Compassion and the Simple Act of Presence

By December 22, 2016Advent, Chapel Communion

Len Delony1It’s 5:00 am on December 22. It’s still very dark on this longest night of the year. But the light is coming soon . . .

Each year in this time we anticipate and celebrate the story of Christmas. It is a sacred story of Emmanuel . . . God coming into our lives in the intimacy of a mother and child. It is a story we might know in great detail. But to be changed into new life, we must live into it by being present to a Real and Mysterious Presence. To know truly the meaning of Christmas, to experience the depth of words like faith, hope, and love, we must make spaces of simplicity to be open and vulnerable. As we let go of some of the rush in order to make space for sacred rhythms, we awaken to a trust we come to know in and through God’s Presence.

In the difficult places in our lives where there is “no room in the inn,” we are invited to welcome what actually is, here and now, with a presence of grace and compassion. In that vulnerable but holy dark-night, there is hope for a growing light and new life. And the baby Jesus, the Christ Child, welcomes us into that sacred space in which each of us can discover that we are bearing unique gifts of grace, or charisms, that honor new life in God’s light.

But it’s not just the tender beginnings of an infant and mother that bring that experience of hope and new life. I have been visiting a lot of patients and families who are painfully vulnerable lately (while serving as a chaplain for Community Hospice of Texas.) Though each situation is uniquely difficult in the depths of pain and powerlessness as the reality of suffering and death become ever-present, there is very often a sense of openness and deepening trust in God’s Presence. In a time of difficulty and darkness, there is often a tenderheartedness and shared sense that we are on holy ground. Hope for a deeper healing and wholeness is often experienced and shared in an inner, undying light.

As we prepare to gather with family in our unique mix of new and ancient rituals, I’m aware that my 87-year-old father and father-in-law are both approaching their times of endings in the circle of life. And I’m reminded that the depths of joy in the world are never about flawlessness. But as we open ourselves to be present to God’s Presence in Emmanuel, the mix of sorrow and celebration are transformed into a new life that connects us with the light that is eternal.

Before I started writing this morning, I read the daily meditation by Franciscan Richard Rohr. It’s too good to pass this opportunity to share with you.

Also, here’s a link to a TED Talk with Krista Tippett on Compassion and the simple act of Presence.

Grace and peace on your star-lit journey to the manger.


I’d like to give a simplified summary of what seems to me to be Jesus’ foundational worldview and plan:

God can be trusted. God is like a loving Father or Mother who is involved in our lives and our world. So do not be afraid.

Divine Love has the power to effect lasting and real change. Alignment with such truth is to live under the “Reign of God.” The simple and pure motivation for all morality and religion is simply the imitation of God who is love.

We are transported to this Reign of God through a purifying journey into powerlessness and back. Those who have not gone on such a journey will often misuse divine power. So Jesus taught it directly, walked it through himself, and then invited us to trust this Paschal Mystery in ourselves.

Therefore a disciple needs to learn several lessons:

  • To refuse total allegiance (“idolatry”) to all false power, while still working around and with the power structure in service to justice and love.
  • To refuse to idealize one’s private self, which props itself up by myths of importance, control, power, money, and wealth.
  • To offer ourselves trustfully to a much larger pattern, because our lives are not about us!

— Richard Rohr


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