Join the Living Advent 2008 ReďŹ‚ections by Carol & Kate Bradsen an online resource to accompany this booklet is available at jointheliving.blogspot.com
Introduction............................................................. 1 Week 1, November 30 — December 6..................... 3 Week 2, December 7 — December 13..................... 7 Week 3, December 14 — December 20................... 10 Week 4, December 21 — December 25................... 13 Join the Living Christmas Conspiracy events.......17
What is the season of advent? Within the Christian tradition, the season of Advent is typically a season of waiting and preparation. In the most traditional sense, Advent is the season of waiting for Christmas, telling the stories of those who prepared the way for the birth of Jesus, and examining how we prepare our own lives for Christ. Christian scripture contains both Jesus’ own words about conscious living, as well as stories of prophets who prepared a new way. Scripture in Advent also explores the story of Mary, speciﬁcally as she learns that she is pregnant and waits to give birth. In exploring these stories and images of hope in the midst of a darkening season, we ask a larger question: what are we waiting for? What’s in this booklet? This booklet contains a reading, reﬂection, prayers, and activities for each of the four weeks of Advent. Each week focuses on a speciﬁc theme. The scripture from which the theme comes is listed along with a short prayer that is designed to be used with people of all
ages. There are also some ideas for simple activities you might do throughout the week to explore the theme further. If you go online to www.jointheliving.blogspot.com, you can also ﬁnd art, music and video and a daily reading. Creating Advent/ Christmas space How you celebrate the season of advent is totally up to you. You can use this booklet to create a space in your own life to explore the questions and themes of advent. This space might be literal—creating an altar or placing an advent wreath at the center of your dinning room table, or it might simply mean taking time each day, or at the beginning of the week, to reﬂect on the theme of that week. As you pray and reﬂect during the season of Advent, you join your intention with millions of others around the earth who seek to walk the way of hope and peace and life that Jesus taught. However you prepare for Christmas this season it is our prayer that your journey leads to transformation, for you, those you love, and for your community. Carol & Kate Bradsen Tucson, Arizona email@example.com
Week 1 November 30 — December 6 Conscious Living Jesus said, ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may ﬁnd you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ —Mark 13: 32-37 (Reading the whole chapter of Mark 13 will give a larger sense of the story) Part of the Christian story is the idea that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. Some people take this idea very
literally, and there is tremendous Christian mythology about how exactly the world will end (think The Left Behind series). According to the Bible, Jesus made predictions about the destruction of the Jewish temple and about a time when there would be (among other things) plagues and famines, false messiahs, and persecution of those who followed him. Of course, all of these things and more have already happened in the two thousand years since Jesus was alive. Jesusâ€™s suggestion that people must be ever ready was not merely a helpful hint in the face of these pending disasters, but also important advice for life. Whether or not all the details of the various ideas about the end of the world ever come to fruition, the truth of every human story is that there will be unexpected events, tragedy, and death. Many religious traditions share Jesusâ€™ admonitions towards constant vigilance. Ideas that our lives are precious and ďŹ nite, or that we must live in the moment --that all things whether good or bad are only momentary --are common across not only religions but philosophy as well. Conscious living is one of the hardest things we are called to, but it is such an important part of life. Try this week to keep awake. This is not advocating insomnia, but rather the conscious presence in every day waking life. Feel every breath in your lungs; taste every morsel that comes into your mouth; look into the eyes of friends and strangers. Be awake. The idea that we are slaves keeping track of a household that the master might come back to at any moment is terrifying in many ways. However there is also some truth in this imagery. Jesus told this story not to scare people, but to raise their level of consciousness. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by the complexities and implications of life that we become numb to our everyday existence.
The call to keep awake then, is not meant to scare people, but rather to awaken them to the mysteries that surround us. What comes to us when we live consciously is both terrifying and beautiful. It is amazing what your life becomes when you live with your eyes open. Prayer God we do not want to squander our lives. Help us to wake up. And to be ready to welcome you with open arms where ever you show up this week. Prayer for lighting the ﬁrst advent candle this week: Thank you for life. Help us to live in a way that brings light to the world. Some conscious living activities to try on for the week Practice breathing. One way to do this is to pick something that comes up frequently in every day life and to notice your breath when you interact with that thing. For example, you might focus on water or sunlight or laughter. Every time you experience that thing, pay attention to your breath. You can also check out the website for some links to breathing exercises. Journal. Writing about your day can help make you more aware of what happened to you and how you experienced it. You can journal in a notebook or on your computer or on napkins in a coﬀee shop. You don’t have to share it with anyone. Just write your own life and see what happens.
Enjoy Silence. Turn oﬀ the TV, radio, or computer. Go for walks, read, set a timer for ﬁve minutes and just sit in silence, breathing. Connect to someone you love. As you prepare for Christmas, think about how you might reach out to someone you care about. It could be someone you see everyday or someone you have not talked to in a long time. How could you give them a gift that would show how much you care about them? Could you write them a letter? Make them a coupon book of activities you might enjoy together? Think of a way to deepen your relationship. Practice compassion. All over the world there are people whose waking lives are torn with hunger, violence, and suﬀering. Many of these people do not have the luxury of quiet walks or journal time. What can you do this week to reach out to someone whose waking life is more like a nightmare? Be mindful every day of people in your own life and around the world who are often overlooked.
Week 2 December 7th-December 13 Preparing a new way A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ —Isaiah 40:3-5 Of all the characters in the Bible, John the Baptist is the one you would most likely run from if you saw him on the street. The biblical stories of him tell of a crazy man, wandering the wilderness dressed in camel hair and eating locusts. But more than looking and acting a little crazy, John the Baptist talked crazy. Like so many of the prophets before him, he claimed that things were going to get better. He called out to a people who lived in poverty under the thumb of a
repressive regime and told him that some day everyone will be equal. Someday justice will be served. I have heard that when people initially went to register African American people during the civil rights movement, many of them refused. They believed that white men were going to do whatever they wanted. They did not believe that they would ever truly be granted power in the political system. If you had told them that some day there would be an African American president, they would have scoﬀed at you. They thought that John the Baptist was crazy. Sometimes I do too. To call out for equality, to work for justice, to try every day to answer to a diﬀerent bottom line than the systems of oppression and violence that keep so many people down—this is no easy work. There is no easy road to freedom. But if there is any clear, dominant message of the Bible, it is that we must spend our lives working for justice and equality. John the Baptist is so named in part because he is the person who baptized Jesus. It was a crazy man who thrust Jesus into his ministry, and the message of that same crazy is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. This world is not the world of God’s dream. The way we live is not the way God imagined we would at our creation. All of us need to turn back. We need to change the way we live individually. We need to change the way we live as a society. While this call, like the call to keep awake, can be overwhelming, that is no excuse for inaction. Like any road, the road to freedom begins with one step. Our ancestors would never believe how far their steps have taken us. We may not see the dream of God in its fullness, but we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to the generations that come after us, to take the next step.
Prayer God, prepare in us your new way. Make the places in our heart where love lives, a little bigger. And give us courage to accept and tend what you plant there. Prayer for lighting the second advent candle this week: May this light guide us as we take the next step to prepare for the dream of God. Some ideas for preparing for a new way in your own life Prepare yourself for the day. If you do not do so already, take a few minutes each morning to prepare yourself for the day. One way is to sit in silence, and take a few deep breaths. Remember that God says to you, “You are my beloved.” Rest in that reality for a few minutes before you do anything. Write down your dreams. The more you pay attention to your dreams the more they will speak to you. How might the Spirit be stirring in your dreams to prepare a new way in you? Reach out to those who are preparing for a long journey. Thousands of people forced from their homes for lack of economic opportunity are preparing to cross the border this week. Many are separated from their familes. From October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, 183 people died while crossing the border in Arizona. The organization, No More Deaths, has created an Advent meditation to use with families. It’s available on our blog: www.jointheliving.blogspot.com
Week 3 December 14th-December 20 The Dawn of Hope The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lordâ€™s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
These verses from Isaiah were written from among a people experiencing profound loss. They had been exiled from their home, torn from their land—from all that made life make sense. They were living with the sense that God had abandoned them. Much lament and heartache come before this hopeful vision full of possibility. One of the ﬁrst public things Jesus did according to the gospel of Luke (chapter 4, verses 14-22) was read some of these words from Isaiah. Jesus did not ﬁrst demand repentance from people. First, he stood in the spiritual community of his youth and read the words from Isaiah...freedom to those held captive, good news for the poor. Jesus says that God is looking with favor on God’s people, not judgment. He’s letting us know that God shows up ﬁrst with an open hand to those on the bottom. This grace-ﬁlled gesture is what Jesus ﬁrst points to. This is the kingdom of God that Jesus says is already present among us. If we just wake up to see it. The 20th century theologian, Paul Tillich, once wrote “Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life...It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear.” The author of Isaiah, Jesus, Paul Tillich, they are all trying to tell people in great pain, people like us, that God will keep showing up. We can live with hope, not because we ourselves necessarily have any. But because God tells us and shows us time and time again— through prophets, through the birth and teachings of Jesus, through tiny moments of grace in our own imperfect days—that we are not alone and that freedom is both here, now, and coming. Hope drags us out of our beds of despair into the cold streets to stare at the dark horizon and wait for the dawn. We may ﬁnd ourselves standing,
waiting, half asleep and shivering, but God whispers to us, “It may be cold, but I’m still here, the dawn is coming, and I want you to be free.” Prayer Great light of the new dawn, you rise each morning in the face of deep darkness. So may we too ﬁnd a way to remember the hope that we are called to, and work to plant it in ourselves and in all those whom we encounter. Amen. Prayer for lighting the third advent candle this week God give us hope, because we need it. Ways to try living with hope this week Watch the sunrise. In Tucson this week the sun rises at about 7:15 am. Try going outside to watch the sky, and wait for the sunrise. Listen. What is God trying to say to you? Light candles of gratitude. Gratitude helps nurture hope. At the end of each day this week, ﬁnd a few candles, or light the candles on your advent wreath. As you light each one, think of something you were grateful for that day. Another way is to think about the moments of the day in which you felt most alive, or happy. Sit in the silence for a few minutes before you blow the candles out. Be kind. Smile at strangers. Oﬀer hope to people who need it.
Week 4 December 21-December 24 Mary, waiting for and proclaiming justice
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! God is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. — Luke 1:26-31 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in
her womb. And Elizabeth was ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” —Luke 1: 39-42 And Mary said, “My soul magniﬁes the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant. ... God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God had ﬁlled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” —Luke 1: 46-48, 52-53
“With haste” Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth. Mary had just found out, from an angel, that she was pregnant. And the angel told her that Elizabeth, her older cousin, was pregnant too. So it must have been a comfort to be with Elizabeth, another woman, a relative, someone else who was pregnant, during an undoubtedly scary time. Mary was in big trouble—by society’s standards. She was to be married soon to Joseph. To outsiders, she was simply knocked up outside the boundary’s of what was acceptable. Joseph wasn’t involved. By the law of their society, Joseph could have Mary stoned to death. Keep in mind that Mary was very young, maybe about 13. She was living in an occupied land. Empire seeped into her everyday life. Violence of all sorts, killing, rape, extortion, were common. She was not powerful. She had no voice in this culture. And from this context, perhaps afraid, and running for her life, she seeks the comfort of
another woman. And Elizabeth smiles and embraces her, and calls her blessed. From this embrace of blessing, she remembers the words of the angel, “God is with you.” And Mary’s soul sours. She sings a song of liberation. It is a song for all who experience oppression. For all who have been forced to live with the stares of others brought on from breaking society’s sexual norms. Even though she lives in the belly of the empire, she holds within her hope. And her song, can become our song, and our hope, too. God will bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly. God’s mercy is great. God is with us. God will bring life where there was shame. Let us be quick to remember our blessing. Let us be quick to bless. And never forget that in the reign of God the voiceless give birth to hope and sing songs of liberation that bring life to the world. Prayer Sweet mother of us all, only you know the true potential that is carried deep within each of your children. May we live with pregnant expectancy in the coming weeks, as we wait and work for your justice. Prayer for lighting the fourth candle. May we remember our blessings, and be a blessing to others. Activities for this week Attend a Christmas service. Many churches have candlelight services, or reﬂective services that can help create a space of calm and beauty in the midst of a stressful season. Join the Living will host a
candle light service on Dec. 21 at 6:30 pm. The church will also be open for quiet meditation from 4 pm until 5:15 pm. We’ll oﬀer a meal to share together at 5:30 pm. Come for any of the evening. Remember those whose sexuality makes them second class citizens. Women as well as people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (just to name a few) are often demeaned or discriminated against because of issues related to sexuality. If this resonates with your own experience, consider how Mary’s story may speak to you. If you aren’t already an ally to the LGBT community, consider becoming one and becoming more involved at wingspan.org Give money away. A movement called Advent Conspiracy invites people to give more money away at Christmas. If you have money to give, consider helping build water wells in Africa (www.water. cc), or helping the Community Food Bank in Tucson, which of this printing, was so overwhelmed with trying to meet people’s basic food needs, it did not have enough resources to provide Christmas boxes to families this year.
Wishing you a warm, and hope-ﬁlled Christmas.
Join the Living
Christmas Conspiracy All events on Sundays at 4 pm followed by supper 545 S. 5th AVE, Tucson St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church www.jointheliving.blogspot.com Sunday, November 30 Gift-Making Party. All ages. A big pile of supplies, tons of ideas. Sunday, December 7 Another gift-making party. Sunday, December 14 Barter Bazaar Bring items to trade with others. No money exchanged. Art, crafts, baked goods, skills (like cutting hair) CDs, old games and books, anything that might make a good Christmas gift. Sunday, December 21 Longest Night Candle Light Service 4 to 5:15 pm— Meditation, the sanctuary of the church will be open and lit with candles for anyone to come and sit quietly and not be disturbed. 5:30 pm—Simple meal by donation 6:30 pm—Service with music, prayers, and readings by candlelight on this longest night of the year. We’ll acknowledge the pain of the world, as we celebrate the light of Christ.
Weekly reflections on advent themes of keeping awake, justice, and hope. Based on readings from the Sunday lectionary. Also includes prayers...