Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
Sunday, December 22nd, 2019


EXCERPT FROM
A Pocketful of Sundays

"Do not be afraid" is a powerful biblical formula of reassurance for those who might otherwise be terrified out of their wits. In the presence of angels and visions, it is possible to be so intimidated that the message is completely overlooked. Instead, the recipient of these paranormal experiences might panic, flee, or even die on the spot. Little wonder, then, that the Angel Gabriel immediately put Mary at ease. In a state of fright she might have agreed to his invitation without thinking it through; once calm, however, she could listen, clarify, understand -- and then, having grasped what was being asked of her, she could make a free, unconditional response, not based on fear but on love.






IMAGERY &
PAIN MANAGEMENT

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
  1. Have you ever heard "God" say to you, "Do not be afraid"? If so, how did this message reach you and how did you know it was from God?
  2. To what extent do you trust in the wisdom of dreams? What role do your dreams play in your spirituality?
  3. By taking Mary into his home, Joseph obeyed God instead of following the Law. Have you ever had to break "the rules" to "obey" God or follow your conscience?

Greetings, Readers!

It is a relief to be distant from all the political updates in the media right now, just as it is easy to become addicted to them. Over the last few months, I have found myself sucked into watching or listening to countless news summaries, commentaries, spoofs and live interviews; they have shocked, numbed, entertained, reinforced suspicions, heightened fears, and generally made me doubt our viability as a species...

Here, in Malta yet again, I have other concerns-- spending time with my family as we continue to grieve my sister's death; connecting with as many friends as my schedule-- and theirs-- will allow; checking in daily on my mother and being as supportive as I can to her caregivers whose complete dedication has allowed her to continue living in the family home...

Last night, my youngest sister and I finalized our Christmas Day menu. Since mum's caregiver -- a Filipina-- is going to be with her all Christmas Day, we decided to cater a Filipino Feast to which she could invite her friends and family members. I'm making the curried lentil soup, "Jenny" will create the chicken & pork Adobo and fresh fruit plates, while Pinoy Restaurant will deliver several other entrees and, of course, the leche flan . Somehow, creating a celebration for those whose employment has brought them so far from home seems more important than politics right now. Supportive of one another, they spend years in the service of families like mine, just so their own families can survive. For most, 90% of what they earn goes directly to the Philippines to pay for children's education, to provide food and shelter, to help a spouse set up a business, to redeem a pawned rice field...

The problem with politics -- and Malta has its own share of dirty business dominating every discussion-- is that scandals can cloud our consciousness, disturb our sleep and make us generally unhappy and insecure. We can become so absorbed in who said what/did what/ engaged in bribery and corruption/ endangered the nation/nearly destroyed the planet etc. that we lose sight of what is important. For me, a Filipino Feast offers the opportunity to be mindful of the stranger in our midst and to welcome people to our table who would otherwise be alone over Christmas; it provides a moment to pause in the midst of busyness to become other-centered rather than self-preoccupied. And, in the pausing, I believe we will touch the Mystery of Incarnation.


Advent Blessings -- and a Blessed Christmas!
Elizabeth

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SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
MT 1:18-24

In times of terror and confusion, it is easy to give in to fear and to follow "conventional wisdom" instead of listening to God's Voice. Conventional wisdom convinces us that following the rules, playing safe and doing what society expects of us will ultimately save our lives as well as our reputations. As he struggled with what he should do in response to Mary's pregnancy, Joseph no doubt knew exactly what his friends, family and neighbors would advise had he asked them: break off the betrothal, expose Mary's shame and let her suffer the consequences of her actions under the full extent of the Law. But Joseph wasn't satisfied with conventional wisdom. As a "righteous man," he would need to divorce Mary; however, as a man of compassion, he was "unwilling to expose her to shame." His dilemma, then, was to find a way of upholding the Law while showing mercy. As today's Gospel reveals, he received Divine guidance in his dreams, finding the courage to let go of fear and to instead embrace a very different future than he could possibly have imagined. Having gone to bed in turmoil, he awoke with clarity, understanding that Mary's Child was to fulfill all Messianic hopes and expectations.

Faced with a similar dilemma's to Joseph's, a less "righteous man" would have such a bruised ego that his impulse would be to lash out, punish, humiliate and publicly scorn the woman to whom he was betrothed. Instead of trying to protect her, such a man would want everyone to know the injustice he had suffered as a result of her supposedly cheating on him. He might even pick up that proverbial "first stone" to demonstrate how absolutely he repudiates her because of what she has "done" to him. Such a man is governed by his baser instincts and, yes, by conventional wisdom. He is incapable of discernment on any level and, instead of listening to God's Voice, listens only to the voice of the wounded ego.

And what a miserable voice that is. This voice accuses, complains, spews hatred, demands attention, threatens, distorts the truth, and seeks revenge. When our wounded egos assert control, God's Voice is silenced; it can only break through our confusion when we are receptive, flexible and willing to move beyond our own limited viewpoints and vested interests. Joseph believed all that his dream revealed and was therefore able to move away from Plan A/ Plan B into "God's Plan" as it unfolded in his life. What plans, agendas, assumptions, perspectives, biases, and loyalties hold us captive? What must we do to hear with God's ears, see with God's eyes, and discern with God's Spirit?
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.



Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com