Reflections on Advent 4: Love (plus longest night, resistance songs, Blue Christmas)

This week, Mary’s song, one of four found in the Gospel of Luke, is a song of praise and resistance, an expectation for justice and change. In times when we wonder whether to expect transformation, we are reminded to work for change, and to recall that we are lights in the darkness.
How will you shine in this season and into the coming year?

Les Miserables – Great Crescendo (excerpt)
Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people, Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart, Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start, When tomorrow comes!

Do you hear the people sing, Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people, Who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth, There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end, And the sun will rise.

For those Living with Grief & Loss

 I hear
the love of those
who have loved me
echo in me.
All the notes of my song
sing over theirs,
the only kind of beauty.
The song does not die.
May I live
with love and mercy
for it will echo
long after.
— Steve Garnaas-Holmes

AGAPE as LOVE

The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. — Got Questions

True transformation is when we unleash the power of agape. We create an environment for positive change. There is still a world of possibility, even when the worst thing happens that could possibly happen. Forgiveness gives me the capacity to contribute something of value—to create a positive outcome to a terrible tragedy. —Desmond Tutu

Our hearts are like diamonds because they have the capacity to express divine light, which is agape; we not only are portals for this agape, but are made of it. — Anne Lamott

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world. ― Mother Teresa

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. — Leo Tolstoy

Agape is a sobering love to receive, for it says, ‘If I cannot love you for who you are, then I will do so despite who you are.’ It is unique in that it is able to love those whom it cannot like. ― James Castleton, Mending of a Broken Heart

The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well. — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. — Thich Nhat Hahn

LONGEST NIGHT: Of Moons & Stars – Light in Darkness –

We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. — Carl Sagan

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings. — Wendell Berry

You must have shadow and light source both. Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe. — Rumi

We go into the darkness, we seek initiation, in order to know directly how the roots of all beings are tied together: how we are related to all things, how this relationship expresses itself in terms of interdependence. — Joan Halifax

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. — Dogen

Is the sweetness of the cane sweeter,
Than the One who made the canefield?

Behind the beauty of the moon is the MoonMaker.
There is Intelligence inside the ocean’s intelligence
Feeding our love like an invisible waterwheel … ― Rumi

The pine tree of Shiogoshi / Trickles all night long / Shiny drops of moonlight. — Basho

… [Sagan’s] statement sums up the fact that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff, said Chris Impey, professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. “All organic matter containing carbon was produced originally in stars. The universe was originally hydrogen and helium, the carbon was made subsequently, over billions of years.” … In 2002, music artist Moby released “We Are All Made of Stars,” explaining during a press interview that his lyrics were inspired by quantum physics. “On a basic quantum level, all the matter in the universe is essentially made up of stardust,” he said. — Remy Melina, Are We Really All Made of Stars? Live Science (excerpt)

SONGS of RESISTANCE: Commentary

Why, one might wonder, all these songs? Because singing is an act of resistance. That’s not to say that all singing is, of course. Sometimes it’s an act of joy and sometimes of camaraderie, but it’s also an act of resistance. The slaves knew this. When they sang their spirituals they were both praising God and protesting the masters who locked them out of worship but couldn’t keep them out of the promise of deliverance of the Bible. And the civil rights leaders knew this, too, singing songs like “We Shall Overcome,” when so many in the society didn’t give them a chance to advance their cause of justice, let alone triumph. — David Lose, Singing as an Act of Resistance (excerpt)

I wonder whether we would dare to sing the Magnificat today. What would it mean? — Richard Ascough

It’s easy to sing the song, but to pray the lyrics from deep within … that’s worship! — Gangai Victor

Who can resist … the story of Mary’s elegantly exuberant prayer, the Magnificat? Her spontaneous outburst in song echoes Hannah’s praise for God’s marvelous deeds in the lives of all who are marginalized or downtrodden (1 Samuel 2). Like Hannah, Mary sings out of her own experience, her own hope, but out of the experience and hope of her people as well. The Magnificat is a lovely expression of joy at God’s promises kept, a celebration of the tables being turned, or overturned: the lowly are lifted up, the proud are brought down, and the hungry are fed. God remembers the people of Israel, and the promises God has made to them. What a powerful text for every heart hungry …  Kathryn Matthews (excerpt, UCC Sermon Seeds Dec 23 Reflection)

One thing we do know: music in the United States has led directly to environmental action, the equality of our citizens, a movement against war and violence, and it has raised the voices of the working American … Powerful songs have always been the engine behind the greatest social movements — it is the marching soundtrack that unites the people and gives them focus and resolve, and it’s not limited to the U.S. In 1970s Nigeria, Fela Kuti invented Afro Beat music as a way to protest the oil company regime of Nigeria. His song “Zombie” became a global hit that railed against Nigeria’s military dictators. In South Africa, the indigenous Mbatanga music helped bring about the end of apartheid and it spread a message of peace and reconciliation in that nation. In Chile, Victor Jara wrote songs about his country’s struggles, sparking the Nueva Cancion (New Songs) movement that caused South Americans to rise up against their military dictatorships and replace them with democracies. In Brazil, the Tropicalia movement was created by songwriters like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Rita Lee as a form of protest against the Brazilian military junta, which eventually fell from its own corruption and incompetence. In Australia and New Zealand, popular songs written by indigenous and non-ingenious songwriters sparked an indigenous land reclamation movement that is still active today. — Barrett Martin, Huffington Post (excerpt)

Throughout the ages, God’s people have faced oppression. And in the face of that oppression, God’s people have sung God’s songs of resistance. But God’s people have also been oppressors. We have enslaved others — and each other. We have stolen from, oppressed, and slain others — and each other. And when we have done so, the oppressed, the enslaved, the persecuted have sung God’s songs of resistance against us. — Rolf Jacobson

Reflections on ‘loving the world’ from Gospel of John: Lenten lectionary

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.
Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.
… What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.
— Songwriters: Burt Bacharach / Hal David

Loving the World

Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element. ― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

Let us love the world to peace. — Eileen Elias Freeman

All the particles in the world are in love, and looking for lovers. — Attributed to Rumi

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God Who is sending a love letter to the world. — Mother Teresa

The world changes when we change. the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world. — Marianne Williamson

At the center of religion is love. I love you and I forgive you. I am like you and you are like me. I love all people. I love the world. I love creating. Everything in our life should be based on love. — Ray Bradbury

No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality. — Wendell Berry

If your mind is expansive and unfettered, you will find yourself in a more accommodating world, a place that’s endlessly interesting and alive. That quality isn’t inherent in the place but in your state of mind. ― Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

I love the world at 4 am. The streets are all mine. I don’t have to deal with traffic, and people’s bullshit. I don’t have to answer any calls or reply to any texts. I don’t have any responsibilities. No fights, no arguments, no hate, no love, no faith and no engagements. I can just be. Like we are meant to be. –  Attributed to ‘Hedonist Poet’

You’ve got to invest in the world, you’ve got to read, you’ve got to go to art galleries, you’ve got to find out the names of plants. You’ve got to start to love the world and know about the whole genius of the human race. We’re amazing people. — Vivienne Westwood

Excerpts of Commentary on “For God So Loved the World”  from Gospel of John chapter 3 (John 3:16)

Jesus articulates in this statement … that God is fundamentally a God of love, that love is the logic by which the kingdom of God runs, and that God’s love trumps everything else, even justice, in the end. — David Lose

… judgment … in John’s Gospel … represents your own moment of crisis of whether or not you will choose to enter into the life-sustaining relationship God provides … the intimacy God so desires with us here and now.— Karoline Lewis

Today, for many Christians, John 3:16 has become this same sort of gimmick: read this verse and you’re saved.  Done and done.  But God cannot be reduced to a formula — neither can the way of God, revealed in the life of Jesus.  … John 3:16 alone is an insufficient guide for healing and salvation.  Instead, we need an authentic encounter with the Mysterious, Loving, and Gracious Presence that we call God — and concrete steps transforming one’s life to follow the way of Jesus. we can lift up Micah 6:8 and the two Greatest Commandments as a source of healing.  May these slogans never become for us an idol because it not enough to believe with our lips that salvation comes from doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God — and from loving God and neighbor.  We must live in such a manner everyday.  May we learn to love the world in this way — as God so loves the world.— Carl Gregg

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass (excerpts) — Mary Oliver

3. (excerpt)
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another. …

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

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