Sunday, December 25, 2016

Blue Christmas meditation

‘Blessed are you because of who God is’

Rev. Donalee Williams for the Blue Christmas Service at First United Church, Fort McMurray - In my experience, loss can bring out some of the worst … advice. In situations of loss I have received well-worn words that give dubious comfort at best. And in humility I confess the times when I’ve offered some less-than-awesome advice.

Sometimes the message is about cheering up … getting out there … getting over it … getting back to normal. Sometimes that advice begins with: “well, at least you didn’t …” Maybe you’ve heard that since the fire. Maybe you’ve tried to offer that advice to yourself.

Sometimes it’s not about the words, but a desperate desire for us … just to say we’re okay. But sometimes we’re just not.

And in this Christmas season … doesn’t it seem sometimes that loss and grief don’t fit? They grate against the expectation that everything must be perfect or at least okay!

Some people really DREAD Christmas and that may especially be true in this first Christmas after the fire and evacuation… when you automatically reach for those homemade ornaments until you realize they are gone forever … or when you decorate your tree with treasured pieces and realize your neighbours don’t have theirs.

You may be wondering about the scripture reading for this evening … talking about being blessed … when you may feel anything but.

However, the beatitudes are not practical advice for a successful life1 … or one of those “shoulds” that we like to impose on ourselves.

The beatitudes are words of prophecy … declarations that God`s kingdom, God`s kin-dom will come and that God`s kin-dom is already present … here and now … despite everything.

Maybe we can hardly believe God`s promises will be filled when the emptiness inside us aches so keenly … when life … seems so cruel. And being told that we will see God … what if I don`t even feel God is there … or that God cares about me? And there`s that word “blessed“ — it can stick in your throat. How can I be “blessed“ when I feel so wounded … angry … despairing.

But here`s the interesting thing about the word “blessed“ in the Beatitudes. Being “blessed“ isn`t about being happy or thinking there`s something wrong when we are unhappy. Blessed is about God.

God who is at work among us, with and in us … in Fort McMurray … in our lives right now. And if we don’t feel it right now … that’s okay.

Being blessed is the assurance that God’s promises are true and real … even when we don’t feel them. Being blessed is trusting that God is active even in the midst of our distrust and doubt.

It is like… when we are in the deepest hour of the night… struggling with fears ancient and new. It’s like we are in the womb of God which nurtures us until we are ready to be born at dawn’s whisper.

So I say to you: Blessed are you because of who God is. Blessed are you because God, who in Jesus was born, lived and died and rose again, knows about emptiness, cruelty, grief and doubt. God promises `I am with you.` Blessed are you because of God`s promises that the hunger and thirst for justice will be filled. God promises mercy in abundance . These promises are still to come in their fullness and are also here among us. These promises are holding us when we may not know we are being held.

Blessed are you. Blessed am I. Blessed are we. Thanks be to God. Amen. - 1 M. Eugene Boring, in The New Interpreters Bible, Volume VIII, Abingdon Press, 1994, page 177.

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