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Posts Tagged ‘Advent Meditation’

Advent IV, Thursday – December 24
(Christmas Eve)
AM Psalm 45, 46; PM —
Baruch 4:36-5:9; Galatians 3:23-4:7

 

 Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.      

 

 

 

     It’s hard to read this story of Jesus’ birth without reading all the things that aren’t in it.  This is Joseph’s story, not Mary’s.  The angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him not to make a fuss because she’s pregnant and the child is not his, but to take Mary as his wife.  There is no angel appearing to Mary. There are no angels appearing to shepherds, no angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest!”  It is just Joseph and his dream and his nameless angel!  And then the birth, there is no mention of a manger or a census.  This is no Christmas pageant story and yet it is the gospel, the good news!  And center stage, a dream!

      I have had dreams, some as mind-boggling as Joseph’s but there’s never been an angel in one.  I believe God speaks to each of us in whatever way we will hear and maybe angels are not my medium.  And it’s not that I don’t believe in angels.  Every night I pray to God to “give your angels charge over those who sleep.”  Likewise it seems so very right and proper to ask God to send his angels to surround the sick or the suffering or those in need of comfort or strength.

      I grew up hearing of guardian angels.  We each have one, so I believed, and I imagined mine sitting on my shoulder.  Unfortunately he seemed to be more like my conscience but maybe that’s what guardian angels are, at least some of the time, as they keep us on the straight and narrow.

     Enough of struggling with the whys and wherefores of dreams and angels – it’s Christmas Eve and time to sing, “Glory to God in the highest.”

 Sonia S.

 

 Glorious God, we dream dreams yet so rarely dare follow them. This night of all nights, day of all days, help us boldly step into your dream –the babe in the manger—that we might follow in the footsteps of his dream, now and forever. Amen.

 

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Advent IV, Wednesday – December 23
AM Psalm 72; PM Psalm 111, 113
1 Samuel 7:1-17; Titus 2:11-3:8a

 

Luke 1:39-48a(48b-56)  

 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   (Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
 And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.)

 

     Anticipating the birth of Jesus is what Advent is all about.  The Gospel reading for today reveals Elizabeth’s excitement about Mary’s pregnancy – the first occasion of joyful anticipation that Christian believers revisit every December.  It also highlights the significant role of women so often overlooked. 

      Although I have never been one to engage in the worship of Mary,  I have always admired her willingness to accept what God asked of her.  And that for me is the powerful message of Luke’s verses.  What does it mean to be blessed, to undertake a daunting task?   I think the answers lie in how one approaches such a job – it is not the job itself, but the recognition of who God is and what God does.  It is the experience of God’s presence and support that gives one the strength to do whatever is asked or required of one, not because one is blessed but because one becomes blessed by how one behaves and responds.   Jesus provides in the Beatitudes a list of those very qualities that make one blessed.

      The words of the Magnificat illuminate Mary’s relationship to God.  She rejoices in being chosen, declares her faith, acknowledges the great things done for her and defines the mercy and actions of God throughout generations.  She is blessed, proclaims Elizabeth, as is the child she is carrying.

      Elizabeth shows us how to look forward once again to the baby whose advent can change our world – and us.  Mary exemplifies a profound and humble way to say Yes to God.  It is much easier to be like Elizabeth!

  – Marge K.

 

O God, saying yes to you is not always so easy. Thank you that Mary, a mere child, showed us what can happen if we dare! Thank you for her example! Thank you for our own lives which are rich in opportunities to say “yes” also! Help us form the word in our reluctant hearts. Yes! Amen.

 

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Advent IV, Tuesday – December 22
(Charlotte Diggs [Lottie] Moon, Missionary in China, 1912)
AM Psalm 66, 67; PM Psalm 116, 117
1 Samuel 2:1b-10; Titus 2:1-10

Luke 1:26-38  

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. 

 

 

 

     When I began the assigned reading, I smiled.  The passage, as is the whole Christmas story, has been familiar to me since childhood.  As a child just beginning to learn about the world I was born into, it was easy to imagine the angel Gabriel appearing and explaining to Mary what she was going to experience, and why.  As an adult it has not been as easy.

     I have not had the angel Gabriel appear to me, with wings as in the paintings.  But there have been angels.  Their message has not been as clear, and sometimes they’re gone before I understand.  These angels have not spoken to me with words that I hear.  They speak through our hearts.  Their message is a message of love, and hope, as was the one that Mary received so long ago. 

    And there is another lesson here.  I have learned that there is much in life that is beyond our control.  It is sometimes difficult to understand the why.  So it is Mary’s response that also speaks to me as an adult. “…let it be with me according to your word.”  Let go, let God.  With that, one can truly find peace.

 Ernie F.

  

Heavenly Father, You do send angels to surround us and guide us. Give us hearts to see them so that we may let go of our need to instruct them (and You) and instead trust that Your will for us is more than we can ask or imagine. Amen

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Advent IV, Monday – December 21
(Saint Thomas the Apostle)
AM Psalm 61, 62; PM Psalm 112, 115
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16


Luke 1:1-25  

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. 

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.  After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

 

 

     I will be spending this Christmas in Las Vegas. I can’t think of a worse place to spend Christmas but my son works there and this is our only chance to visit him. Las Vegas may have a good side but I see only greed and materialism not unlike the way Christmas has evolved as a holiday.

     Christmas didn’t start out that way.  Gabriel brings Zechariah no material signs. When Zechariah asks for one he is struck dumb for his lack of faith so he can’t ask for anything else! Gabriel promises him a son – tangible enough but otherwise the promise is spiritual. Filled with the Holy Spirit, John will “turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous”.  So what does this mean to me today?

     Surely I give enough attention to my children especially at Christmas. Why would I need turning to them?  Gabriel says John will turn parents’ hearts to their children. So where is my heart – in the material or in the spiritual? Children are physically demanding, yet they also teach me to love unconditionally and to want to be a better person. I believe my children will inherit the pain and faults that I do not address in myself, and all children inherit the world in the state I help leave to them.

      Turning to “the wisdom of the righteous” for me means attempting to follow the Lord’s Prayer – trusting God to provide what I need, accepting God’s gifts with gratitude, acknowledging my faults, and forgiving others theirs. In this way, with God’s help, I may become a better person.

      So my challenge will be to have a spiritual Christmas in Las Vegas. Perhaps we will take a walk in the desert and be glad just to be together.

  – Bev B.

  

Generous God, sometimes it is difficult to know the end of the story. We are like Zachariah. We want a clue about the future. Or we want more than a clue! So in this season of waiting, help us to let go of needing to know your perfect solution and help us instead to relish the present, as Elizabeth relished her unexpected pregnancy. Amen.  

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Advent IV, Sunday –  December 20
AM Psalm 24, 29; PM Psalm 8, 84
Genesis 3:8-15; Revelation 12:1-10


John 3:16-21  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

 

 

 

      John 3:16! How many times have we seen that sentence flashed on our TV screens? Very powerful! Yet so much more is there to give this truth context when we continue into John 3: 17-21. Light and darkness follow, and the great conflict in the world (and in our lives) between these forces. How can anyone not immediately turn to the light; how can one prefer darkness?

      I just spent this afternoon driving around being overwhelmed by the clarity and purity of the blue fall skies, the stunning colors of the trees; it’s all light. But there are things I realize I do keep in the dark: thoughts, desires, judgments, sins, transgressions. You may have a store of them yourself (I hope I’m not the only one in this boat!). And in the long run, the solution goes right back to where we started at good old number 16: God gave his Son to be on our side in this battle with darkness.

      And I think that is why we celebrate His birth at the Winter solstice. The Light is returning, it is born again both symbolically and literally into the World and our lives. I say Hallelujah and Praise God for these celebrations and festivals where we embody our truths and beliefs in song and liturgies and preparations and gifts and all that goes with Christmas! May they all help us be stronger in, and more full of, the Light of Christ. And may we turn from the darkness and be Lights to the World.

 – John L.

 

Eternal Light, as we sit in darkness of our own making, reveal the tiniest ray of your light that we might follow it to the Source. Keep us from hiding out in the darkness of our shame or fears. Make us brave enough to always stand fully in your light that our lives might reflect it to those around us. Amen.

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Advent III, Saturday – December 19
(Lillian Trasher, Missionary in Egypt, 1961)
AM Psalm 55; PM Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23)
Zechariah 8:9-17; Revelation 6:1-17

 

Matthew 25:31-46

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

 

 

 

      We are less than a week away from the celebration of the first coming  of the Son of God!  An innocent, vulnerable, poor baby upon whom rests all of the hopes of the nations, and the promises of the prophets. Our hearts are filled with anticipation for what is to come, and with joy and praise to our Heavenly Father who through this special baby reveals the magnitude of His love for the world.  Through Jesus, we know God is Love.

     With less than a week away, Matthew presents the second coming of Our Lord where angels once again surround and glorify him.  Then, POW! He confronts us with a different kind of Lord. We are standing in judgment for our relationships (or lack thereof) with those in Creation who have been scorned, rejected, and living on the periphery.  If I don’t pass this test, I will be accursed, forever separated from God, and thrown to live in eternal fire with the devil.  I don’t know about you, but this second image makes me feel very uncomfortable. Is this truly the same Lord that came as a meek, adorable baby? A God of Love?  It seems more like a mega-curveball to me.

     Then again, it is the unexpected.

     Coming as a baby was not what the Jewish people expected the first time either.  How easy it is to see Advent as a time of preparation for the expected – when truly it is a time of waiting for the unexpected.  And while I wait, Matthew reminds me to take more risks, to step out of my comfort zone, and to do the unexpected, simply by allowing God’s love to be revealed through me as I minister to others around me.  It truly is all about Love.

 

 – Carol B.

 

 Eternal God, you taught us how to risk when you allowed yourself to be born in a stable of poor, foreign parents. You spent your human life risking for us, literally. So help us to be more courageous about risking our lives for you and for your world. Help us to risk following where you lead us. Amen.

 

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Advent III, Friday – December 18
AM Psalm 40, 54; PM Psalm 51
Zechariah 7:8-8:8; Revelation 5:6-14

 

 Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.  In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.  But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.’  But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.  For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.  As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

 

 

      A few years ago I was called to undertake a small action for the Cursillo community—to write a talk about working for the Lord.  I prayed and thought on my topic, which I knew well from looking at the works I had done at Good Shepherd, in Cursillo, at St. George’s, and in the world.  Yet nothing was forthcoming.  Writer’s block?  Hardly.  I finally realized that the project was a lesson for me at least as much as for anybody else and asked for Jesus to show it to me.  When He did, the words began to flow like a stream in springtime renewed by winter snows.

      The personal lesson in that undertaking for me was that which is in today’s reading from Matthew of the Parable of the Talents.  In those times one talent was equivalent to almost 20 years of ordinary wages.  The Master gave each of his servant-slaves sizable fortunes attuned to their capabilities as he judged them, and in the end they were judged on their gains for him while in his service.

     I don’t know if God has given me only one, two, or five talents with which to work and that doesn’t matter.  The commandment is to use them— to answer His call; to undertake the labor that will bring forth the outcome desired.  But the parable as written overlooks one crucial element that is present today— it doesn’t reflect the Living Christ in all of our lives.  We have not been left alone by an absent lord to work apart from him as were the slaves in the story.  We have our Lord’s presence daily in our lives to call upon; to bring us to Him and Him to us.  When I saw I was being called to do more than I had been doing with what had been entrusted to me, my allocation of talents, I was freed in and through Christ to accomplish in confidence more works to which I was being called. 

  – Elgin S.

 

 Holy One, we are expecting you as you expected the workers to do well with what had been entrusted to them. Yet unlike them, even as we expect you, we know you. We have a relationship with you. We are awaiting and yet we know—but not fully. Thank you for continuing to reveal your desire for us in ways we alone could not yet know. Thank you for this life of living in the knowing of not knowing.  Amen

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