Advent Meditations 2012
This is a publication by Nashotah House.
Keeping A Holy Advent with Nashotah House The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed: ...in thanksgiving for 170 years of raising up a faithful priesthood for the Church. The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed: Keeping A Holy Advent Copyright ÂŠ 2012 Nashotah House Theological Seminary All Rights Reserved Published 2012 by Nashotah House contents Acknowledgements 9 Introduction First Sunday of Advent Meditation One 10 The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr. 14 Meditation Two Mrs. Ashley Canter 16 Meditation Three Dr. Colin Podmore 18 Meditation Four The Right Reverend Lindsay G. Urwin 20 Meditation Five Mrs. Rebecca Terhune 22 Meditation Six The Right Reverend Paul E. Lambert 24 5 Meditation Seven The Reverend Andrew L. Sloane 26 Second Sunday of Advent Meditation Eight The Reverend Fredrick A. Robinson 30 Meditation Nine The Reverend Canon R. Brien Koehler 32 Meditation Ten The Reverend Matthew Canter 34 Meditation Eleven The Reverend Charles Roy Allison 36 Meditation Twelve Third Sunday of Advent Meditation Thirteen Meditation Fourteen The Very Reverend Heidi Kinner 38 The Reverend Jill Stellman 42 Mr. Lars Skoglund 44 Meditation Fifteen Mr. Matthew Kemp 46 Meditation Sixteen The Reverend Dr. Steven A. Peay 48 Meditation Seventeen Dr. Garwood Anderson 50 6 Meditation Eighteen The Reverend Gary A. Grindeland 52 Meditation Nineteen Mr. David Sherwood 54 Meditation Twenty Mr. Tyler Blanski 56 Meditation Twenty One Fourth Sunday of Advent Meditation Twenty Two Christmas Eve Meditation Meditation Twenty Three Christmas Day Meditation Meditation Twenty Four The Reverend Daniel Clarke 58 The Reverend Dr. Richard C. Martin 62 The Right Reverend Daniel H. Martins 64 The Right Reverend & Right Honorable 66 The Lord Carey of Clifton 7 Acknowledgements I am grateful to all of those who have contributed to the vision and task of this Advent meditation. To the Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon Jr., Dean of Nashotah House—thank you for supporting and encouraging the vision of this project. To Mr. Charleston Wilson—thank you for your tireless work in both helping to shape the vision, as well as coordinating all of the contributing writers. To LaRae Baumann—thank you for your diligent work in pulling all sorts of details together that were so greatly needed. To my wife, Bliss Lemmon, who designed the meditation and packaging—thank you for creating beautiful things that create space for reflection. To Jeneen Floyd—thank you for so graciously counseling my editing work. And to all of the contributors—thank you for your willingness to take the time to help guide us through this Advent season. As you know, this is the first (and hopefully not the last!) attempt at doing something like this at Nashotah. May you be blessed by the richness of thought that comes from each meditation. Let the following words of St. Augustine, in his own reflection on the Incarnation in John’s Gospel, guide you: Extend your hearts, help the poverty of my words. What I shall be able to express, give ear to; on what I shall not be able to express, meditate. Who can comprehend the abiding Word? All our words sound, and pass away. Who can comprehend the abiding Word, save he who abideth in Him? Wouldest thou comprehend the abiding Word? Mr. Ryan T. Boettcher Editor 9 Introduction As a young boy growing up in Natchez, Mississippi, Advent was the most memorable time of year. It was memorable, not so much because we were overly pious, but because it required far more patience than I wanted to experience as a young lad. As a rambunctious child of ten, waiting four Sundays for the arrival of Christmas was downright painful. The repetition of events leading up to Christmas, which seemed only to intensify the struggle of waiting, was predictable. Every Sunday a candle was added to the Advent wreath, and each successive Sunday the great hymns of the season reminded us of the coming feast: “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” “Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending,” and “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s Cry.” At home we crossed off each day on the family calendar as eager expectation eventually gave way to unbridled excitement. Looking back, I have come to believe over the years that a child can often grasp the reality of eager expectation and experience the ensuing joy far better than many adults. Children, in their unique way, are able to do this because they truly revel in the coming joy of Christmas, with all of its grandeur and merriment. Sadly, as we age, life’s travails tend to take their toll, tempting us to jettison our wait and to instead seek quick fulfillment in self-affirmation and worldly success. Of course, these worldly pursuits are tawdry. They fade over time and leave us unfulfilled and back on our original quest: waiting for joy. 10 C.S. Lewis was inspired by this waiting for joy. It led him to give his partial autobiography the title, Surprised by Joy. After decades of “looking for love in all the wrong places,” Lewis was both shocked and satisfied to learn that all of his expectations could be completely fulfilled in the person of the Incarnate Jesus Christ. Lewis learned that it is possible to “find and be found by Him,” as the Book of Common Prayer so perfectly captures it. Friends, Advent is the annual reminder that we, too, may find and be found by Him. The Incarnation is the affirmation that God has found us and is, even now, making all things new. It is this joyful expectation of Christmas that has led us to gather these Advent meditations from many of our friends and associates—from professors and seminarians, to alumni, trustees and other partners. We are greatly blessed by so many friends across the Church—they make all that we do possible. Their work is completely their own, reflecting their own unique gifts and perspectives. As the themes of Advent move from the promise of the Messiah to our Lord’s triumphant return in glory, and as they culminate with the feast of our Lord’s Nativity on December 25, so do the meditations. We offer this to you in thanksgiving for 170 years of raising up a faithful priesthood for the Church. But more than simply looking back, we offer these so that your Advent may be a holy one and that your Christmas may be most memorable, overflowing with the joy that comes from beholding the “Word made flesh,” Jesus the Christ. Yours in the Coming One, The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr. Nineteenth Dean and President, Nashotah House Theological Seminary 11 12 WEEK ONE 13 First Sunday of Advent Meditation One Eucharistic Lectionary Psalm 25:1-9 Jeremiah 33:14-16 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36 As I write this meditation for Advent, I cannot help but reflect on my earliest memories of Advent. I sang in the Junior Choir at Trinity Church and later served for years as an acolyte. At Advent, things were suddenly different. The green of Trinity Season became purple. The music had a sense of drama and expectancy: “On Jordan’s bank, the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh.” The Advent wreath with five candles was in place. While Christmas decorations began to appear in other churches, we did not decorate until after the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Advent prepared us to receive the Christ Child at Christmas. In order to do so, it was necessary to move beyond the sentimentality of Christmas and explore the depths of the claim of the Gospel of John: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 KJV) The awesomeness of God coming to us is beyond our imagining. This reality is defined in the theological concept of Incarnation. The Church took several centuries to spell out it’s meaning in the Creed: God came to us in Jesus Christ “for us and for our salvation.” Advent 14 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed focuses us anew on the story of salvation. Our world is distorted because we are under the dominion of sin—the presidency of our egos. Self-centeredness pushes God and everyone else out of our lives. It is the source of all sinfulness and it is destructive to all life. God’s response to this began in the Word made flesh and culminates in the Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension. God’s love and grace are the means of righting our self-centeredness. He does the work. He bears the burden. We do nothing to earn it. Like all love, God’s originates from the outside, in the same way a newborn child receives love from his or her parents. Advent points us to this old, old story and invites us to deepen our relationship with Him. The Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent is Luke 21:25-36. It introduces the second theme of Advent, the Second Coming of Our Lord. Verse 36 says, “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (ESV) The passage’s bottom line is this: the Son of Man’s return and all the cosmic signs that accompany it are more certain than Creation’s permanence. Jesus calls us to faithful living in the interim. Advent focuses our attention. One of the major threats to our relationship with God (and all good relationships) has to do with the ordinary circumstances of life: letting secondary things take precedence over primary things. How often in life have the demands of work become more important than God, marriage, and family? Advent calls us to be alert, to be intentional. Heeding means we follow in obedience. Watching means that we focus primarily on our Lord and His return to us. Praying means that we are dependent, looking to Him to give us strength to walk in faith with the God who cares for us. The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr. Nineteenth Dean and President, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation One 15 Meditation Two Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms: 1, 2, 3; Isa. 1:10-20; 1 Thess. 1:1-10 Evening: Psalms: 10, 11; Luke 20:1-8 Advent is the beginning of the Church Year and the most hopeful season to those who look for the coming of Christ. Yet I sometimes wonder if the four weeks of Advent are quite long enough. After all, Israel had waited centuries for the Messiah. And when He arrived, the very idea of God made man was too much to allow, even blasphemous, for many. The chief priests and the scribes from today’s Gospel reading were unwilling to admit even the origin of John’s ministry, let alone the nature of the Christ who stood before them. Jesus did not answer their challenge, for He knew they were not ready to understand the reality that God had become Man, and yet remained God. In all fairness to them, a lifetime of preparation for the Messiah is hardly enough to understand this reality, and the Church has spent many lifetimes since trying to grasp it’s meaning. But to one faithful Jewish girl, it all made sense in a moment. And for nine months after, she was given a rare opportunity to reflect intensely on what the Incarnation meant. What did Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, ponder as she became increasingly aware of the Child growing beneath her heart? She had 16 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed heard the words of the Angel, and knew better than any that no human man had fathered her son. As a sort of proof of His humanity, she faced all the discomforts and realities of bringing forth new life that any mother faces. Yet her purity was the very mark of His divinity. No virgin could bear a child through mere natural means, and Mary surely considered what this implied about her baby as she felt Him moving within. Only a few people were chosen to know the truth about Mary and her Child before His birth. And by some special grace they believed: Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth, at they very least, knew â€œby what authorityâ€? He had come. They may not have understood everything, but they believed what they saw with their own eyes and what the Angels of God had told them. They experienced the coming of God in a way that was so simple and so common, that millions since have doubted its truth. Could God be born a baby like any other? He was; and, if we take the opportunity to wait for Him as his own mother waited, it is not so very hard to believe. Mrs. Ashley Canter Carlsbad, California Meditation Two 17 Meditation Three Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 5, 6; Isaiah 1.21-31; 1 Thess. 2.1-12 Evening: Psalms 10, 11; Luke 20.9-18 In Isaiah 1-5, the prophet set out God’s case against His people Israel, and specifically the Kingdom of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem. The “faithful city” had become faithless and corrupt (Isaiah 1: 2123 RSV). Isaiah 5:1-7 likens the House of Israel to a vineyard: God tended it lavishly, but when He looked for fine grapes, it yielded only bitter wild grapes. “He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!” In Luke 20:9-18, the parable goes that the tenants of a vineyard kill successive servants whom the owner sends to collect his share of the fruit. Finally he sends his beloved son, but they kill him too. In the same way that Isaiah identified Israel as a vineyard, Jesus identified the Jewish leaders of His day as the tenants in the parable. The Reproaches, sung in the Western Church on Good Friday, during the Veneration of the Cross, recount what God did for Israel and how that has been repaid in the passion of His beloved Son, with the haunting refrain: “O my people, what have I done to thee…?” The third couplet recalls Isaiah’s parable: 18 I planted thee, my choicest vine, and thou hast become exceeding bitter unto me: for when I was thirsty thou gavest me to drink vinegar mingled with gall, and hast pierced with a spear the side of thy Saviour. The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed The Reproaches have been criticized as anti-Semitic, but we must hear them as calling us to repentance, not as a litany of self-righteousness. It is our sins “which were the cause of [Christ’s] passion.” The Church (as a human institution) to which we belong—God’s people, His “New Israel”—can often be reproached for unfaithfulness. The consequence of unfaithfulness and corruption is judgment: “Those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed” (Isa. 1:28 RSV) and “the owner of the vineyard…will come and destroy those tenants.” (Luke 20:15-16 RSV) Having over-emphasized God’s wrath and judgment in the past, the Church today more commonly makes the opposite mistake, affirming people as they are, rather than calling us all to repentance and renewal. Christ’s second coming, to which we look forward in Advent, is when “He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead.” During Advent, we meditate on the four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. And judgment is at the centre of these, as the hinge between death, heaven, and hell. Also important to note is both passages criticize collective unfaithfulness, not individual sin. But collective bodies are composed of individuals, who all bear responsibility for them. Have communities or institutions to which we belong lost their way? Do we risk bringing judgment upon ourselves by doing nothing to get things back on course? In all of this, it is comforting that, for Isaiah, judgment involves not just destruction, but also restoration: “Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.” (Isa. 1:27 RSV) Similarly, in Jesus’ parable, the owner does not destroy his vineyard, but will give it “to others”—to the Church, as the “New Israel.” (Luke 20:16) Dr. Colin Podmore Clerk to the General Synod of the Church of England, London, England Meditation Three 19 Meditation Four Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms: 119:1-24; Isa. 2:1-11; 1 Thess. 2:13-20. Evening: Psalms: 12, 13, 14; Luke 20:19-26. There are many who would separate religion from both politics and questions relating to the social order. They, who sought to wrongfoot Jesus with the flipside of a Roman coin, must wish they had never found Him in the temple! Some have indeed sought to interpret the Lord’s injunction to render to Caesar that which belongs to him and to God the same as justification for a division of the ‘spiritual’ sphere in human concern from ‘secular’ activities. Activities like economics, politics, education and leisure. But they are wrongheaded. The Lord meant entirely the opposite! Never more than an underling, whatever the coin’s inscription says about his self-styled divinity, Caesar and all he does comes under God’s judgment. As Christians contribute to the conversation about how society should be ordered and structured, and as I have my own internal conversation about the ordering of my own life, two doctrines are crucial to faithful witness and faithful living. First, is God’s sovereignty. Any ownership or power that Caesar (or I) may have over anyone is, at best, temporary and delegated—for all are absolutely and primarily the possessions of God, the Creator and 20 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed Preserver of all things. We ask the sovereign God to teach us “in all things Thee to see,” delighting in and reverencing the material world with its diverse beauty charged with God’s glory. Nothing is intrinsically “secular,” though it is true we have a frightening ability to wrestle away the things of God from Him, thinking it will be our liberation. Biblically, it began with an apple and led to what Alexander Solzhenitsyn termed the inevitable fruit of secularity, a “world split apart.” Second, we must consider the doctrine of Man—that man is a being of body and soul created for a supernatural destiny. Possessing will and intellect and responsibility for his conduct, man is a social being of intrinsic worth and dignity, with individual and social needs, rights and responsibilities. These two don’t say everything, of course, and we owe much of their interpretation to our understanding of God as Trinity. Above all, we celebrate to “leaping down from the royal throne” of the Second Person, who has literally become human, the implications of which are magnificent and profound! Talk of the Fatherhood of God becomes no abstract theological idea that can be dispensed with. It is a concrete reality because He has a Co-eternal Son! The “split apart” sacred and material are again made one by the saving work of Jesus. God participates in our humanity, and not simply for a thirty-three year season. As theologian Eric Mascall notes, “His Ascension was the final liberation of Jesus’ human nature from the restraints of space and time so that henceforth He could, through the descent of the Holy Spirit, be present in that human nature in all times and places.” What a mystery! Papal preacher Raniero Cantamalessa is surely right when he says that it takes a saint’s heart to understand the meaning of Christmas. The Right Reverend Lindsay G. Urwin, OGS, DD, ’11 The Administrator, Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, England Meditation Four 21 Meditation Five Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Isaiah 2:12-22; I Thess. 3:1-13 Evening: Psalm 18:21-50; Luke 20:27-40 G.K. Chesterton wrote that the momentous medieval conversion of the old pagan tribes, from Celts to Jutes, meant not only the conversion of individuals and their families, but of entire cultures: “Even the enlightened pagans, having followed the path of reason, found the path to be splendidly crooked.” Calendars and festivals were changed, given new names and new purpose. The old was gone and the new had come, all because of the celebration of the Incarnation. In the spirit of the shepherds and wise men from the East, we embrace, confess with ardent reflection, profess with an explosion of joy, and enjoy zealous mirth—all because of the expectation of the Holy One and the deliverance of His people from sin. Advent is a season to prepare. We shop, we bake, we go from one party to another, bustling about. We fast, pray, and reconcile; light our Advent candles; remember our quiet and boisterous traditions; and allow God to once again unlock the mystery of “Salvator mundi natus est” (Today the Savior is born). Through the voice of the prophet Isaiah, God tells us what we are to do: Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. All for His Name’s sake. We ask, why does He rescue us? Why does He deliver our souls from the sword? It is simple: He delights in us, His mirth 22 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed is zealous. C.S. Lewis once said, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” With this restoration, we receive His steadfast love and the shield of salvation. As we sing of His name, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” may our hearts be full of gratitude as we join the voices of the saints who have gone before, abounding in love and for all. Mrs. Rebecca Terhune, ’15 Seminarian, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Five 23 Meditation Six Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 16, 17; Isa. 3:8-15; 1 Thess. 4:1-12. Evening: Psalms 22, Luke 20:41-21:4 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3) As we continue our journey through the Advent Season, we are reminded to reflect upon our lives as Christians. It is a season of reflection, after all, and an integral part of that reflection must be our understanding of how we open our lives to the Incarnate Lord. How does the Word become flesh in us? Fortunately, through the words of Holy Scripture, our Lord Jesus has given us examples of how best to live out the Incarnation in our lives. The Parable of the Widow’s Mite is one of those examples that challenge each of us, who would be his disciples, to give with complete devotion and selflessness. Jesus himself certainly is the prime example of this way of life, as he was completely devoted to his Father and, through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, demonstrated the selfless offering of Himself on our behalf. It is through our own endeavor to be “in Christ” that cause us to seek ways to manifest the Risen Lord. We are not required to do big things in order to live this life. It is in the little things that we do to and for 24 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed one another that we grow into that awareness of Jesus Christ in our lives. Those “random acts of kindness” often exemplify our abiding love for God and our commitment to live the life Jesus calls us to live. The Parable of the Widow’s Mite exposes for self-examination the private side of all our acts. We are drawn into the act of reflecting on why we do what we do for God and for others. The Season of Advent, by its very nature, provides for us an opportunity to truly look at ourselves through the mirror of the Incarnation, that we might see our reflection and that of our Lord Jesus, and hope it will be one in the same. “That he may dwell in us and we in him.” May our Advent journey continue to be one of reflection and selfexamination as we seek the will of God and the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in our lives. The Right Reverend Paul E. Lambert, MDiv ’75, DD ’09 Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Dallas Meditation Six 25 Meditation Seven Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 20, 21:1-7(8-14); Isa. 4:2-6; 1 Thess. 4:13-18 Evening: Psalms 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117; Luke 21:5-19 The passages from Isaiah and the Gospel of Luke appear, at first, as a strange juxtaposition. After a fairly “damning” chapter three in Isaiah, these verses in the fourth chapter come as a glimmer of light as they speak, not of the rottenness of Zion, but of its beautiful restoration. In the “end times” passage from the apocalyptic twenty-first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives a grim picture of the end of the Age. And then, in the very next chapter in the Upper Room, He institutes the gift of the Eucharist at the Last Supper—the (among other things) ultimate Covenant Meal which, as it were, seals the New Covenant and the restoration of humanity. There is a vast distance, in many ways, between the prophecy of Isaiah and the act of redemption in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Yet there is a constant: namely, the desire of God for our restoration. The Atonement (at-one-ment) is about being put back together with and in Him in the bliss and harmony of Paradise. And this desire, which emanates from nowhere less than the heart of God (the “Sacred Heart”), is fulfilled in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. He is “love’s redeeming work.” Today we celebrate the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And in doing so, we rejoice in the Divine Plan. It may sound simple, but 26 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed the only way to be born a human is to be born of a mother. So this Mother, Mary, becomes the vehicle by which God enters the world as one of us. Divinity partakes of humanity so that humanity might partake of Divinity. Here we can pause to use our imaginations to ponder one of the great mysteries of our faith, that God becomes man. He was “made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14 KJV) This is both amazing and unbelievable! It must be contemplated with the mind and the heart. Consider that, in Jesus, we see not only who God is, but also who we are called to be. Like Mary, we too are called to become vehicles of the Incarnation, the grace-filled means of God at work in the world. All of this is essentially relational. “Heart speaks to heart,” was St. Augustine’s motto. In the Incarnation, the Heart of God speaks to our heart in utter love so that we, in turn, may fall in love with God. And so St. Paul’s astonishingly claimed in I Thessalonians: we are so “in Christ,” that we become part of who He was and is, what He did and what He does. If Jesus died and rose again, so will we in Him. Paradise was lost, and in Jesus it is restored. The Reverend Andrew L. Sloane, STM ’78, DD ’05 Rector, St. Paul’s K Street, Washington, DC Meditation Seven 27 28 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed WEEK TWO 29 Second Sunday of Advent Meditation Eight Eucharistic Lectionary Canticle 4 or 16 Malachi 3:1-4 Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 3:1-6 Who went out to hear John the Baptist in the wilderness? There were the outwardly religious (the scribes and Pharisees) who expected to hear at least one more rule that they could obey, so that finally they could earn Godâ€™s favor. And then there were those who went to hear him because they had a void in their lives that only God could fill. There were those who were having marital problems, and others who were having problems with their children. There were people who came to hear John who were hopelessly in debt, people who were given to drinking too much wine, depressed people, proud people, materialistic people. There were those who were looking for healing and those who were still grieving over the death of a spouse. And there were people there with a guilty conscience, who knew they had done something they ought not to have done, or didnâ€™t do something they ought to have done. Does St. Luke really list all of these people? No, but it is a safe assumption that whenever a group of people get together, they represent nearly every problem one can imagine. Even though they did not have the luxury of modern science, jet travel, or high technology, they had the same human problems that we have, and they took those problems and challenges to the wilderness. All with the hope that this prophet John might have an answer. 30 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed And he did have an answer, to be sure, in two parts. The first part was “repent and be baptized.” Acknowledge your sin. Turn from that sin and to God, and accept God’s forgiveness. John then baptized the penitents as a sign of the forgiveness of God. Thus, the first part of his answer was universal. It was as if he were to say, “It doesn’t matter who you are, what your reasons are for being here, or what problems you face. The first step in making you whole is acknowledging that you are not whole, by repenting and accepting the forgiveness of God.” The second part of John’s answer, which is found just beyond the reading appointed for today, was more individualized—bearing fruit in one’s life. A tax collector needed to bear different fruit from a soldier, as did someone with greater means than another. The point was not to stop being sorrowful for one’s past sins, but to start living one’s faith. Incorporate faith into daily life. Use the gifts God has given you to help those in need. John the Baptist’s warning is as timely today as it was when he first delivered it. We would do well to take time during this season to examine our lives, confess our sins, and help those in need. In that way, we will prepare rightly to receive our Lord; both as we celebrate His nativity, and when He comes again in power and great glory—so that “He who began a great work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 The Reverend Fredrick A. Robinson, STM ’82 Rector, The Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Florida Meditation Eight 31 Meditation Nine Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 25; Isa. 5:8-12, 18-23; 1 Thess. 5:1-11 Evening: Psalms 9, 15; Luke 21:20-28 “We’ll leave the light on for you.” You’ve probably heard this slogan, famously used as part of the advertising for a well-known motel company. Advent is, among other things, our annual reminder that the Light is left on for us, every moment of every day and night. This is one of the many great gifts of the Incarnation, and this season highlights it again and again. We began Advent on the first Sunday by casting away the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light. Light and dark are prominent images in today’s lessons as well. Jesus, who is the “true Light that enlightens everyone,” makes our vision sharp and our choices clear as Christians. (John 1:9, NRSV) With Jesus, our unfailing Light, we walk confidently and see clearly as we await the fulfillment of His promises: “I am with you always” and “I will come again.” These promises would be nothing more than sentimental, wishful thinking without the reality of the Incarnation. Without the Light of Christ, we might well find ourselves among those warned by Isaiah about being wise in our own eyes and shrewd in our own sight. (Isaiah 5:21 NRSV) But under the Lordship of Jesus, 32 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed in whom there is no darkness at all, we have no fear. Our Incarnate Lord brings us into a life where “darkness and light are both alike.” (Psalm 139:12 NRSV) When we wear the armor of light and feast on the Bread of Life, we won’t mistake good for evil, light for darkness, or sweet for bitter. The chances we take and the changes that come in this life are no threat to the children of light. Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel shows scenes of terror and chaotic frenzy. But to the children of light, Jesus shows the way past the chaos and into the promise. We will see the Son of Man coming. Our salvation is drawing near. We are able to see clearly what everyone longs to see, and we wait without fear because the Light is on…always on. “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 134) “Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 123) The Reverend Canon R. Brien Koehler, MDiv ’76 Chaplain–in–Residence and Trustee, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Nine 33 Meditation Ten Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Isa. 5:13-17, 24-25 Evening: Psalms 36, 39; 1 Thess. 5:12-28; Luke 21:29-38 The presence of the Lord in the Temple was central to the Jewish understanding that God was Emmanuel (“God with us”). The strength of the Jews lay in their knowledge of God’s presence among them. Ultimately, it was what separated them from all the other peoples of the earth. Kingdoms began and ended because of this knowledge, dependent as they were on the good faith of the Jewish people to keep the commandments that God had given them upon the holy mountain. Bound up in this understanding of God’s presence in the Temple was the sacrificial notion of the atoning sacrifices said on behalf of the people. Conducted by the priests, they were offered both for the forgiveness of sins and as a means to give honor, worship and praise to God for His blessing and control over their lives. That control, which existed throughout the world, had its chief location in the Ark of the Covenant--a “Real Presence” of God’s glory, residing in the Temple. As the Psalmist says, “O LORD, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8 RSV) The presence of the Lord in the world is central to the Christian understanding that Christ is, in fact, who He said He is. In a world where God has broken into our humanity through the Incarnation 34 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed of His Son, the presence of the Lord takes on a more specific and mystical context. True, we still worship God in the temple of our day, still offer to Him sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, and still are instructed to follow after the commandments He has given us. Yet, our relationship with God has also changed, where it once was located in the Temple, it now resides in every “temple,” every place that has His presence in the breaking of bread or in the prayers. After all, we have been told that He will be with us to the close of the age, and the signs of His presence are tangible manifestations of inward graces. The strength and depth of faith by which we attest Christ crucified is bound up in God’s presence in our lives. As the Israelites received their power from a trust that God was with them—so we, as the new Israel, have received even greater power. And we have been given greater fidelity through the manifestation of the Triune God in our world, in our hearts and for our souls. When faced with the struggles that daily life has in store for us, consider the strength of living in a world where God’s presence is not limited to a single edifice in Palestine, but a presence that has been promised to be in and all around each of us. The Reverend Matthew Canter, MDiv ’11 Carlsbad, California Meditation Ten 35 Meditation Eleven Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 38; Isa. 6:1-13; 2 Thess. 1:1-12 Evening: Psalms 119:25-48; John 7:53-8:11 In today’s Gospel from John, we are able to truly reflect on the revelation of God in the Incarnation of Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer of the world. Once beyond debates of authorship and dating, we can begin to see the significance of this encounter with Jesus as we continue our journey through Advent. The “world” circled around the woman in the story, and she could say and do nothing. We all can relate to this at some point in our life--left speechless and with nowhere to run. The woman stood there, disgraced and humiliated, expecting the judgment and deathly punishment the world would most assuredly give her. However, God Incarnate revealed the moral dilemma we all have encountered since the Fall of Adam and Eve: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw the stone at her.” (John 8:7 ESV) Jesus Christ knows us! He not only knew this woman, but He also knew the adulterous man who had somehow escaped this public judgment and humiliation. In that moment, Jesus didn’t make eye contact with anyone; He didn’t say anything more. He simply drew in the sand as these men, one by one, left without a stone being thrown. And, just as the sand that Jesus was writing in was blown away by the wind, so too was this woman’s judgment by the world. 36 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed Eventually, the woman was the only person left standing with Jesus. Notice, Jesus did not say the woman was not guilty. Rather, He said, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and from now on, sin no more.” (John 8:11 ESV) These powerful and transforming words are at the core of the New Testament message—the message of God’s grace which passes all understanding. This is the message of the Incarnation, and it is the gift of Christmas for which we truly celebrate and rejoice. As it says 1 Timothy 1:15, God Incarnate came into the world to “save sinners.” As we continue our Advent journey, may we, like the woman standing in the presence of Jesus, recognize and repent of those times we have strayed from the Gospel message to love God and love our neighbor. God Incarnate came into this world each of us, that we might be transformed and so be salt and light to the world. As both God and Man, Jesus lived on earth to establish a relationship with each of us. And Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is here today. Seek Him out, repent, and receive a freedom that can only come from faith in Him. Prepare this Advent season for the greatest gift of life that can only be received from God Incarnate: “Neither do I condemn you: go, and from now on sin no more.” The Reverend Charles Roy Allison, MDiv ’12 Priest Associate, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Bonita Springs, Florida Meditation Eleven 37 Meditation Twelve Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 37:1-18; Isa. 7:1-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-12. Evening: Psalms 37:19-42; Luke 22:1-13 Advent is a fierce season. While the world around us bakes cookies, shops, and awaits the coming of Santa Claus, we are reading about John the Baptist’s fiery call to repentance, the Day of the Lord, and awaiting God Incarnate. We prepare to remember His birth and to look for His coming again in great glory—to judge the living and the dead. Today’s readings remind us of the fierce urgency of this season, and all point to the question, “Do you stand firm in the faith?” First, Isaiah is called to speak God’s word in the face of enemy invaders and to remind King Ahaz to stand firm in faith. Then, Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica about the great rebellion that will precede the Day of the Lord. He tells them that when it does come, only those who have believed the truth will be saved. Finally, the passage from Luke juxtaposes Judas’ betrayal of Jesus with the preparations of the faithful disciples for the Passover meal with their Lord. These readings collectively serve to remind us that there is no comfortable middle ground when it comes to faith. We are either for God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—or we are against Him. We stand firm in the faith or else fall into destruction. There are no other options. So Advent, this season for preparation and reflection, should drive 38 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed us to our knees as we ask the question, “Do I stand firm in the faith?” And as we ponder this, I think that Mary can serve as a guide and example for us, for she surely stood firm in the faith, even in the face of great odds. At the Annunciation, Mary quietly said yes to God. As the saying goes, “you can’t be a little bit pregnant,” and that was certainly true for Mary. There was no comfortable middle ground for her. With that yes, her whole life became an offering to God. And she stood firm through all of it, even when it meant standing by the Cross and watching Jesus give His life for the sins of the world. Hers was not a showy faithfulness—it was a deep, quiet faithfulness, rooted in the knowledge and love of God and Jesus Christ. It was a faithfulness that came from being in the presence of the Lord every day. Unlike Mary, we cannot physically be in Jesus’ presence each day, but we can be in His presence in Scripture, the sacraments, and in prayer. So let us follow her example. That daily communion with the Lord will help us know more deeply that He alone is truth and salvation. And it will provide us with the strength to stand firm for the faith. For without Him, there is only destruction and death. So, this Advent, let us be diligent in spending time in communion with the Lord, so that we can stand firm for the faith and “greet with Joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.” The Very Reverend Heidi Kinner, MDiv ’04 Dean, Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Helena, Montana Meditation Twelve 39 Meditation Thirteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 31; Isa. 7:10-25; 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5 Evening: Psalms 35; Luke 22:14-30 “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NRSV) God with us. This child, this Immanuel, was the sign for the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation, that He was not abandoning them in their trials and their exile. Isaiah foretold that the people of Israel would see adversity. There would be flies and bees infesting their land, the king of Assyria would oppress them, and the land would produce briers and thorns instead of fruitful vines. Yet even in the midst of all this adversity and famine, God’s people would still eat curds and honey—the food of the Promised Land. This child born to the young woman was the sign of God’s presence still among the nation of Israel, even though they had rejected Him and followed other gods. The prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Immanuel, of God with us, to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Immanuel, Jesus, is more than a sign that God is with us— this Immanuel is God with us. And more than God with us, this Immanuel is God as us. This is God taking on human flesh, born of a woman—true God, yet true man. This is God with us and as us, knowing the temptations that we know, facing trials and bearing the 40 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed sin of humanity, all as one of us. This is the Lord of heaven descending from His throne, not lording it over His subjects as earthly lords do, but serving them, healing them, sacrificing Himself for them—all to reunite them with the God that they had rejected in Eden, at Mt. Sinai and in Jerusalem. But in the face of this rejection, God does not reject us, but becomes one of us to redeem us. This is God with us in His earthly life, God with us in His suffering, God for us on the cross. And we know that God is still with us because we feed on the bread and the wine, His Body and His Blood. God is with us in His Sacrament, in the midst of our trials. We feed, not on the physical food of the Promised Land, but the spiritual food of Immanuel. God with us to save and to serve, continuing to feed us with His own Body and Blood. Take and eat, take and drink, for this is God with us. The Reverend Jill Stellman, MDiv ’12 Deacon, All Saints’ Episcopal Cathedral, Albany, New York Communications and Technology Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Albany Meditation Thirteen 41 Meditation Fourteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Isa. 8:1-15; 2 Thess. 3:6-18 Evening: Psalms 42, 43; Luke 22:31-38 Advent is a time of waiting, a season of anticipation. In it, we remember Abraham’s long wait for a son. We join with the Jews in exile, awaiting deliverance—a Messiah. We also partake in waiting as we long for our Savior to return and makefast the work of redemption He initiated in the Incarnation. But why is waiting so hard? “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5 NIV) We all experience eager expectation, whether for the return of a loved one, a Christmas present, or a really good meal. But these are shadows—mere reflections of the longing we feel for Christ’s return, when He will set things right. We are trapped between a reality we perceive to be true (but somehow less present) and one that remains transitory and thin, like the fog (while all too close in its loudness). Kierkegaard called this Despair, Lewis called it Sehnsucht, and St. Paul compares it to the groaning of childbirth. This is the reality of our lives. Denying it only increases the difficulty of waiting. Furthermore, most of our frustration-in-waiting lies in our definitions of faith and hope. Far too often, the wrong things end up defining these realities—a disconnected set of abstract propositions, a checklist, or even a creed. This form of faith is set on experiences or an accompanying set of feelings. Thus, our only hope is in replicating 42 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed them, whether through a quiet walk, intense asceticism and private devotion, or liturgical actions. If our faith is dependent upon efforts we have made, then our only hope is in our ability to be “better” tomorrow. Yet the Faith we have been given is far more substantial! Through the glorious Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been given a new and living Hope, in a Real Person. The ineffable God puts Himself into a human-shaped container, allowing us to behold the very form of our Faith, translating it into a language we have the capacity to understand. All so that we can have a real and true Hope. This is the man Jesus Christ, who, in His very Who-He-Is-ness, manifests the Fullness of our Faith and Hope. And as our faith rests in who He is and what He has done, we then have hope for tomorrow: for He is steadfast and will prove Himself so. This pattern is clear throughout Scripture. In Psalm 42:5-6, hope is tied to the act of remembering what God has done. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds His disciples of His provision when He sent them out, to reassure them before His betrayal and capture. Though Jesus may not want us to fight with bladed weapons, He does give us two swords that are enough—Faith in what He has done, and hope for what He will do. Let us then wait this Advent with a strong faith and a brave hope, knowing in Whom we wait. Mr. Lars Skoglund, ’14 Seminarian, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Fourteen 43 44 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed WEEK THREE 45 Third Sunday of Advent Meditation Fifteen Eucharistic Lectionary Canticle 9 Zephaniah 3:14-20 Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 3:1-6 Gaudete! Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice; Rejoice, for the Lord is at hand; Rejoice, for he has been gracious to his land, And has turned away the captivity of Jacob. Rejoice, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel, A mighty one who will save. Rejoice, for the True Light, which enlightens everyone, Is coming into the world. Rejoice, for the Word is made flesh that He might dwell among us. Rejoice at the wonder, rejoice at the scandal: For the Divine is made human, The Invisible is made visible, The Ineffable is given expression, The Immaterial has taken on physicality, The Infinite has taken on finitude, The Eternal has stepped into time, The Unchanging has opened himself to change, The Impassible has exposed himself to suffering, The Immortal has taken on mortality. 46 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed Rejoice, for such is the love of our God, That He would condescend to come down from heaven And live as one of us, For us and for our salvation. Rejoice, for never has our world had such dignity; Rejoice, for never has our race had such hope. Rejoice, for our Creator is also our Redeemer, And He will complete the work He has begun, For behold, He is making all things new. Rejoice, for the Word will not return empty, But will accomplish His purpose and prosper in His mission. Rejoice, for in Him the fullness of Deity is pleased to dwell bodily, And to reconcile all things in heaven and earth through Him. Rejoice, for now the dwelling of God is with man, And He will dwell with them, And they will be His people, And God Himself will be with them as their God. Mr. Matthew Kemp, â€™13 Seminarian, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Fifteen 47 Meditation Sixteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 41, 52; Isa. 8:16-9:1 Evening: Psalms 44; 2 Pet. 1:1-11; Luke 22:39-53 It’s the most wonderful time of the year With the kids jingle belling And everyone telling you: ‘be of good cheer’ It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The lessons for the beginning of this Third Week of Advent don’t seem to fit the mood set by Eddie Pola and George Wylie’s popular song; one we’ve heard more times that we can count by now! The Prophet draws our attention to the plight of Israel wandering in the gloom of spiritual deception; a plight not unlike our own. Luke takes us to that shadowy night in the Garden of Olives where the Lord begins to walk the way to the Cross. Peter’s Second Epistle offers us the ‘fruit’ anticipated in Isaiah and worked out in Luke. It is Peter who tells us, “Be of good cheer.” Peter’s good cheer is found in the fulfillment of the covenant promises God made to Israel and brought to completion in the Christ. It is in our becoming “partakers in the divine nature” that we are restored to the fullness of humanity, in which, God glories. As Irenaeus of Lyons cried out, “God’s glory, man fully alive!” It is for that glory that the Prophet longed—and out of which he prophesied—and for it that Jesus spent that time in the Garden, and on the Cross. 48 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed So why do we think about these things at Advent? Because this season is one of waiting, longing and anticipation, and the teachers of the early Church, like Leo the Great, linked the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem to his second coming in glory at the end of time. Christmas, like Easter, is thus a celebration of God’s love expressed in the Christ and the hope that love and faith holds out to humanity. We wait in this season like those who skip to the end of the novel and then go back and read all of the story anyway—we know the ending, and we can “be of good cheer.” Today, the Church traditionally begins the great “O Antiphons,” which were turned into the verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The Antiphons are an anagram, the first letters spell ERO CRAS—“I will come, tomorrow.” They remind us that we are not to lose hope, to be of good cheer, because God Himself is with us. And that is what makes the most wonderful time out of one of longing. O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who orderest all things mightily; To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! The Reverend Dr. Steven A. Peay, PhD Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Associate Professor of Homiletics and Church History Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Sixteen 49 Meditation Seventeen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 45; Isa. 9:1-7; 2 Pet. 1:12-21 Evening: Psalms 47, 48; Luke 22:54-69 “And the government shall be upon his shoulders.” One can hardly say the words without succumbing to the ascending, angular lilt of Handel’s chorus, “For Unto Us a Child is Born.” Accented and repeated for emphasis, the martial rhythm evokes regal majesty. And rightly so. Handel knew his libretto, which is to say he knew his Bible. And rightly does he understand this promise—that from David’s lineage will arise one to liberate the once oppressed and to rule the once unruly. So compelling is the image of this righteous reign that it captured the imagination of subsequent Jewish generations. And why shouldn’t it? The nation enlarged, the yoke of oppression shattered, the horror of war and bloodshed a distant memory, and, above all, a secure reign of righteousness yielding peace. The zeal of the heavenly armies brings it to pass, as the God of Israel takes, as it were, matters into his own hands. It should not be hard then for God’s people to recognize this when it comes to pass. “Great David’s greater Son” should not be hard to pick out of a crowd, for he shall be leading his host forth to a destiny foreordained by the LORD of Hosts. Nowhere, least of all in Isaiah 9, are we led to expect a dubitable or ambiguous messiah. 50 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed Those of us now watching for the Son of David’s Second Advent are not infrequently unjust in our impatience toward those who witnessed the First. Why, we think, were they so blind, so obdurate, so incredulous? What could have been more plain, we wonder, than that this kindly man from Galilee was the long-awaited messiah of God? But here we betray our passing, if superficial, acquaintance with the story of our New Testament (not, by the way, on hand for Jesus’ contemporaries) while having a woeful indifference toward the promises of the Old (which, by the way, Jesus’ contemporaries knew rather well). For before the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ, the government upon Jesus’ shoulders would take the form of a heavy, wooden, Roman instrument of torturing intimidation. And when the Lord of Heaven took matters into His own hands, what He first took into His own hands were iron stakes. But having humbled Himself unto death -- death on a cross -- God therefore highly exalted Him. And His name shall be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Dr. Garwood Anderson Professor of New Testament and Greek Director of Distance Learning Programs Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Seventeen 51 Meditation Eighteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 119:49-72; Isa. 9:8-17; 2 Pet. 2:1-10a Evening: Psalms 49, ; Mark 1:1-8 Each of us loves receiving gifts, especially if they are unexpected or something we have waited for. The excitement quickly wanes, however, if we discover that the present is broken or just doesn’t fit, no matter how hard we try. First century ‘Christ-ians’ also struggled with a gift that did not fit, that of a broken Messiah. God’s action in human history had seemingly been bested in the brokenness of a rough-hewn Cross and its radical call to discipleship. This was particularly difficult for those who regarded Jesus as a political or social king. The time of God’s rule and Christ’s kingship hardly gave the appearance of “good news.” Not only did this kingship end with suffering and death, but it raised mounting doubt as to whether such a “God-in-the-flesh” could ever offer any hope beyond the grave—a sad reality accentuated as the early church faced persecution, indifference, and impatience. Could these early Christians find any nourishment with a less-than-glorious end to the reign of God in this Jesus, or would it prove to be much too difficult to swallow? In the opening verse of the Gospel, the writer of Mark sets the table for a mouth-watering faith story. His opening superscription serves 52 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed as both statement and question, “the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Anointed, the Son of God[?]” The heavens are rent apart as the Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism; the temple curtain is rent in two at his death. And in between a battle of cosmic proportions ensues, leaving the reader caught in the struggle between good and evil, each vying for absolute allegiance. Perhaps Mark’s story of Jesus is better grasped as the beginning of a divine drama, couched in mystery and tension that is finished beyond the pages of the narrative and lived out in our lives. In this Advent season, a time of preparation and anticipation, we are once again caught living in between the times, caught between this Jesus in time and the Christ of faith. Will His brokenness, unwrapped on Calvary, allow us to see a new way out, as those ways are made straight? Will His “one-size-fits-all” blanket of love so shatter our curved-in-onourselves lifestyles, so that we can, in turn, live for Him and others? Martin Luther put it this way, “If I did not see that the Lord kept watch over the ship, I should long since have abandoned the helm. But I see Him through the tackling, handling the yard, spreading the sails—yes, more—commanding the very winds! Should I not be a coward if I abandon my post? So let him govern, let him carry forward, let Him hasten or delay. We will fear nothing for He is there.” The Reverend Gary A. Grindeland Senior Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Delafield, Wisconsin Meditation Eighteen 53 Meditation Nineteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 50; Isa. 9:18-10:4; 2 Pet. 2:10b-16 Evening: Psalms [59, 60] or 33; Matt 3:1-12.) These are busy days of preparation: lights and decorations need hanging, gifts need buying and wrapping, cookies and cakes and pies need baking, Christmas cards need addressing, and a million and one other things demand doing. Some of this frenetic activity is the cultural clutter of a commercialized â€œholiday season,â€? and some of it is meaningful Christmas custom. But if we are not careful, our most important preparation can be forgotten in the rush. John the Baptist reminds us to straighten our priorities so that we may be ready to receive the Incarnate Christ. Only a wild man in a tattered, old, camel hair shirt, belted with a scrap of leather, could give us this prophetic message from the desert. He reminds us that the Kingdom is near and that we had best prepare for it by abandoning the distractions that clog the heart and choke out life. The preparation demanded of us is a thorough cleaning-out of the heart, and that is much more important than perfecting our holiday decor. To prepare our hearts to receive the Lord Jesus, we need the simplicity of John. We know this already: our most cherished Christmas memories are of simple things like stringing popcorn garlands, cutting 54 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed out snowflake decorations, helping decorate cookies, singing carols, giving something of ourselves to the poor, or going to midnight Mass with friends and family. And we know, if we take time to reflect, that little is to be gained by battling the trampling crowds for this year’s hot toy or the latest gadget--which will soon sit forgotten on a dusty shelf with the must-haves of years past. To prepare our hearts to receive Christ, we need penitence. That is what the Baptist preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God has come near.” (Matthew 3:2 NRSV) Of course, the world tells us we have nothing for which to repent—our sins are due to genetics or upbringing. The hurt we cause others is an unfortunate side-effect of the normal drive to self-realization. In this guise, the world offers us selfishness and calls it virtue. But if our penitence is to be more than words, if our repentance is to bear fruit, then we must accept responsibility. To avoid becoming white-washed tombs, stuffed with the bones of those we have trampled down and consumed in a selfish drive to claim our own, we must become responsible. This is true penitence: to acknowledge responsibility for ourselves and for our participation in the sins of a runaway culture, and to surrender our preferences, our rationalizations—even our own selves—in penance. And then, having emptied ourselves, we may approach the manger of Bethlehem and be over-filled with His love, His life and His light. In a miraculous paradox, we discover our true selves fully realized in Him. Fully our own, fully our neighbor’s, and fully His. Mr. David Sherwood, DMin ’12 Director of the Frances Donaldson Library, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Nineteen 55 Meditation Twenty Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 40, 54; Isa. 10:5-19; 2 Pet. 2:17-22 Evening: Psalms 51; Matt 11:2-15 “Ever since the coming of John the Baptist the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and violent men are seizing it.” (Matthew 11:12 NEB) Remember that one scene in that one movie (it doesn’t matter which) where the building explodes? Fire flashes and plumes of smoke mushroom up and out. Everyone is leaping away and running for their lives. If we were to rewind, to watch the whole scene in reverse, to see the huge gases and fireworks shrink into a tiny stick of dynamite, we might get a tiny picture of what the Incarnation looked like. Physicists (or, at least the mystics) are still scratching their heads. The Creator became created, and all of creation—even the stars—were involved. The Incarnation is not an abstract ideal. It does not swirl in endless, near-static motion somewhere in outer space. Like an explosion in reverse, the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh was God’s decisive single action in history. It happened only once. It will never be undone. And it has changed everything. Explosions are loud and showy. But everything about the Incarnation was quiet and lowly. O little town of Bethlehem. By the looks of it, 56 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed no one would have thought this West Bank hamlet would be the birthplace of the promised Messiah. And the baby? Like a stick of dynamite on its own, baby Jesus seemed innocuous enough. Wrapped in swaddling clothes in the backrooms with the donkeys, no one would have suspected this nursing infant to be the divine, fiery Second Person of the Holy Trinity encapsulated, made man. Yet He was. And despite its backwater appearance, Bethlehem was the native city of King David; a city situated just five miles south of Jerusalem and the Temple. It was the obvious birthplace for the promised GodKing. Explosions shatter and destroy. They push everything and everyone away. But the Incarnation restores. It is the beginning of Jesus’ project to draw everything and everyone in, to heal. Christ’s plan is to bring the whole universe, all that is in heaven and on earth, into a unity with Himself (Ephesians 1:10). As if by tractor beam, we are all being wooed, drawn into the deepest healing and health imaginable. Like an explosion in reverse, Jesus, the Son of God made Man, lovingly works to piece together what sin has fragmented, to make us whole and holy in Him. The Creator is making a new creation, and He’s the first to try it out, the first to really live it, “the firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18 NRSV) May we now only follow. Mr. Tyler Blanski, ’14 Seminarian, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Twenty 57 Meditation Twenty One Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 55; Isa. 10:20-27; Jude 17-25 Evening: Psalms 138, 139:1-17(18-23); Luke 3:1-9 Reawakened for me today is a memory of my father standing, in the 1960s as an elder at the communion table of our family’s congregation, and using his little book of prayers to dismiss us at service’s end with a word which still rings true for me: And now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen. (Jude 1:2, KJV) I learned this word of St. Jude’s through Daddy’s repeated use, perhaps the foundation of my future joy in liturgical prayer. This word stands for me today as the true meaning of orthodoxy, the “right glory”—the salvation that Jude warns us to keep close to ourselves, eschewing all that is subject to judgment. Isaiah has shown us the breakdown of national life experienced by the People of God as judgment upon them: “For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.” (Isa. 10:22 NRSV) The judgment came upon them, not as the vindictive reaction of a spurned God, but as an ineluctable “decree,” the result of moral principles built into 58 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed human life now flouted with impunity. But if Isaiah saw the judgment coming, as John the Baptist saw the axe laid already at the root of the tree, Isaiah too saw (as did John) the salvation coming for a faithful remnant—those who will “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Luke 3:8 NRSV) He saw every dark valley being filled, every impassible mountain made low for the Royal Highway, for the coming in of the King. The orthodoxy of an earlier age stressed Advent as a season of preparation for “the winter pascha.” It was a time for bearing fruits worthy of repentance as a tangible, sacramental sign of our welcoming the Word of God, “overflowing with righteousness,” into our midst. How have we managed to replace both Isaiah’s and the Baptist’s warnings of judgment upon our excesses with wishful sentiments about “happy holidays?” How did “yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos,” ever trump, “remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day,” as the musical icon of the season? Is it that we have lost the incarnational orthodoxy which enabled St. Jude to ascribe glory and majesty, dominion and power to God through Jesus Christ our Lord? Is the Incarnatus of the Creed a memory--sweetly and metaphorically sung by a choir? Or is it the mighty, wondrous drama, the comfort and joy that makes the whole earth sing this wondrous morn? Has the Altar ceased to be that place where the Word is made flesh and dwells among us even now? Our answers are the difference between judgment and salvation. The Reverend Daniel Clarke, MDiv ’99 Rector, Church of the Holy Cross, Sumter, SC Meditation Twenty One 59 60 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed WEEK FOUR 61 Fourth Sunday of Advent Meditation Twenty Two Eucharistic Lectionary Psalm 80:1-7 Micah 5:2-5a Hebrews 10:5-10 Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) The most important text for Advent is from Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14 KJV) Immanuel, as the Gospel of Matthew explained, means “God with us.” How appropriate it is that the Sunday before Christmas is about the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whom the eternal Word of God became flesh. The Son of the living and true God was sent to save and redeem the world. When all things were in quiet silence and night was in the midst of her swift course, Thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven out of Thy royal throne. (Introit, Sunday after Christmas) Mary is the place where God’s transcendence and immanence meet and dwell. “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Thy word.” (Luke 1:38 DRB) She is the tabernacle and vehicle of the Divine Incarnate, and she is indeed Theotokos, “Mother of God.” It is through her faith and obedience that she surrenders herself to God’s will, and shares in God’s saving plan to redeem humankind. Mary’s blessedness consists in her cooperation with the Holy Spirit and, being “full of grace,” she is prepared to bear the very Word of God, Jesus. She is the model of all Christians, precisely 62 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed because she is faithful and obedient and yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit. We too are called to faith and obedience. That by the power of the Spirit, “the dear Christ (may) enter in.” As St. Paul teaches, we are to grow into the full stature of Christ, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:17 NIV) We are to become ever Christ-like, like Mary—bearers of Christ and witnesses of God’s unconditional love. Christian discipleship means bearing daily the Cross, daily increasing in the Holy Spirit, and becoming both witnesses of the Lord and vehicles of Divine Charity. Faith and obedience follow the way of the Cross, for that was the destiny of the Lord made flesh. There looms over the birth of the Christ Child, a dark shadow. It is the Cross, which He must endure “for us, and for our salvation.” He is the Man born to die. Mary’s gospel is always, “Whatever He tells you, do it.” As she did. And from her we learn faith and obedience, and utter surrender to God. And so, as we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, we pray: O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord, Emmanuel! The Reverend Dr. Richard Cornish Martin, DD ’12 Trustee, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Twenty Two 63 Christmas Eve Meditation Meditation Twenty Three Daily Office Readings Morning: Isa. 59:15b-21; Phil. 2:5-11 Evening: Psalm 89:1-29 Advent now yields to the unrestrained joy of Christmas, and the full-on truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God. The details are familiar: ancient prophecies, angelic announcements, and the faithful obedience of the key players, Mary and Joseph. But there’s a back story, a sub-plot, that we should not overlook. St. Paul writes to the Romans about God’s Son: ...who was descended from David…and was declared to be the Son of God in power…Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations. (Romans 1:3-5 ESV) David…power…Lord…obedience…nations. This passage is redolent of the language of politics and political process. The incarnation is, if nothing else, a political event. In all my experience of the Church, I have never known an absence of conflict and controversy. As conflict within the Episcopal Church has boiled over during the last decade, voices on all sides have asked in anguished frustration, “Why can’t we move beyond this and get 64 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed back to the actual mission of the Church?” We often work from an implied assumption that political processes—advocacy, resolutions, motions, substitutes, amendments, debate, votes, and the like— are sub-Christian, sullied by ulterior motives and selfish ambition. Moreover, there is also an implied assumption that controversy is a sign of failure, a tragic interruption to the Church’s life. In the early centuries of Christianity, there were those who, while affirming the full divinity of Christ, would not affirm His full humanity. They admitted that Jesus looked like a human being, but it was an illusion. They might have said, speaking symbolically, that He never actually got any dirt between His toes as He walked the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea in sandals. To have dirty feet would not befit one who is God. Of course, such views were eventually declared to be heresy, and the full humanity of Jesus was proclaimed as orthodox Christian teaching. If there’s no dirt between His toes, then the Incarnation is incomplete. The Church is, in a sense, an extension of the Incarnation—that’s why it’s called the “Body of Christ.” Controversy and political processes make up the “dirt between the toes” of the Body of Christ, the dirt that proves the reality of who we are. Yes, dirt can be uncomfortable. The Incarnation is a constantly challenging belief. It’s a very messy idea. But there it is, nonetheless. If we love Jesus, we love His Body. And if we love His Body, we love the dirt between His toes, even when that dirt comes to us in the form of annual meetings and diocesan conventions and all the trappings of vigorous debate. It doesn’t mean something is wrong. It means we’re being who we are. The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us. The Right Reverend Daniel H. Martins, MDiv ’89, DD ’11 Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Nashotah House Theological Seminary Meditation Twenty Three 65 Christmas Day Meditation Meditation Twenty Four Christmas Day Lectionary Psalm 97 Isaiah 62:6-12 Titus 3:4-7 Luke 2:(1-7)8-20 There is something wonderful about the birth of a child. Many of us have been present, either at the actual birth, or shortly afterwards when, after a long and painful labor, the baby rests on the mother’s breast. Birth always comes as a miracle to parents, and none more so than the birth we celebrate today. Today’s Gospel reading tells us that the shepherds said to one another: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened!” (Luke 2:15 TJB) But what did they see? Not a lot—but it was enough to realize that they were standing on holy ground. Timothy Dudley-Smith, poet and hymn writer, puts it this way: Infant hands in a mother’s hands, for none but Mary may understand Whose are the hands and the fingers curled But His who fashioned and made our world; And through these hands in the hour of death Nails shall strike to the wood beneath. How do we move from beyond “seeing” to “understanding” what the Nativity of the Lord means? For most of us in the West, we cannot 66 The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed comprehend that the birth of Jesus directly affects you and me. This is surely wrong. I have long been attracted by the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which sees in the birth of Jesus the new birth that comes to Christians when we submit to Him. St. Athanasius put it so beautifully, “He became what we are, so that we might become what He is.” There is a direct correlation between Jesus’ birth, from a humble and poor mother, and our Christian existence. John Newman put it this way: “Whatever our future hopes, our present concern is to live ourselves into the Living Christ.” How do we ourselves live into the Living Christ? We become what He is when we live the Incarnational way. Now. Each day. Today’s decisions will determine tomorrow’s behavior. We cannot become infants in any literal sense, but the mother’s obedience and the child’s profound love can become our inspiration to live Incarnationally. A hymn in the Eastern Orthodox Church associated with today: Today is the beginning of our salvation, And the revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace. Together with Him let us cry to the Theotokos (Mary): “Rejoice, O Full of grace, the Lord is with you!” And don’t forget – those “infant” fingers also continue to curl around us. The Right Reverend and Right Honorable The Lord Carey of Clifton, DD ’11 Newbury, England Meditation Twenty Four 67 nashotah.edu give.nashotah.edu