Posts Tagged ‘Advent’
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [15DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
“Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.” (Isaiah 8:13)
“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.’” (Psalm 33:8-9)
All preparation has a starting point—a place of beginning. Advent, the coming of Christ Jesus is our beginning. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
I’ve been thinking about this idea of beginning places and starting points, how it relates to preparation. One idea I’ve had is that the starting point for my faith journey may not have been with the moment of the Incarnation. The preparation for my Christian experience was muddling around with a bunch of different spiritual experiments and concepts. I discarded this theory though, because all of those experiments failed. They were “sputter” starts and never really launched into anything significant.
I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. (Isaiah 48:17)
I think my real starting point and preparation did begin when I looked to the Incarnation. When I really took Jesus at his word and began to model my life from the beginning point of His condescension (Philippians 2:5-7; John 12:24-26), my journey started. This beginning point was not a failure to launch, but has been met with real change having a true spiritual vision to realize Christ-like transformation. Joan Chittister holds a firm line in her belief that the Coming of Christ is the beginning point of the spiritual journey.
If, focused on the Christ Child at the very beginning of the liturgical year (Advent), we do not have the spiritual vision to see meaning there and to develop it within ourselves, there is nothing else on earth that will ever be able to supply it for us. -Joan Chittister; The Liturgical Year
Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto you. Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God. May divine help always be with us.
Lord of the church, by your unfailing mercy you purify and guard your people. Since without you we cannot stand fast, support and guide us always by your grace.
Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands. Grant us a wholesome life, revive our zeal and love, O Father Almighty, through Jesus Christ the Lord, who reigns with you for all time with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [14DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
“This is my body, which is given for you… This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.” (Luke 22:19-21)
Most of the day I have been meditating on another aspect of preparing; actually, I have been reflecting on the opposite of preparing or not preparing. I don’t think there would be many people, Christians, who would openly and honestly confess that they are not preparing for the Kingdom of God. Most Christians would not think they are not engaged in the process of becoming transformed into the living image of Christ. I believe most people probably think they are actively preparing themselves, and perhaps helping others, ready themselves for the Kingdom of God. I wonder how accurate our self-assessments are. I wonder; are we really in the process of preparing, actively surrendered to Christ Jesus, engaged in the slow and arduous process of losing ourselves so we might truly find our lives in God.
I heard a quote from John Wooden, who said; “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” As pithy as this might sound, it is loaded with wisdom and deep truth. The past couple weeks, our readings from the Book of Common Prayer have served up several chapters from the Prophet Isaiah. The story that is told is of a people who have become ambivalent and apathetic toward their God…taking Him for granted and making assumptions that He would be there for them no matter their state of “preparedness.” They were wrong and it led not only to their failure, but the destruction of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Time and again, God sent prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others to the people and their leaders admonishing them to repent and prepare the way of the Lord—make their hearts ready—for they were supposed to be a holy people set aside for the work and purpose of the LORD.
Christians who permit themselves to be shaped by secular culture are guilty, not only of betraying God, but of losing their own true selves. -W. Paul Jones
The parallel is not so dissimilar for our own lives. Too often I think it goes unnoticed by us that we put our spiritual lives on auto-pilot and cruise through our days blissfully ignorant to the call of God. We tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy, but I think we want us to be happy and we tell ourselves that it is what God wants. Sadly, much of the time, our happiness will come in direct conflict with what God truly desires for us. We surround ourselves with wealth, comfort, building stockpiles of insurance and material goods, so we have little need of trusting in God. All the while, the Scriptures teach us about lean operation and simplicity, admonishing us to redistribute our wealth to those who are in need.
“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
I’m afraid when I think about my own failure to prepare. When I consider the things I know and I realize the directives that Jesus has given to me in his word…and how often I try to excuse myself from obeying it, I think I am no different than Judas in my betrayal. Perhaps it sounds harsh, but many of us go around professing to be Christians—”Little Christs”—followers of Jesus, but we talk ourselves out of doing the things he taught us to do. It amounts to one of two alternatives: hypocrisy or betrayal.
More is required of those who wake up to reality than the passive adoration of God or intimate communion with God. Those responses, great as they are, do not cover the purpose of our creation. The riches and beauty of the spiritual landscape are not disclosed to us in order that we may sit in the sun parlor, be grateful for the excellent hospitality, and contemplate the glorious view. Some people suppose that the spiritual life mainly consists in doing that. God provides the spectacle. We gaze with reverent appreciation from our comfortable seats, and call this proceeding Worship.
No idea of our situation could be more mistaken than this. Our place is not the auditorium but the stage—or, as the case may be, the field, workshop, study, laboratory—because we ourselves form part of the creative apparatus of God, or at least are meant to form part of the creative apparatus of God. He made us in order to use us, and use us in the most profitable way; for His purpose, not ours. To live a spiritual life means subordinating all other interests to that single fact. Sometimes our positions seem to be that of tools; taken up when wanted, used in ways which we had not expected for an object on which our opinion is not asked, and then laid down. Sometimes we are the currency used in some great operation, of which the purpose is not revealed to us. Sometimes we are servants, left year in, year out to the same monotonous job. Sometimes we are conscious fellow workers with the Perfect, striving to bring the Kingdom in. But whatever our particular job may be, it means the austere conditions of the workshop, not the free-lance activities of the messy but well-meaning amateur; clocking in at the right time and tending the machine in the right way. Sometimes, perhaps, carrying on for years with a machine we do not very well understand and do not enjoy; because it needs doing, and no one else is available. Or accepting the situation quite quietly, when a job we felt that we were managing excellently is taken away. Taking responsibility if we are called to it, or just bringing the workers their dinner, cleaning and sharpening the tools. All self-willed choices and obstinacy drained out of what we thought to be our work; so that it becomes more and more God’s work in us. -Evelyn Underhill
O God, Come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in they straight path may not stumble.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my might rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
May the Lord lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto you.
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [13DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
”Prepare the way of the Lord…”
How do we prepare for the Eternal, Immortal, God of all Creation, the One who condescended and emptied Himself to take on the form of human flesh? While we confess the reality of this great mystery, even claiming this God lives “within” us, I wonder how different our actions and attitudes might be if we were able to sit in His physical presence… not like one of the disciples, but like Isaiah in his great vision (Isaiah 6:1-3).
It is hard to imagine the splendor and the glory of that God wrapping himself in the flesh of a helpless baby. It is hard for me to imagine that same splendor and glory taking up residence in me in the form of the Holy Spirit. What I find even more convicting is how easy it is for me to take for granted this miracle that I so often cavalierly claim as my own. It is not that I intend to take this wonder for granted, but I think the greater tragedy is that I probably don’t even begin to fathom the power of God that guides me from within. I say I do; get it, but I doubt seriously that I do when I really begin to ponder the richness of it all… like now.
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”
I want to prepare the way of the Lord. I want my life to be made fully whole in all that God has prepared for me and made the way for me to be—fully reconciled, fully restored—in this way I will become His blessing to every circle of influence I am a part. My joy will be complete. His joy will be complete. I wonder how I do this… How do I overcome my frailty and my doubt?
Then the LORD said, “Tell him to stop worrying… Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” -Isaiah 7:3-4, 9
This is the x-factor; my faith is the key to becoming all the things God has intended for me. My faith will help me to prepare the way of the Lord. My faith will compel me to action. My action will set course for disciplines in my life that will help to crucify old habits and frail natures in me that inhibit and slow my progress in transformation to the image of Christ. The Spirit that lives within me is the same God Whom Isaiah saw seated on the throne in his vision. This Holy power within me is stronger than any of the fleshly will that has ever existed in me… my faith must be firm and my will resolute to answer “yes” always to the God who guides me.
“God is… the supreme and ever-present factor in every situation.” -Evelyn Underhill
4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 5 Commit everything you do to the LORD, trust him, and he will help you. 7 Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. 8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. 23 The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their life. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37)
Unknowable One, we stand before you, hardly daring to look up. We offer you our hearts, and pray that we may, this day and ever, worship you in ways that are true. Forgive us those days when we have worshiped false and faulty images we have shaped. Help our frail senses, that we may apprehend your Presence and your Love.
Come, Creator Spirit, Paraclete, gift of God most high, visit the souls of your people, and fill with supernal grace the hearts which you created.
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. We humbly ask this, O Holy God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Remember us, both now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [12DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
“I lie in the dust; revive me by your word. Help me understand the meaning of your commandments and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds. Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions. I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations. I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.” -Psalm 119:25-32
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory.”-Isaiah 6:3
“God will use (this) persecution to show his justice and make you worthy of his kingdom, for which you are suffering. Asking our God to enable you, may he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” -2 Thess. 1:4, 11
I continue to ponder the themes of preparation and love today. Meditating on various readings and the words of several prayers in my heart have helped to breathe new life and fan the flames of hope’s fire in my heart. I have been taking stock of the many glorious blessings of God in my life and I am beside myself with awe and wonder at not only what I have been given, but also what He continues to pour out in abundance on me and my house. The richness of God’s love is truly beyond compare or comprehension.
I do not know what the future holds, but I am thankful that God has set my feet on his path, giving me guidelines and structure for my life. He continues to teach me about the mystery of his love and has shown me through my own experience how loving someone sacrificially and fully can return back to you in ways impossible to measure. I have learned about this mysterious love multiplying equation in the context of loving my wife. Never would I have imagined that I could love a person so much and have our love feel so new and so fresh. Twenty-five years feels like a day and a lifetime at once. The more I get to know my soul mate the more I feel as though I am only beginning to know her, but still I feel as though we share the same thoughts and emotions. It is a mystery I find difficult to explain, but I give praise to God for sharing the experience with me. I have no way of knowing, but perhaps this is a tiny peek into what it means to share oneness like Jesus meant to explain to us in his prayer from John 17. Dietrich Bonhoeffer shares thoughts on this mystery of love with the following words:
The mystery of other people is not reduced by getting to know more and more about them. Rather, in their closeness they become more and more mysterious. And the final depth of all mystery is when two people come so close to each other that they love each other. Nowhere in the world does one feel the might of the mysterious and its wonder as strongly as here. When two people know everything about each other, the mystery of the love between them becomes infinitely great. And only in this love do they understand each other, know everything about each other, know each other completely. And yet, the more they love each other and know about each other in love, the more deeply they know he mystery of their love. Thus, knowledge about each other does not remove the mystery, but rather makes it more profound. The very fact that the other person is so near to me is the greatest mystery. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer; God in the Manger
I cannot speak for other couples or experiences, but I know that my relationship has not simply fallen from out of the sky. There was much work and sacrifice for the entirety of our relationship…and there continues to be.
We are agents of the Creative Spirit in this world. Real advance in the spiritual life, then, means accepting this vocation with all it involves. Not merely turning over the pages of an engineering magazine and enjoying the pictures, but putting on overalls and getting on with the job. The real spiritual life must be horizontal as well as vertical; spread more and more. It must be larger, richer, fuller, more generous in its interests than the interests of the natural life alone can ever be; must invade and transform all homely activities and practical things. For it means an offering of life to the Father of life, to Whom it belongs; a willingness—an eager willingness—to take our small place in the vast operations of His Spirit instead of trying to run a poky little business of our own. -Evelyn Underhill
This is preparing. This is waiting well. This is learning to live sacrificially. This type of living is a determined choice. I appreciate the words of the psalmist; “I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations. I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.” I like that God has not just left us to our own devices, but has given us a model to follow. I don’t think it is a formula, but a way of the heart; when we determine to “lose our life” for the sake of entering God’s Kingdom, a new way of living, complete with new values and systems of reward becomes our world. It may be difficult to explain, but the experience is very real—more people than just me will testify to it.
Waiting. Hope. Preparing. Love. There is a lot of sweat equity and sometimes immense heartache wrapped in those words, but there is an eternal joy that sits on the horizon of hope for every heart that perseveres. Our encouragement is to engage the process—learn to live while we wait—this life is about preparing for our eternity with the God who walks with us, Emmanuel. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.
It is not simply a matter of waiting and rejoicing in what Advent promises us. It is about learning how to live while we wait. -Joan Chittister; The Liturgical Year
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together. You are the Lord for whom we have waited; we are glad and rejoice in your salvation. You desire truth in my inward being; teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. Let me understand the teaching or your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes. O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
May the God of peace sanctify us entirely; and may our spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls us is faithful and he will do this. Amen.
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [11DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. -1 Thess. 5:23-24
Sanctified. Entirely. Spirit, and soul, and body… He will do this.
These are definitive words. What is the process that sanctification follows? Does it entail learning to love? I think so. I think it begins with choosing the path of love, choosing to love unconditionally. This is no easy task and perhaps the reason that Jesus declares that the prerequisite to follow him in the way of agape (1 Cor. 13) love is the choice to deny self. I think it is all but impossible to love the way Jesus demanded his followers to love without choosing to first to deny or “die to self.” This is the path to sanctification, entire sanctification…spirit, soul, and body.
Prepare the way for the Lord. Love one another as I have loved you. Be holy as I am holy. Lose your life to find life. All of these imperatives are part of the process of sanctification—being set apart for the purpose of the Lord—purified for His use. It does not just happen automagically though. Purgation and purification and testing are part of the journey of apprenticeship under Jesus. I submit myself to the process and choose to love without condition.
“He will do this.”
O Jesus, our redemption, love, and desire, may your love constrain you to pass over our evils, sparing us, and having answered our prayer, may you satisfy us with your face.
Heavenly Lord, in your goodness you have opened our eyes to your light. So fill our hearts with your glory that we may always acknowledge Jesus as Savior, and hold fast to his word in sincerity and truth. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [10DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore, he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. -Psalm 25:8-10
Today, as I have considered the theme of preparation and love, my mind and my heart both have been challenged a bit. I’ve returned to some previous writing (here and here) of mine on the topic of love and spent time with the defining characteristics of love as taught by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13). I’ve concluded that no matter how high the standard, it is a standard that God has empowered us to live by and the goal for which we are to strive.
Some of the questions I’m considering this week as I ponder love include the following: What is my “working” definition or standard for love? Is there a context where truly “knowing” someone equals loving them? Is this the way that God wants to intimately know us? Jesus taught us to love our enemies, so I’m curious about that. I wonder who my enemy is? How do I love someone that may not want my love? How do I express love to someone I hardly know or do not know at all? Do you even have to know someone to love them?
I’m also pondering what it means to prepare the way or preparing in general. In the context of my life, how do I define and execute the command to “prepare the way for the Lord.” Does this command and act of preparing look the same for everyone; are there universal constants? Is there a lowest common denominator; am I doing what is necessary for the life of my soul to be ready…prepared for the coming of the Lord?
I culled the definition or what I think represents the definition of love from the writings of Paul to the Corinthian church. In 1 Cor. 13, I found the following characteristics of love:
These are the things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices with truth, Always protecting, Always trusting, Always hopeful, Always persevering, and Never failing.
These are the things love is not: envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, a keeper of wrong-doings, and love is not a delighter in evil.
If this is my mark, how do I measure myself? I believe ground zero is measured by how I love my wife and my children. These would be the closest people to me and arguably the “easiest” to love. Perhaps this is the starting point of my preparation. Does my love for them exhibit the characteristics determined by the definition from 1 Corinthians 13? If not, how might I be preparing myself to grow more faithfully in achieving that mark?
Part of preparation requires a plan, another part requires action and determination, and a third part requires sacrifice. Evelyn Underhill describes some of this thought with the following words:
It is this constant correlation between inward and outward that really matters; and this has always been the difficulty for human beings, because there are two natures in us, pulling different ways, and their reconciliation is a long and arduous task. Many people seem to think that the spiritual life necessarily requires a definite and exacting plan of study. It does not. But it does require a definite plan of life; and courage in sticking to the plan, not merely for days or weeks, but for years. New mental and emotional habits must be formed, all our interests re-arranged in new proportion round a new centre. This is something, which cannot be hurried; but, unless we take it seriously, can be infinitely delayed. Many people suggest by their behaviour that God is of far less importance than their bath, morning paper, or early cup of tea. The life of co-operation with Him must begin with a full and practical acceptance of the truth that God alone matters; and that He, the Perfect, always desires perfection. Then it will inevitably press us to begin working for perfection; first in our own characters and actions, next in our homes, surroundings, profession and country. We must be prepared for the fact that even on small and personal levels this will cost a good deal; frequently thwarting our own inclinations and demanding real sacrifice. –Evelyn Underhill
Indeed, how then do we prepare. I plan to explore these themes (love and preparation) in more detail as the week progresses. I hope you will explore them with me.
God is with me, but more, God is within me, giving me existence. Let me dwell for a moment on God’s life-giving presence in my body, my mind, my heart, and in the whole of my life. God is not foreign to my freedom. Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires, gently nudging me towards all that is good. I ask for grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.
How can a young person keep their way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Heavenly and merciful father, it is from you that redemption comes to us, your adopted children. Look with favor on the family you love. Give true freedom to all who believe in Christ, and bring us all alike to our eternal heritage. We pray this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [09DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us : in the house of his servant David;
As he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets : which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies : and from the hands of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers : and to remember his holy Covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham : that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies : might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him : all the days of our life.
And thou, Child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest : for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people : for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God : whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death : and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Merciful God, who sent your prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Our Themes for reflection for Advent Week Two:
Love and Preparation
Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [08DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13)
The apostle Paul goes on to write about the resurrection of the dead and encourages the living believers that our hope in the resurrection includes being reunited with all believers who have died before us. Therefore, “we should not grieve like people who have no hope.”
For some reason, my spirit wrestles with these words. Paul is not telling his listeners not to grieve; he’s telling them (us) not to grieve like people with no hope. What does that mean? I think I understand, but the difference between what I perceive as hope-filled grieving and hopeless grieving might be somewhat blurry. I believe the point is to always have our eye on the end game, but our feet planted in the present. We have to be conscious and present to both worlds to be any good in either. This is what I tell myself I believe, for now.
The problem, as I see it, is that hope and faith are so nebulous, easily shaped and even malformed from person to person. Fortunately, we have been given a glimpse of our future and our hope. Christ himself dictates to John from the throne (Rev. 21:3-7) the glory of the new heaven and new earth when God will dwell with man for eternity and there will be no more tears or suffering. This is the most tangible version or our hope and it often gets lost in the tyranny of our days. The noises and exceedingly busy pace of life can easily distract our focus from our hope. When this happens, we’re easily misled and prone to react the same as people without hope. What is the solution? We should make the effort to un-busy our lives, intentionally moving in directions that will simplify our existence to the degree we will always be able to focus on our endgame, no matter how loud or frantic life may get.
Today I consider my waiting and recognize giving thanks that it has taught me to slow down and simplify. By simplifying my life in general, I have been able to focus on a future hope that Christ has promised me. I’m less distracted by the things that captivate people with no hope (money, power, possessions, and prestige), and more attracted to Christlike virtues and Jesus-described-kingdom living (The Sermon on the Mount; Matt. 5-7).
Today I reset my hope on these things: I wish to live more like the kingdom citizens Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount. When my hope starts to tarnish and lose shape, it is always good to have a point to model and reset from.
Grant us a wholesome life, revive our zeal and love, O Father Almighty, through Jesus Christ the Lord, who reigns with you for all time with the Holy Spirit.
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rest my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Correct our eyesight, we pray you Lord, with the gift of faith that as we see you in the baby of Bethlehem so may we see and hear you in those who speak your word, and so may we serve you by serving those in whose distress you are disguised. As at Christmas you came among us to love the unlovable, so teach us to love with the love by which we are loved by you. Amen. Let it be.
Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [07DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
For Jerusalem will stumble and Judah will fall, because they speak out against the LORD and refuse to obey him. They provoke him to his face. (Isaiah 3:8)
Maybe there are others who think like me or maybe not, but this passage reminds me of a period in my life when all my actions and the way I lived “spoke out against the LORD.” I lived entirely for myself, refusing to obey the Way of God. The saddest point of all this is that I knew better. I had been taught the Way of God and even believed it to be true, but I wanted to do my own thing. I provoked him to his face.
Today my reflections teeter between solemn and joyous, although more to the joyous because I have clear witness to the work God has done and continues to do in my life. I look back to a time when I did not know how to wait. Impatience, greed, selfish-ambition, and a host of unhealthy attitudes ruled my spirit. Today, I am not free from the temptations of these attitudes, but the Spirit who lives within me helps me to overcome them day by day.
5 LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. 7 I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. (Psalm 16)
Today I consider the state of mind of the man I used to be when I did not embrace “waiting” time. I am so grateful to the Lord, my God; I am no longer that man. What I remember of him, he was narcissistic, selfish, relentlessly ambitious, and oblivious to the souls that surrounded him. Blind to the divine, he sought spiritual fulfillment in selfish pleasures—trinkets, toys, food, drink, popularity, and power.
“Not everyone can wait; neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them and people who look up with reverence to the greatest in the world. Thus Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, who know that they are poor and incomplete, and who sense something of the greatness that I supposed to come, before which they can only bow in humble timidity, waiting until he inclines himself toward us—the Holy One himself, God in the child in the manger. God is coming; the Lord Jesus I coming; Christmas is coming. Rejoice, O Christendom! -Dietrich Bonhoeffer; God is in the Manger
Turning to God changed him (me) and with the change brought the discipline of waiting and savoring the presence of God in each and every moment of life. This is the place where God is always most prominent—in the moment—in the now. Learning to wait is a priceless gift that has taught me more about misplaced priorities and how to reorient them in a God honoring manner than any other exercise or discipline. For this, I am grateful…for the life it has given to me, to my family, to my friends, and to the communities that I serve.
“Be holy. Love one another. Love one another even more. Live quiet lives, mind your own business, and work with your hands, so people will respect the way you live.” (1 Thess. 4:1-12)
Today my hope is active, in part, because of the reflection on my attitudes toward waiting, both the former and the current. I see how far I have traveled by trusting and following my mentor, Jesus. The awareness of how far he has brought me in such a short time brings confidence to me that his promise to “see me through to completion and maturity in Him” is true. No matter how far I have yet to go, my Triune God, is with me—working in me—to see my completion through to the end.
“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your righteousness.” (Psalm 17:15)
O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.
O eternal Glory of heaven, blessed Hope of mortals, give your right hand to those who are getting up; let the soul arise sober and, ardent in praise, returning thanks to you.
Lord, our eternal God, you alone are worthy of our highest praise. Help us to love you above all things, that we might serve our brothers and sisters with a love that is worthy of you. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Lord, hear my prayer, And let my cry come unto you.
Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [06DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
I love you LORD, you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. (Psalm 18:1-2)
Joan Chittister writes in her book, The Liturgical Year, “Advent is not about one coming; it is about three comings. The great spiritual question the season poses for each of us is, which coming are you and I waiting for now: at this moment of our lives, at this present stage of our spiritual development, what we are waiting for surely determines how we will wait for it.”
Waiting and hope, in my mind, are inextricably linked. To have one seems implicit you are dependent upon the other. Therefore, value must be placed upon and acted upon the both.
Today I realize and value that waiting helps me to prepare for what comes… what comes next in the distant future or what comes after “now.” Waiting time allows me space to learn new things—to gain new experiences and develop new skills—helpful development and maturity that lead me to where and who God wants me to be. Waiting actively is waiting well.
“We have to learn the artist’s pace.” -Evelyn Underhill
Waiting well increases my focus and attentiveness because I know and believe that waiting has purpose. I am thankful for the realization that waiting has a prominent place in the life of the Christ-follower. Even as I write these words, I remember that the Eternal God “waited” for the fullness of time to come. There was purpose in the waiting then just as there is purpose in the waiting now. O Lord, help my waiting to be with purpose, active and with hope always alert in the now and still always attentively looking forward.
Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer; God is in the Manger
Today I am amazed that I am even capable of learning how to wait. This alone is the testimony of God’s grace breaking into and working to transform my life. This realization is cause to celebrate. My hope is emboldened with this knowledge and becomes more real. Hope without the ability to wait for what comes is like a pipedream—a fleeting wish never acted upon—and not much more. Hope incubated and nurtured in active waiting is real—this hope changes us—reroutes decisions and alters our way of living, so when the thing we’ve hoped for arrives, we are ready to embrace it fully…we have been looking forward, planning, and preparing. Emboldened hope, born of patient and active waiting, helps me to prepare.
Most holy God of heaven, you who paint the shining center of the sky with the brightness of fire, illumine our hearts, banish sordid things, release the chain of guilt, and make void our trespasses.
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy
Our Father who art in heaven, holy is your Name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and for ever. Amen.
Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto you.