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...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 Š 2013 Nashotah House Theological Seminary All Rights Reserved Published 2013 by Nashotah House


contents

Acknowledgements

9

Introduction

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First Sunday of Advent Meditation One

The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr.

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Meditation Two

The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore

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Meditation Three

The Reverend Shane Gormley

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Meditation Four

Mr. Walt Born

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Meditation Five

The Reverend Michael Godderz

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Meditation Six

The Reverend T.L. Holtzen, PhD

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Meditation Seven

The Reverend Gary B. Manning

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Second Sunday of Advent Meditation Eight

The Reverend Dr. Calvin Lane

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Meditation Nine

The Reverend Clinton Wilson

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Meditation Ten

Mr. Travis Bott

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Meditation Eleven

The Venerable Edward B. Fuller

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Meditation Twelve

The Reverend Stephen Hilgendorf

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Meditation Thirteen

The Reverend N.J.A. Humphrey

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Meditation Fourteen

Ms Phoebe Pettingell

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Third Sunday of Advent Meditation Fifteen

The Right Reverend Michael E. Marshall 46

Meditation Sixteen

The Reverend John Alexander

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Meditation Seventeen

The Reverend R. Leigh Spruill

50

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Meditation Eighteen

The Reverend William Patrick Edwards

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Meditation Nineteen

The Reverend Dr. Marie T. Gray

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Meditation Twenty

The Reverend Noah Soares Lawson

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Meditation Twenty One

The Reverend Meghan Farr

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Fourth Sunday of Advent Meditation Twenty Two

The Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali

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Meditation Twenty Three

The Reverend Ed Kelaher

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The Right Reverend Daniel H. Martins

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Christmas Eve Meditation Meditation Twenty Four

Christmas Day Meditation Meditation Twenty Five

The Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt 68

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Acknowledgements Once again, we are grateful to those who have contributed to the vision and task of the second edition 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 the Reverend Charleston Wilson—thank you for your work in communicating with all of our writers. To my wife, Bliss Lemmon, who once again designed a beautiful meditation. To Jordan Robinson—thank you being the mainstay that held us together throughout the process. To LaRae Baumann—thank you for your persistence in finding the means to make this devotional possible. We have a truly wonderful and diligent staff at Nashotah House working to bless students and alumni. And to all of the contributors—thank you for your willingness to take the time to guide us through this Advent season. May you be blessed by the richness of thought you find from the pages of this meditation. As Father Alfred Delp (1907-1945) suggested, “Let us be patient and wait, wait with Advent readiness for the moment when it pleases God to appear in our night too, as the fruit and mystery of this time … light your candles quietly, such candles as you possess, wherever you are.” Join us here at the House as we journey through Advent together. Mr. Ryan T. Boettcher Editor

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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 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 instead seek quick fulfillment in self-affirmation and worldly success. Of course, these worldly pursuits fade over time and leave us unfulfilled our original quest: waiting for joy. 12


Concerning joy, C.S. Lewis wrote in his semi-autobiographical book, Surprised by Joy that he was both shocked and satisfied to learn that his expectations could be completely fulfilled in the person of the Incarnate Jesus Christ. Lewis learned 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 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—professors and seminarians, alumni, trustees and friends. We are blessed by many friends throughout the Church—they make what we do possible. Their work is completely their own, reflecting their 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. For the second time, we offer this Book of Meditations to you in thanksgiving for 170 years of raising up a faithful priesthood for the Church. We offer these so that your Advent may be a holy one and that your Christmas may be 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. Dean and President, Nashotah House Theological Seminary 13


WEEK ONE


First Sunday of Advent

Meditation One Eucharistic Lectionary Psalm 122 Isaiah 2:1-5 Romans 13:8-14 Matthew 24:37-44

Today, many read Matthew 24:36-44 in the context of the second coming of Jesus. Earlier, when the disciples had pointed out the magnificence of the Temple to Jesus, He warned them of the Temple’s coming destruction. Jesus taught them that He, not the Temple, was the real center of God’s healing and restorative work. Questions that arise in Matthew 24 include, When will the Temple be destroyed? When will Jesus be seen as the Messiah? When will this present age come to an end? Matthew believes that the book of David speaks of these things and that the disciples need to be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. His coming on the clouds of Heaven will be an upward movement, not a return. It will be His real vindication over the world and the Temple—which had come to symbolize Israel’s falling away from God. That terrible time did come. Within a generation, the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD, suddenly among Jesus’ followers, life had been lived as usual until it happened. Families were divided, many lives were lost. What does it mean to be prepared? It is fundamentally not about mitigating or preventing destructive circumstances, which 16


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is often impossible. I think of my good friend, Mounir Anis, Bishop of Egypt, for whom I pray daily. Christians in Egypt are under the threat of death. The nation is in turmoil. Bishop Anis’ preparedness is the strength that comes from his relationship with Jesus Christ. In that relationship, he is connected to a love that will not let him go. Romans 8:35; 38-39 reminds us: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or danger or sword? ... For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. I also think of my grandmother, who was one of several people who blessed me profoundly by her love for me. While my father was still a young child, my grandmother lost her husband, her father, and her daughter in a year’s time, all the while experiencing some financial adversity. The love of God prepared and sustained her. She raised my father and took care of two of her sisters. She was at the early Eucharist every Sunday. She believed that in the reception of the sacrament that Christ dwelt in her and she in Him. It was that love that blessed me and so many others. Advent tells us to be prepared. Be prepared for any adversity. And be prepared for our Lord’s return when God remakes the entire world. Being prepared is to be in a living relationship with the living God who was born in a stable, mounted the arms of the cross and defeated the powers of death. Dwell in that love. The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr. Dean and President, Nashotah House Theological Seminary

Meditation One

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Meditation Two Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 1, 2, 3; Amos 2:6-16 Evening: Psalms 4, 7; 2 Peter 1:1-11; Matthew 21:1-11

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self- control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 1:5-9). As someone who was trained as an engineer and as a father of two children who were Christmas junkies, I have learned, often the hard way, to follow instructions. Anyone who has experienced the Christmas rush of assembling toys understands what I mean. Many of us know the anxiety of hearing the old saying: “When all else fails, follow the instructions.” I have worked with church leadership and development for nearly 30 years. One of the pieces of advice I give, especially to vestries, is: “Always do ‘A’ before ‘B’ before ‘C.’” As modern humans, we often have a tendency to jump to the end. Advent can be a time when we are easily tempted to jump to the end. Christmas is so wonderful—the lights, the spirit, and the food. It is all too good to pass up. Advent, however, is a call to 18


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be firmly anchored in the “now” while we look forward. It is a time of expectation and joyful preparation. Advent focuses not only on the coming of Christ into our lives, but on us and how prepared we are for that arrival. The passage above from Second Peter encourages us to spend time considering those things in the Christian life that lead to effectiveness and fruitfulness. What better theme for a season of preparation. The question is: preparing for what? Christmas? Eternity? Advent is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on our Christian pilgrimage, our personal walk to Bethlehem. Where do we find ourselves on the road to fruitfulness as God’s children? God accepts each of us where we are, but He then calls us to a life of holiness. I start each Advent with a simple question: If I didn’t wear a collar each day, would anyone imagine that I am striving to live a life of holiness? It helps set the four-week course for me. Where do we begin? As always, we begin at the beginning—where we are. We look at our relationship with the living Lord and see it as it actually is, and then we commit to transforming it. And with Advent, we have four weeks to practice being the person God is calling us to be. The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, ’77 Assistant Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Meditation Two

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Meditation Three Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 5, 6; Amos 3:1-11 Evening: Psalms 10, 11; 2 Peter 1:12-21; Matthew 21:12-22

The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?” Amos 3:8 In his book, Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton wrote of the paradoxical nature of the Christian faith. Christian theology has the task of “combining furious opposites by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious.” Foremost of the paradoxes of Christianity, beyond mercy and judgment, above being both justified and a sinner at the same time, is that which we prepare for during Advent and which we rejoice in at Christmas—the Incarnation. The Divine is born human, “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” In St. John’s words, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Jesus Christ the invisible was made visible. The uncontainable was contained. The unspeakable was spoken. John’s Gospel articulates these paradoxes and more. Many may suppose that such seemingly contradictory statements may prove the foolishness of Christianity and its Lord, the folly of the Gospel and its followers. Is a paradox meant to be solved? To do so would be to strip the Incarnation of its fullness and to adulterate the Gospel. As Oliver O’Donovan, Professor of Christian Ethics 20


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and Practical Theology at the School of Divinity, New College, Edinburgh, writes: “Without the proper tension between the transcendence and the incarnate nearness of God, there simply can be no Gospel at all.” (On the Thirty-Nine Articles, 14) The paradox is not to be solved. Rather, the paradox is to be lived. It is to be embraced so that it embraces us. The Incarnation shows us the relationship we are to enter, the family into which we have been adopted as sons and daughters. The Incarnation is the action which God himself has taken for us. “The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?” Jesus Christ has become for us the Lion we fear, but also the Lamb we worship. The cry of the babe born in the manger is both the roar of the Lion and the bleat of the Lamb. God has spoken and called us to turn our hearts to Him and Him alone, from Crèche to Cross to unfading Crown. The beauty of the Lion and Lamb paradox is not that the Lion has become Lamb-like. “That,” Chesterton wrote, “is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is —Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain His royal ferocity? That is the problem the church has attempted; that is the miracle She has achieved.” The Incarnation shows us both the power and humility of our God, the measure of what He is able to endure and the extent to which He is willing to reach—God for us, and God with us. Embrace the Incarnation this season, and live into the paradox. It will enfold you and stir you to shout, as from the mouths of babes, “Hosanna,” to the Son of David and the Son of God. The Reverend Shane Gormley, ’12 Episcopal Diocese of Albany

Meditation Three

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Meditation Four Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 119:1-24; Amos 3:12-4:5 Evening: Psalms 12, 13, 14; 2 Peter 3:1-10; Matthew 21:23-32

This is the first week in Advent, during which we put behind us the bucolic quietness of summer and the season of Pentecost, the beauty and glory of All Saints, and the majesty of the Feast of Christ the King. Advent marks the end of one church year and the beginning of another. We wait for the incarnate Christ. We wait for the resurrected Christ. Will this be the year of the parousia or do we just keep waiting? And we wait with a certain degree of bewilderment and wonder. We have to believe that Mary was at least curious. Surely, she wondered. Who exactly is this child she was carrying, and what would He be like? She knew He would be special, undoubtedly because He was God’s child. But would He be like any other child, or would He be some type of supernatural creature? And surely, she could not imagine the cruel death that He would endure. Throughout her pregnancy, Mary waited and wondered—patiently and obediently, and not without some trepidation. She knew what life was like for a young unwed woman who was with child. The Advent season parallels this waiting. Because the story is oft told, we know how it goes. Yet, each year we can barely “wait” until Advent arrives. With this season, we excitedly follow the story of Mary and Joseph. We learn Mary’s questions and optimism as she 22


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waits for the child to be born, and for her own role in the child’s birth and life to make sense. We walk that wait with her. Then there is Joseph; he too waits patiently. Together they wait. All they really want is a safe place where their son can be born. Instead they end up traveling a relatively great distance to pay taxes. On this journey, they encounter all kinds of obstacles and opportunities. They again are waiting to see what everything means, and how their encounters will affect their lives and that of their soon to be born son—the same things we wait for in anticipation of His birth. Christians have a propensity for waiting; the world has the same motivation to “get going,” and “don’t just sit there, do something.” There is clearly a time to act, but Advent is a time to wait. We wait in eager anticipation for the promise of God that is hidden in our hearts—a promise that we already enjoy in the Gospel and the Eucharist. Sometimes, we wait with patience or impatiently. And sometimes, like Mary, we wait with anxiety and fear. Prayerfully, we wait with vigilance and joy. We know what His birth meant then and we know what it has meant for us and for many others, both in history and more recently. What we continue to wait for is what Jesus’ birth and death means in our lives today and tomorrow. Ultimately, we will recognize the true reason God sent His son to us. Come, Lord Jesus. Mr. Walt Born, ’14 Seminarian, Nashotah house

Meditation Four

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Meditation Five Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Amos 4:6-13 Evening: Psalm 18:21-50; 2 Peter 3:11-18; Matthew 21:33-46

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, (2 Peter 3:11). We are a pilgrim people. This is not our final home. We are on a journey to a very different place; indeed, one that is radically so. Sometimes we remember this; many times we don’t. We often act as though the first telephone pole were the largest one, not just appearing taller because it is closest to us. So we often pay lip service to the world to come, but live as though this one here and now is all there is. Peter is direct in reminding his readers that this world we now inhabit is transitory and that we await new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. The old will pass away—all that we know, all the things we have struggled to acquire, our possessions and the security we thought they’d gained for us. But our hope is in the coming kingdom of God. It is there that we shall find restoration and wholeness. Because this is so, Peter exhorts us to live in such a way that we shall arrive at that goal. We must not lose sight of it. And we live 24


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in such as a way as to secure it. It sounds logical, simple. Yet the struggle of our spiritual lives teaches us that it is anything but easy. The whole of this transient world conspires to keep our attention focused on the here and now. It takes intention and effort to keep our eyes on that goal of God’s coming kingdom. Time-management consultants talk about the necessity of learning to distinguish the urgent from the important. If we don’t make this distinction, we will be slaves to urgent. As followers of Jesus, we too need to learn to discern the things of importance. It is of vital importance that we differentiate between this transitory world and the eternal verities, between the land of our sojourn and our true home. The prophet Amos proclaimed, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,” (Amos 6:1). What does it mean to be “at ease in Zion?” It is enjoying the good things God had given His people, the land flowing with milk and honey and all the blessings that He poured upon them, but not neglecting His commandments and ordinances. We must remember we are a pilgrim people. We must keep our eyes on that destination. And we must shape our lives so that we may obtain that which we desire. The Reverend Michael Godderz Rector, All Saints Ashmont, Boston, MA

Meditation Five

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Meditation Six Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 16, 17; Amos 5:1-17 Evening: Psalm 22; Jude 1-16; Matthew 22:1-14

The Steward of Gondor, Denethor, is a hopeless figure in J.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Denethor’s job was to defend the kingdom as steward until the king returned. Through the use of a seeing stone called a palantir, Denethor became depressed at the strength of the evil Sauron’s forces. All he could see was death and destruction all around him when war came and his first-born son, Boromir, was killed. He then ordered his only living son, Faramir, on a doomed mission to defend the White City’s outer defenses. After Faramir returned mortally wounded, Denethor tried to burn both his half-dead son and himself on a funeral pyre, like the kings of old. Denethor lost all hope in the return of the king, so he disregarded the king’s instruction, and did not live as a steward of the king. This is how we, as Christians, may sometimes feel when awaiting the return of our King. Advent rolls into Christmas, Christmas to Epiphany, Epiphany to Lent, Lent to Easter, Easter to Pentecost, and Pentecost to Advent again. Still, the King has not returned. We run the risk of the ruin of despair too, if we are not careful. However, God has shown us the way to live in hope. “Seek the Lord and ye shall live,” the prophet Amos tells us. (Amos 5:6) Despair (in Latin—acedia, meaning sloth, discouragement) is the deadly sin that drains faith of all hope. Yet hope is not had by having faith in faith. There is a sham version of hope, a hope in 26


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hope—hope in a brighter future, hope in more money, hope in a better you. Christian hope is different. Christian hope is found in seeking the King and doing His will in the midst of the joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs of this life. “Seek the Lord and ye shall live.” Like the Steward of Gondor, those in the parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22 did not seek the King amidst the cares of this world. All the invited guests were too busy—some made light of the invitation to the marriage feast, one attended to his farm, another to merchandise—so the King sent his army to destroy the invited guests. He then said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” (Matthew 22:8-9) As a result many came to the wedding feast. But one guest was found without appropriate attire. He was not dressed in wedding garments. That guest was bound “hand and foot” and “cast...into the outer darkness” where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:13) That guest was unprepared. He thought that he could come to the wedding feast just as he was, without appropriate attire. He too had not busied himself with the King’s business. God has invited all to His wedding feast. Are we too busy with the cares of this world to hear His invitation and seek Him? Do we try to call ourselves “Christian,” without the appropriate wedding garments of repentance and being clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Are we like the Steward of Gondor, who ceased to believe in the return of the King? The King is coming. Are you, servant, prepared for the Advent of the King? The Reverend T.L. Holtzen, PhD Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Nashotah House

Meditation Six

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Meditation Seven Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 20, 21:1-7; Amos 5:18-27 Evening: Psalms 110:1-5, 116, 117; Jude 17-25; Matthew 22:15-22

Last Sunday, we entered the first week of Advent by praying that God would “give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.” We end this week with a series of exhortations from the letter of Jude. This apostolic pep talk is perfect for twenty-first century folks struggling to keep the faith in the midst of a culture that can string thousands upon thousands of miles of Christmas lights and still walk in utter darkness. Jude writes, “Build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Jude 20-21) Good words. Encouraging words. Stirring words. But how? How do we attend to these actions when we are distracted by everything around us—particularly during this time of year? Keeping the faith is not a solo act. Remember Jude was writing to a community of folks. The way Christians practice these holy tasks is through our participation in a community. When we gather with our fellow parishioners, our flagging faith is strengthened. As we share our struggles and burdens with one another, we receive the blessing of Spirit-infused prayer. When we hear each other’s faith stories, we are quite literally brought faceto-face with evidence of the never-failing love of God—incarnated 28


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in our fellow follower of Jesus. As we feast upon the holy food and drink of new and unending life, our hope is nourished and our appetites whetted for the unending Feast that awaits us when we are, at last, at home with God. Tomorrow is the Second Sunday of Advent. As you gather with your community of faith, take time to give thanks for each of them. They are your sisters and brothers in this journey. They need you. You need them. Together you will keep your most holy faith. And wonder of wonders, this most holy faith will keep you! Every one of you! Forever. The Reverend Gary B. Manning Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Wauwatosa, WI Director of Field Education, Nashotah House

Meditation Seven

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WEEK TWO


Second Sunday of Advent

Meditation Eight Eucharistic Lectionary Psalm 72 Isaiah 11:1-10 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12

John stands by the Jordan River, recalling the prophet Elijah with his wild camel hair cloak and his diet of locusts, hailing that God’s deliverance—a world made new—is in the offing. He stares into each eye as the people confess their sins, as they give up all pretenses, as they welcome the grace of God that they might produce good fruit and prepare themselves for God’s sovereign and cleansing rule—the Kingdom of Heaven. But John wants to be abundantly clear about the Kingdom, particularly as he glimpses the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to see what all the fuss is about. John calls them a brood of vipers. Theirs is a deep-rooted problem and perhaps also in us. John heralds the Kingdom, one that lays mountains low and lifts up valleys. He heralds a Kingdom that respects no power or principality other than the sovereign God. These men have put their trust in lineage, relying on their rights as members of Abraham’s family. Like the threadbare aristocrats of a Faulkner novel, they are puffed up with these sorts of claims that must sound hollow even to them. Indeed we might cast an eye to all the plaques and family monuments that appear in so many of our older churches. Are the Pharisees and Sadducees so filled up with self that there isn’t any room for Christ? 32


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That is the question for them and the question for us. As we stand on tiptoe waiting for the Kingdom, is there really room for the Messiah of God in us? Or are we filled with self? Frederick Percy Harton (1889–1958) observed that many kneel at God’s altar, receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and yet show very few signs of advance in grace. In his Elements of the Spiritual Life, Harton wrote that self-centeredness creates a barrier, “for if the soul be full of self there is little room for Christ, if it has little desire, even heavenly food cannot tempt its appetite,” (208). Are we stuffed with self, focused on what will satisfy me, what will quicken my agenda, what will meet my goals? Are we so fixed on our own claims to authority and control that Christ finds no room in us? Are we full already with self? I quickly note, though, that neither John the Baptist nor Harton advocated the end of the self, but rather a reorientation, a transformation, and a sacrifice. True sacrifice, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his The Spirit of the Liturgy, has little to do with destruction or the end of self. Rather, a sacrifice means that kind of surrender to God in which we emerge from a state of “apparent autonomy, of existing only for oneself and in oneself,” (28). So we ask ourselves: are we full of self? Is there room for Him, for His rule, and His Kingdom? The Reverend Dr. Calvin Lane, FRHistS ’11 Priest-in-Charge, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, LA Affiliate Professor, Nashotah House

Meditation Eight

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Meditation Nine Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 25; Amos 7:1-9 Evening: Pslams: 9, 15; Revelation 1:1-8; Matthew 22:22-33

You know what waiting does, right? Waiting makes you uncomfortable, especially when you think that something ought to be happening. In our culture, waiting pushes against the grain of what we value. We like “go-getters” who are productive— churning out widgets here and producing high yields there—all the while remaining calm and collected, able to sit back at the end of the day with their golden retriever and cocktail in hand. Therefore, when we are forced to wait, we normally yield to two other options—activism or resignation. On the one hand, we are given to activism because the angst of our unanswered situation simply will not do. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and “make it happen,” often failing to ask if our desire to have something realized is the same as God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. If activism is not the impulse that “works,” or if we have tried it and found it wanting, then we are finally given over to resignation. We sink deeper into depression or despair, utterly convinced of our impotence or— even worse—God’s impotence. “All is vanity,” we say, as we lick our wounds and apathetically pursue nothingness. Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel often falling into these patterns. The incident of the golden calf is a perfect example 34


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of Israel failing to wait on YHWH and, instead, making “gods... who shall go before us,” (Exodus 32:1). Earlier in Genesis, at the Oaks of Mamre, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, laughed in resignation at the Lord’s pronouncement of her future child, (Genesis 18). Hopelessly, Sarah resigned herself to her barrenness and the shameful expectations and disappointments placed upon her by her culture. It is in light of such patterns that our Morning Office from the Psalter is so refreshing and helpful. The psalmist writes, “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long,” (Psalm 25:4-5). As a liturgical season, Advent is pregnant with themes of waiting. We anticipate the coming of the Child. Our anticipation becomes participation in the call to wait on the Lord. It is this same Child who will—in the fullest sense possible—allow the rest of the passage to be realized. It is Jesus who is the Way and the Truth, (John 14:6). It is He who makes known the paths of life, (Acts 2:28). Indeed, Jesus is Salvation, (Luke 1:69; 2:30; 19:9; Acts 4:12). Daily, God presents us with an opportunity to resist both the ways of activism and of resignation; instead to embody, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the way of waiting. Which is to say, the way of Advent. The Reverend Clinton Wilson, ’13 Curate, St. David of Wales Episcopal Church, Denton, TX

Meditation Nine

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Meditation Ten Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 26, 28; Amos 7:10-17 Evening: Psalms 36, 39; Revelation 1:9-16; Matthew 22:34-36

During Advent, Christians stand with the prophets of Israel waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Word. This Advent, the Daily Office Lectionary asks us to read the entire book of Amos in thirteen lessons. Year One focuses on Isaiah, but Year Two focuses on Amos. When we wait with Isaiah, we wait for those living in darkness to see a great light, (Isaiah 9:2); but when we wait with Amos, we wait for those living in light to see a great darkness, (Amos 5:18–20). Except for its final oracle in verses 1115 of Chapter 9, the book of Amos relentlessly promises divine punishment for unrepentant sinners. Both light and darkness are essential parts of Advent expectation. The Northern Kingdom of Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity in the eighth century BC. The elite lived in great luxury—but corruption and injustice supported their lifestyles. This was seen especially in the way wealthy landowners exploited poor farmers. Ironically, God chose Amos, a small-time shepherd and fig farmer from an insignificant town in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. As the prophet of the Lord, Amos condemned powerbrokers at the highest levels and predicted that God would send the Assyrians to destroy Israel. In 7:10–17, Amos clashed with Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. Amaziah attempted to intimidate Amos by reporting his words 36


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to King Jeroboam and by expelling him from the shrine: “Seer, go, flee to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom,” (Amos 7:12–13). But Amos boldly replied, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s disciple; but I was a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ” (Amos 7:14–15). A priest on the royal payroll did not intimidate God’s prophet. Amaziah made two false assumptions. First, he assumed that prophecy was simply a job for Amos and that he was willing to accept a transfer. Second, Amaziah assumed that the Temple belonged to the king and that he had the right to call the shots. Amos countered the first assumption with the idea of calling— prophetic ministry was not in his background, training, or career plan. It was solely God’s idea. Amos refuted the second assumption with an affirmation of divine sovereignty—the Temple belonged not to the king; it belonged to the One being worshipped. As we wait with Amos this Advent, we acknowledge God’s sovereign rule and calling. Worship cannot be controlled by human might. Worship is the fitting response of those who belong to the Lord. Ministry is not an occupation to pay the bills; it is God’s commission for kingdom service. Mr. Travis Bott Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Nashotah House

Meditation Ten

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Meditation Eleven Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 38; Amos 8: 1-14 Evening: Psalm 119:25-48; Revelation 1:17-2:7; Matthew 23:1-12

For years, I avoided standing in lines. I have British ancestry, both genetic and ecclesial, but standing in queues just wasn’t in my DNA. I would push my grocery cart back and forth along the checkout lanes looking for a short line, or one where the shoppers had only a few groceries. I had to hurry, don’t you see? I had much to do, many places to be. I couldn’t be bothered to wait in lines with others. Christmas shopping lines were probably the worst for me. And then one day, while reading Matthew 23:12, I realized that my unwillingness to wait patiently was really the result of exulting myself, ascribing a greater importance to what I wanted to do than what others might be about. And there it was again, as I sat down to prepare this little meditation—Matthew 23:12, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” As I think about Advent, I am aware of the many times others have asked for advice on how to quiet themselves just long enough to be reminded of the “reason for the season,” to rest just long enough to let the anticipation of Christ’s coming wash over them. They have a longing for the Divine. What they are looking for, of course, is a sense of peace in the midst of commercial and 38


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cultural turmoil. Is it the extreme busyness of the season that keeps us from living in the moment? Or is it an unwillingness to let go of our own priorities and to give ourselves over to the Ephesians’ discipline of toil and patient endurance? Is it really about just being quiet, about finding a calmness that feels good and takes us away from the anxieties of commercial Christmas? Or is it about faith and accepting Jesus as the Christ in our lives? The season of Advent is certainly about waiting—holy waiting for the coming of our Lord. But if we are to receive Him in all humility, if we are to kneel down before Him and pay Him homage, we must prepare ourselves. Humility comes with difficulty to some of us. God knows our desire for it, along with all our longing, and, as with the Psalmist, even our sighing is not hidden from God. Advent is a time to offer a long, intentional sigh from the very center of our being—a sigh that says, “Oh come Immanuel. Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.” The Venerable Edward B. Fuller, ’11 Archdeacon, The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Meditation Eleven

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Meditation Twelve Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Amos 9:1-10 Evening: Psalm 37:19-42; Revelation 2:8-17; Matthew 23:13-26

Judgment is coming. This is often the furthest thought from our minds during this season. We are accustomed to pleasant—albeit mistimed—greetings of “Merry Christmas” in the marketplace. Cheerful smiles, warm fires, and the hustle of preparations for a Norman Rockwell family holiday are the themes promoted in mercantile marketing. Judgment, even more than Advent, gets lost in the bustle of our preparations. This theme of judgment is brought to the fore in our Gospel reading today. Jesus pronounces the first five of seven woes against the Pharisees. The first two deal with relationships, (Matthew 23:13-15). On the one hand, the Pharisees stifle genuine spiritual growth. On the other they make converts, but they fashion the converts in their own image rather than in God’s image. In the third woe, the Pharisees are condemned for their casuistry regarding oaths, (Matthew 23:16-22). They swear by holy things, yet the manner in which they work around keeping their oaths shows how lightly they regard God and holy things. The last two directly address external practices of piety, (Matthew 23:23-26). These Pharisees are caught up in the minutia of ceremonial law and the appearance of holiness. Indeed, they have neglected the weightier matters of the law and inward purity. We are not so different from these Pharisees. Their problems are our problems because they are human problems. Do we hinder 40


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the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters through what we do or do not do? Do we occupy ourselves in casuistic pursuits, inventing excuses to avoid taking up our crosses or helping others who are struggling? Have we become so obsessed with the business of life or the external forms of holiness that we neglect the health of our interior life? As we take up contemplation of the Nativity, beholding in our minds’ eye the Christ Child who is very God and very Man, who shall judge all men and the world by fire, let us be mindful that God desires an authentic relationship with us. We need not “put on airs” with God. He has dwelt among us in the most vulgar setting imaginable. He knows where we live and how we live. The fancy bows and wrappings in which we attempt to conceal the dirt of our interior life will only fool us. The Day of Judgment is coming when the wrapping paper will be torn off and the secrets of our years will be exposed. In this season of Advent, let us examine ourselves, repent of our sins, and beseech God for the grace to persevere in the life of faith. Let us “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life.” Then, at the Last we might be found a victorious people worthy of the “hidden manna,” (Revelation 2:17), who is Christ our Lord. Amen. The Reverend Stephen Hilgendorf, ’14 Seminarian, Nashotah House

Meditation Twelve

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Meditation Thirteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 31; Haggai 1:1-15 Evening: Psalm 35; Revelation 2:18-29; Matthew 23:27-39

The mystery of the Incarnation is that, in Christ Jesus, God took on human flesh, becoming a full human being. According to Scripture, this kenosis, or self-emptying, extended even to His outward appearance. Isaiah 53:2b tells us that the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, “had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” Jesus of Nazareth was not beautiful. His human flesh was ordinary skin and bone. He was not a superhero with amazing physical strength. He did not have the stunning appearance of a Greek or Roman god. Jesus simply did not look divine, or even particularly righteous. In fact, in this morning’s Daily Office reading from Matthew, chapter 23, Jesus warns us against those who do look righteous on the outside, but whose own humanity has been corrupted by sin: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but on the inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness, (Matthew 23:27-28). 42


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That last word must have stung—lawlessness. The scribes and the Pharisees considered themselves—and were considered by others— the paragons and arbiters of what was lawful. They demonstrated this in their accusations against Jesus. Among other things, they found fault that this ordinary-looking rabbi ate with “sinners” and healed on the Sabbath. No matter how good the scribes and the Pharisees looked on the outside, no matter how beautiful their piety, their beauty could not compare with that of the Incarnate Lord, who in His ordinary flesh touched and healed others who were just as ordinary-looking as He was, including those whose lot in life had left them physically deformed or worn down by poverty. By His action, Jesus did beautiful and righteous things, rather than just saying them. What matters most is not the beauty of our language or our liturgy, but our actions—only insofar as these actions imitate those of our ordinary, yet beautiful, Incarnate Lord. For the beauty of the Incarnation is more than skin-deep. And our actions this Advent must reflect and glorify that ordinary beauty above all else. The Reverend N.J.A. Humphrey Vicar, St. John the Evangelist, Newport, RI

Meditation Thirteen

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Meditation Fourteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 30, 32; Haggai 2:1-19 Evening: Psalms 42, 43; Revelation 3:1-6; Matthew 24:1-14

Advent focuses on beginnings and endings. The Office Readings for today not only prepare us for when we again celebrate Jesus’ birth, but also remind us of “the last and dreadful day, when earth and heaven shall melt away,” (Hosanna to the Living Lord, Hymn #486) and Christ returns as our Lord and Judge. Today’s texts can be read as calls to remove the parts of our spiritual lives that have become stagnant, so that we may renew and strengthen our life of discipleship. God tells Haggai to speak to “the remnant of the people” in Jerusalem and their leaders, to remind them of the destruction that came upon them through their falling away, and their people’s exile in Babylon. Yet Haggai exhorts them to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, so that its former glory may be restored. In the end, God promises to bless them, (Haggai 2:19). Out of a bad ending will come a new opportunity to rebuild God’s house and to learn His ways. From Revelation, we hear the harsh rebuke to the church in Sardis: “You have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death...remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent,” (Revelation 3:1-3). If our time is short and we are ready to welcome the heavenly Jerusalem, we must make Christ’s will 44


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the law of our conduct; His love the motive of our actions; and His life the model and mode of our own. This is the promised opportunity for renewal. In the passage from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus foretells yet another destruction of the Temple, and warns His disciples of the signs of the end of the age: And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come, (Matthew 24:12-14). However dire the wars, rumors of wars, persecutions, famines and earthquakes sound to our fearful imaginations, they are but “the beginning of the birth pangs.” If Christmas is to be fresh for us each year, rather than an exercise in nostalgia, we must renew ourselves each Advent by examination. Do we rebuild a house within us where the glory of God may be the chief end of our lives? Do we repent our falling away, turning back to Him? While we wait for His coming, there is time to implore Him to help us become fully the people He created us to be. For He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the Child in the stable who, though God, took our life upon Himself. And He is our heavenly Lord who has prepared a place for His followers in His company forever.

Ms. Phoebe Pettingell Providence, RI

Meditation Fourteen

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WEEK THREE

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Third Sunday of Advent

Meditation Fifteen Eucharistic Lectionary Psalm 146 Isaiah 35:1-10 James 5:7-10 Matthew 11:2-11

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet, he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven, is greater than he,”
(Matthew 11:11). John the Baptist preached his message in the wilderness and that desert in the southern stretches of the muddy river Jordan, near the Dead Sea—not exactly the place your tourist agent would recommend for a gentle and relaxing vacation. Yet such was the chosen place for making a new start. “Repent,” he repeatedly shouted—a key word in John’s Advent proclamation. Shortly afterwards, Jesus came into Galilee, a very different terrain—fertile, green and fruitful, quite the opposite of the wilderness. Yet Jesus preached what at first appears to be a very similar message. Central to both the message of John and of Jesus was that same word—repent. The contrast between John the Baptist and his cousin Jesus of Nazareth went beyond where they preached. In dress, in eating habits, in the company they kept and in most of their preaching, they could not have been more different. There was a world of difference between the demands of a religion of law and the invitation to a relationship of love. Yet repentance, properly understood, constitutes a passport to 48


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both. Jesus set that same word, “repent,” in the fuller context of His message. “The time is fulfilled,’’ He said. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent.” But He didn’t stop there; he went on, “Believe and trust in the Gospel.” Don’t believe and trust in something—the Law. Never put your ultimate trust in any one thing. But rather put your trust in somebody—in Jesus. He is the Word made flesh, who fulfilled the Law in the good news of His Gospel. Jesus is both the medium and the message, a message found beyond written or spoken words. The good news is Jesus, God’s last and final word to the human race. Jesus showed us God’s way of being truly and fully human. John was the last and greatest of the prophets, but prophecy can take us only so far. Jesus, who is “the Way,” takes us all the way from Law to Love. The Gospel of love is no easy option. We rightly speak of the fire of love. The fire of love warms, yes, but it also burns and purges away the dross of counterfeit behavior. Therefore, we judge ourselves in the light of our response to that love—whether it’s a response of indifference, total rejection, or loving acceptance. In that sense, every day is a day of judgment, demanding that we drop our defenses, come out from behind all of our socially acceptable barricades of religious and respectable behaviors and, like Mary, take God at His word. So that Jesus can be formed in us. Of course, denial runs deep in all of us—which is why God sometimes needs to use battering rams, like a John the Baptist, to give us the wake up call of Advent. The Right Reverend Michael E. Marshall Bishop of Woolwich, England (ret.)

Meditation Fifteen

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Meditation Sixteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 41, 52; Zechariah 1:7-17 Evening: Psalm 44; Revelation 3:7-13; Matthew 24:15-31

The Season of Advent asks us to examine our relationship as Christians with time—the past, the present, and the future. The secular world offers us two basic orientations to time: optimism and pessimism. The optimistic view is characteristic of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and the nineteenth-century liberal faith in progress. The view assumes the past as a time dominated by ignorance, disease, poverty, and war, and the future as a time when new advances in education, medicine, science, and technology—already under way in the present—will make the world a safer, healthier, happier, and more peaceful place. The pessimistic view is characteristic of the twentieth and, thus far, the twenty-first centuries. The view sees events and people daily getting worse, with the future portending global catastrophe induced by environmental degradation, climate change, overpopulation, famines, pandemics, and wars fought with weapons of mass destruction. The Christian worldview incorporates aspects of both perspectives; yet because of our hope given to us by Jesus Christ, it transcends them. The precise meanings of many of the apocalyptic passages in Scripture remain mysterious; however they clearly point to tribulation on a cosmic scale, “such as has 50


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not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be,” (Matthew 24:21). We stand warned—things will get worse before they get better. Christians are not pessimists. We look to the future with hope, because it is there that we shall meet the Lord, “the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” (Matthew 24:30). The Christian view of time engages not only the future, but also the past and the present. We look forward in hope to our Lord’s return because we believe that He has visited us once already. He has visited us in the flesh, in a particular time and place, 2,000 years ago in Palestine. To read the Scriptures is to be confronted with God’s saving actions in the past. In the sacred history of His chosen people, we find the hope found in the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. This encounter with the Word of God lays the foundation of our faith. The same Lord who came among us in Bethlehem, and who will return as our King at the end of the age, is also among us in the present—in the here and now. We encounter Him in the liturgy and Sacraments of the Church, in the silence of prayer and contemplation, and in the faces of His people, especially of His poor whom He bids us serve as Himself. In all these ways He builds us up in the love of God and our neighbor. So contemplation of these three Advents of the Lord— past, future, and present—elicits growth in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Thus are we drawn ever closer to the one Lord, Jesus Christ, who is “the same yesterday and today and for ever,” (Hebrews 13:8). The Reverend John Alexander, ’04 Rector, St. Stephen’s Church, Providence, RI

Meditation Sixteen

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Meditation Seventeen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 45; Zechariah 2:1-13 Evening: Psalms 47, 48; Revelation 3:14-22; Matthew 24:32-44

What should thoughtful Christians make of the fact that gift cards are now Americans’ most popular Christmas present? According to consumer surveys, holiday gift cards have become the alternative to traditional gift giving. The cards are more desired than clothing, jewelry, and electronic devices. Michael J. Sandel examines the rise of gift cards among other economic trends in his book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. He writes that gift giving makes little sense from a purely economic perspective, “If you assume that people generally know their own preferences best, and that the point of a giving a gift is to make your friend or loved one happy, then it’s hard to beat a monetary payment.” (99) The giving of gifts is not a rational social practice. As we have experienced, there is often a gap between the value we assign to the $120 argyle sweater our aunt gave us for Christmas and what we might have done with $120 in cash. Why not give a gift that lets the recipient purchase what he or she really wants? This is the logic behind monetary gift cards. Yet Mr. Sandel rightly bemoans how gift cards represent a cultural distortion of what a gift really is. Christians shouldn’t require an economist to remind us that real gifts are not primarily measured in their utilitarian value or as means to satisfy personal preferences. A 52


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true gift is an expression of a valued relationship, of love and friendship and shared identity. At its essence, a gift is unearned and undeserved. The result of assigning monetary value to a gift to satisfy a personal preference is to corrupt that gift. I have always wondered what precisely the early Christians in Laodicea were doing that warranted the harshest rebuke of all the churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Neither hot nor cold, believers in Laodicea seem to have lapsed into a lukewarm, utilitarian experience of life, “For you say I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked,” (Revelation 3:17). How do such people monetize the gift of salvation? Could it be that over time God’s people can overlook the perilousness of Christmas, failing to perceive the spiritual danger of being more focused on receiving the right gifts than on receiving the One gift in the right way? As an unearned and undeserved expression of how preciously God regards His relationship with us? Our life in Christ has nothing to do with our riches and prosperity. It has everything to do with accepting that we are nothing, save the grace and mercy of God as given in Jesus. He is not a present we would have thought to purchase for ourselves in a million years. Beyond all utilitarian value and yet the only gift we all truly need, the coming of Jesus is an extravagant expression of incalculable Love. The Word made flesh demonstrates God’s regard for us, and our world is anything but lukewarm; let our reception of Him never be lukewarm either. The Reverend R. Leigh Spruill Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, TN

Meditation Seventeen

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Meditation Eighteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 119:49-72; Zechariah 3:1-10 Evening: Psalm 49; Revelation 4:1-8; Matthew 24:45-51

Behold, I have taken away your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments, (Zechariah 3:4). The image of Zechariah, or as he is called here, Joshua, standing filthy before the Angel of YHWH as a defendant in the courtroom dock, is one that should strike the Christian. Before the great Judge Jesus Christ, we are without defense when our enemies and accusers declare our unworthiness and sins for us. We have no virtue to recommend us to service in the priesthood of all believers. We are a branch plucked from the fires of retribution and punishment, not daughters and sons of the Most High God. Left to our own merits, we can only stand mute beside our accusers awaiting justice to be meted out to us. But our Lord and Divine Judge, like the Pantocrator icons of Sinai and elsewhere, has two aspects. He is both our dread judge, mighty and pure, who has been given authority to sentence both heaven and earth; and He is also our Redeemer, the source of our everlasting Grace. Though we are worthy of malediction and curses, we are redeemed and blessed by Christ. His hands remove our filthy rags, black with our sins and failures, from us, and we are given 54


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the benediction of new life, a return to purpose. We are clothed, not as slaves in the Master’s house, but as His officials. We are elevated to stewards in the Kingdom of God. His promise for us is that, should we walk in His ways, all of creation will be opened for our enjoyment and our work. Advent is a season that, like the Pantocrator, has two aspects. We anticipate both the yearly remembrance of the Incarnation in His first coming in Bethlehem, as well as anticipating His second coming as our Judge and Redeemer. Likewise, our redemption and renewed service goes beyond merely our own benefit. It is also meant to stand as a sign to the world of the emerging Kingdom of God first found in the Bethlehem manger. Our redemption and adoption, our exercising of God’s ministry in His Name, declare the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at work in a world awaiting His second coming. As we live into the emerging eschaton that marks our lives here on earth, we declare and manifest Christ’s Incarnation. The Incarnation that is the emerging Kingdom of God is communal. We meet together under new branches and vines. Not ones meant for the fires of punishment, but those of peace and repose. The Kingdom is an invitation to embody the Incarnation in an inviting communion with each other. We are both welcomed by Christ and welcoming of each other into the peace and repose of God’s ongoing and blossoming redemption of the World. The Reverend William Patrick Edwards, ’11 Priest-in-Charge, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, LA

Meditation Eighteen

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Meditation Nineteen Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 50; Zechariah 4:1-14 Evening: Psalms 59, 60; Revelation 4:9-5:5; Matthew 25:1-13

But Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour, (Matthew 25:12-13). The Parable of the Ten Maidens emphasizes the need for watchfulness (25:13). The storyline centers on a Jewish marital custom. Following the period of betrothal, the groom leads a procession to bring his new wife to their home, where they celebrate a weeklong banquet with family and friends. Here the bridegroom arrives to begin the joyous procession and take his wife to the marriage feast. Unprepared and without oil, the foolish maidens are excluded from the celebration while the wise fully participate. Likewise, Christians are called to be spiritually prepared—the moment Jesus brings judgment on Jerusalem is unknown, as is the time of His Second Coming as Judge. Morally awaiting the bridegroom signifies one’s uncertain life span—no one knows the hour of his or her death and judgment. The lamp is Christian faith, while the oil represents our offering to God. Souls must prepare for their personal encounter with Christ the bridegroom by loving God and neighbor, since those who do not offer themselves to God will be shut out of heaven’s banquet. For most of us, much of the holiday season is spent getting ready. We decorate the house, buy presents, plan family gatherings, 56


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and arrange dates to visit friends. Far from being a distraction from our keeping of Advent, these preparations can remind us that Advent is meant precisely to be a time for preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas. We find there is plenty of preparing to be done in our hearts while we are doing our other holiday preparations. Getting our homes ready for Christmas becomes an outward sign of the true, but invisible, work of Advent—the preparation of the heart. So how do we prepare our hearts? By repenting those things we do that separate us from the love of God in Christ. Let us have a relationship with God through worship, prayer, and seeking God’s will in listening for His voice. If we put the building of the Kingdom of God first in our lives, if we live our lives like we are God’s servants every day, not trying to build ourselves up in the eyes of others, but rather giving all that we have to the glory of God’s Kingdom, we will live lives of readiness and preparedness. God is doing much of the preparation we find in the Bible, whether preparing a land for the Chosen People or a heavenly banquet on Mount Zion. All our holiday preparations—the shopping, the housecleaning, the decorating, the cooking and card-writing—besides reminding us to prepare our hearts, serve as pale reflections of the preparations that God is making to welcome us one day into the Kingdom that is being announced during Advent. Ask Jesus to help you this Advent to prepare His way. Let us always be watchful, for we know neither the day nor the hour of His coming. The Reverend Dr. Marie T. Gray, ’07, ’13 Priest-in-Charge, St. Paul’s, Plymouth, WI

Meditation Nineteen

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Meditation Twenty Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 40, 54; Zechariah 7:8-8:8 Evening: Psalm 51; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 25:14-30

What is Advent about anyway? Many think the Church season is awkward and out of place. Most Christians sometimes get creative to explain what’s going on over these four weeks: lighting four candles in a wreath, seasonal colors of purple and pink. And there are the themes of judgment, glory, power, and the second coming of Jesus. Confusion is understandable, given the atmosphere of Christmas that is already upon us. Since the beginning of November, Christmas trees been decorated, lights have been hung, manger scenes have been displayed, Christmas carols are being played hourly on the radio, and shopping for gifts has already begun. This is all very different from the themes of judgment, glory, power, and second coming. Some may also wonder, if Christmas is about Jesus’ first coming then is Advent a season about His second coming? Is this out of place right before Christmas? In fact it is perfectly placed. Advent calls Christians to a renewed focus on the Church’s prophetic mandate to prepare the way of the Lord by the juxtaposition of His first coming with His second coming. The Prophesy of Zachariah lays out the purpose and destiny of John the Baptist, the messenger of Jesus. Note the elements of 58


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the prophecy found in Luke 1, to “go in the forgiveness of their sins,” and to “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace,” (Luke 1:76-79). John the Baptist’s mission was to act as a herald to announce and as an ambassador to represent. John was a prophet who proclaimed the inauguration of the Kingdom and dominion of God. The consequences of which are significant—favor from God, redemption from sin, and salvation from our enemies. No longer living in darkness and condemned to death, people came to know peace, life, and light. As disciples of Jesus, we must take up the prophetic mantel of John the Baptist. We are to act as heralds and announce, to act as ambassadors and represent, and to act as prophets to proclaim the Kingdom and dominion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Advent is about the Church doing the work of the Kingdom, fulfilling the Gospel mandate to make disciples, and calling people to repentance and into relationship with God. The third verse of “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” speaks to this work, “To heal the sick stretch out Thine hand, And bid the fallen sinner stand; Shine forth and let thy light restore Earth’s own true loveliness once more.” In this season of Advent, while preparing for our Lord’s second coming, and in preparation for the high feast of the Incarnation, His first coming, let us be about the work of the Kingdom—allowing Jesus through us to stretch out His hand, to bid the fallen sinner stand, and to shine forth and restore all of creation to loveliness once more. The Reverend Noah Soares Lawson, ’14 Seminarian, Nashotah House

Meditation Twenty

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Meditation Twenty One Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalm 55; Zechariah 8:9-17 Evening: Psalms 138, 139:1-17; Revelation 6: 1-17; Matthew 25:31-46

One of our favorite family traditions during the holidays is to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol—the classic Charles Dickens’ story of Ebenezer Scrooge retold with the humor of lovable Muppets. This musical version has memorable songs I often find myself singing. One of the songs, “It Feels Like Christmas,” contains this chorus, “It is the season of the heart, a special time of caring. The ways of love made clear, it is the season of the spirit. The message, if we hear it, is make it last all year.” This is the lesson Scrooge is challenged to learn—not only to find the Christmas “spirit,” that of being loving, caring, kind, and generous, but to keep that spirit the whole year through. This is the time of year people want to serve others. Soup kitchens are full of volunteers, money clinks into Salvation Army kettles, and Toys for Tots boxes are filled. What about the other eleven months of the year? As Christians, we know we are called to more. We are called to acts of daily love and mercy. Jesus’ lesson in today’s Gospel reading is an acute reminder of this fact. In Advent, we expect and prepare for the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ the Messiah. We also expect and prepare for Christ’s second coming when “all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,” (Matthew 25:31-32). We will be separated and we will be judged. 60


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Jesus tells us exactly what evidence He will use. The Incarnation means that Christ is among us. He is among us in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. The evidence Jesus will look for is our faith and love of Him reflected in our love and care for the least of these, not just in this season, but at all times. When asked about giving alms, C.S. Lewis answered, “It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been ‘had for a sucker’ by any number of impostors; but it would be a torment to know that I had refused even one person in need. After all, the parable of the sheep and goats makes our duty perfectly plain, doesn’t it?” (Letters to an American Lady, 108) “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,” (Matthew 25:4546). Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, 826) The Reverend Meghan Farr, ’13 Curate, Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, Gladstone, NJ

Meditation Twenty One

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WEEK FOUR

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Meditation Twenty Two Eucharistic Lectionary Psalm 24 Isaiah 7:10-17 Romans 1:1-7 Matthew 1:18-25

In teaching His followers about the expected presence and work of the Holy Spirit, when He had gone to the Father, Jesus said, “A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me,” (John 16:16). The Spirit is constantly witnessing to the world of God’s justice, of the world’s wrongness and of how, because of Christ’s work on our behalf, it can be put right again, (John 16:8-10). It is by the prompting of the Spirit that we can respond in faith and have peace with God. It is by the Spirit that we can enjoy the intimacy with the Father that Jesus did, even to be able to call him “Abba,” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit enables us to live the Christian life with its joys and sorrows, opportunities and obstacles, suffering, and celebration. Just as the Spirit helps us to be faithful in the varied circumstances of our times, so also the Spirit is the reason for our hope in the future, as we are oriented towards Christ—He is our hope, not only because all things have come to be through Him, as God’s eternal Word, and not only because He has stood in our place, taken away the sin of the world and restored us to friendship with God, but because God is summing up all the purpose of His 64


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creation in Him, (Ephesians 1:10). All of creation has been made not only through Him but for Him, (Colossians 1:16). As we eagerly expect the completed consummation and transformation of creation in Christ, we remember this is the work of Spirit. From first to last, this is the work of the Son. From first to last, this is the work of the Father. To the only wise God, our Savior, be almighty, majesty, dominion and power, now and always. Amen. Maranatha! The Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, ’10 President, Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy & Dialogue

Meditation Twenty Two

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Meditation Twenty Three Daily Office Readings Morning: Psalms 61, 62; Zephaniah 3:14-20 Evening: Psalms 112, 115; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25

Advent is almost fully spent. Our souls have ached in hunger for the appearance of the Bread of Life. Our Advent meditations reveal that we have been feeding our craving souls from a mixed menu, often tainted by doubtful spiritual nourishment and questionable wholesomeness. Just as we have betrayed our bodies with the manmade processed foods of our culture, we have betrayed our souls with the manmade spirituality of the world. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas promises a remedial heavenly banquet of nutritious spiritual purity. In response, our souls tremble in expectant joy— not only because Jesus now abides with and nourishes us in our everyday lives, but also because He comes to save us and bring us the eternal life celebrated by Paul in Titus 1:2. The satisfaction of our souls’ daily hunger pangs for Jesus is overwhelmingly paired with His overarching gift of eternal life—a merry Christmas indeed. Eternal life has already begun for each of us. Psalm 139 teaches that eternal life began for us at conception, as God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. That same eternal life continues throughout our earthly walk and transcends our bodily deaths into the future eternity. We can speak of a “future eternity” because the fullness of eternity goes backward as far as it goes forward. God has no beginning and no end. Thus, Jesus 66


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did not begin His life at His human Christmas birth. As part of God the Holy Trinity, He always has been, is now, and always shall be. What changed at Christmas was His taking on flesh, His taking on human form to be among us, fully Man and fully God. How Jesus could be fully God and Man simultaneously is incomprehensible to the mere workings of the human mind. The Incarnation is a “mystery,” something we would never have imagined had it not been revealed to us by God in the Holy Scriptures. In all this marvelous expectancy of Jesus, together with His gifts of spiritual nourishment and eternal life, Psalm 62 speaks for us, perhaps where we cannot speak for ourselves: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” Advent is almost fully spent. The time is upon us to embrace once more our Lord’s human, bodily appearance among us. Our last chance at repentant preparation is now! Jesus alone is to be the object of our souls’ affections and all else is to be cast out and dismissed with prejudice. What good mother knowing her baby’s need for pure nutrition would unnecessarily allow diluted, impure or contaminated milk? We are called to cease the tainted and negligent malnourishment of our souls and instead solely yearn for and partake of the Bread of Life as Advent becomes Christmas. The Reverend Ed Kelaher Rector, All Saints Church, Chevy Chase, MD

Meditation Twenty Three

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Christmas Eve Meditation

Meditation Twenty Four Eve of the Nativity Psalm 89: 1-29 Isaiah 59:15b-21 Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 2:1-20

Sure enough, we have tamed Christmas. A baby will usually do that. They’re so cute, and we certainly are attached to baby Jesus, who is appropriately the object of our attention and affection as we celebrate His Nativity. As babies go, I’m sure Jesus was adorable, and my own voice is joining tonight’s worldwide chorus of “sleep in heavenly peace.” But let’s be careful. Jesus is more than an adorable baby. He’s a dangerous subversive, destabilizing every status quo He comes in contact with. The voice of the angel announced to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That is loaded language. The ears of these Hebrew shepherds would have heard “Christ” as “Messiah,” a title that delivers the full weight of everything associated in the mind of a patriotic Jew with the royal dynasty of David—“I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him,” Psalm 89:20. But the shepherds already had a king. His name was Herod, and Herod was not inclined to surrender his royal dignity to any pretender— even an adorable baby—without a struggle. The infant sought by the shepherds was not just Messiah. The angel called him Lord. This title is so ubiquitous in our prayer 68


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and worship, and so absent in our ordinary speech, we are prone to take it for granted. That’s a mistake the shepherds would not have made. They knew who their lord was. His name was Octavius, known as Caesar Augustus. He lived in Rome, but he ruled every corner of the known world, and his legions walked the very streets of Bethlehem. For the shepherds to acknowledge the adorable baby they found as Messiah, as King, meant that Herod was not King. For them to acknowledge that Jesus was Lord meant that Caesar was not Lord. Neither was a safe acknowledgment to make. Neither afforded them the luxury of continuing with life and business as usual. The herald angels are once again inviting us to worship the newborn King. But we cannot do so honestly without asking the corollary questions: If Jesus is King, whom are we going to dethrone in order to make room for Him? If Jesus is Lord, who is, by implication, not Lord? Those pesky angels. Luring us in with an adorable baby and then turning our lives upside down. The Right Reverend Daniel H. Martins, ’89 Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Springfield Chairman of the Board, Nashotah House Board of Trustees

Meditation Twenty Three

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Christmas Day Meditation

Meditation Twenty Five Christmas Day Lectionary Psalm 96 Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7 Hebrews 1:1-12 John 1:1-14

We hear Luke 20:1-20, in the Liturgy of Christmas Day, against a background provided by Isaiah—well-loved verses like “To us a child is born...” (Isaiah 9.6); but troubling reminders, too, of the brutality and disaster that we see daily on the news, or hear about from friends in our Dioceses that are partnered with Anglicans in Congo, or Northern Nigeria, Burma or the Bible Lands. Few of us in North America or in Northwestern Europe live with the insecurity and fear that is so many people’s daily experience. The horrors of war mainly happen elsewhere. So it can be hard for us to appreciate the revolutionary character, and the urgency, of the message of Christmas. We forget that the verse that precedes “to us a child is born” reads “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.” (Isaiah 9:5) And few of us remember that the Emperor Augustus (Luke 2:1) had himself proclaimed as “Savior,” and as the one who had brought the world a new age of peace. So Luke’s angels are proclaiming what Herod saw at the time, and trembled: the Prince of Peace, the world’s Savior and its Lord, is no earthly ruler, but Jesus. This is why we celebrate His birth, because it marks the start of God’s pivotal moment for His creation, which will be brought to completion—“It is accomplished” (John 19:30)—in the Child’s death and resurrection. His birth marks the inauguration of 70


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God’s new age of peace, characterized and defended by justice, goodness and kindness: “they shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity and terror” and “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together.” (Isaiah 65:23,24) At the level of our living as individuals, we believe that “Christ can be formed in us” (Galatians 4:19) as we celebrate His being formed in the girl Mary; and we offer ourselves daily to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God.” (Romans 12:2) But at Christmas, God and His ever-suffering world, are asking us to attend to the call of the Prince of Peace who called peacemakers, “children of God”—so peace-making is the characteristic of His family of which, as Christians, we are a part. And the Bible meant by peace what Iraqis and Syrians, Afghans and Congolese, Palestinians and Israelis mean by peace today: the conditions for communal, personal and familial well-being, fruitfulness and development, which only the absence of war and of the threat of violence allows. “They shall build houses and (that is to say, they themselves, not an enemy!) live in them” (Isaiah 65:21)—this is God’s intention and God’s gift for His Creation! So God longs that each of us understand ourselves as an active, irreplaceable participant in God’s Jesus-project to reveal God’s Kingship and God’s Peace as the fundamental reality. To many this is a fantasy. We know our own weaknesses and failings, and we shrink from standing out from the crowd; and the vast weight of inherited and contemporary human sinfulness and selfishness, greed and cruelty counts against the reality of God’s Kingship—hides it and stifles it. How can things be changed? How can we do differently? Christmas points us to the young girl who said “yes” to God’s Meditation Twenty Four

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invitation and to her Child’s name, Immanuel, “God with us” in and through every difficulty and threat and ridicule, empowering us to persevere as peace-makers. Christmas points us to God’s becoming one with us and suffering with us and for us—so that we may become one with Him, “partakers in the divine nature,” (2 Peter 1:4) and so in God’s activity, the life of His Kingdom. At Christmas, of all times, God calls each of us to take a stand on the fundamental question: “What, where, who is Power and Truth and Wisdom? Who is Lord?” The world’s ways of selfishness, cruelty and exploitation that Isaiah graphically depicts as “all the boots of the tramping warriors, all the garments rolled in blood?” Or has God given to His creation and to humankind a new beginning in the Child whose birth we celebrate, and in the justice and goodness and kindness that are the characteristics, and the power, of the “Prince of Peace?” The Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt Bishop of Winchester, England (ret.)

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Advent Meditations 2013