Clergy Corner: Imagine yourself free from your suffering

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Rev. Kent Leydens.

■ Rev. Kent Leydens / Contributed

T. S. Eliot began his poem The Wasteland, writing “April is the cruelest month.” I wonder if these days we may write, “December is the cruelest month.”
Eliot’s lament was that springtime meant the vast armies assembled in Europe would move from winter slumber to begin again their slaughter and destruction in what we call World War I. Our battles are different.
This time of year, our culture presses upon us a joyous, bright and hectic season that is supposed to be full of good cheer and celebration, or you are not doing it right; however, for many people, what we are told is to be “the most wonderful time of the year” is awfully painful. We grieve changed, lost and ended relationships with those who are a part of the fabric of our lives.
In the face of all types of separations – from temporary to eternal, I embrace the season of Advent as a journey to Christmas.
During Advent, we brood with John the Baptizer over the promise of a new age coming. During Advent, we join with Joseph to contemplate the forgotten language of God that comes in our dreams. We join with Mary to ponder the changes God is placing within our lives. We join with shepherds in patient training and vigilance against “the dark night of the soul” (St. John of the Cross).
In the season of Advent, it is as if the Church is eight-months pregnant. There is anticipation, hope and promise. There is also accepting that the waiting, anxiety and discomfort are real. With all things new, there is loss.
In these times, we may well find the words Apostle Paul wrote holding our hearts,
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (Romans 8:26-28, The Message)
When we are left in December with only groans and longing spawned by troubled hearts, Advent offers silence. It is silence that recognizes the Spirit’s work. Since it is in sharp contrast to the noise-making culture around us, silence takes courage.
For silence, I allow Scripture to be the guide: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 40:10).
Silence is the way of Advent. It is not merely the lack of noise, but our inner quiet. It leads us to peace and comfort in waiting. It offers an alternative to anxieties and a response to fears. It brings a deeper sense of trust and patience with God, ourselves and others.
Silence requires our awareness to all that is around us and in us without trying to judge or control. Silence says, “Let it be”; from the ambient sounds of the room to the breath in our lungs, “Let it be.” It is the beginning of contemplative pray. Such prayer is a way for us to offer nonverbal intent of well-being for ourselves and others.
In silence’s attention, imagine yourself enveloped in soft, warm, healing light. For this moment, set aside questions and doubts. See yourself healed and whole in the presence of God, free from suffering.
Gently, shift then your thoughts to one who is part of the fabric of your life. Imagine this person enveloped in the same soft, warm, healing light. No matter where they are, no matter the state of your relationship, see them as healed and whole in the presence of God, free from suffering.
Let your heart soften. Have compassionate intent for yourself and others. Believe that God – who has come to us incarnate, is with us in Spirit, and is returning for us some day – holds the same for you and those you love.
It was not lost to T. S. Eliot that April is the season of Easter Resurrection. It should not be lost to us that our journey through December’s cold, short days and ever-increasing length of nights lead to powerful change, profound insight, unexpected healing and reconciliation. These are the gifts of Christmas when we come to understand Christmas is a gift from God rather than something we chase after, purchase and wrap-up in paper and bows.
I pray everyone has a Merry Christmas that comes at the end of a blessed Advent journey.

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