Monday December 11, 2017

ELIZABETH SEEMS somewhat overlooked in the Christmas cast of characters. Her husband, Zechariah, steals the scene from her when he, not Elizabeth, receives Gabriel’s announcement that a special son will be born to the couple. And although the scripture [Luke 1:39-45] doesn’t tell us so, Zechariah’s inability to speak as a result of his unbelief probably remained as much a topic of conversation among the townsfolk as did Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

But if we take time to ponder Elizabeth’s words before moving on to Mary’s beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving in verses 46-55, we see something special about Elizabeth. She recognized the long-foretold Messiah, even before his birth. Without proof of mighty and miraculous deeds, face-to-face with a young, unmarried, pregnant cousin who, like her, was “just ordinary folks,” Elizabeth recognized the Savior of her people.

What does it take to recognize our Savior in such unlikely circumstances? Elizabeth must have been a woman of great faith, believing deep within herself that if the Lord had promised a deliverer, then the Lord would indeed send a deliverer. … She possessed an opennness to the Holy Spirit’s activity in the world. …

Elizabeth exemplifies confident waiting and openness to God’s intervention. May that confidence, patience, and receptivity be ours this Advent season.

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Saturday December 9, 2017

CARRY A LITTLE QUIET inside you
while the world continues
in rush and rage
fighting and frenzy.
Carry a little quiet inside you
so that the worry and war
trouble and tumult
do not capture you in their grip.
Tarry in the Son-filled meadow of the heart
beside the still waters
where God’s Spirit refreshes and renews.
Carry so much quiet inside you
that you have some extra calm
to share with me.
– Safiyah

Friday December 8, 2017

The words of the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”) became a close companion as I prayed them over and over and as I rested in that mercy.
When reading Isaiah 2:1-5, the phrase “in days to come” seemed to beg for my attention. “In days to come” points beyond us and our immediate reality, directing us to a broader perspective. The prophet Isaiah surely understands the daily crises of life. … Even so, his perspective remains broad. The everyday obstacles of sin do not block Isaiah’s vision for the future. Amid the brokenness surrounding him, Isaiah speaks of the vision when all people will worship in the house of God. The day will come when the world’s diverse peoples will meet in peace to companion one another. In that time, people will turn instruments of war and destruction into implements of nurture. In days to come, says Isaiah, people shall learn war no more.

Thursday December 7, 2017

WE FOCUS ON HOPE as we light the first candle of the Advent wreath. We pray that the radiance from the candle will enlighten the eyes of our hearts so that we will know the hope to which we have been called. (See Ephesians 1:18.) We pray that even in times of deepest darkness, we will have eyes to see how to turn swords into plowshares. Hope is our belief that God can bring beauty amidst brokenness—like a kaleidoscope whose stunning patterns become visible when light shines through the broken pieces of glass contained within.
During Advent, we slow down and let the candle of hope light our way forward. We step faithfully into each new moment because we believe in the promise that the Light of the world is coming and the darkness will not overcome it. Emmanuel dwells among us to share both in our moments of light and our moments of darkness.
We are never alone. There is nowhere we can go and nothing we can do that will ever separate us from God. No matter how dark, lonely, or distant we may feel, we seek to open the eyes of our hearts and claim the hope to which we are called. Hope is the radiant light of God beaming both upon us and within us.

Wednesday December 6, 2017

“I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to follow Jesus.”
–Kathleen Thomerson
THIS ADVENT HYMN holds great meaning for me, living as I do in North America. In the midst of days when the sun is distant and the days are shortening, I sing an affirmation, “I want to walk as a child of the light.” The promised coming of [the Christ] child mirrors the promise that, shortly after December 21, the days will begin again to lengthen. Christmas falls so close to the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice that I think of Christ’s coming as synonymous with the return of the sun. …
But what about my neighbors to the south; how do they mark these days? They also want to walk as “children of the light.” They have both day and night, and during the night, the stars shine just as brightly. They pray and sing and prepare their hearts for Christ’s coming just like I do. They attempt, as I do, to find the meaning in the season, to repel the attempts by the culture to commercialize this sacred observance. They are generous in their forgiveness of my myopic North American biases, and they interpret the story in a way meaningful to them. …
All of us Christians around the world carry the same desire: to walk as children of the light, to follow Jesus as he leads us in a ministry of hope and love to the whole creation.
Prayer
God of Darkness and Light, shine on the world and shine on me. Help me remember that no matter where I live, you send your gift of love to all people. Whether I see snow or sand, evergreen or palm trees, your presence speaks to me of hope for the world. In gratitude I pray for all the world and its people. Amen.

Tuesday December 5, 2017

WHEN MARY LEARNS that she will give birth to the Messiah, she sings an aria of freedom. Her song presents no sweet lullaby in anticipation of her baby’s birth but a message of freedom and hope for the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, the abused and misused, the powerless, and the despairing. These words express a vision for a better future: “[God] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52).

Her song captures the words of hope from Hannah and Miriam and echoes the cry of deliverance from the Exodus, “Let my people go!” Mary passes these words of hope into the world, where Jesus proclaims this theme of deliverance in his inaugural sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor … and to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). …

Mary’s words of liberation and freedom set the stage for the beginning of a new sense of deliverance and hope for a dark and fearful world.

Sunday December 3, 2017

WHEN SHOPPING, CLEANING, planning, or worrying preoccupies us, we forget to leave space for God. When we find ourselves frazzled by chaos, filled with anger or anxiety, we can stop, turn, and look at God. This is the spiritual practice I need these days — keeping my eyes on God.
When, in the midst of my daily tasks and responsibilities, I search for the ways God is present, I am keeping my eyes on God. When I look for God in each person I meet, in each situation I enounter, I am more open to God’s Spirit working in me, shaping me into a vessel of God’s peace. Keeping my eyes on God helps me stay open to God’s transforming power and allows God to remake me into Christ’s likeness. I can then become Christ’s heart, mind, and hands in the world.