a gift freely given

God has done everything; he has done the impossible:
he was made flesh. His all–
powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding:
the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather,
his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away:
that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where
one would least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost,
the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded,
the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger:
Reflections on Advent and Christmas

And so He has come…

God of God
Light of Light
Very God of very God…

Begotten of woman, not made
Born man
Crucified
Dead
Buried
and yet Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance

And so it is on this Christmas day…
this day of Light and Hope…that we find not only life…
but it is in that life that we must also find death…

For it is in the miracle of both life and death…
That of His birth, His life and eventually His death…
it is there that we actually find our most necessary Hope…

It is a hope found in both life and death—
of which each mingle together so blessedly and painfully…
yet oh so poignantly…
melding into that single transcendence of the Resurrection.

So on this Christmas day we are reminded, once again, that yes,
we are to rejoice…
We rejoice because we have each been invited to a grand banquet…
We have been invited to claim our rightful place at the table…
taking in all that is freely given and yet that which is gravely
undeserved…
but miraculously given nonetheless.

So in that Hope, found in both birth and death,
is a brilliance of illumination…scattering the
darkness from wherever it yearns to spread.

A great Light has shown in that darkness.
And that darkness scatters
because that Light has overcome the darkness.

Hope
Joy
Salvation
Redemption
Deliverence
Resurrection
Life…

All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old,
sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…underseved, yet a gift
freely given…

So yes, we are told to rejoice…

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Again I say,
Rejoice!

“What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension?
The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God,
entered the Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity.
He who upholds the universe, within whom and through whom are all things,
was brought forth by common childbirth.
He at whose voice archangels and angels tremble,
and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted,
was heard in childish wailing.
The Invisible and Incomprehensible,
whom sight and feeling and touch cannot measure, was wrapped in a cradle.”

St. Hilary of Poitiers

spin

“We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.
Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never-so-little scar.”

William James

cotton-candy-spin
(image clowns4kids.com)

Cotton candy—the quintessential staple for both circus and fair.

Who among us seemingly mature adults doesn’t secretly yearn for their very own paper rolled cone of pink, bouffant whipped, magically melting surgery goodness when spotting any sort of advert for either circus or fair?

Who doesn’t fondly recall the yearly pilgrimage when the Circus rolled into town?
The sights and sounds of all the colors and music colliding as one…marking the magic of childhood wonder…
From the parades of the marching animals to the death defying flying trapeze artists…
from the clowns riding in tiny jalopies to the booming voice of the circus master…

Despite all of the sensory overloads, if the truth be told, it was the single chance to order a titillating cone of cotton candy which remains paramount in our memories….

Recalling one Christmas many years ago, when my son was a little boy,
Santa had delivered his very own, spin at home, cotton candy maker.
My son thought he had died and gone to heaven as he immediately wanted to make cotton candy for breakfast.

I, on the other hand, had regretted Santa’s choice from the get go as all I could envision was an endless sea of sticky hands, sticky faces, sticky clothes, sticky house…laced with the mother exhausting battle of a small child running on too much sugar….

Thankfully the novelty wore off quickly as there just wasn’t that same sense of delight about making cotton candy in ones kitchen verses the thrill of ordering it, watching it on the other side of the protective glass being spun onto your very own paper cone…add to that marvelous tantalizing moment
with the giddy savoring of the very first melt in you mouth adrenaline rush of sweet tasty sugary magic…

Oh how delightfully wonderful the simple act of spinning sugar can be…

Yet in this tale of spinning all things sugary should be a small consumer warning that not all sugary treats are as sweet nor as innocent as they may seem…

For there is one who is eagerly at work spinning, for both you and me, our very own cone full of sugary spun falsehoods and lies which he passes off as a delightful simple treat…
However there is nothing sweet nor simple to his deception.

For therein lies the importance we are to remember…
that there is one who toils in the shadows, working tirelessly…
taking the very Truth of God, as He spins it into something diabolically other than…

With the the real tragedy of all of this being that we unwittingly and eagerly hold out our hands while impatiently waiting for our very own offering of the twisted serving of his sweet insidious lies.
Which only leads to our coming back for more and more and more…

The prince of darkness happily spins every word of God into a cloyingly sick sweet false prosaic for our sadly spiritually hungry appetites…
as we are either too blind, too naive or simply too hungry to discern the reality.

It would behoove us to remember that too much sugar and too many sweets is never a filling nor lasting alternative to the banquet that has been lovingly prepared for both you and me…
A lavish feast which will fully satisfy all of our tastes, wants and needs…

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Luke 14:15-24

REJOICE

Rejoice in the Lord always:
and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

DSCN1447
(a weathered statue of a welcoming Christ graces the hill above Kylemore Abbey / County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Rejoice this day for unto you is born a Savior,
Christ the Lord.

His (John the Baptizer’s) father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days…

And so He has come…
God of God
Light of Light
Begotten of woman
Crucified
Dead
Buried
and Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance

Rejoice and come to the banquet… claiming your place at the table and taking in all that is given…
Hope
Joy
Salvation…
All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old, sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…

Rejoice,
Again I say,
Rejoice!

clouds

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe.”
― Mark Twain
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Overhead, stretched across an endless palate, colors and textures collide in a dazzling spectacle.
Dust particles, light and various masses of air–some hot, some cold, choreograph a mesmerizing heavenly banquet–an endless feast for any skyward glance.

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Shifts in atmospheric pressure rise and fall, as foreign winds whip unseen forces into precarious unions. Colors, of radiant glory, sparkle as from a million tiny prisms suspended on an seen chandelier.

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As Winter’s evening light sets forth a tantalizing tidbit of self, explosions within the spectrum, seldom seen with such force, offer grandeur over an otherwise barren land.

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An invisible hand unfurls a massive patchwork quilt which falls languidly over a sleepy land.
“Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Red sky at night, sailors delight”

Echoes of ancient rhymes lyrically and rhythmically rise and fall as a lofty drama plays out guiding the ancient traveler.

Summer’s heat unleashes instability, as an ominous skyward cocktail mixes aloft.
Overhead a thousand unseen forces prepare to do battle.
Change is soon at hand as varying air masses vie for control,
As a cacophony of sound and light unleash a frightening display.

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Yet just as quickly as refuge and safety is sought, the unseen foe is suddenly vanquished.
Light emerges the victor as wary souls emerge unscathed while eyes still scan the changing sky.

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