From my experience, and perhaps from yours too, there is nothing quite like holding a baby who has just entered into our world.

I had the joy of holding a newborn just a few weeks ago. Teresa Ann Klaes (who will be making her debut as the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve at our 4pm service, under the direction of momma Maggie) was 2 days old when we met. Weighing in over 10 lbs (no need to buy NB outfits for this cherub, 3M clothes will do just fine, thank you!), baby “Tessa” was sound asleep.

And she was warm, oh so warm, wrapped up in love with a head full of dark, dark hair. As often happens when I’m holding a newborn, a flood of wonder and awe washed over me with Tessa in my arms …

“Hello, dear One, welcome to our beautiful and broken and amazing world … Welcome to your one precious life … Welcome to your human family … God’s family … Who are you? … Who are you going to be? … So thankful you have loving parents and a loving family and everything you could possibly need … oh, how I wish this were so for every child … for every child … Amazing … This is so amazing … You are amazing! …Life is amazing … How can this be?!? …”

A bit schmaltzy? Perhaps. And yet, I believe, William Wordsworth has it right:

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”

And so it is that we find ourselves once again on the brink of holding and hearing the good news of another, Holy birth, a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away. Meister Eckhart, German mystic from the 13th century, reflecting on Jesus’ birth, asked: “What good is it, that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago if Christ is not also born in me?”

St. John of the Cross, Spanish mystic from the 16th century, wrote a poem that paints the Christmas story in both a timeless and timely way. I share it now with you. May God be born in You this season and every day, to be a light unto our world.

If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy, and say,
“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim – the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street
pregnant with Light and sing. 


Dear Folks,

Last Saturday a group of 50 people gathered in the Chapel to bury a woman who was about to turn 105.  Because the woman’s faith had travelled so many miles over her century, from doubt to devotion and back again, it seemed false to squeeze her memorial service into an Episcopal liturgy.  So we set up a circle of chairs around a free-standing altar, placed her ashes in a pottery jar, lit candles, and together held a Quaker Meeting to celebrate her life.

The stories people told about her were funny and poignant, even scandalous—her personal trainer met her at the gym until she was 102… as a 10-year-old she drove the car so her father, an Episcopal priest, could make pastoral visits in rural Virginia… she offered relationship counseling to a grandson in his 20’s… and when no longer able walk, she asked a caregiver to “carry her to that little stone church, so that she could go home.”

Everyone spoke about what a good friend she had been.  “She never knew a stranger. She made you part of the circle.  She asked how you were doing.  She looked you in the eyes.”

One person read an excerpt from The Little Prince.  “The fox asked, ‘Are you looking for chickens?’  ‘No’ said the little prince.  ‘I am looking for friends.  What does that mean—‘tame’?’  ‘It is an act too often neglected,’ said the fox.  ‘It means to establish ties.’  ‘To establish ties’? (asked the little prince).”

“‘Just that,’ said the fox.  ‘To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys.  And I have no need of you.  And you, on your part, have no need of me.  To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.  But it you tame me, then we shall need each other.  To me, you will be unique in the world.  To you, I shall be unique in the world… if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life.  I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others.  Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground.  Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow.  And then look: you see the grain fields down yonder?  I do not eat bread.  Wheat is of no use to me.  The wheat fields have nothing to say to me.  And that is sad.  But you have hair that is the color of gold.  Think how wonderful it will be when you have tamed me.  The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.  And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”

“The fox gazed at the little prince for a long time.  ‘Please—tame me!’ he said.  ‘I want to, very much,’ the little prince replied.  ‘But I have not much time.  I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.’”

“’One only understands the things that one tames,’ said the fox.  ‘Men have no more time to understand anything.  They buy things all ready-made at the shops.  But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more.  If you want a friend, tame me…’  ‘What must I do, to tame you?’ asked the little prince.  ‘You must be very patient,’ replied the fox.  ‘First you will sit down at a little distance from me—like that—in the grass.  I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing.  Words are the source of misunderstandings.  But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…’”

“So the little prince tamed the fox.  And when the hour of his departure drew near—‘Ah,’ said the fox, ‘I shall cry.’  ‘It’s your own fault,’ said the little prince.  ‘I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…’  ‘Yes, that is so,’ said the fox.  ‘But now you are going to cry!’ said the little prince.  ‘Yes, that is so,’ said the fox.  ‘Then it has done you no good at all!’  ‘It has done me good,’ said the fox, ‘because of the color of the wheat fields…”  My 104 year old friend who died knew that each of us is like that little fox, longing to be seen and known.  The world needs us to tame each other.

No shop is selling friendship this December, but we need it now more than ever.  So instead of rushing about, why not give someone new a few moments of your time?  Start a friendship.  There’s no telling how long you will know each other, and as in all relationships, someday you will part.  But we were made for each other… and like the light shining on an otherwise ordinary manger of wheat, once you have loved an unlikely stranger, you’ll carry something golden with you always.



That simple yet powerful sentence was the opening invitation from the convener of a 5 day workshop that I am currently taking. Sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Maryland, I am being trained to become an instructor for what is called Mental Health First Aid. Similar to a First Aid course for medical situations, this training is focused on mental health issues. Topics include depression, anxiety, phobias, suicide, psychosis, substance abuse and eating disorders. I am in a class of about 20 other professionals including a group from the Baltimore County Police Crisis team, and a number of social workers from central Maryland. I am the only clergy which is sort of fun.

So you might ask, why am I doing this? My primary motivation is reflected in the opening sentence above: “It is time we talk about mental health challenges.” I want to be a resource for the parish and the community for education and referrals. Mental illness carries with it the potential for stigma and shame. Too often it is hidden in the stories of our lives. And keeping those secrets only contributes to the challenges of recovery and acceptance. Almost 19% of the US population experiences some form of mental illness in any one year. That is not a small number. My own life has been touched by two extended family members with mental illness.  I suppose that is an additional reason I am passionate about speaking out.

I found it interesting that as I am writing this on Tuesday, this morning on Good Morning America, Ginger Zee, ABC News chief meteorologist was interviewed about her newly published memoir, Natural Disaster: I Cover Them, I Am One. In it, she describes her struggle with depression, her addiction to self harm and her decision to get in-patient help. You might find the interview of interest:–abc-news-books.html She ends the interview with: “I fought a disease called depression that a lot of people fight every single day. Unlike other diseases, there is a stigma surrounding it and I want to help people. The hundreds of thousands or millions of people who are dealing with or dealt with something I did, I want them to be able to fight without shame.”

That is my hope for our community. I choose to be an active voice. If you are interested in being a part of a group to raise awareness of mental health issues, I invite you to email me. Let’s explore productive ways to educate and inform. It’s time…..