Friday, December 01, 2006

Advent C

Several weeks ago, I was asked to make a contribution to the Presbytery Advent devotional booklet, and so I did. I have no idea what happened to my submission ~ whether it was ever received or whether the booklet has been published. So it's possible that this piece of writing is out there somewhere. Or not.


Reading for Today: Leviticus 19:34

As a teacher in an Orthodox Jewish school, I often find myself in the role of the stranger. Last Passover was no exception, as I was invited to a Seder by one of my students.

I could see that my presence created a bit of stress. All of our hopes as we prepare for such an occasion are heightened when the celebration is a religious one and the guests follow a different faith tradition. What if they don't like the food? What if they are bored or, worse, offended, by the religious rituals? We have often had Jewish guests for Christmas Dinner and, when Christmas and Chanukah have overlapped, we've lighted Chanukah candles and Christmas candles. I've always felt that everyone was happy to be there. But you never know.

For the record, let me say that I was indeed happy to be at the Seder. I learned a lot. I was inundated with various copies of the Haggadah, the "telling of the story" that serves as a guide for the fifteen steps of the meal. My favorite was one illustrated with copies of medieval illuminated manuscript pages -- I hadn't even known that Jews as well as Christians created those exquisite book illustrations. And as I engaged in the readings and conversation, with a family fluent in Hebrew generously tolerating passages in English whenever my turn rolled around, I also quietly observed the meal from the point of view of a Christian who had just left her own Maundy Thursday church service in which the Last Supper was celebrated as a communion.

When I left the Seder at nearly 1:00 am, under the full Passover moon, another family was emerging from a house across the street, going home after a similarly lengthy celebration. I felt much as I do on Christmas morning, when my son and I typically return from a midnight service along the several streets in our neighborhood where luminarias have been lit along entire blocks and left to burn all night. There is something deeply profound about participating in a ritual that is being celebrated around the world, whether among your own people or in fellowship with another.

Whether we are host or guest, citizen or stranger, we have much to learn from one another as long as we are willing to risk extending ourselves across the usual boundaries.


Holy God, You stretched far and wide beyond your usual dwelling places in order to join us as Host and Guest, Lord and Stranger. Remind us that it is the example of your Son in our midst that we seek to follow each day. Amen.


Cynthia said...

This is deep and lovely, and it spoke to a real situation for me now. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You cannot know how much I cherish your writings.

Kathryn said...

A beautiful reflection and meaningful prayer. Hopefully, this made it into the advent book for your congregation.

Laura said...

That was beautiful. I love the message that you consistently send of inclusiveness, acceptance, and togetherness. You are going to be a great minister.