Saturday, December 29, 2007


I've been working on a sermon for tomorrow on the text from Matthew 2:13-23, which tells the story of the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. I've also spent some time researching Herod the Great, who was not called that because of his kindly nature. In preparation, I finally got around to watching the movie The Nativity this afternoon. While not the greatest movie I've seen, it does a good job of portraying life in Judea at the time of Jesus' birth. I'm actually going to talk about Matthew's report of the murder of children under the age of two in Bethlehem, which is pretty grim stuff, especially for a grandmother with grandchildren that age. I nonetheless kept finding myself pulled back to this passage in particular. I like Rev. Dr. William Willimon's take on this passage in his 1998 sermon as well as Rev. Joy Carol Wallis' in her sermon, Putting Herod Back in Bethlehem. This is the world that we live in, one where the innocent are violated regularly by the powerful. It's also a world where all of us have sinned and too often seek what we want when we want it, rather than trusting in God. Jesus came into that world, not into some sanitized Christmas card version, but a real world of suffering and pain. We have hope because Christ has overcome the powers of sin and darkness in this world, not some mythical, magical place, but the real sinful world in which we live. That's Good News to take into the coming New Year.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And a little child shall lead them

We have been blessed once again with a grandchild, another little boy, born earlier this week. I'm not quite as tired as if I'd given birth, but tired enough. This grandmothering is exhausting, exhilirating work. As I held this tiny child and looked into his bright, eager eyes, I found it hard to believe how much time has passed since his daddy was born. For a time, we were not at all sure that his daddy would make it as he tried to come three months early. Fortunately with the help of good medical care and ten weeks of bed rest by his mama, he arrived safely. What a blessing to welcome his child into this world. I have found that grandchildren are even more of a blessing than I expected. They help keep me young and remind me of God's unconditional love with their trusting innocence and ready affection. So I don't find the passage from the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verse 6, at all unbelievable: "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them." I've been around small children a lot of late, and it could happen. Someday in God's good time I pray this whole weary world will be blessed with such peace.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I suppose I've become a bit better at waiting thanks to my time at seminary, but that's only in comparison to my earlier even more impatient self. Now we sit poised between the past and the future once again as we await the birth of another grandchild. He was due today, but when we talked with his mama earlier, she said he seems to be happy right where he is. And so like Mary and Joseph, we continue to wait for the birth of a Christmas child.

I've learned my job as a grandmother is to wait, a hard assignment as I'm more of a woman of action. For now, however, all of us must wait for the miracle of this child, for God's timing. One thing I've learned in nearly 60 years of living is that it's always better to wait for God's timing. You think I would also have learned to be more patient in the waiting, and I suppose I have, but only in comparison to the past.

Now like the little girl I once was, I'm waiting excitedly for the birth of a child in this Holy season, a child who will change all of our lives, especially those of his mom and dad. I never had a Christmas present this exciting when I was a little girl, and at the moment I feel as impatient as I once felt as I waited for Christmas to come. It always seemed to take forever, yet somehow it always came. I'm sure this baby will come too, just not as soon as his waiting family had hoped.

May you too wait expectantly for the birth of the Holy Child who came in God's good time and changed all of our lives for the better.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Season of Hope

Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent for 2007, and Sumner and her family lit the candle of hope at the front of the sanctuary at the start of the worship service. Advent always seems to arrive each year just when I most need the reminder that this is still God's world with a lot of good things going on in spite of the bad news with which we are inundated on a daily basis. Advent arrives when I am in need of hope.

Emily Dickinson wrote something like: Hope is the thing without feathers that perches in the soul and sings the song without words and never stops at all. One of the Biblical writers wrote something like: Without hope the people perish. I know that without God in my life I would have no hope and my soul would shrivel up and die.

This past weekend, I personally participated in a bit of hopeful good news that will never make it onto CNN. My husband and I live in a remarkable neighborhood, where we know each other by name, and know the names of the kids and even the names of the pets. We are in short extended family here, even those like us who have arrived fairly recently. Saturday morning we had a neighborhood workday, which often means picking up the trash thrown along our private road. This time the workday meant yard work at the home of a recently widowed elderly neighbor with Alzheimer's.

For two hours, Scott with his gas powered hedge trimmer, and others with their clippers trimmed hedges and shrubs that had grown ragged and were trying to eat the mailbox, while others like me picked up the trimmings and stacked them for the next trash pickup. When one of the workers went to tell the woman we were finished, her response was "God bless you." What a blessing to be able to do yard work for someone who cannot. Then we gathered for a cookie swap and hot chocolate.

My heart was warmed by the experience of working with a group of neighbors who I know for a fact disagree with each other about many issues, especially in politics and theology. But we all agreed that our neighbor needed help. What a blessing to be able to play a small part in providing that help and to know others felt the same.

Each year I wait for that moment in Advent when God's kingdom breaks through the gloom once again to shine in my heart. This year I was blessed to experience that moment early, when neighbors came together with shared purpose. And the "thing without feathers" perched in my soul once again sang "the song without words." Thanks be to God that will be enough to see me through the new year until Advent once again arrives to remind me of God's eternal hope.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue