Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent Waiting: a poem

Advent Waiting

                                                Waiting- fingers slowly tracing
                                                  love across the stretched flesh
                                                  on an abdomen full of hope

                                                Waiting-some nameless innkeeper
                                                  ponders how angry travelers
                                                  will find enough room
                                                Waiting- shepherds thoughts escape
                                                  toward empty heavens soon
                                                  to be full of angel voices.

                                                Waiting-all Creation like some
                                                  spinning cocoon filled with
                                                  wings of anticipation.

                                                Waiting- so must we
                                                  on birth, and crowds, and common
                                                  folk who announce God’s surprise.

Advent: a poem


                                                            Endings in the wilderness-
                                                              A prophet scatters seeds
                                                                        on desert sands
                                                                        screaming that hope
                                                                          will grow
                                                                          amidst dry despair

                                                            Surprises amidst the impossible-
                                                              A frightened teenager hears
                                                                        an angel proclamation
                                                                        telling her of a coming
                                                                          star child
                                                                         through her to the world                                                                                                           

                                                            Dreams that make no sense-
                                                              An eager Joseph longing for
                                                                        children of his own
                                                                        but hearing that his
                                                                          first born
                                                                          will not be his

                                                            Waiting yet again on wonder-
                                                              An old story told yet again
                                                                        into a world of terror-
                                                                        needing seeds of hope
                                                                          an angel proclaims
                                                                          a child
                                                                            first born of God

                                                            Advent again…

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas Identity Crisis

Christmas Identity Crisis

            Every Christmas for these past forty-five years I found myself with a Christmas identity crisis of sorts.  So this year after retiring this past June from being a United Methodist pastor I again will face an identity issue.
            The identity crisis I allude to is the tradition I established long ago of taking on the identity of someone in the original Christmas story and presenting the drama as a monologue.  I realized early on as a young pastor that there is not much improvement you need do to when it comes to the Christmas story.  It tells itself.
            So I got in touch with my imagination, which is not much of a challenge with me, and I would dream up characters and on the Sunday before Christmas I would take on a new identity and tell the story from that point of view.  Of course after a few years the usual cast of characters were “used up” so I had to start creating new ones.
            After becoming Joseph, the Innkeeper, a shepherd, a Wiseman, and even Herod I took a chance and “tried on” Gabriel.  After many years of doing this I did redo some of these characters but never Gabriel again.  I told my wife, who was always wanting to outfit me for the part, that I did not want to do the angel with wings thing but wanted it to be more subtle and “ethereal.”  I ended up looking like a cross between Richard Simons and some male type nymph.  Gabriel went into the closest, literally, never to return again.
            So I went deeper into my mind rather than my wardrobe and started creating characters that were in the background of the story such as a man who was lost in Bethlehem the night of the birth and found himself in a crowded inn.  Then there was the census taker telling of what he discovered really counts.  I even created a potter who ended up giving Mary a chalice that he created just for her.
            Now I face my first Christmas in many years without a “job.”  Who will I be this Christmas?  This is a different kind of identity crisis for sure.  Wayne Dwyer once wrote, “If you are what you do, when you don’t you aren’t.”  Pastors often become what we do. 
            I used to tell young pastors in a seminar for brand new ministers that if they had signed on to be a minister as a “job” that they were in the wrong work because it is a “life.”  After warning them about that I would say it was up to them to carve out time for their families and time to take care of their own souls.  We pastors can get awfully thirsty while giving other people water.
            But now I face a Christmas without the “job” of coming up with an identity in order to tell a story.  So as Jean Valjean sang in Les Miserables, “Who am I?”
            Who am I apart from what I did for those forty-five years?  I am discovering that daily.  I am still Betsy’s husband and have more time for that.  I am to be a grandfather for the first time in December.  That will be a new identity and one that many tell me will be really great.
            I am still a Christian and will need to see and feel what that looks like when it is not part of my job.  I am a person who now sits in the pew.  I always thought that would be hard for I would have to turn off my inner critic that rates worship and sermons.  Thus far I have done pretty good at that and have actually worshiped a few times.
            So I am discovering me this Christmas apart from that wonderful identity crisis I used to have.  This year I will try to listen to the story instead of tell it.  It will help to have a Christmas baby to go along with the Christmas baby.  Who am I?  I will remember what I used to say when my identity was a working pastor; “You are a child of God.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Poem for Advent

Not Yet
(A Poem for Advent)

Soon outcasts whose
only companions
are sheep
will be summoned to
a not so royal
not yet

Soon star gazers will
follow their hearts
and a light
only to be surprised
to find a child
cradled in
not yet

Soon a frightened king
will seek answers
from sacred texts
but will not find them
and will  be
surrounded by
more questions
not yet

We, like Mary, must wait
upon the good news
for all
because waiting is
required by a
Father who
knows the impatience
of a people
who need the child
who also need the time
not yet

The waiting is a pregnant
space filled with
longing and hope-
Tis a laboring time
of listening and
Advent- the season of
not yet

Jody Seymour
Advent 2016