Contributors to our blogs are faculty, alumni, and students of Seminary of the Southwest sharing their reflections from the context of a community of faith. We hope you enjoy reading, and we invite your comments.
Lucy Strandlund is in the Masters of the Arts in Spiritual Formation program and comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Alabama.
As I sat in church on Christmas Eve, my brain full of a semester’s worth of new Biblical Studies knowledge, I felt very distant from any Jesus who might be found sleeping in a wooden manger. In the two Gospels that mention the birth of Jesus, only one spends much time on the story of his infancy. To me, the Jesus of the Gospels is a grown man who meets us where we are but invites us to be more than we have been. So who is this little baby? Where is the challenging and radical man from the Bible? This baby can’t tell cryptic parables or invite sinners to dinner. I wondered what Christmas meant to me as someone who is very much fascinated by the adult Jesus.
Ashley Freeman is a middler in the M.Div. program. Ashley and his family come to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.
John 1: 1-18
The true light, which enlightens everyone, has come into the world.
2013 is almost over, in a few short hours 2014 will be upon us. Many of us will celebrate tonight with friends and family. We may watch the giant ball fall in Times Square, or see fireworks, or pop the top on a bottle of champagne, or perhaps we will share a good luck kiss with our significant others at the stroke of midnight. Regardless of how you celebrate the coming of the New Year, 2013 is history. The best and worst of 2013 is now part of your story. As you reflect on the last twelve months of your life, where did “the true light, which enlightens everyone” shine?
Thom Temperli is a senior in the M.Div. program. Thom came to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Texas.
Today’s readings invite us to honestly ponder our heart’s deepest desires. In the midst of the Christmas season the heart of today’s scriptures address our deepest fears and greatest yearnings amidst a time when our culture has already disposed of the gift wrapping and empty boxes whose contents and whose giver’s intentions may have fulfilled some desires and disappointed others. We are left to examine honestly what it is underneath all of our outward cravings and pursuits of little “happinesses” that leaves us yearning, and what leaves us still afraid that our deepest longings will not be met.
Christine Havens is a senior in the Master of Arts in Religion. Christine came to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Iowa.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
How do you recognize a gift? Gifts are objects of love and affection, given freely, right? We have a Christmas carol that celebrates them—“on the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. . .” Toward the end of my marriage, I learned to recognize when my ex was seeing another woman—he bought me things that were fairly thoughtful, that reflected my taste. Reflecting on this right now, I keep my distance from the image of an iridescent black stone dragon given to me for Christmas one year and from the gratitude I recall feeling at the time—despite the affair, my husband remained my true love. There were other such “gifts” before we finally separated. To say the least, this definitely skewed my ability to recognize gifts. I loved what my friends since then have given me—candles, a pair of earrings when my ears were not even pierced at the time. I do not mean to suggest that these gifts had no meaning. How can I say it except to state that they were easily recognized, safe, and not painful? I can see now just how much relief and gratitude I felt then—I did not have to go near that dark place inside me that helplessly viewed thoughtful gifts with trepidation and suspicion, a darkness that, until very recently, I carried around within me.
Rob Harris is a senior in the M.Div. program from the Diocese of West Texas.
‘Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.' (Matthew 18:4-5 NRSV)
The greatest moments in my life have been defined around moments where life suddenly and dramatically breaks in from darkness, from the womb which bears it. My own journey, as a son adopted at birth, is a love note left by my birth mother which read, "I love you. You are mine. Always remember my love." I was welcomed.
Ashley Urquidi is a middler in the M.Div. program. Ashley comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Maryland.
This holiday season has been bittersweet for me, in many ways. There is a tear in the family I was born into, one I fear may be irreparable. And yet, despite this, I believe I now see more clearly than I ever have before. Christmas is about love. This makes sense, right? But sometimes it takes a travesty to see that Christmas isn't just about any kind of love, it's about the love God offers us through the birth of His Son. That is deep God-love, the kind of love that our language fails to convey in single (or multiple) words. It is self-sacrificing and self-emptying. It is the courage to make yourself vulnerable to pain and sorrow, to move from safety and security into chaos simply to better the lives of those you care for. Giving and receiving this love requires, demands, the giving of yourself.
R. Scott Painter is a Junior in the M.Div. program at Seminary of the Southwest. Scott comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Texas.
My wife and I were married in 1995. It was a summer wedding in the Pacific Northwest. A beautiful day in a beautiful place. We celebrated with lovely friends and cherished family. It was the day for which we had been waiting and preparing over the course of months and months. The culmination of those preparations went off without a hitch. Everything was perfect on the big day. Our lives would not be the same from thence forward.
The next morning, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I’ll never forget, summed up in the words that rushed through my head as I looked over at my sleeping bride: “Oh my God, what have I DONE?!”
Cynthia Briggs Kittredge (@cbkittredge) is the 8th Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest and professor of New Testament. Dean Kittredge holds degrees from Williams College and Harvard Divinity School.
The Christmas pageant was the high point of the year for us as kids growing up in my church. Wordlessly Caesar Augustus unrolled a scroll (a decree). The boy who played Joseph stood a bit too far away from the girl in the role of Mary to make a convincing depiction of her as his partner (espoused wife). Everyone was relieved that the delivery of the first born son and wrapping him in swaddling clothes happened off stage, but the story resumed when Mary, in a large readable gesture and with studied deliberation, placed a bundle into the triangular wooden box at the bottom of the chancel steps (laid him in a manger). Shepherds clad in burlap headed up the aisle carrying crooks. Sheep toddled alongside.
Jennifer Shadle is a junior in the Master of Divinity program at Seminary of the Southwest. Jennifer's home diocese is the Diocese of Colorado. Prior to coming to seminary, Jennifer served as the department chair for the Music Department at Colorado State University - Pueblo.
Every year, I greet Advent with the heightened excitement, and undertone of dread, that we have come to associate with the month of December in postmodern America. My defense against the rampant commercialism is to deny its existence, refuse to participate in “sales events,” and inevitably discover with a shock of chagrin that I have something like four days left to do any of the traditional baking, decorating, and card-writing that I really enjoy doing.