Advent in a Pandemic (4)

Week 4: Love, December 20th, 2020

This week Mary’s Magnificat joins us in the lectionary. It is the week of love and she sings a song that is so full of love. Love is a lot bigger, tougher, and more resilient than what it often gets credit for. 

Love looks for how to be in right relationship with our own souls – it asks each of us– are we living into our best selves? 

Love looks for how we are in relationship with our neighbor (human and nonhuman neighbors). How are we living such that we are creating space for the flourishing of our neighbors, that they may have the space to be their best selves. 

Love looks at how we are in relationship with the One who created us and who is the source of love. Love always creates space and invites us into it; it never makes spaces smaller. 

When the Christ child came, we got to see love embodied. We were able to know what it looks like to choose love over power. We got to see a Savior who did not sit upon a throne and wish to be called “Caesar,” instead he fed us and said “I am the bread of life.” This is not a kind of love, it is love. Love is not superficial, fleeting, or fickle; love is steadfast and life-changing. It will not abide evil systems of power. It will not abide abuse. It will not abide greed. And the most important thing to remember about love is that love never fails. Find your hope in that. 

In your journaling this week, consider the following: 

    What does love look like in a pandemic world? 

    What lessons from love did you learn this year that you want to carry

        over to 2021? 

    How has your love for God, for your neighbor(s), and for yourself 

        created space this year? 

    What do you wish you had done differently this year? Where

        have you failed to love? Are there amends to be made before the new

        year begins? 

Draw a picture in your journal of what love has looked like this pandemic year for you.

For a New Beginning by John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

[John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space between Us (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 14.]

Advent During a Pandemic (3)

Week 3: Joy, December 13th, 2020

“For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” —Luke 1:44

For Joy by Jan Richardson

You can prepare

but still

it will come to you

by surprise

crossing through your doorway

calling your name in greeting

turning like a child

who quickens suddenly

within you

it will astonish you

how wide your heart

will open

in welcome

for the joy

that finds you

so ready

and still so



If possible, listen to “Prepare the Way of the Lord” which is a song from the Taize community of France. It can be accessed on YouTube, Spotify, or itunes. Try listening to it several times over and then singing it to yourself as you pray and center yourself on this week’s theme of joy. 

The centering words of this song are: 

Prepare the way of the Lord.

Prepare the way of the Lord,

and all people will see the salvation of our God.

What if part of preparing the way of the Lord, or making room for the inbreaking of the kin-dom that the Christ child will bring, is preparing your heart to have some room for joy. Maybe some joy will surprise you this Christmas season as Jan writes. Perhaps in this re-ordered year that looks nothing like the year before, there has been space opened up for joy in a way that we have never experienced before. 

Perhaps you have spent a portion of this year in grief for any number of reasons. One thing that the process of grieving does is open up a well of space within us that, if we let it, empathy fills. Empathy is a huge gift to you and to the world around you. Maybe joy can fill this new-found space too. 

In your journaling this week, answer: 

How is joy calling your name, as Jan writes? 

Is your heart open to be surprised by what brings you joy this Advent and Christmas that maybe you would have missed before? 

Mary Oliver reminds us of this: “joy was not made to be a crumb.” May we not reduce joy in our lives to a crumb of leftovers. May it instead be the featured guest at the Christmas feast.

Advent during a Pandemic (2)

Week 2: Peace, December 6th, 2020

Where can you go or what can you do to find peace? Peace is a kind of space. Space between a trigger and a reaction/response. Space away from chaos and into quiet. Space to remember your name and who you are. Space away from immediate gratification and into waiting. Space away from shame, negative thoughts, and disconnection. Space for an afternoon of laughing and storytelling with a dear one in your life. 

May peace be a close friend this Advent. Blessed are you who make peace. 

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.

Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche

Over unprotected villages.

The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.

What have we done to so affront nature?

We worry God.

Are you there? Are you there really?

Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope

And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,

Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.

Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.

Flood waters recede into memory.

Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us

As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children

It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.

Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,

Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.

At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.

We listen carefully as it gathers strength.

We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.

It is loud now. It is louder.

Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.

It is what we have hungered for.

Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.

A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.

Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.

We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.

We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.


Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.

We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,

Implore you, to stay a while with us.

So we may learn by your shimmering light

How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language

To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ

Into the great religions of the world.

We jubilate the precious advent of trust.

We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.

All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices

To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,

Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.

Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.

Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves

And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.

Peace, My Sister.

Peace, My Soul.

Advent during a Pandemic (1)

Field Guide for an Advent Wilderness

Week 1: Hope, November 29th, 2020

Has hope been hard to find this year? Have you been reticent to actually hope for things to get back to how they were before a pandemic hit our world because you keep getting disappointed? How many of your hopes have not come to pass this year? How many events or gatherings did you hope for that were canceled? 

It indeed has been a year of a different kind of hope. Hope looked different this year because we began to hope that we and those we love would be healthy and Covid-free rather than for our favorite sports team to win. We hoped for essential workers to stay safe and for folks to make it who had been laid off instead of hoping for a grand vacation. We hoped for the mere chance to hug each other in our faith communities’ sanctuaries again. 

This year forced our priorities to change. Normally, Advent and Lent are periods of time when we take pause to reorient our hearts. But, since March, our hearts have been forcibly reoriented. Time has slowed. Schedules have slowed. Isolation as a form of love became the new norm. 

What lessons have you learned this pandemic? In all the hardness, do not miss the gifts of learning that have been given to you, even if you didn’t want to learn them. 

Take time this week to journal, answering the questions: 

    How have I been changed this 2020 year? 

What do I hope to keep from the learning I gained this year, or what

do I need to let go of? 

    Name your hopes. 

Then, draw a picture of what hope looks like to you in December 2020. This will be a gift to yourself when you look back on this year of pandemic. 

Remember what is, was and is to come is the Lord’s. 

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault reminds us: “Nothing can fall out of God, nothing.” 

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less by Edward Mote, 1834

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

all other ground is sinking sand,

all other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face,

I rest on his unchanging grace;

in ev’ry high and stormy gale,

my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

support me in the whelming flood;

when all around my soul gives way,

he then is all my hope and stay.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,

O may I then in him be found,

dressed in his righteousness alone,

faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

all other ground is sinking sand,

all other ground is sinking sand.

Advent Field Guide (Final Week [4])

Advent Week Four     December 22-24, 2019


Love is everything. It is meant to be received vulnerably and it is meant to be given freely. When we love, we live into who we were created to be; that is, we are rightly relating to one another.

As we are members of creation, it becomes necessary to our selfhood that we reflect on what it means to be in right relation with all of creation. When we are disconnected from the rest of creation (human and non-human), we are disconnected from our Creator, because it is only through relationships that we can be fully ourselves.

Thus, these two days before Christmas, work to de-center yourself by focusing on how connected you are to all of creation, especially non-human creation. Think about the connections that you have with the land on which you live; as you sit down to eat a meal, reflect on how long it took to grow that food and how many miles it took to bring it to you; think about the species that dwelled on the land before it was taken up by buildings; think about land practices that consider all of creation and not just humans; think about the season of winter and how it provides rest to the land.Our Emptying Church

In his book God Still Matters, Jesuit theologian Herbert McCabe writes, “Love is rather rare and comes with maturity when we can get away from the need to be dominant or to find another who is not dominant…  the essential gift you give to the one you love is the gift of space to exist, the gift of liberation.”

Think about love as creating space for others to exist. It is not fluffy or weak, but rather, it is a strong, faithful, solid showing up for one another. This also means that you create space for you to exist… loving yourself, valuing your gifts, and believing in your worth.

Use this time of Advent to consider how you create space for you to be your fullest self. Consider how you create space for others to be their fullest selves. This kind of love draws us into a new narrative about ourselves and about the world.


Luke 1:26-38, 46-55 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.” Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
 God has looked with favor on the low status of God’s servant.
 Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
 because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is God’s name. God shows mercy to everyone,
 from one generation to the next,
  who honors God. God has shown strength with God’s arm.
 God has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
 God has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
 and lifted up the lowly.
 God has filled the hungry with good things
 and sent the rich away empty-handed.
 God has come to the aid of God’s servant Israel,
 remembering God’s mercy,
 just as God promised to our ancestors,
 to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

John 13:33-35 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.


“Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between. Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights. Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat. Love is why we have hope.” -Anne Lamott; Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can.   -Archbishop Oscar Romero

Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week:

O God the Light of the World, prepare our hearts, for Emmanuel is coming. 

Teach us love in our waiting. Amen.

Questions to consider: If love is creating space for others to be their fullest selves (human and non-human), what does this look like for you? If you are married or in a committed partnership, what does this look like for you and your spouse? If you parent, what does this look like for in relationship to your children? If you are single, what does this look like with your most trusted, beloved people? What does this look like for the stranger who is your neighbor but whom you have never met and may never know?

Spiritual Practices: This week, consider incorporating two spiritual practices into your week. First is the practice of lectio divina, which is a form of contemplative reading of scripture. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures. You can use Luke 1:26-56 in this practice, or choose your favorite Bible passage. Read the text aloud slowly. Read it aloud again. Hold it in silence. Consider a phrase that jumps out at you and ask why? Carry the phrase with you all day. Read it aloud one more time, but this time, read it as a prayer.

The second spiritual practice to incorporate this last week of Advent is service. If love is creating space in the world for others to be their fullest selves, then consider what you can do to facilitate this. Can someone be their best self if they are starving, if they do not have clean water, or a warm place to sleep? Can someone be their fullest self if they are living in a prison of shame? Can someone be their fullest self if they are your enemy? Maybe service this week looks like reconciliation with one who has wronged you… maybe this forgiveness is the liberation you both need. Maybe service is a physical act of caring for another’s humanity. Maybe service is coming your faith community and lending a helping hand. Create space in the world by your love this week.

Advent Field Guide (Week 3)

Advent Week Three     December 15-21, 2019        JOY: The Weary World Rejoices

Advent is a time to examine our faith and then put feet to it.

Mark Twain said: “Comparison is the death of joy.” Our participation in the world of social media gives us an open invitation into comparison. It allows us to compare our lives/jobs/spouses/kids/finances/etc. to others. We can see how many vacations our friends are going on or perhaps the latest gadget someone we know has bought. We see someone we know seemingly rock at parenting and it feels like we can’t get our stuff together. It’s easy to see what folks post (and folks rarely post the hard things) and compare our lives. The danger here is that more often than not, our conclusion is that we are not enough… we must be doing something wrong. Not working hard enough, not worthy of love, not intelligent enough in business decisions, not beautiful enough, not far enough along in life…. and the list goes on. Maybe you could fill in the blank here. “If only I….” Pretty soon, we get comparison fatigue, and we aren’t able to see the goodness and beauty of the lives we have in front of us because we are stuck in a rut of comparing ourselves to others. Our joy is robbed from us.

Joy is a precious gift and is something we must protect. One of the best ways to protect joy is to practice gratitude. What or who are you deeply grateful for? What would your life look like without this person/ thing? What are you grateful for about your spiritual journey? Consider these things and by doing so, you may nurture joy.IMG_5751

Another way to nurture joy is to serve others. Serving others takes you out of your world and into the needs of someone else’s. When you care about if someone has had enough water or if the water they have had is lead-free, then you cannot at the same time, hate that person. If you care about someone having enough clothing to keep warm, then you find that you care less about needing more clothing yourself. When we live as if our well-being is tied to our neighbor’s well-bring, it is a spirit changer.


Luke 2:10  “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…’”

Matthew 25:34-39: 34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’


“Be joyful as though you have considered all the facts.”-Wendall Berry from “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

“Joy is always a surprise and often a decision. Joy is portable. Joy is a habit, and these days it can be a radical act. Buffy Sainte-Marie said, ‘keep your nose to the joy trail’”-Anne Lamott in Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.”-Pete Seeger

“Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love [people]…I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least…”

“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know [God] in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore.” -Selected quotes from Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist

Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week:

O God the Light of the World, prepare our hearts, for Emmanuel is coming.

Teach us joy in our waiting. Amen.

Questions to consider: How is joy distinct from happiness? What does deep joy feel like in your body; what does deep joy feel like in your spirit; what does deep joy feel like in your mind/emotions? Do you have harsh expectations of yourself that preclude you from joy?

Spiritual Practices: This week, try keeping a gratitude journal/list. It can be written in your journal, as an email draft, or even on the back of a grocery receipt. Begin with considering the most obvious things or people that you are grateful for. And then keep going, what are the smaller things that you are grateful for? These are easier to take for granted. What would your life look like without these things or these people? What would your life look like without being in a personal relationship with your Creator? Cultivate gratitude and you will uncover deep joy.

Advent Field Guide (Week 2)

Advent Week Two          December 8-14, 2019           PEACE

Advent is a time to slow down and remember who you are. Frederick Buechner writes this about Advent: “In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”

Jesus will say many things in his 33 years of life, but one of the most poignant phrases he leaves us with before he endures death on a Roman cross is this: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Creator will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

What troubles your heart? What keeps it afraid? How do you guard it against those things which would paralyze you and keep you trying to be invulnerable?

Jesus said you are the light of the world! Don’t hide under a bushel basket! There are so many bushel baskets that we could hide under: I’m not worthy of love. I do not belong here. I am bad. I am wrong. I am a mistake. I am not worth being known. I do not matter. I am ugly. I am worthless. I am unlovable. I am the summation of all the pain I feel. I am just not good enough. I was born wrong. I did a thing that I can never receive forgiveness for because I am just a really bad person. Shame is a very effective and very terrible bushel basket.

Jesus says you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Be no less than who you are. Don’t hide. Don’t dilute. Be who I created, which is to say, be you.

God first created light and said it was good. And then Jesus shared that with us and said, YOU, YOU, YOU are the light of the world. You are good too. Let your light so shine, that it brings glory to God. That means be you. Be your fabulous self… be your best self… be at peace.


Matthew 5:14-16  You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Creator who is in heaven.

Luke 1:78-79 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.


“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous,tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” Archbishop and now Saint Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love

Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week:

O God the Light of the World, prepare our hearts, for Emmanuel is coming.

Teach us peace in our waiting. Amen.

Questions to consider: Is peace the absence or presence of something? What do hearts stayed and steadied in peace look like? What does it look like to be at peace with who we are?

Spiritual Practices: Let contemplation be your guide through this second week of Advent. Anglican systematic theologian Sarah Coakley describes contemplation as an ascetic discipline and one which should be a serious endeavor in a Christian’s life. Coakley defines contemplation as particular kind of prayer, wherein one repeatedly waits on God in silence. This practice cultivates the work of the Spirit, the third person of the Triune, who is often reduced to fluff, but who is actually a fierce subverter of powerful and evil institutions. Coakley writes: “Contemplation makes great ethical demands– to lose one’s life in order to gain it, to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies. It is not a form of disengagement, but of passionate reordered engagement.”1

Further, contemplation is a vulnerable act as one sits and receives the divine gifts that God gives, but in this process, the self is expanded. When one is quiet and open, one can see much more about oneself and the world than one could in the midst of performing a series of tasks.

Sit. Be quiet. Be still. Let God come to you, come in you, come behind you, come before you. Let God bring you into a deeper knowledge of Godself. You may find that you get to know yourself better, because, after all, you are made in the image and likeness of God.

The practice of silent contemplation (along with the removal of activities which preclude one from contemplation), can be a dear companion through the journey of Advent. We want God. We want to be opened, filled, humbled, and challenged by the Creator who first prepared this journey for us. May it be so for us this Advent.

1. Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity,’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 340-344.

Field Guide for the Advent Journey (1)

Advent Week One                     HOPE                 December 1-7, 2019

Spiritual writer, Jan Richardson says of Advent: “The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before … What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s [back] fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon.”

Advent begins four Sundays before December 24th each year, and for us liturgical types, it begins the church year, hence the name Advent, which means “beginning” or “coming.” In Advent, we wait with longing for the arrival of the Christ child. We know that this glorious day is coming, but it has not yet arrived. We wait and we are nourished with the hope of what is to come, but is not here yet.IMG_2270-1

As the days become shorter and the nights become longer, we wait for the Light of the World. Our culture and the marketing of it leaves little space for waiting. It’s a minute-to-win-it, Amazon Prime existence where the possibilities of getting what one wants quickly are endless. But if we lose waiting, do we also lose a critical understanding of what it means to hope for the light that will come?

Hope is too precious a thing, too necessary, too powerful to let slip through your fingers. Sit, wait, and become friends with what it means to hope again. The light is coming, but it is not here yet. There is a sense of waiting in Luke’s gospel: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”


Luke 6:20-21: (NRSV) Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”


“‘Hope is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul -And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all.”   -Emily Dickenson

From the sorrow of having just lost his wife and child in August of 1932 from his Chicago home, Thomas Dorsey wrote:  “Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand; I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light, Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.”

Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week, O God the Light of the World, prepare my heart, for Emmanuel is coming. Teach me hope in the waiting. Amen.

Questions to consider: As you find a quiet place to sincerely reflect on this season of your life:  who is your hope in? What is your hope in? Is hope perched in your soul? What will you wait and long for this Advent?

Spiritual Practices: Invite prayer into your week; more specifically, consider centering prayer wherein you choose a word and you walk with it all day. You think about it, you say it aloud, you center it in prayer all the day long, as you do dishes, drive, and even as you are falling asleep. Consider choosing a word that stems from hope. It could be: anticipation, glory, the present and coming kin-dom, passion, comfort, light, waiting, etc. Let the word take different forms throughout the day. Wonder about it, use it in inner conversation, use it in a conversation with your loved one. Let it become a part of the dialogue of your day. Make it your prayer. Be intentional with it so that you don’t go into autopilot mode.

Field Guide for the Advent Journey (Intro)

Beloved, this Advent guide is for you. Advent can be one of the most centering and sacred times for our individual and congregational faith journeys. Advent demands that we slow down, which is absolutely counter-cultural to the hype and bustle of Christmas.

Do not give into the hustle this year; stop and lean into the discomfort of silence and waiting. We will get to a place where we know the way forward— the next step, but it is not now. Right now, we just hope. We will get to a place where we have something to celebrate, but it is not right now. Right now, we sit with joy in the waiting. We will get to a time where peace will prevail, but it is not right now. Right now, we sit in a world of mass shootings, hyper polarization, a cradle to prison pipeline, and contemplate our role in saying “this stops here”. We will get to a place where we live into the reality that because of the resurrection, love wins. But right now, we are awaiting the birth of the baby who will make that happen.

Do not celebrate yet. Sit and wait. Remember what it feels like to long for something that you know will come but is not here yet. There is no instant gratification in Advent; to have it is to rob this season of the blessing and life-change that only wading through it will bring.

In the very worst or hardest moments of life, it is not what you have heard preached or what your parents believed that you remember, it is what you believe that comes forth. It is what you have practiced over and over and over and over that comes up and holds you in those dark nights. May this Advent 2019 be a time where you practice, you wait, and you do the work of hope, for in the days ahead, you will need to have much practice living into what you believe.

It is a joy to wait and long through this power-filled season with you.

We watch and wait for God’s coming. Prepare the way of the Lord!

Maranâ thâ’— Come Lord Jesus, come!