Good Afternoon Gobin Family,
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to use this medium in speaking with you regarding one of my favorite elements of our Christian Tradition…Christmastide!
I plan to send you a short daily reflection through Christmastide. While our first day might be a bit longer for the sake of context, my prayer is that each reflection will include an invitation to contemplation as well as practice and action. My desire is for this to be an invitation that we can live into. As Wesley explained, faith is only living if it is producing the fruit of a Love filled life.
The earliest Christians knew we couldn’t just glibly walk into the Christmas feast; no, we need to ready our hearts and prepare ourselves to embrace the depths of incarnation. For this reason they gave us the season of Advent.
The Advent season is one of waiting yes, but so much more than waiting! Advent is the way we align our mind, body, and soul to what is happening in and through creation around us. It welcomes us to embrace the truth found around AND within us that the deepest dark is NOT the place where grace goes to die, but rather it is the place where grace is REBORN.
In the same way we do not rush into Christmas without Advent, let us not rush out of Christmas until it has completed its work in us.
We are inviting you to take time to enjoy the fullness of the Feast of Christmas, often called Christmastide. According to the Church Fathers and Mothers, we need 13 days (Christmas day plus the 12 day Feast) to celebrate the beauty of Christmas. Perhaps because they knew it would take at least twelve days, and then some, for the self-disclosure of God to settle into our consciousness. During this time we encourage you to consider leaving some of the Christmas decorations up or doing something that reminds you that Christmas is’t over. These days are about the wonder, the power, and the lessons of birth. God in and with humanity. Let the whole cosmos rejoice!
The Divine Infinity was placed in a trough where animals eat. The idea is revolutionary… and forever will be! We MUST slow down to consider that the reign of God has come, AND is coming, first to the lowly. What the Incarnation means is that God has hidden God-self in the place of emptiness, brokenness, oppression, and struggle…where WE are! In this the spirit beckons to us out of the deepest dark of our own lives and situations to see light breaking through from beneath the surface.
As Pastor Bryan read at last evening’s Christmas Eve service, “In Him was Life and the Life was the Light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
I took the picture accompanying this email in 2019. It features a beautiful Basilica which was the first Spanish Mission in the State of California. Founded by the Franciscans in the early 1800s and still in operation today, serving the local community. During Tosh and my time there we had the gift of visiting, walking the grounds, and praying in its sanctuary.
I remember vividly that everywhere we looked was a reminder of the Franciscan theology which teaches that the Incarnation (Christmas) was already the redemption. The Light has COME!
Today we remember that God took on flesh! This reminds us that since the beginning the Divine has been shouting that it is GOOD, NOT shameful, to be human.
Jesus came to show us that God has always been with us. Jesus comes today and everyday to remind us of the same. Remember, the permanent posture of God toward EVERYONE and EVERYTHING at EVERY MOMENT is perfect given-ness.
We encourage you to embrace this gift today, the gift of THIS MOMENT, where God is. The gift of THIS breath, THIS sunrise, or THIS tear. God is with you. Christmas does not mean our pain disappears, only that God has entered our pain with us.
God came as a vulnerable baby showing God’s willingness to enter in solidarity with our human situation. God came to us, because God has never not been with us!
Today, and everyday, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Grace and Peace,
Day 3 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Family!
I pray you are enjoying all this Christmas feast has to offer.
As we step into the third day of the Feast of Christmas (see Christmas Day email for background) today we arrive at the Feast of John the Apostle.
My goodness, where would we be without the Johannine writings!? So many incredible stories are given to us from this community. But, I would suggest the culmination of these beautiful writings must be John’s insistence that the substance of God’s nature is ONLY Love.
John’s writings consistently returns here, to Love.
John’s entire Gospel casts the Kingdom of God as a Wedding, and not just a Wedding, but a Wedding FEAST! There is wine, music, dancing, and diversity; John LOVES diversity. John consistently breaks the rules of how things are supposed to work…and always on behalf of Love!
I have always enjoyed being in nature. Over the last several years one of my favorite things to do is to go hiking. A few years ago Tosh and I had the wonderful opportunity to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was completely taken by the topography of this gorgeous terrain. As we stood atop Pikes Peak I noticed that the contrast of the valleys are what made the mountain tops so special!
Much like the Rockies, the topography of the biblical witness is full of peaks and valleys, mountains and plains. The Bible is not flat terrain. The honest reader of the Bible readily admits that the Levitical prohibition against eating shellfish does not reach the same heights as the lofty Christology in Colossians. As we look at the great peaks of inspired biblical witness, none soar higher than the twin peaks of divine revelation given to us by the Apostle John in in his wonderful Epistle-
“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. … We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:8, 16)
Soaring above everything else the Bible has to say about God are these twin peaks found in John’s first epistle: God is love. God is love. We are invited to live in this perfect Love.
Unfortunately, many people think, “If I read the Bible, I know God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.”
Yet John says it’s simply about Loving. We might expect Jesus to say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” But He says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for one another.”
The beginning and end of everything is Love. Only inside of the mystery of Love—mutual, self-emptying, and infilling—can we know God. This removes any qualifications we might have from the equation. It is ALL a GIFT! The Love of God is what unites us all, and what Jesus came to show us.
Using John’s imagery, there is a Wedding banquet with a table made for all. We are invited into communion, into fellowship, into union with one another, where all that holds us is Love. Amen
Grace and Peace,
Day 4 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Family!
On the fourth day of the Christmas feast we recognize the day the Church founders called, The Feast of Holy Innocents.
This feast day was designed to remember the innocent children who were persecuted and lost their lives during the attack on Bethlehem at the order of Herod the Great.
The church has long seen the need to integrate this as a principle to guard the vulnerable among us. We MUST be advocates for the less fortunate, especially children who, as the feast indicates, are innocent and defenseless.
The highest mandate of what it means to follow the Way of Jesus is to Love radically. This will often come at a great cost.
Authentic Love is co-suffering, self-giving, and radically forgiving.
Authentic Love will be counter cultural and often feel counter intuitive.
Authentic Love will cause us to examine the wounds of others, as well as OUR wounds, and see them with fresh eyes.
I encourage you to spend a few moments with these statements and consider the practical application they might have on how we move through the world.
This is a clear callback to the ministry of Jesus, inviting people to repent, which simply meant change the way you see. This new way of seeing makes room for us to embrace the redemptive work of grace, know that all of our wounds, if transformed, are Sacred, Holy, and part of the greater Journey.
Today’s feast, interestingly named “The Holy Innocents,” reminds us that all of us have been wounded by society, culture, and even family and friends. Somehow wounding is part of the human journey. We are all “holy innocents,” each carrying our unique woundedness.
Make no mistake, strong boundaries are necessary and healthy for toxic or harmful relationships. None of us need to go looking for pain, or adding it to our lives. We all carry our own wounds, pain, and grief.
However, when we choose to live in Love, even in spite of this pain, we chose to allow it to have its work in us, bringing us into the health of Love. In this way we become “wounded healers”, to use Henri Nowen’s beautiful phrase.
Often times this work of healing Love will happen as we choose to Love someone who is different than we are, someone who’s journey is not like mine. Authentic Love is the healing, transforming work that takes place when we choose to open ourselves to Love something outside of ourselves. Love happens from a place where we see that we are all connected part of the same whole.
*Art by © Carole Kabrin, 2018
Grace and Peace,
Day 5 of Christmastide
First, I would like to thank you for making it this far! You are almost half way through Christmas! I pray you are finding the depth and beauty of the Feast of Christmastide- enjoying God with us!
On the fifth day of Christmastide the Church celebrates St. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed in the twelfth Century for challenging the authority of the King.
However, I would like to point us to something more ancient than this particular Saint in drawing out the meaning of this Feast day.
To begin, let me remind you as we considered during our Advent, the 12 day Christmas Feast was drawn from the Celtic world due to its richness of meaning and connection to Creation.
Within the Celtic Festival of Winter Solstice today’s feast was called the feast of Holy Fools. The Celts taught that it was necessary to hold space in this great feast for an “intentional foolishness”. To play, if you will, and to find a childlike enjoyment in the beautiful simplicity of life.
Now, please stay with me as we find the correlation to our Christian Tradition. On the Christian calendar today we read the story of Simeon from the Gospel of Luke. As you might remember, Simeon holds the baby Jesus and gives God jubilant praise. This is a beautiful image of an older adult, who the scripture tells us waited his entire life to see the Messiah, giving praise and rejoicing while holding a tiny baby. I imagine those around him thought he looked VERY foolish.
Friends, in our hyper-rational age we NEED this invitation. To let go of our thinking mind, even for a few moments, and just BE.
We are invited today to accept the invitation of Jesus and become like a little child. THIS is the Kingdom of God. Allowing ourselves to let go, even if just for a few moments, of our ego related need to understand, fix, and control EVERYTHING in our life.
Today, you have an excuse to just be silly! Today is an opportunity to NOT google the thing you can’t seem to remember, or avoid the things in your life that seem to make no sense!
Today, be a fool, for Christ’s sake 😉
Grace and Peace,
Day 6 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Family!
We have made it halfway there!
I hope you are feeling rejuvenated by our day of foolish joy as we move into the 6th day of Christmas.
As we continue this journey I would like to take a moment to remind you that thematically the Church Mothers and Fathers wanted to establish this as a progression, something that was dynamic and modeled the growth of the Christ.
With this in mind we come into the 6th day and find a beautiful reading in Luke’s Gospel concluded with a stunning passage that seems to slip by us if we don’t slow down, “The child grew and became strong in body and spirit, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
On the heels of our day of chosen childlike foolishness- we bring with us a second naïveté, a fresh perspective rooted in the realty of Christ in the small things around us. We are reminded that in the same way the Christ child grew and matured, we too are invited to grow and mature into wholeness.
In my opinion, as we grow spiritually, we discover that we are not as separate as we once thought we were. Not separate from the person walking the sidewalks with no where to go. Not separate from the person who voted differently. Not separate from the rushing rivers or the field of lilies. Not separate from the Divine. No friends, we are completely connected. Like the root system of a mighty forest, we are connected at a deep and intrinsic level. This connection is animated by Spirit and wonder- and wonder is the wellspring for Love.
As a child wonder is our birthright. It comes easily in childhood—the feeling of watching dust dancing in sunlight, or climbing a tree to touch the sky, or falling asleep thinking about where the universe ends. We are invited to view the world around us with this wonder as we see Christ breaking through all around us.
What was personified in the body of Jesus was a manifestation of this universal truth: Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew.
In a moment where skepticism and cynicism seems to be in vogue, I encourage you to choose wonder. If you remember how to wonder, then you already have what you need to step into love.
Grace and Peace,
Day 7 of Christmastide
T. S. Eliot writes, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”.
On this day of our Christmas Feast we stand on the edge of a new year. New Years Eve always seems to have a built in sense of anticipation… “What does the next year bring?”
There is great beauty to this anticipation, particularly after such a difficult year.
I would like to encourage you to embrace the grace for this next great leap into the future, while also holding space for the grief you may feel. This tension is healthy and right as we find ourself likely reflecting in the midst of this transition.
During the Celtic feast of Winter Solstice this day celebrated something that has made its way into our culture. It was traditional for the Celts to harvest mistletoe growing from the ancient oak trees in the forest and hang it over the front door. This act was seen as a cleansing ritual. It was accompanied by a blessing of the home believing it washed the home from any evil that might have been brought in during the year.
While we may not follow these same practices, there is depth to the symbol of cleansing our home. This year has brought with it tragedy, loss, and pain which many of us carry on a daily basis, to varying degrees. I am not suggesting the Divine wishes to magically replace these feelings with a sense of superficial happiness. Rather, I believe God desires to wash over us with the grace and mercy we need so that we might heal well. In these healing moments we are reminded that regardless of the pain we feel, Love is with us at every turn.
Like an infinite waterfall, mercy is eternally pouring, always filling an empty space. Much in the same fashion, Grace fills every corner of the universe. Like water always falls and pools up in the very lowest places, mercy does the same.
I have found it can be helpful to sit for a few moments and allow grace and mercy to wash over me. Often I will use a particular phase to help me focus during this time of reflection and prayer.
I might suggest you use the following prayer, written by Fr. Thomas Keating.
God’s love is living itself in me. I am aware of love living itself in me.
God’s love is living itself around me. I am aware of love living around me.
God’s love is living itself in others. I am aware of love living in others.
As we make the transition to 2022 we move into the new year surrounded by the presence of God. You cannot not live in the presence of God.
God is with us. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
Day 8 of Christmastide
Happy New Years Day!
Today on the 8th day of our Christmas Feast we remember Mary, The Mother Of Jesus.
The Church calls her the Theotokos or Mother of God.
This is a jarring reality to hear, as it should be!
It would seem that Christians for the first thousand years or so, understood Mary as a needed icon and archetype of the feminine nature of God at an allegorical level. But by the time of the Protestant Reformation, all we could see was “She is not God!”
This is entirely true, but we lost the ability to see and understand that, “She is us!”
This is deeply important for us as we embrace the imagination for what it might mean to say “YES” to trust. Saying “YES” to breaking past the “defined roles”, whatever that might mean in your specific life/family/culture.
Mary is the archetype of how to receive what God is doing and hand it on to others. She defies all the social and cultural norms to give her full “YES”.
Mary becomes the symbol of humanity in surrendering to the deepest nature of our reality, the Love of God. The medievals had a great sense of this. They used to picture Mary in their art as the woman with a giant cape. Beneath the cape were all the people of God. She summed up the meaning of their Christianity in her person, in her “yes.”
On this first day of 2022, we would like to encourage you to give yourself to the auspicious yet simple prayer of, “YES.”
From this posture, there is nothing to protect, nothing to possess, and nothing to prove.
YES to this moment, and the gift that it brings.
YES to this New Year, and all of the lessons it intends to teach me. When we start with YES it works to free us from our biases and preconceived ideas.
This is a magnificent first step in following the pattern of Jesus teaching “do not judge.”
As you prepare to step into the new year take time to find your YES. It might be buried beneath all the things people have told you, that you are not good enough, smart enough, etc.
Start with an innate YES to your original Goodness. Say YES to the Divine Imagine implanted within you. Like a homing beacon pointing you back to your original DNA of Goodness and Love.
To Love is to say YES to the flow of Love that is already happening all around you.
Grace and Peace,
Day 9 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Family!
Today on our Christmas Feast calendar we remember two of the most important Church Fathers (and two of my personal favorites) St Gregory of Nazianzen and St Basil.
These Church Fathers shared soaring visions of the Love of God and God’s ability to restore all things through Christ. These Fathers spoke when theologians were poets, not lawyers.
“Jesus rises from the waters, the entire world rises with Him. The heavens, like Paradise with its flaming sword closed by Adam, are rent open!” – St Gregory
The beauty of the Gospel these early Christians fought for is astounding!
St. Gregory, when arguing for the universal Love of God to all of Creation said this, “Whatever Christ assumes, Christ heals.” For this cause Christ assumed our whole human condition to stand in solidarity with us, on behalf of our wholeness.
What an incredible Gospel!
I encourage you to consider that God takes on our suffering, bears it, and moves through it to resurrection.
Many of us were raised ONLY with the view of an all powerful God. But we must recognize that God’s power is most often demonstrated NOT by explosions and interventions. Rather, through God pouring God-self out us.
This is the power Christ showed, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8)
This is what we remember as we move into the closing days of our Christmas Feast. A God, who became vulnerable as a little baby, into order to assume our humanity.
God comes to us this same way today, and every day.
Complete and total Given-ness is the permeant posture of God.
I would suggest that any deep Love requires deep vulnerability. With this in mind, is there any Love greater that God?
Grace and Peace,
Day 10 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Community!
Today we celebrate the Feast Day of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Different Christian denominations celebrate this feast day on various days. In fact, some Christians even celebrate this feast for the entire month of January!
There is a rich Scriptural foundation for the name of Jesus. In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel, by revelation of the Angel, the name Jesus is chosen. It’s not randomly selected by Joseph and Mary, it’s divinely appointed. And in Matthew’s Gospel, it’s explained that the name Jesus is the one who will rescue or deliver us. Literally the name means Ya-Shua, “God Delivers.”
There are many ways to consider what this deliverance or liberation might look like, but I invite you to consider that at a primal level, Jesus comes to deliver our awareness. This freed awareness fully embraces our ontological design as image bearers of God and to show us that God has always been on our side.
Plainly spoken, Jesus did not come come to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God and thus our mind about ourselves!
Jesus, delivers us to see who God has really been ALL ALONG! As Colossians tells us, Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” In doing so, Jesus shows us it is GOOD to be human and a GIFT to be alive!
Friends, this celebration reminds us God chose to become human and that God even took on a human name! In most of Christian history we have emphasized the divinity, omnipotence, omniscience, and “almightiness” of Jesus, which makes following him—or loving him—largely unattainable or unrealistic. We are on two utterly different planes that are rather hard to connect. A God who is “totally other” alienates humanity and creation.
So, for practical application I would encourage you to read the account of Jesus’ naming in Luke. As you do, ponder the Word of God made speechless. The God who spoke the Universe into existence is so given to humility and humanity that the Word of God became incapable of sounding words.
St. Ignatius Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises, emphasized that we sync our prayer to our breathing. We often think of this as only a Buddhist practice. However, nothing could be more traditionally Christian than saying the name of Jesus over and over again and syncing it with our breath. Saying as we take in breath, “Je” and breathing out “sus.” Taking in “Je” breathing out “sus.”
I challenge you throughout the remainder of January that this be part of your prayer practice. Remember, it is not so much the words we pray that matter, but it’s letting ourselves be loved so that we can become the face of love. As you do this, take in God’s love and feel love flow out through you.
Grace and Peace,
Day 11 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Family!
Today on our Christmas Feast calendar we take a unique but needed moment as we slow down and check in with ALL of ourselves.
By this time in the Winter Solstice most of the Celts had returned to usual work as the Festival neared its end. To mark the day, you were SUPPOSED to take time to grumble and grouse.
This might seem strange at first, but the Celts show a wise understanding of human nature. Even while we look forward to the beauty of the future, we MUST take time to process the things we have lost along the way. The ways we have been let down AND the ways we have let others down.
This day is about embracing theses deepest places of loss and disappointment and bringing them to high art and spiritual practice.
For those of us in the western world words like lament and wailing don’t feel very appealing, particularly in our religious spaces. Many of us have be taught to believe Church should be the happiest place in town at all times! In fact after a sermon on the topic of lament, I once heard a conference goer say, “wow, that was a real downer. I only come to church to feel good and happy.” This person is not alone in their approach and expectation for a worship gathering.
However, Jesus tell us in the Beatitudes if we do not make space for lament we will not be able to enjoy the beauty of comfort.
Friends, I pray you find permission in this statement, faith is not the absence of fear, doubt, and grief; but rather faith is the willingness to acknowledge their existence in you! This allows these feelings to transform into the compost that empowers you to continue to grow into new life.
Lament, often called wailing, holds in tension all the suffering that seems to make no sense with a determination to believe God is just. Lament draws us near to God when we are tempted to turn away. Lament enables us to keep moving forward with perseverance in our calling to love and justice; it is a way to remain deeply connected to the God who loves us and loves justice even when injustice makes us ask the hardest questions of God.
This posture of lament comes from a deep place, often called the “Real Real.” It is an acknowledgment of the complexity of life as well as the complexity of you as a human being. If we don’t learn how to weep over the broken parts of our lives and the brokenness of the world, we will further break our lives and the world.
Dr. Cornel West brilliantly juxtaposes wailing and whining saying, “Understand the genius of Bob Marley,” West said. “He called his group the Wailers, not the whiners. The Wailers were persons who cry for help but against the context of catastrophe. When Wall Street cried out for help, they got billions of dollars. Working people, poor people are crying for help. Whining is a cry of self-pity, of a sentimental disposition. That’s not what’s happening when we cry out from our deepest self … that’s not whining, that’s not complaining, that’s legitimate critiques and legitimate grievances out of a genuine grief.”
Maybe today you can take a space of time to lament, to grieve, even to wail if need be so that you might give voice to this place deep within.
As you do this, remember you are not grieving alone. You are not lamenting alone. You have never wailed alone. God has wept with you every time.
And those that mourn will be comforted.
Grace and Peace,
Day 12 of Christmastide
Hello Gobin Community!
Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany Eve. In other words, we have arrived at the 12th day of our Christmastide feast!
Today as we move through the last hours of Christmas I would like to provoke us with the thought that the way of Jesus is an invitation to a particular way of being in the world. As Richard Rohr tells us, “A good journey begins with knowing where we are, and being willing to go somewhere else.”
Again, if we consider Christmastide as a symbolic progression in which we grow and mature in the fulness of Love I could not think of a better passage to close our feast than todays lectionary reading from Luke’s Gospel.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. if anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”- Luke 6:27-31
Friends, for Christians this is not merely tactical behavior, but a person’s way of being in the world. It is the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love that they are willing to face evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. The Gospel command to love our enemies is rightly considered the magna carta of the way of Jesus.
I can think of no one that better exemplified this than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I find it no coincidence that we are approaching the day on our American calendar where we observe and honor his life, work, and witness.
We must ask ourselves, “What would it mean to seek to embody love as ‘creative, redemptive goodwill’ on behalf of all living things”, always aware that God is with us?
The following is an excerpt from Dr. King’s sermon regarding Loving our Enemies. I can think of no better way to culminate the practical application of this feast than to read and consider the words of this modern day prophet.
“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. . . .
Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some people have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? . . .
This command of Jesus challenges us with new urgency. Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern humanity is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction. . . . Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.
I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “Love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives. . . .”
Grace and Peace,