For When Christmas is Hard

A ‘Blue Christmas’ Service Sermon

A woman – no, a girl, a teenage girl – is miles and miles from home, away from her cousin and her mother and with only her husband for company- and he is really just a stranger to her.

The pains in her womb are tightening, her breathing is sharp. No one has room for her, for the burden she carries in her belly, this weight that will bring her to knees. At last, someone takes pity on her, and her husband, and their mule, and they are given the barn – where her crying won’t disturb anyone else. Continue reading

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Mother Wisdom: A Sermon for Epiphany

Nativity, Loreta, Prague.

Nativity, Loreta, Prague.

Texts: Matthew 2:1 – 12 & Book of Wisdom 10: 15-21

Our texts this morning are drawn from two sources: one I imagine is familiar to you all: the Gospel of Matthew. The other, however, is a little less known – The Book of Wisdom, or Wisdom of Solomon, which is from the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is comprised of biblical texts that are included in the original catholic canon but have not always been used by Protestants. I, however, think the Book of Wisdom can richly inform our faith and as it was suggested in the lectionary for this week thought to share it with all of you.

The Book of Wisdom, along with other Apocryphal literature, tells us that Wisdom has been with God since the very beginning of time. The Book of Wisdom itself retells many stories of the Old Testament explaining how it was She, Wisdom, who moved with famous patriarchs to fulfill God’s will. Our text today comes from the retelling of the Exodus, explaining how it was She, Wisdom, who dwelt in Moses’ heart as much as She split the Red Sea.

Continue reading

Senior Symposium Presentation

I wrote about my baby last week – my senior thesis, capping off at 120 pages on a womanist/feminist interpretation of the Christian Liturgical year. While ten minutes feels like an inch of what i had to say, here’s the presentation i gave at the Senior Symposium on Friday, should you like to watch it!

You might want to turn up your volume to hear. Many thanks to Alex (whom i reference in the film as having presented right before me on God and the Holocaust) and Nora for filming!

Here & Not Yet: Rethinking Advent Days 11 – 15

It’s a proper New England winter outside, snow accumulating along brined pathways, the draft from my window at war with my clanking heater. Jonathan’s out for a walk, the novelty of pink cheeks and frozen noses still in tact. He arrived in New England just in time to experience  it at its worst best.

Day 11: Steadfast. Taken in July, when we first adopted our kittens!

Day 11: Steadfast. Taken in July, when we first adopted our kittens!

I’m not a fan of the end of the semester. Yes, it’s the bulging purple bags under my eyes and the sort of haze everyone is over finals, three papers suddenly seeming more insurmountable than they were three weeks ago. I love Christmas, i love being home – whether home is here or North Carolina – but i just don’t love goodbyes. And yet the end of the semester means i get to leave one family for another, reconnecting with people i said farewell to in September.

Day 12: Hope, given by the MHC North Carolina Alums who send us Carolinians care packages every exam season!

Day 12: Hope, given by the MHC North Carolina Alums who send us Carolinians care packages every exam season!

Advent makes the most sense to me, now. Not when i’m home with cocoa wrapped in Ghanain quilts and binging on Scandal, not when the carols are on while i’m tucking tape into the corner of the last present to be wrapped. No, Advent makes the most sense to me in this horrible tension, this waiting – the here of Mount Holyoke, the not-yet of Durham, the half-packed bags and room in disarray.

Day 13: Justice. Tibetan prayer flags, a gift from my brother Thom.

Day 13: Justice. Tibetan prayer flags, a gift from my brother Thom.

When i come back to Mount Holyoke in the fall, it will be the last semester i do this. The last time my home is stretched across state lines, the last time i feel uprooted twice over. For that, i will be grateful. I’ll have had four years of Advent, four years of here-and-not-yet.

Day 14: Gather. Not sure if Jonathan is doing the Great Thanksgiving or basking in the falling snow.

Day 14: Gather. Not sure if Jonathan is doing the Great Thanksgiving or basking in the falling snow.

But for now, i’m trying to stay focused and lost in the process all at once. Trying not to want too much stability because in six weeks i’ll be doing this whole thing again in reverse order.

Day 15: Rejoice. On I-84, due West.

Day 15: Rejoice. On I-84, due West.

I’m finishing this blog, 24 hours later, from a very-welcome hotel bed over a very-finished plate of Indian take-out. J and i have made it the first 500 miles southbound towards NC. I’m feeling less and less torn now, more focused on the miles and right turns and ensuring we have enough nutella to last through tomorrow. The tension between here-and-not-yet doesn’t feel quite so bad when on the road.

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best thing: christmas music.

first advent photos

ReThinking Advent.

I’m usually so wary of Christianese.

You know, that sappy blue poster with Jesus-is-Lord in curlicue font. White porcelain angels on display, their eyes so dewy i want to dab them with a tissue. Pink Bibles and Joel Osteen Prosperity Gospel ickyness.

Part of it is plain old aversion, wary of anything that is covered in the sheen of Jesus but bearing the message of no-gays-here, womyn-still-are-temptress-Eve’s. Part of that is my own prejudice, my fear that there is real faith to be had even in the places that make my so-called open-mindedness run for the hills of you’re-only-open-minded-if-you’re-minded-like-me liberaldom.

And, honestly, part of it is i hate evangelizing. I doled out postcards for church services in the seventh grade because i’d found Jesus and wanted other people to do so too, but only if they felt comfortable with me asking and only if they saw the fat gay pride pin on my backpack.

I got burned. I got asked by the Christians why i could be a feminist and by the feminists why i worshipped a God referred to in exclusively masculine pronouns. And so i stopped talking about my faith, because at least feminism was more open to internal critique. Feminism sat with questions more than answers. Christianity, it seemed to me then, was all about rules and He-God and keeping the panties on of everyone who wasn’t white and cisgendered and a heterosexual male.

I got scared. I got scared i was isolating people, i got scared i was infringing on my own profession of pro-interfaith, pro-you-do-you. But frustratingly, beautifully, inexplicably, i kept going to church. Sure, i said “She” for every God-pronoun printed in the bulletin and refused to chant along certain hymn lyrics. But i stayed, stubbornly faithful and begrudging, i stayed.

It wasn’t until Erin asked me to write for what would become Talking Taboo that i even started really talking about my faith with more than my roommate and my church-going friend. It wasn’t until i fell in love with a recovering  evangelical that i saw there was goodness, good faith, real love, real commitment and real truth to be found in the very same NC churches that also took public stances for Amendment 1.

My mother calls this Jesus’ ability to love the Pharisee and the leper.

And i am called to love like Jesus. Love radically, authentically, love by holding accountable and love by listening to all who i would otherwise judge.

So in ashes, i began to really fall in love with the Church again. To worshipping Mother God, yes. But also to the pews, the Our Fathers, the muddy mess of Kingdom-coming, Kingdom-not-yet. (Or as Mary Daly would swiftly correct: Sisterhood of the Cosmic Covenant-coming, not yet).

I think that’s why i so love Advent. Yeah, it’s the tacky Christmas sweater obsession, and the spiked eggnog, and draining my bank account to spoil the ones i love. But it’s so much more than that.

It’s that waiting, that dialectic of here, but not yet. Tension and pull, leper and Pharisee, shepherds coming with wealthy wise ones after.

So in that spirit of tension, of pushing to what i am not yet but planting myself also in what i know, i’ve started doing something that feels very new. Very not-lizzie. At least, not the lizzie who dragged Jonathan to the back corner pew on the first Sunday of Advent because she was so overwhelmed by the crowd of a walloping 40 people in the sanctuary.

I’ve started participating in the Rethink Church Photo-a-Day for Advent. Rethink Church is no  browbeat-er but it’s big for the girl who gags in the “Christian Life” aisle of Barnes & Noble. I mean, come on, my Instagram is the holy ground on which only egregious numbers of cat photos and sibling funny faces can appear.

So, five days in, here’s my experience: stupidly scary to add #rethinkchurch to my pictures, surprisingly prayerful to think about how photographs of mundane moments can capture that tension of here-and-not-yet. Is it earth-shattering? Well, no, no it’s not. But it’s been a baby step.

Day 1: Go.

Day 1: Go.

Day 2: Bound.

Day 2: Bound.

Day 3: Peace.

Day 3: Peace. (Bathroom graffiti at Mount Holyoke)

Day 4: Time.

Day 4: Time. (In the Mount Holyoke Library)

Day 5: Flood, for the memories and longing of these mountains and this time in my life. Taken in Scotland in April.

Day 5: Flood, for the memories and longing of these mountains and this time in my life. Taken in Scotland in April.

And, should you like to participate as well, here are the rest of the allotted themes:

advent-photo-a-day-final

Do you have any special practices during Advent? Have you been participating in the #RethinkChristmas photo-a-day? What’s it been like for you? (Leave a comment with you Instagram name!)

I’ll post my pictures every five days for the remainder of Advent, but in the meantime, stay warm in the waiting.

current jam: Jonathan singing “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” on Skype. (“Is that your current jam?” he just exclaimed when i asked the title. He knows me too well.)