Presence

If there is beauty in the rough places, it is because God is there.
#AdventWord #rough

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Let’s go!

There’s some uncertainy about today’s Advent word: Is it #grow, as per the graphic circulated in advance, or #go, as per the website and today’s official reflection? I say it matters not, since my photo works either way.

She’s ready to go. The world that awaits is awesome, but it can also be a little scary. We grow by exploring, by opening ourselves to the wonder of it all, and by being willing to take some risks because total safety would be stifling. And to prepare for the journey, we dress warmly and hold hands with someone we trust. Come on, now: let’s go!

#adventword #go #grow

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A sermon for the second Sunday of Advent

Today, the second Sunday of Advent, we light the second candle on the Advent wreath, the one that’s meant to remind us of the prophets, according to one old church tradition. And we hear in the Gospel the beginning of the public ministry of John the Baptist in the wilderness. John was sort of a bridge figure from those Old Testament prophets to the New Testament. He picks up their message and he points to Jesus. So half of today’s Gospel is actually a quote from Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight His paths.”

We remember the prophets in the two prayers we said at the beginning of the service: the candle-lighting prayer, and the collect for the day. We pray for grace to hear the message of the prophets, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and into the world. To be ready so that we might be able to greet his coming with joy.

Especially in this season, when we think of the prophets, we remember those familiar verses that point to the coming of a Messiah. The first-century Christians poured over those texts as they were struggling to understand exactly what the coming of this Jesus Christ meant, and how to interpret it. Many of these prophetic texts are quoted in the New Testament. So they’re familiar to us because we hear them in church—in our readings, and our hymns—and outside of music in music like that great piece, Handel’s Messiah, which is performed secularly, but certainly is a religious composition. Maybe if you’re a Messiah fan, when I read, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” and when I got to the “every valley” part, maybe you heard that beautiful tenor air. I know I did in my head. Luckily for you, I didn’t burst into song.

These texts are so familiar to us. “A virgin shall conceive a child,” and, “A little child shall lead them.” “A child is born to us. A son is given to us.” They’re so familiar that we tend to think that the writings of the prophets were all about predicting the Messiah. And in fact, that’s just one of three things we remember them for.

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Take a walk on the wild side

It can be easier to hear the voice of God in the wilderness, as that figure clothed in camel hair we call John the Baptist knew so well—away from the noisy distractions of our ordinary lives, those raucous voices that call our attention to concerns that really don’t count for much in the long run. But sometimes the streets of the city can be a wilderness all their own, and sometimes the quiet of our own hearts is enough. Advent asks us, in the words of that old song, to “take a walk on the wild side.”

#adventword #wild
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Wakefulness

You don’t need coffee to be alert to the goodness there is in this world, even in spite of so much human brokenness. That kind of wakefulness grows out of the intentional practice of paying attention and being grateful for goodness wherever it is found, and it brings us to the next step of bearing grace to broken places.

#adventword #alert

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Green hope

Like hope, life is persistent. Every tender green sprout will push hard to find what it needs to grow. Let us be the ones to nurture the hopes of hopeless hearts, even if they are our own.

#adventword #sprout

Light


As much as we say we long for light to brighten our darkness, sometimes when that light comes it seems so bright it’s actually painful to look at it. And that’s the point. The light functions to show the way, to illuminate the road ahead so we can see where we’re going. When the light comes, it’s a sign to turn and follow. We aren’t meant just to sit and admire Jesus, the Light of the world, we’re meant to follow him.
#adventword #light

Advent 1

A bunch of stuff came up at almost the last minute on Sunday, from the ridiculous (I forgot to get a blue stole out of storage in the sacristy) to the sublime (serious pastoral situation), and so I was running a little behind. “Better hurry, it’s almost time,” someone said, and I assured her I would be ready in time, if just barely. “And I’m pretty sure they won’t start without me,” I added.

And sadly realized—as I prepared to go preach an Advent sermon about waiting for new things to happen, which also touched on my own retirement—that old joke is one more thing I’ll be letting go of after March 1.

Blessed Advent, everyone!