Pastor Burke Owens
This month is my favorite in the year for it is a time of celebration and of honoring the past, while traveling into the future to welcome the new birth, bringing joy and life to all the world. Advent is the anticipation of this new time as the darkness grows longer and longer until it changes and we find new life along with the rebirth of the light. Just as the sun moves toward more darkness for most of this month before turning again to journey back towards full light, so we ourselves go through a change moving from darkness to light, from inner life to outer, from the dying of the old year to the birth of the new.
So welcome the changes that you find this season. Welcome them with gratitude, with kindness and with love, for remember who is born this time of year, born in humble circumstances, but born of love and of deepest compassion for the world. Jesus comes to remind us of God’s joy in this creation and undying love for each and everyone of us.
We will celebrate the season in worship each Sunday with a focus on A Christmas Carol in prose; being a Ghost Story of Christmas. I love this seasonal tale for so many reasons; its always-current topicality, its warm emotions, its vivid characters and its deep and abiding spirituality. In addition, the relevance for the Nativity story and how it speaks in more modern terms to the realities of an industrial society by how it challenges us all to live more deeply faithful Christian lives.
Advent leads to Christmas and this is a time that can be bittersweet for some in our community. This season of giving, of rejoicing, of renewal is also the season of sadness and depression and resentment for many who have been hurt or feel left out of the season. For many experience a blue Christmas and so are not able to engage wholeheartedly in the happiness and festivity of this month. So for those who feel these low spirits, I gently suggest that you ask God to show you how the new birth appears in your life today. It may not be in the usual Christmas or Advent festivities. For you it might in the feeling you have during your favorite time of day; such as early morning or noon or before you go to bed at night. Or in the relationship you have with a friend or a family member or your cat! It could be in the midst of enjoying a meal or taking a walk or quietly praying in your chair at home in the pew at church. Wherever and whenever it is, God is with you and will come to you when you ask.
For though we celebrate the holidays and remember the birth of Jesus and the reawakening of the sun after the winter solstice, we should not mistake these rituals for the only or even the best way to be close with God. For God is with us all the time in all we do and say and think and feel. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about the need for each one of us to live our lives as fully and wholeheartedly as possible,
I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.
I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.
God is a mystery, a great and abiding one that we can never fully know or understand. Yet we can experience God in our lives, we can feel a piece of Jesus in who we are and we can celebrate with joy and wonder the beauty and bounty of the spirit’s abiding grace.
May you have a very merry Christmas!
God bless you and keep you,
Pastor Burke Owens
Saint Helena United Methodist Church
1310 Adams Street
St. Helena, Ca. 94574
707 339 email@example.com
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9am-noon
at the SHUMC office.
other times by appointment.