Thursday December 18, 2014

BEING WHOLLY PRESENT to another person – with body, mind, and spirit – offers a holy gift beyond measure. An encounter of heartfelt listening is a meeting of souls wrapped in a container of utter and complete safety – no judgment, no fear of betrayal. That means the speaker pays no price for complete honesty, does not worry that the words will come back to haunt him or her. The speaker feels free to be outrageous, to rant, to weep, to laugh, to speak without editing, to disclose or not disclose. Even more important, the unspoken assurance of complete confidentiality ensures that the conversation will never be used for the listener’s benefit. …

Being present means we get ourselves out of the way. Our whole self is present, yet absent. We don’t divert the exchange by inserting, “This is how I handled that problem” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” We bracket our advice until requested; we suspend our fix-it solutions. Simply put, we serve as a sounding board to mirror the speaker’s experience back to him or her. This encourages the speaker to tune in to the voice of his or her own soul

Wednesday December 17, 2014

IN JOYOUS ANTICIPATION of her firstborn, Mary sings revolution. Enraptured that God chose her, a maiden of no prominence, a woman with no voice, to bear the world’s Savior, her joy calls up visions of the rich tasting the dust of poverty, the powerful limping with the burden of oppression. …

Mary would, I suspect, have us dream dreams and tell tales of hope, the kind of hope that the rich and powerful are too busy and satisfied to entertain, the kind of hope that sustains us in our poverty. That takes knowing our poverty, if not poverty of money, the poverty of intimacy and belonging – the very things our souls need most, the very things that require setting aside possessions and power. Mary’s anger frees us to celebrate her son’s birth. Let her in.
–J. Marshall Jenkins

Tuesday December 16, 2014

JOY’S PRESENCE IN THE WORLD doesn’t depend on our feelings. Joy surrounds; we simply open our eyes and heart to God’s presence.

Remember God. Remember God’s presence and gifts. Rejoice in God’s action in the world.

In this busy season, we can pray for drivers in front
of and behind us in a traffic jam. We can give thanks for friendships, food, and fellowship at a party. We can think of ways God works through us in the workplace. We can notice signs of God’s joy – the beauty of colors, the diversity of people, the warmth of the sun, the miracle of birth. We can take an action of joy.

Carry these words in your heart today: I will open my eyes to see God’s joy.

- Beth A. Richardson

Monday December 15, 2014

GOD’S ASTOUNDING and radical intervention in our human history cannot be contained in the tame and timid displays of Christmas lights, catchy slogans, or the exchange of gifts.

Advent confronts us once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that all humankind is embraced and held close by a God of love. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain, and evil will be no more.

In Advent we begin again to try to make plain the wonderful truth of the most extraordinary good news the world has ever heard. Soon we will join the angelic chorus in singing, “Christ the Savior is born.”

Sunday December 14, 2014

WE HAVE NOW reached the third Sunday of Advent, the midway point of our holiday season. We pause to consider our path in this season of peace.

As we look forward to our holiday celebrations,
Help us to focus on your incarnation and not our stress.

As we anticipate gift giving,
Help us focus on the joy of your presence,
and not on our struggle with materialism.

As we expect Christ’s arrival,
Help us to focus on spiritual preparation,
and not on frantic activity.

As we hope for a season of peace,
Help us to pray for the world
and not only our narrow concerns.

Let us pray for a renewal of our spirits,
That we may truly rejoice.

Saturday December 13, 2014

THE OTHER DAY someone asked me if I was ready for Christmas. My response was, “Ready or not – here it comes!” Advent asks all of us the same question.

Isaiah called people to “make straight” a way for the Lord. The modern equivalent of the prophet’s image is heavy earth-movers and dynamite. We prepare for God to come by bulldozing away and washing away all that is unholy.

But despite our efforts to be awake and alert, we are often more “not” than “ready.” …

Life comes to us whether we’re ready or not. There will always be surprises we can’t anticipate and demands we can’t prepare for. I suspect that’s why one of the names of the Holy One is Immanuel, which means “God with us

Thursday December 11, 2014

HOPE LIFTS OUR eyes above the present human condition and circumstance. … Without hope, there is little motivation for patience. But where hope is present—and hope is a gift of God (1 Cor. 13:13)—there is a will to continue and a path forward. …

Each Advent our congregation lights the candles of peace, hope, joy, love, and light. Each Advent I preach a sermon that touches on the gift of hope. At times I will look back over sermons preached in prior years—I do not want to repeat myself! I note that the world was troubled—warfare, famine, terrorism, poverty. And yet we light the candle of hope anyway, for the prophets taught us to live hopefully, toward the vision of a new heaven and a new earth (Isa. 65:17).

Patience and hope are the friends of intercession. They prod us to stay with it; their presence encourages us not to give up or lose heart. Like friends, they are there when we need them most, helping us to walk in the right paths, lifting our hearts and spirits.

- Kenneth H. Carter