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The night split by lightening, roiled by thunder, throttled by high winds, and drenched by slanting rains feels like menacing spirits on rampage.

Yet with morning, sunlight seeps within the crevices of the pavers in my backyard and begins germinating the seeds deposited by trickster winds. After a few days, the inevitable happens. Patches of crabgrass sprawl aimlessly like the disorders that crop up in my psyche: resentments, fears, self-centeredness, and irritation. Beneath such eruptions lie rioting instincts. Ferreting them out continues to be a humbling practice because of their deep-rootedness.

The question, from whence come these disorders leads to a deeper one: the evil that exists both within and without us.

Jesus speaks to this fact in the parable of the weeds and wheat (Mt. 13). During the night an enemy cast noxious seeds into a farmer’s wheat field; in time, ugly weeds sprouted. Alarmed by this discovery, his servants asked for direction. Lest they pull up the wheat, they were told to leave the weeds alone until the harvest. Then, a reckoning would occur.

Jesus likens the wheat field to the Kingdom of God; the sower, to the Son of Man; the enemy, to the evil one; and the harvest, to the end of the world. Indeed, there will be a reckoning. “The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all… who do evil and throw them into the blazing furnace….”

Thus Jesus’s followers are not to lose heart by evil that serves to hone their skills of Kingdom-living: “They will shine like the sun.…”

 

 

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Crazed hatred stalks the chambers of governments; fuels killings in war zones, in classrooms and back alleys, within wombs; shreds trust in all segments of society; demoralizes familes. In desperate straits, we cry out:

Our Father who art in heaven—We seek the center-point of your silence within our shadowy depths.

Hallowed be your name— Arms outstretched, we prostrate ourselves before your inexplicable holiness. We wait.

Thy Kingdom come—We yearn for color-flushes that alone eradicate the global gutting of psyches.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven—We surrender anew to this empowerment; its multifaceted bliss stirs us.

Give us this day our daily bread—We yearn for spiritual sustenance, one day at a time, which alone fortifies our tentative steps across rocky terrains.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us—We own our violence to ourselves and to others and beg forgiveness; such energize us to forgive others and repair rifts in the social fabric. Our part does matter.

And lead us not into temptation—We beg for discipline to listen for true guidance emanating from within and without.

Deliver us from evil—We pray for discernment to avoid the allure of evil in its multiple disguises.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, both now and forevermore—We rejoice within this freshness and thrive, despite the cloying darkness that still surrounds us. We have the protection.

Amen—And so it is.

 

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He was a humble man, soft-spoken, given to reflection. He worked hard—his hands calloused by his tools and bronzed by the sun. Unjust taxes robbed him of financial security, and in the coolness of the evening he sought solace in the Book of Psalms. How well he understood the centuries-old cry, “To you, Yahweh, I lift my soul, O my God. I rely on you. Do not let my enemies gloat over me.”

He never complained. Mourning doves still hooo-hooo-ho-hoood in the yard surrounding his one-room rock and stucco house. Goats still gave their milk by his latch-door. Greening fields afforded hope for the harvest.

But he was lonely. Stories of a comely woman in the neighboring village stirred his imagination; it was if he heard her song. He would go see her, his sandeled feet spirited along miles of dusty roads. Rarely did he stop to rest.

She, too, had been waiting for him in her courtyard as she combed flax and watched the sun shadow the distant hills across from her. Yet, seemingly insurmountable difficulties rocked their betrothal. Stunned, he waited—said nothing—prayed—and begged for a dream. And direction did come. They married and later gave birth to their firstborn son; his feet drew tender-hallowing from the new father as he wondered.

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The name of this humble man was Joseph of Nazareth, a hardscrabble town in Galilee.

Merry Christmas!

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