My hope is you’ve had a restful few weeks. Since this is the beginning of the year, and a fresh start, you are more than welcome to unsubscribe to the weekly blog if you are sensing your inbox is too full. Looking forward to seeing where God takes us this 2016 year!
Confession: I am glad Christmas day is over.
Hard to believe, right? A girl who writes about Christ each week is glad when his birthday is over. Well, there is something about the preparation of Christmas that overwhelms me. Each year, I tell myself, “Ally, you are not going to get crazy during the month of December”, but when Advent arrives, I find myself in the midst of hurry aching for breath.
The preparation wanes and the start of my Christ celebration begins on Christmas Eve. A filling time of carols, lessons and candlelight at church soothes my soul. Giving familiar faces hugs and dwelling on the coming of Christ brings joy. Then, the celebration continues at home with good food, the opening of a gift or two, a game played and a glass of wine by the twinkling of Christmas tree lights after the kids are snuggled in their beds.
Christmas morning dawns and joy is evident. Smiles and love abound. The day unfolds slow with a family prayer, coffee poured and stockings unwrapped. Time lingers as batteries are put in new toys, snacks are eaten and pristine books are perused. The roast is put in the oven, salad made. Friends arrive for dinner. We eat like kings and laugh like jesters and we can’t believe this sacred, lavish day is already over. Another Christmas day has mysteriously appeared and vanished.
Upon waking the next morning, I get a renewed sense of breath. It’s as if all the preparation of Christmas leads to this divine inhale that takes place knowing that Christ has come. In the following days after Christmas, more than ever, I sense a time of quiet and rest. A sense of Sabbath. When the kiddos play with new toys. When they delight in a new science kit or read a fresh story. When I wake slow and meander in pajamas through the morning hours. I suppose this is why I’m grateful for Christmas day to be wrapped up. It is in the quiet days after Christmas, more than ever, I feel the Sabbath of Christ.
As the peace of Christ settles into my bones, the new year approaches. A blank slate. A fresh start. A do-over. And, oh, how grateful I am for this newness. I am thrilled to begin again, with fresh hopes and dreams. However, this year, I notice the push of social and regular media as the new year beckons. A push to get people to name resolutions, goals, consider change and persevere. The ads run reminding us to exercise and diet. I understand the want to name a goal and attempt to reach it, but I can’t help but wonder, “Is this what the birth of Christ means for us? To name goals, resolutions and attempt to reach them?”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been musing over why Christ was birthed into the world. What is the invitation for you and I because of His birth, in 2016? Jesus’ birth into our world gives us a God who shows us how He loves us, how He loves God, and how He serves others. Maybe this example of Christ gives us a vision of Christmas not meant to be one day of the year. Instead, could Christmas be a spilling into the world long after a one day celebration? A Christmas that continues to give? Maybe the invitation for our new year is to listen to how Christ is asking us to join with him for the good of His earthly kingdom, for the good of others, so the gift of Christmas continues.
As I pondered this, the word, “kindling” came to me. Kindling is defined as “easily combustible small sticks or twigs used for starting a fire.” I thought how we all have the opportunity to be kindling for Jesus in the world. We are all invited to be “soul kindlers”.
Soul is of God. Kindling leads to a bright, beautiful flame. When these two combine, the Spirit dances, nourishes, guides and infuses goodness into the world. If we become those carrying the flame for God, imagine the difference we make in our corner of the world! It is not a matter of discussing God, but rather, knowing we, ourselves are loved by God and passing on the love of Christ through our thoughts and actions.
Too often, I forget this. I breeze through the day, rushing to get from here or there, barely making eye contact as I encounter others. I react tersely to my kids when they interrupt. My mind spirals downward as I wrestle with negative thoughts. Yes, the secular world impinges my being. Yet, when I slow down, a new recognition takes place. One that speaks, “Every day is brimming with God, Ally. Slow down to see.” It is this very idea – this finding the sacred in the ordinary that challenges me and lights my soul aflame for God. If I only find God when I go to church or listen to Christian music or hang out with other Christians, well, then I miss the opportunity of the immense nature of God. The birth of Christ is a birthing of God into the entire world, for Gentiles and Jews, saints and sinners, rich and poor, male and female. Christ came to tear down the veil of separation, not keep the walls of divide up.
As I consider the upcoming year, I am unsure what will unfold. I don’t know what each day or month will bring. For this reason, I will not write down a goal for my new year. Instead, I will attempt to tune into my natural “kindling”. A kindling that burns slow from the inside out. A kindling that urges me to create through words and art to share about faith. A kindling that ignites when I engage in conversation about new ideas. A kindling inviting me to slow down to see. Maybe when I look, I’ll see Jesus in a stranger. God beyond nature. The Holy Spirit in a secular world. Maybe my eyes will grow to see the sacred in the ordinary. If I begin to see with the eyes of God, then surely compassionate action will steadily follow.
Will you join me in this quest of being a “soul kindler” in the world? Together, we will listen, see, name and act. By encouraging one another regularly, we can become celebrants of Christ’s presence all year long, keeping each other kindled. Together, our kindling will grow and we will become the ones to tear down walls that divide and keep the love of Christmas going. Together, we will move forth, our kindling turning to flame setting an undernourished world ablaze for our Loving, Creator God. Let the spark alight!
“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.”
– Galatians 3:27-28 MSG
Reflect on something from your life which you feel separated from and of which you’d like restoration brought. Consider writing a prayer for this situation/relationship.
Swing by over here for reflection questions to help discern where your natural “kindling” lies.
Keep the Conversation Going:
Leave a comment sharing your hopes, challenges and natural tendencies of being a “soul kindler” in the world
Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer