Advent 13

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The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. — Luke 1:80
Over and over I hear people say they are overwhelmed by all they have to do during Advent leading up to Christmas day. I understand their frustration, I’ve been there, but Advent is also a time to spend a little time in the wilderness — alone with one’s thoughts and prayers. I think I have told you about how my father, after everyone had gone to bed on Christmas eve, would pour himself an eggnog and simply sit with the lit Christmas tree lost in his thoughts and dreams. Now he is gone, but I find myself doing the same thing, enjoying the quiet and lost in my thoughts and dreams for the coming year. It is in moments of quiet and silence that we become stronger spiritually.
Jesus would go off into the mountains to talk to his Father. Apparently he also spent a great deal of time alone listening to God before he started his work, learning who he was and what he was to become.
No matter how hectic the season, it is important that each of us to find some quiet and alone time. That time is a way to listen to God’s plan for us and to learn about the hope the season brings.

Advent 12

All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this become?” — Luke 1:66
Luke here is talking about John the Baptist not Jesus, but I suspect the same was said when people came to admire the child his parents called Jesus. What parent doesn’t wonder what his or her child will become. I doubt if Elizabeth or Zechariah anticipated that there son would end up in a desert, eating locusts, and preaching repentance. I also doubt  anyone would have predicted the horrific treatment he suffered all because of the wishes of a dancing girl.
The Bible tells us little about how John learned that he had a gift, and how he decided to use his gifts of oration, prophecy, and leadership to serve God. But what we can learn from John is the reminder that we are all called to discover our unique gifts and skills, and use them to serve God and our neighbors. None of us are exempt, each one of us is unique, and each of us has a unique calling.
Advent is the perfect time to learn what God’s will for us. We can use the time to pray, worship, and talk to friends and family to discover what and who each of us were meant to become, and to “begin again” the journey to get to that place and person.

Advent 11

Yesterday was a rainy and dreary morning so I cheered myself up by listening to Luis’s last two sermons at www.stjohns-dc.org. I recommend them both.

(Elizabeth said), This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people. — Luke 1:25
Elizabeth has for years born shame for something that was never her fault. We feel her heartbreak. We have all experienced shame as well. It is a powerful emotion, uniquely painful, and perhaps more than any emotion, stays with us. Shame can show up time and time again and when it happens we feel inadequate to the core.
I believe shame is one of the strongest emotions that keeps us from the transformative power of hope and the presence of God. We must be ever mindful of its existence and take positive steps to address it.
Advent and the hope it offers is a wonderful time to lose the hold that shame has on us. Focus on the hope God offered Elizabeth, focus on the hope a new child brings,  and most importantly focus on the hope God offers us each and every day.

Advent 10

Remember the movie, A Few Good Men, and the Jack Nicholson line, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth?” Well to some extent Jack was right, although not about what he was talking about in the movie.

We all say we want the truth no matter what the consequences, but we want only what we want to hear. If a doctor is telling us we need to change our habits, we tend not to want to hear that we have to give up oatmeal raisin cookies or something else. There are so many other ways we either hear or know through our own conscience that we need to do things differently, but we can’t “handle the truth.”
Well Advent offers us a time to begin again — to handle the truth. We are also called to speak the truth, not just what people want to hear. In so doing we become prophets of the hope of Advent.
During Advent we begin again to handle the truth about ourselves, and speak the truth about God through our words and deeds.