December 2010


Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all variety, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p.26, God is in the Manger.

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Some wise words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to reflect on during this Season:

We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. -p8, God is in the Manger

One frigid late night recently, I was heading home after a long and draining day. I passed someone – couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman – covered in a blue sleeping bag sleeping under a scaffold. The sidewalk was going to be their bed for the night. I hurried on past, feeling a twinge of guilt, grateful that I could look forward to a warm cozy apartment.

God brought that anonymous person to mind yesterday when I spoke to my Mum in London. She told me of a baptism that took place that morning at her church, All Souls, of a twenty-something man, Mark R. She didn’t know him personally but recognized him as someone who had been homeless.  He would hang around on the stairs of the church and come in from time to time, asking for a cup of tea. Once on a Friday, when she was serving at the Welcome Desk, he came in asking for some books that the Rector (Senior Pastor) was to have left for him. Sure enough, she found a small pile of books tied up in string, with a note for Mark, saying they were from the Rector. This young man seemed surprised that the books were actually there.  He took them and left.

I don’t know what happened between Mark and the Rector, but it seems evident that a relationship took place between them and room was made to engage this homeless man. This eventually led to Mark making the radical decision to turn his life over to Jesus, and to get baptized.  A life rescued.

Mark’s story – the little I know of it – both convicts and reminds me that this is the season for making room: opening our lives and hearts to the possibility that someone in our sphere may need friendship, a listening ear, or even a literal room or place to stay.

May we not walk by as I did, but be drawn in to make room, just as God has made room for us.

Three years ago I was in Uganda at the tail end of my two year stay when there was an outbreak of Ebola. Yes, you read that right. It was Ebola virus, the highly fatal disease carried by bats(?) and highly contagious. This was a milder form with fewer fatalities but it proved to be deadly nonetheless. Once Ebola was confirmed by MSF and Unicef, me and the rest of the non-clinical members of our team were evacuated out within a matter of days. Our two missionary doctors and physician assistant courageously stayed to care for the sick.

It was a frightening time, almost beyond description.

And little did we know that Ebola would take the life of Dr. Jonah Kule, a dear Ugandan friend and colleague. He had treated one of the patients with Ebola early on and had contracted the disease himself. He left behind a wife, Melen, who was pregnant and 5 daughters. Three months after his death, baby Jonah, their only son was born.

Dr Jonah breathed his last breath on this earth 3 years ago today, alone in an isolation unit in Kampala.

And he is now among the cloud of witnesses to the life of faith we life.

Hallelujah, Dr. Jonah, hallelujah!

Gone but never forgotten.

Advent, which begins with the 4th Sunday before Christmas started last weekend, and I was grateful to discover this wonderful Advent book through a friend.  Based on reflections of Bonheoffer – many written while he was imprisoned during World War II, they are both powerful and provocative.  Sometimes in years past, particularly when I was a graduate student, I felt that when Christmas Day arrived, it was anticlimactic, ” flat” and non-eventful.  I hated that, but it was usually because I hadn’t paused to take the time to steep myself in the wonder of the incarnation and the season which surrounds it.

This year I want to think very intentionally about Jesus’ coming. 

What has already struck me is this sense of waiting, and yet living expectantly as if that which we wait for has already come.   

For instance in the very familiar prophesy of Isaiah, ch 9:6, we are told: For a child has been born to us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders…  Isaiah writes this in an active voice as if Jesus was being born in his lifetime, and yet this did not come to pass until 700 years later!   “Only the Spirit of God, who encompasses the beginning and end of the world, can … reveal to a chosen person the mystery of the future so that he [prophesies] for strengthening believers.” p10.

May we be strengthened in our faith this Christmas as we live in full expectation of the One who has already come – to make all things new and whole  –  the same One who is to come again.