Transcending Shame, An Advent Reflection

Each year, the parishioners of Holy Comforter create an advent reflections booklet composed of their own contributions. This is mine, used for December 19, 2012. Click here to access the complete set of reflections.

Transcending Shame, An Advent Reflection

Photo Credit: FeelArt

Two of the three readings for today mention “shame” and “disgrace”:

“Let me never be put to shame” (Psalm 71:1)

And

“She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me….took away the disgrace I have endured…” (Luke 1:24-25)

As I write this (mid-October), the orange and black of the Halloween sections of stores are already being infringed upon by the red and green of Christmas merchandise.

I was recently perusing a catalog that was selling a variety of “token” items, such as a gift set of a Christmas-themed mug packaged with hot chocolate mix and a decorative spoon. I have to be perfectly honest here and say that I always appreciate the thought behind gifts like this but I often don’t have a clue what to do with the non-edible parts after the holiday. I imagine teachers have closets full of these types of gifts.

Compare these “one size fits all” gifts with the most customized of Christmas presents: a boyfriend’s hopeful proposal after he has whisked his intended to Paris and spirited her up to the Eiffel Tower to pop the question. Gifts that involve hours of deliberating over the right approach, the perfect tangible gift to give, what would make the recipient squeal with delight and tuck away a cherished memory for a lifetime.

Just as gifts range from minor and “generic” to major and “customized,” shame has degrees also.

For an example of “relatively minor,” one Sunday service at a previous parish I was acolyting and did not know to ring the bells when the priest presented the host (our guidebook was only marked “ring” for Prayer A but not for B, C, and D – I am a pretty literal person!). During the communion, somehow without even breaking rhythm the priest asked, “No bells today?” I said, “our prayer book wasn’t marked.” He said, “Oh, I thought you had a headache.” Somehow that combination of approaching me quietly yet with a touch of humor did two things: a) taught me what I needed to do next time (ring the bells!) and b) relieved the embarrassment and shame I felt for “messing up” our service.

There are much bigger things that create shame: Succumbing to addictions and as a result committing acts that harm others while decimating our self esteem; making choices that hurt those closest to us as well as people we may never meet again. Stealing things, injuring others, and gross dishonesty come to mind.

Author Brene Brown says, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

Just like the range of gifts from relatively trivial to once-in-a-lifetime special, shame can create a momentary disturbance of confidence or one from which it seems impossible to recover. Whether someone in your life is experiencing a shame of the minor or major variety, help them galvanize themselves at a time when corrosion threatens their belief in their capability to change.

The psalmist said, “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge.” Let us help one another find the gift of the Lord’s refuge, even when shame threatens to block the way.
Transcending Shame, An Advent Reflection

To Awake Satisfied – An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of my church, Holy Comforter, contribute devotionals for the season of Advent. This is my contribution for 2010. 
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
-Psalm 17:15


December 3, 2010, is the seventeenth anniversary of the death of my sister-in-law, Ann Kiger Paredes. Ann died in her sleep of an undiagnosed genetic cardiac disorder, at the age of 30. She left behind a husband, a six year old son, a three year old daughter, and a six month old baby girl.

Advent Reflection

Christmas 1993 was not an easy holiday for our family. Ann’s coworker, Faith Bass, captured the feeling in her poem, “Is There Christmas in Heaven?” from which I have provided an excerpt:

Do you exchange gifts,
have parties and such,
or is your only wish to be mortal,
to feel your child’s touch?

 

Are you watching us from heaven?
Do you feel our grief?
Is living in heaven such a relief?


Ann’s children are young adults now. How I wish she could have been here among us over the past seventeen years, marveling in their growth and, yes, grumbling about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. For some reason, God gave us, her family, that gift. When I “hang out” with that nephew and those nieces whose world was so drastically shaken so long ago, I know Ann is with us when I see Zack’s “AEK” tattoo on his arm, when Logan says something that just has that “Ann” tone to it, and when Jordan still has that exuberant little sparkle in her eye she did as a youngster.

I still do not understand why Ann did not wake up before dawn on December 3, 1993. She awoke to the likeness of God. As you contemplate the gifts of Christmas, may you awaken to a Godly likeness with every moment.

Advent Reflection
The Kiger Siblings, 1991 (Ann is 2nd from the left)