We hope to approach Advent with a sense of reverence, but sometimes it seems we live in a cacophonous circle of noise. We leave our houses with televisions blaring, get in our cars with songs or podcasts talking, go into stores with background music invading our thoughts, and eat out at restaurants or sports bars in buildings built for no sound absorption. This noise can compete with our sense of reverence Are we missing the opportunity to hear God talking to us? Are the angels around us drowned out?
This advent season our thoughts and our prayers center around the people who lived the Christmas story—Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds, the wise men. What did they know? How did they feel? What prompted them to listen?
Ann Weems has long been one of my favorite writers as her poetry – language of the soul – speaks to me, asks me questions, leads me to God Who calms my fears. Her poem Mary, Nazareth Girl speaks to Mary and asks this same question.
Could it be that you had been ready
for the footsteps
of an angel?
On these days of Advent, let’s make our hearts ready.
Be still and know the waiting.
Be still and know the wonder.
Be still and listen.
(c) 2017 Joan CurtisRead More
Today kicks off a month-long series on the spiritual discipline of gratitude. We hope you’ll join us in giving thanks to God.
Simone Weil wrote, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.”
Nobody likes to wait. I sure don’t. I get frustrated when my smart phone cannot keep up with my swipes. I hate sitting in traffic. I find it difficult to understand why someone cannot respond immediately to my text or email.
But I am grateful for the opportunity to wait for things that truly matter.
I waited for six months for a real date with my now husband of fourteen years.
I waited for four years, and through one miscarriage, to celebrate the arrival of a beautiful little girl.
I waited for sixteen years to live into the promise of a call on my life from God. This was the waiting that changed me. It was hard waiting. Waiting on this call to get some legs and take a firm shape challenged my identity and my theology. This waiting pierced my heart and left me questioning the very soul of the matter.
But the waiting also left me helpless to bring about the results I desired. The waiting took control from my hands and eventually even the desire to control. The waiting brought about a deeper surrender than I had ever known; a moment when I could truly say, “Whatever You want God; that is what I want.” And strangely enough, I really meant it.
Waiting has carved deep places into my soul where God has filled in the holes and that causes gratitude to well up in me.
The waiting itself isn’t pleasant and the moment to moment, nitty-gritty day-to-day living of the waiting doesn’t feel holy. It feels downright profane. The waiting feels like drowning, every day, in a sea of doubt and hurt. Hope was forgotten and faith felt fake.
But still, I will give thanks for the waiting and for the changing as it brings me closer to the One I love.Read More
Repent, and believe the good news…
So, this morning I was wondering just what is this “good news” that seems to be so important for Jesus? I know it has something to do with loving, being loved, being lovable… but it’s really hard to think that this “good news” is present when I think of the images I saw on last night’s “News Report.” The news being sent into my home was about deaths of so many innocent ones in Syria and elsewhere, fires that rob people of homes, young people killing each other, pending dangers of all kinds. Sure is a lot of not-loving going on! So, where is this good news that is supposed to trump everything?
No wonder he says it takes “repentance” to be able to believe it. Heck, I need repentance– turning aside, changing, some kind of being sorry that any of us cling to the bad news, trying a new way of thinking—just to even begin to believe there is enough good news to offset the bad news.
Then I got an email about a death. Someone I care about had lost a family member with whom he had had a “less-than-perfect” relationship. How to feel about such a death? Strangely, it was good news. Yes, the grief is already complicated, but because my friend has a God-relationship, this death will mix a lot of good news into the whole experience. And, in the end, after a bit of prayer and waiting and noticing as much as he can, my friend will believe the good news at even more levels than he does now.
And that helps me to believe.Read More
Luke 1:5-13 NRS
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him and angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit”
Luke 1 is the story of Zechariah. Waiting, surprise, and expectation are key elements of his narrative, just as they are elements of Advent. He is a priest who with his wife Elizabeth has a close relationship with God. They have no children and both are getting too old to have children. However, God has heard Zechariah’s prayer. Faithful waiting is noticed. Imagine Zechariah’s surprise at seeing an angel who tells him that Elizabeth will bear a son – and not just any child, but a child with a special purpose. This child would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. They are to name the child John. This child is sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Another part of God’s prophecy is fulfilled. Preparation is part of John’s purpose. It seems that waiting and preparation are linked. And joy and gladness result from faithful waiting.
As you reread the passage, what “sparkles” or stands out for you? After holding those words before God do any insights come? .
Perhaps these questions will help in your reflection:
For what are you praying?
How long have you been waiting for an answer?
Is waiting part of God’s preparation?
Have you ever been surprised by God?
Do answers from God look different from your expectation?
What is your expectation for this advent season?
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more or ever again see this great fire, I will die”. Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.
The Israelites are at the end of their desert wanderings about to enter the Promised Land. Moses will not go with them. As I read this passage, I see God’s protection, provision, and promise for the Israelites, Moses, and me. I sense hope for the future. One of the most amazing things about this passage is God listened to the people who were so weary of the desert and being led by a pillar of fire. They wanted a person. God promised them a prophet. As I imagine being in the Israelites shoes, I am filled with relief that God heard my desire. This promise is the hope that God will continue to provide and protect in my new, uncharted land. If I were in Moses place, gratitude might be my response to God’s promise because I have experienced God’s forgiveness.
The prophet that God raised up is Jesus. It is the birth of Christ that we await now. God’s listening to the people gives me hope that God also listens to me now. I am not weary of a real desert but there are some days when I feel similar frustration with the planning and doing that the holidays bring. Over the years, I have simplified and streamlined what preparations are essential. I have only been able to do this because I have realized that God does listen to me as I pray. I have also been able to listen to God in silence, nature, and the laughter of my grandchildren. One of the gifts of this Advent season is communing with God in asking, listening and waiting in hope. Gratitude is the result.
What is it you need from God today? You can ask in confidence that you will be heard. Listen and wait in holy anticipation.