Archives: Advent

A Magnificat Advent Calendar

The Advent calendar is a cherished winter tradition. We open a paper door on each day of the calendar from Advent until Christmas and read a saying or Bible verse to reflect upon spiritually. If the person who bought us the calendar really splashed out, we might get some chocolate out of each day’s slot as well! (I’ll give you three guesses as to which daily gift I gave more heed to when I was little, the Bible verse or the chocolate.)

I’d like to offer a different type of calendar as we enter the season. The Magnificat, or Song of Mary, is the cornerstone text of Advent. This is Mary’s response in Luke 1 after the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will bear a child and name him Jesus, and Mary goes to share the news with her cousin Elizabeth.

The Magnificat as it occurs in the Book of Common Prayer in the canticles for Morning and Evening Prayer contains twenty verses, including the Gloria Patri. If you were to pray about one of these verses every day except Sunday, they would cover from November 28 (the First Monday of Advent) through December 20, with December 21-24 open to reflect upon the entire text. I am curious as to what our Christmas worship would be like if we each committed to this simple spiritual discipline.

To help you out, I’ve created this “Magnificat Month” Advent calendar below. Continue reading

Ready or Not, Here He Comes

Well, folks, we’re out of time.

Christmas is a short three days away, and there is a rapidly closing window of time to accomplish whatever preparation you knew you had to take care of before December 24.

And I’m not just talking about the kind of preparation that immediately springs to mind.

I’m not just talking about the online last-minutes gift deals and the frantic rushing out for another roll of wrapping paper.

I’m not just talking about the dog eating the chocolate that was supposed to go in the stockings and the frantic rush to Kroger at 10 a.m. on December 24 to buy onion salt, cranberry sauce, a meat thermometer, and all the other once-a-year kitchen items you forgot to get to prepare food for your guests.

I’m letting you know that the window is also closing on the last opportunity for our spiritual preparation, which by the way is the original purpose of this entire holiday season.

We can be forgiven for perhaps forgetting from time to time—after all, the reminders to remember the “true spirit of Christmas” have become as trite as the twinkling lights and blaring songs about Rudolph and Frosty.

But today is our last Sabbath before Christmas. It’s time to pause, stop, and reflect on where we have been.

How did we arrive at the moment three days before our Savior’s birth?

What has been happening to you spiritually for the past four weeks?

What have you been doing to prepare a place to welcome the Christ Child within your life, your self, your mind, your heart?

How have you seen God at work in your life, leading you and guiding you toward the star in the East that grows stronger and brighter with each passing day? Continue reading

It Turns Out Advent Is Not All That Gentle or Tender

Sunday, December 7, 2014.

We expect today to be a pretty normal day, don’t we?

We expect to get up, think longingly of going to back to bed while drinking our coffee, hunt down some Kleenex to deal with the cold getting passed around, go to church, greet our friends, go home this afternoon, watch some Colts football, and call it a day.

A normal Sunday. Unremarkable, but satisfying.

Our world is stable beneath our feet.

A lot of Americans had similar expectations to ours on a Sunday, December 7 seventy-three years ago. They expected to wake up, go to church, spend time with their families, and call it a day.

Instead, their world exploded. Continue reading

People Will Say We’re In Love

The extent to which I care about end-times predictions and the Second Coming is approximately zero.

Yes, that makes me a terrible priest, but, well, it’s not my first sin and won’t be my last.

I just get so impatient with all the code-breaking of the Book of Revelation and all the calculating of who’s in and who’s out of the Magical 144,000 and especially all of the, “Why take care of the environment or address systemic injustices of racism and poverty? Jesus is going to show up any day now and blow up the whole Earth!”

I just…I just can’t.  I’m so sorry.

But our Gospel reveals that I am not on the same page with Jesus (again, not for the first time and not for the last). Continue reading

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Moral Imperative

The time is coming very shortly, just two days away, in fact, when our total attention will be focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus, the Messiah. That attention is wholly appropriate to Christmas Eve and is the triumphant endpoint of our entire Advent preparation.

But there is one person who seems to fade into the background on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that’s Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.

In fact, fading into the background seems entirely in his nature. He seems like a behind-the-scenes type of guy.

We all know them—these people who are the salt-of-the-earth, hard-working, faithful souls whose quiet devotion to the simple, humble things that have to be done keeps the church and the family going.

That’s Joseph.

But there’s more to the story. Continue reading

Mandela and John the Baptist: When Jesus Doesn’t Come to the Rescue

There are some moments in life that just make your heart ache.

That is definitely the case for me when I read our gospel story today.

John the Baptist, the mighty, fiery, wild man John, has finally been brought low.

The physical deprivations of living in the wilderness on nothing but locusts and wild honey couldn’t do it. The hoards of desperate people begging him for baptism couldn’t do it. The jeering remarks of the Pharisees couldn’t do it.

But at last, the being on death row in prison has done what nothing else could do.

John’s fire has been put out.

He is at his absolute lowest point, probably in his entire life.  And at that moment, suddenly everything seems worthless and the premise on which he has built his entire life seems questionable at best and absurd at worst.

How many of us have been in his exact spiritual shoes before? Continue reading

Sewing the Armor of Light

Ahem.

Chooga-chooga-chooga-bzzzzzzzzzzz.

Kerchunk, kerchunk.

Chooga-chooga-chooga-bzzzzzzzzzzz.

“Mom, can I look at your buttons?”

“Yes, dear, you can play with the button box as long as you clean up what you spill.”

Chooga-chooga-chooga.

“Today on Oprah, a breakthrough in healthy weight loss.”

“Merideth, don’t let the twins put buttons in their mouths, they might choke.  Whitney, come over here and let me hold this up to you.  I think you’re having a growth spurt.”

“Okay.  Mom, why can’t I have white like Maggie’s dress?”

“Because you look so pretty in green.  And look at this beautiful lace for your collar.”

“I want beautiful lace too!  Mooommmm!”

“Merideth, your dress will be lovely, and do not make me ask you again to keep those buttons away from the twins.”

Chooga-chooga-chooga.

Kerchunk.

Chooga-chooga-buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Continue reading

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