angelic fleet, God came as a baby! A defenseless, powerless, new-born infant.

The light that we give witness to is not a blinding light.  
God is not a scorching flame. We don't give witness to a divine punisher, we give witness to a gentle Savior.
We don't worship an almighty-angry-doomsayer. We worship a life-giver, a joy-restorer, a soul-healer.
The birth of Christ did not instantly fix all the bedlam in Bethlehem,
       of the oppression brought by a cruel Empire,
       and the frustration of a "delayed" Messiah.
But God gently weaved his plan with a young unknown couple, in an unknown village, on a very ordinary night.
Perpetual light entered our dark world but in a very small spark.
May we believers and witnesses to God's way of working, not in massive blaze; but in small glows and flickers:
        of answers to prayer that entails years of waiting,
        of dreams that starts in small beginnings,
        of maturity that requires a lifetime, 
        of small deeds of kindness and compassion.
May we learn to trust the slow unfolding of God's design,
sometimes in a manger, sometimes in your heart and mine.
And may we experience not just the glitters and sparkles of the holiday, but the inner warmth and internal brightness of the Advent Light, even if it seems a little darker this winter.
Because let's be honest, not all Christmas season is magical and jolly:
            With bobtail ring and spirit's joy,
            With jingle bells and mistletoes.
Because for others it gets tougher when the holiday is coming up. Because for them it brings back painful memories. For some, it reminds them of happy holidays in the past they cannot bring back, because of sickness, because of distance, because of a loss or a break-up.  

But we don't witness to a light that brightens outward appearances and makes everything looks perfect.
In fact, we don't even have a magical gospel filled with perfect plots. What we have is an Advent story filled with uncertainties and challenges.

No, we witness to a light that enlightens the soul, the heart, the inner life. So though it's dark outside, the mind is sound, the heart is clear; it is flooded with light inside.
And even if we do not dispel darkness immediately around us,
            we can create small sparks of goodness,  
            sparks of faith when there are doubts,
            sparks of openness when there are indifference,
            sparks of kindness for the poor and the powerless.

So as we light our Christmas candles tomorrow on our Christmas Eve Service, may we light some sparks of peace and hope to our darkened world.
As we gather as friends and family around the dinner table, may we celebrate the beams of friendship and love we share together. 
And as we pause, and breathe, may we say a little prayer in our heart: "O come Emmanuel. Shine in my life. Be born anew in my heart." Amen.


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