Very Real Love!

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the
secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet and lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

It is Christmas Eve, and I’m packing up gifts to take along to our family gathering this afternoon. In the midst of retrieving packages from our son’s room, I bumped a plastic container and knocked it off its shelf. I remembered moving this container last year when I stubbed my toe on it. Busy as I was, I’d examined the contents and the numerous memories they represented. I’m not allowing myself this luxury at the moment because I still have much to do. I will, however, reminisce mentally as I carry on. One of the treasures in that box is a wedding program. I remember this because one of the scripture readings included is from The Song of Songs which I cite above.

This particular passage is a favorite. Our friend Scott read these words at our wedding. My husband and I selected this reading because we were taken in by the painful longing this lover expressed for his beloved. The lover who spoke so passionately is the God of Israel who desperately sought to be reunited with the Jewish People. This Divine longing persisted for centuries as evidenced in the gift of Jesus. On the first Christmas, God expressed this insatiable love face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the most tangible way possible. God expressed this love in the gentle cooing of the newborn baby who would spend his life convincing us all that God’s love for us is very, very real.

Loving God, thank you for your very, very real love for each one of us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s All About Love!

I realize that you’re not in church while reading this. Still, imagine yourself in a quiet place where you have a moment to relax and regroup. I hope this helps…

The candles which light our Advent Wreath glow in unison today. This is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. There is no more time to wonder if I’ll be ready for Christmas Day because in a few short hours Christmas will be here. In spite of the time constraint and the lingering details which demand my attention, I find myself content in the moment at hand. Though my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gatherings will likely be far from perfect, they will be perfectly fine for me. Love is in the air and this is all that matters today. This is all that matters every day…

As our Advent Candles burn on, we listen to Luke’s gospel in their glow. Today’s passage (Luke 1:26-38) speaks of Mary’s unexpected preparations for the first Christmas. Mary loved and obeyed her parents. She had great devotion to her Jewish Faith. She was also already betrothed to Joseph. Still, nothing could have prepared her for Gabriel’s visit that day. This poor teen who felt fairly certain of the way her life would unfold was at best startled by Gabriel’s appearance with an alternative plan. As I consider the scene, I wonder what persuaded Mary to listen to that mysterious angel. When Gabriel voiced God’s invitation, what kept Mary from fleeing Gabriel’s company? Why did she stay to listen? More importantly, why did she agree to God’s plan?

The only explanation for all of this which makes sense to me is love. Mary must have loved and trusted her God long before this encounter. Mary must also have recognized God’s enduring love for her. Perhaps it was a glimpse of God’s great love within Gabriel which convinced Mary to listen. When compelled by love, it’s difficult for any of us not to respond in kind. So it was that Mary responded, “God’s son? My son? How can this possibly be?” As Gabriel explained how this would come to pass, Mary-the-teen listened in spite of herself out of love. Practical young woman that she was, Mary realized that her agreement promised her seemingly insurmountable challenges. If she accepted this out-of-wedlock pregnancy, Mary would have to explain it to both her parents and poor Joseph. She also risked the wrath of the temple authorities who might have seen to it that she was stoned for her apparent infidelity to Joseph. Young as she was, Mary likely understood the political climate which made life difficult at best for the Jewish People. Did she wonder what talk of God’s son might add to their misery? Nonetheless, though Mary’s situation overwhelmed her, she stepped past her fear because she loved God and she was convinced that God loved her.

As I consider Mary’s introduction to motherhood and to all of the unexpected joys and sorrows which followed, I’m convinced that it was her certainty regarding God’s love which sustained her. When we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, we put everything into perspective. Mary wasn’t suddenly struck with some kind of instant friendship with God as a result of Gabriel’s visit. Her parents had begun sharing their deep faith in God with Mary many years earlier. Mary responded to that sharing by making her parents’ faith her own. Somehow, knowing that God persisted in faithfulness to the Chosen People, knowing that the Messiah would come one day, knowing the miracles of Abraham’s descendents and Moses’ encounter on that mountain fueled Mary’s faith. Mary somehow knew all would be well for her in the end.

You and I have so much more to fuel our faith. We know who Jesus of Nazareth is. We know that after his death, Jesus rose from the dead. We know that Jesus chose to come as a human just like you and I. Out of the circumstances of his ordinary life, Jesus taught us the nature of God’s love. You and I know that the sick were healed and sinners were forgiven. You and I know that we are embraced after every failure just as lovingly as was the prodigal son. You and I know that there is life after this life and that nothing in this world can rob us of what awaits us in the next. Mary allowed her love for God and God’s love for her to lead her. In doing so, Mary prepared the way of the Lord for generations to come. You and I are invited to allow that love to lead us as well. When we do, it’s so much easier to embrace this life as Mary did.

With that, I invite you to sit back in the glow of our Advent Candles. Sit back for this hour and bask in God’s love just as Mary did. Though the day ahead will be hectic, it will also be holy and happy and love-filled. Today, God invites us all to bask in God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for one another. Yes, it’s all about love. Merry Christmas!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Real Love

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the
secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet and lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Because it is also a “regular” Sunday at church, I’m arranging for our Christmas Eve dinner today. The gifts are already piled strategically around the Christmas Tree. In the process of arranging them, I realized one was missing. It’s something I couldn’t disguise very well, so I hid it under my son’s bed. In the midst of retrieving it, I bumped a plastic container which was also under his bed. I began to tell myself that I would ask him to take it home with him until I realized it was mine. Busy as I was, I opened the bin to examine its contents. I smiled as I retrieved one of the treasures inside. It was my husband’s and my wedding program. I recognized it immediately because the cover bears the scripture passage from The Song of Songs which I cite above. It seems fitting that I reflect on it today.

My husband and I selected this passage because we were taken in by the painful longing this lover expressed for his beloved. This lover who spoke so passionately is the God of Israel who desperately sought to be reunited with the Jewish People. This Divine longing persisted for centuries as evidenced in the gift of Jesus. On the first Christmas, God expressed this insatiable love face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the most tangible way possible. God expressed this love in the gentle cooing of the newborn baby who would spend his life convincing us all that God’s love for us is very, very real.

Loving God, how can we thank you?

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Real Love

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the
secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet and lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

It is Christmas Eve, and I am arranging gifts in the living room for our gathering this afternoon. In the midst of retrieving packages from our son’s room, I bumped a plastic container and knocked it off its shelf. I remembered moving this container last year when I stubbed my toe on it. Busy as I was, I had examined the contents and the numerous memories they represented. I am not allowing myself this luxury at the moment because I still have much to do. I will, however, reminisce mentally as I carry on. One of the treasures in that box is a wedding program. I remember this because one of the scripture readings included is from The Song of Songs which I cite above.

This particular passage is a favorite. Our friend Scott read these words at our wedding. My husband and I selected this reading because we were taken in by the painful longing this lover expressed for his beloved. The lover who spoke so passionately is the God of Israel who desperately sought to be reunited with the Jewish People. This Divine longing persisted for centuries as evidenced in the gift of Jesus. On the first Christmas, God expressed this insatiable love face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the most tangible way possible. God expressed this love in the gentle cooing of the newborn baby who would spend his life convincing us all that God’s love for us is very, very real.

Loving God, thank you for your very, very real love for each one of us.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of Family

“What will this child be?
Was not the hand of the Lord upon him?”

From Luke 1:57-66

My little family has been on my mind this Christmas Eve. Every time I walk past the gifts my husband and I wrapped for them I imagine their reactions. My older two granddaughters have given up their fascination with gift wrap and turn their attention to the gifts inside. Their younger sister continues to relish the opportunity to pull bows and rip paper to her heart’s content. Afterward, she joins her sisters in enjoying her gifts. Our daughter’s-in-law will love their gifts because they provide precise wish lists that my husband and I can easily (and happily) follow. Our sons are another story. Old as they are, they have studied and shaken the gifts left in sight over the past few weeks. We have purposely disguised almost everything we are giving them to throw them off.

Yes, my little family has been on my mind –not their gifts, but each one of them. Though none of us is perfect, the hand of the Lord has truly blessed us all and I am most grateful.

I thank you with all of my heart, Dearest God, for the family and friends you have given me to love. Help me and all of these precious people to share your love wherever we find ourselves

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved