Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Christmas Call To Action

cartoon courtesy of

Regardless of our declared religions, let this holiday season remind all of us to continue our commitment to peace one earth and making the world a kingdom of Heaven on earth for all God's children.

Wishing you Love, Joy and most of all Peace this holiday season.

Pamela Lyn

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Let There Be Peace On Earth

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on Earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother,
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.

With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow,
To take each moment and live each moment in peace, eternally.

Let there be Peace on Earth,
and let it begin with me.

-- Words and Music by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller, Circa 1955

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an excerpt from

A Parable For Our Times
by Bill Moyers

originally published December 22, 2006
Read the entire message at:

The Christian story begins simply: A child is given, a son. He grows up to be a teacher, sage, healer and prophet. He gains a large following. To many he is a divine savior; to the rich and powerful he is an enemy. They put him to death in brutal fashion, befitting his humble beginnings in peasant Galilee and his birth in a stall thick with the raw odor of animals.

Toward the end of his life, Jesus preached in the Temple to large crowds, reaching the height of his power. There he told the parable that likely sealed his fate. He said there was a man who created a prosperous vineyard and then rented it to some tenants while he went away on a journey. At harvest time, the owner of vineyard sent a servant to collect a portion from the tenants, but they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. Another servant came, and they struck him on the head. Another they killed. Finally, the owner sent his own son to collect the back payments. “They will respect my son,” he thought. But when the tenants saw the son, and knew him to be the heir, they saw their chance to take full possession of the harvest. And so they killed the son, thinking now they would owe nothing from the vineyard to anyone.

The listeners understood the symbolism: God, of course, is the owner of the vineyard, and the vineyard is Israel or the covenant, or, more broadly, the whole creation. It is all that God entrusts to the leaders of his people. And what is in question is their stewardship of this bounty.

In the parable, the “tenants” are the leaders of Israel. They hoard the fruits of the vineyard for themselves, instead of sharing the fruits as the covenant teaches, according to God’s holy purposes. And the holiest of God’s purposes, ancient tradition taught, is helping the poor, and the fatherless, and the widow, and the stranger—all who do not have the resources to live in a manner befitting their dignity as creatures made in God’s image, as children of God.

When he finished the story, Jesus asked the people what the owner of the vineyard will do when he comes back. “He will kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others,” Jesus tells them. In the Gospel of Matthew, the people themselves answered: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Political dynasties fall from negligent stewardship. One thinks of the upward redistribution called “tax relief”; of the Iraq invasion sold as critical to the “War on Terror"; of rising poverty, inequality, crime, debt, and foreclosure as America spews its bounty on war and a military so muscle-bound it is like Gulliver. It would be hard to imagine a more catastrophic failure of stewardship, certainly in the biblical sense of helping the poor and allocating resources for the health of society. Once upon a time these errant stewards boasted of restoring a culture of integrity to politics. They became instead an axis of corruption, joining corporate power to political ideology to religious self-righteousness.

The scale of the disorder in our national priorities right now is truly staggering; it approaches moral anarchy. Alexander Hamilton, the conservative genius of the financial class, warned this could happen.

Speaking to the New York State legislature in 1788, he said:

As riches increase and accumulate in few hands; as luxury prevails in society; virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature: It is what, neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution, as well as others.

Conservatives who revere the founding fathers tend to stress the last point—that there is nothing to be done about this "common misfortune." It is up to the rest of us, who see the founding fathers not as gods but as inspired although flawed human beings—the hand that scribbled "All men are created equal" also stroked the breasts and thighs of a slave woman, whom he considered his property—to take on "the tendency of things " to "depart from the republican standard," and hold our country to its highest, and most humane, ideals.

As stewards of democracy, we, too, have a covenant—with one another.

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Christmas Beginnings
Bob Hansel

The holiday season has become for lots of people more of an obstacle than a celebration—something to be endured and survived. By now most of us have had about all we can take of crowded stores, syrupy electronic Christmas music, and interminable traffic tie-ups. We’re tired and frazzled by all of the chores that have to get done, presents that have to be purchased and wrapped, and the mind-numbing logistics of travel plans and party schedules. Lots of folks tell me, in all candor, that they’ll just be glad when it’s all over, so they can pack up the ornaments and life can get back to its normal routine.

The problem with that attitude is that it reveals exactly how mistaken we are about the nature of Christmas. Properly understood, Christmas is not just a day or even a season of the year—an event on the calendar that arrives and passes. No, Christmas is much more than that. It is a permanent change that enters into our world, “for keeps,” affecting every one of our attitudes, actions, and relationships for the rest of our lives.

Howard Thurman in a collection called The Work of Christmas puts it this way:

When the angels’ song is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and the princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

— To find the lost
— To heal the broken
— To feed the hungry
— To release the prisoner
— To rebuild the nations
— To bring peace among the brothers
— To make music in the heart.

Christmas is, you see, not an END of anything. It is the beginning of a whole new way of understanding the world, each other, and ourselves. Christmas is the arrival date for a gift that must be opened up and put to use if it is to make any difference at all.

It all STARTS right now. Christmas is God’s way of presenting himself to us, in-person, offering to enter into our hearts to STAY. The Incarnation is, literally, “the enfleshment”—God’s compassionate Spirit is born within each of us, yearning to find daily expression in actions of Thanks-living.

Where do we go from here? We go out, each one of us, to carry God’s gift into that difficult, challenging, frustrating, and wonderful world for whom the gift has been given. You and I are the delivery system. What a gloriously beautiful plan.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! God bless us all!

Originally published December 28, 2003 in THE CHRONICLE, the newsletter of Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee,

Copyright ©2003 Calvary Episcopal Church

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