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A Season of Faith, Beauty, and Hope

2019 Advent Devotional by the Voices of St. Michael’s Parish, Brattleboro, Vermont

The Pulley BY GEORGE HERBERT When God at first made man, Having a glass of blessings standing by, “Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can. Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie, Contract into a span.” So strength first made a way; Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure. When almost all was out, God made a stay, Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, Rest in the bottom lay. “For if I should,” said he, “Bestow this jewel also on my creature, He would adore my gifts instead of me, And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature; So both should losers be. “Yet let him keep the rest, But keep them with repining restlessness; Let him be rich and weary, that at least, If goodness lead him not, yet weariness May toss him to my breast.”

The Divine Image BY WILLIAM BLAKE To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love All pray in their distress; And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness. For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love Is God, our father dear, And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love Is Man, his child and care. For Mercy has a human heart, Pity a human face, And Love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress. Then every man, of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays to the human form divine, Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. And all must love the human form, In heathen, Turk, or Jew; Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell There God is dwelling too.

A Wrinkle in Time Advent is an immensely evocative season in our Faith and for Time itself. On the one hand, it is our New Year – we open our hearts in the darkening season to the coming of the Light. In this hemisphere’s harsh cold, we await a gentle infant to warm our hearts. God comes and dwells on earth, a hopeful beginning. On the other hand, it is also an awe-full end. God will come again to the earth and we await that second unequivocal Advent – the glorious end of a long-arc that started from before time began, promising to bring into submission all ‘powers’ of darkness and to set us free. In Advent we sit stretched between the poles of a dual hope. But to say this as a people of sacrament – people who re-member Christ by each practice of prayer, fellowship, service, or worship – we must recognize that Advent is not just the hope but the actual manifestation of Christ’s first coming as well as the actual restoration of all in the second coming of the Risen One, albeit under a veil. “Faith is the substance of the thing it hopes for,” says St. Paul. Of course, even to say this pushes us further along an edge, does it not? For God’s Advent on earth is continuous. God breathed a long sigh and spoke the contours of divinity into the form of Creation. God breathed another sigh into formed dust, and humanity took the divine image in a particular way. As God has breathed into prophets, poets, wombs, and martyrs, God has continually come to dwell among us. And God continually will, world without end. Stretched between ‘first’ and ‘consummate’ coming, Advent is nothing less than the collapse of eternity into the present moment and our consent to be watchful for the truth that the Divine coming is constant in every moment of life, or Life simply would not Be. Laurence Hull Stookey gives a beautiful analogy of this concept in the image of a woven tapestry. What we see hanging on the wall is indeed a masterpiece. But, if we are clever enough to turn it over, we see the myriad threads, invisible on the front, where the thread touched the cloth in order to make the image that we actually see. As we settle into Advent awaiting – no, let us say ‘expecting’ for this latter has potential energy that itself participates in the

gestation of what is to come – may we take the time not only to be watchful for the patterns in the tapestry’s image but also to turn it over. Turn ourselves over in order to notice, reverence, and give thanks for the countless unseen strands that God has woven on the underside of our own lives, our collective history, and our seasons of darkness. May this Season scandalize us awake to the One who was, AND IS, and is to come. Emmanuel. A Deep Dive in Hope The reflections in this devotional are based on three sources: The Daily Office Lectionary for Year 2; The historical Church tradition of honoring Mary, mother of Jesus, on Saturdays; and the O Antiphons, grounded on Messianic hope in Hebrew Scripture, dating back at least as far as the sixth century, and traditionally sung before and after the Song of Mary in Evening Prayer from December 17 to December 23. The reflections are a breathtaking array of life stories, struggles of conscience, scholarly study, poetic creativity, and theological groaning from our fellows at St. Michael’s. For this reason alone, they are worth reading. They deserve honor and offer a chance to strengthen our community by knowing one another in a deeper way. Together, they also offer a breadth of Wisdom in dialogue, at times reinforcing, at times perhaps even opposing one another, through faithful engagement with Scripture. Thank you to all our contributors. Special thanks, also, to Megan Buchanan for editorial support and Maurice Harris for formatting help! It is important to note that the texts were based on the lectionary, not choice. Many of the Advent images in Year 2 can be harsh, notwithstanding editorial discretion in culling for our space constraints. Because Year 2 emphasizes images of a second, (often interpretively) judgment-based coming, it is not until the O Antiphons toward the last week that our readings take a distinctively hopeful tone. For those who are uneasy, it may be helpful to set aside the question of whether the images in Matthew and Revelation are proscriptive, predictive, or allegorical. Strong and faithful lineages of each perspective can be traced back to the very beginning of the Christian Way.

More relevant is to ask ourselves the honest question of whether we recognize these signs around us: Wars and rumors of wars; lukewarm adherence; the love of many growing cold; the mentality of Jesus’s goats within our hearts and communities; Omens of devils lurking to snatch child away from mother? If Christ is continually coming, we need not concern ourselves with forecasting, “that day or hour [which] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Creator knows (Matt 24:36).” Perhaps it is sufficient simply to sit with the discomfort of how descriptive our readings are of ourselves and our world. We have seen Paul say that faith is the substance of things hoped for. He goes on to say, that hope for things that are seen is not hope. The seat beneath me requires little hope. But, the magnitude of Christianity’s insanely radical promise demands an equally courageous magnitude of realism about what we do see. Only then can we cultivate the muscle of faith in what we do not see (the Advent of which is our hope.) A Carthusian writes, “Note it well: our hope does not rest at all on our virtue, nor on our merits, nor on others. We hope for that which can only be an absolutely gratuitous gift of God: the intimate union of love… The more poor and empty of ourselves we are, the more pure and powerful is our hope.” Let us not lose heart as we stick with these passages. The Gift on the other end will be so much sweeter when it comes! How You Might Use this Devotional The simplest use of this devotional would be to read the daily reflections and use them for your personal meditations. However, at the very least, we are encouraged to read the reference on which the reflection is based. This will usually mean having a Bible handy. Reading text and reflection together will allow the reader to enter into the dialogue between author and text, as well between the text and this sacred Season, which prepares the soil for the liturgical year. Some may appreciate enfolding the devotional within a larger framework – starting with a time of prayer, a song, the Scripture and reflection, a time of reflective meditation, and some closing prayer or setting of intention, Advent candles or calendars. If one wishes to explore simple liturgy within the Episcopal

tradition, the Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families on pages 137-140 of the Book of Common Prayer (or bcponline.org) may be useful. Each is very short. The daily Scripture and reflection from this booklet may be used in lieu of the “Reading� in the liturgies. Finally, on December 17-23, one may find that it may be enjoyable to prepare for Christmas in a very intentional way by reading the Antiphon and the reflection offered, then praying the Song of Mary: Luke 1:46-55, and ending by reading the Antiphon again. However you engage with this booklet, may it hold you in humble confidence, Peace, and joy as we watchfully await the One among us. Faithfully, adwoa, editor

Collect: First Week of Advent Collect: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

December 1 – First Sunday of Advent – Collect Reflection Pat Cameron Reading this verse tells me that it is now time to “cast away works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” I reflect frequently on my ninety-three years of mortal life. As a child growing up in two cities in China, Shanghai and Tsingtao, I was blessed to have as an adopted child a father who knew the Lord. I remember clearly those times when Daddy would say to us when there was a problem, “Let’s get down on our knees and talk to God about this.” Those were precious years and remain precious in my memory. Coming to America at ten years of age was a difficult time. As a member of Asbury Methodist Church in San Diego. our minister “Nick” Nichols was a “born again” Christian and instilled in us teenagers the importance of knowing Jesus, who has been my leader and my guide ever since. There have always been challenges and He has always been at my side, guiding me with His love and peace. If my words can bring hope and peace to others, it will be a blessing. In my quiet time each night before the lights are out and the day is done, I spend time talking with God. I know that because my life is in His hands, He understands and cares. I thank him for his many blessings repeating the 23rd Psalm “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” and closing with the 19th Psalm “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.” Amen.

December 2 - Monday of 1st Advent - Matthew 21:10-22 Jeffrey Hiam “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.� I suspect I am not the only one whose temple seems continually to become cluttered with money changers and dove sellers. Each of these spiritual compromises and accommodations, when taken individually, may have seemed insignificant, or even beneficial, but when taken as a whole, the courts of the temple of my spirit are revealed to be a crowded mess of commerce where worship is meant to be. Each year, the Lord will come to drive out all of the worldliness that I have invited into what is, after all, a space which is His, and not mine at all. This sounds like excellent news, and indeed it is the most excellent of news. But it is also fearful news, for there is no way to be saved from my own failings without having those failings discovered in all their squalor and pettiness. Jesus’ confrontation is direct with the place where compromises have been made in worship for the sake of convenience and profit. He claims uncomfortable, liberating authority not only over the world, not only over our parish building, but over the sanctuary of my soul. This is the great joy and the great terror of the Advent season: I will be saved, but first I will be seen exactly as I am, a sinner in desperate need of saving. I pray that this Advent, I will be defenseless against the inbreaking of the Lord; that I will wait patiently, fearfully, and expectantly amidst the absolute mess that I have made of the Temple of God. I pray that all my self-justifications and plans for self-salvation will be exhausted and that I will learn once again to release my hold on everything except the fear and hope of the coming of the Lord.

December 3 - Tuesday of 1st Advent - Matthew 22:15-22 Margery McCrum Leave to Caesar the petty, evil ways of the world The malice, the harm, the greed, the falsehoods I shall render unto Caesar that which is his – the noise and all these things. Bring me to my knees with reverence Quieten the chatter in my mind Open my heart to hear Thy beautiful silence. Let me know Thy truth and presence Let me sing Thy joy and love Let me give of my best self always And always to Thee. May I know the things that are Thine And give my whole life, which is Thine, to Thee.

December 4 – Wed of 1st Advent –Matthew 23:13-26 Cliff Wood I know about hypocrisy… white supremacy and the like. I grew up in the 1950’s in the segregated South, where “White Only” signs were part of my daily life. My parents took us to church every time the door was open: church services, Sunday School, youth group, church camp. Then, when I was a teenager, my parents’ friends brought their friends, a young African American couple, to church, and my father never set foot in that church again. And all during my childhood at Sunday dinner, my father, this God-fearing man, made derogatory comments about all non-whites; nobody was sacred. However, I believed the words of my favorite

children’s hymn, “Jesus Loves the little children of the world, red and yellow, black and white….” Though I was confused by my father’s behavior, I got from my mother a different message. Maggie Rand, an African American woman, came to our house five days a week from 7 to 5 and did all the chores. She and my mother had a special relationship, and there was a genuine bond. Most days, after my five siblings and I had lunch, Mother and Maggie sat at the kitchen table and had lunch and easy conversation together. If my father was home, however, there was no personal chatter and Maggie ate standing at the kitchen counter of this Christian man’s house. It took me years and a college education to understand hypocrisy and racism and their impact on all Americans. In fact, I was never in a classroom with a person of color until I taught a class as a graduate assistant in 1967. But each year at Advent, I am reminded of my mother and, if you will, of God’s message. I love Christmas decorations, and Wylene and I have collected many over the years. A special one for me is a wooden creche with plaster figures representing those at the manger on Christmas Eve. And though there remain only two Wisemen and a three-legged sheep, it has an honored place on our mantel. I still remember that when I was five, my mother and I purchased it at Sanger Brothers Department Store in Dallas, and it sat on her mantel at Christmastime for many years. My mother through this treasure is reminding me of Advent’s true message:” …do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” (Micah)

December 5 – Thursday of 1st Advent – Matthew 24:1-14 Darcey Mercier Because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most will grow cold (verse 12). When I look around at the state of affairs today, I wonder if this is where we are today. Is our society allowing love to grow cold, while it loses hope and wonders when or if Jesus will return? But Jesus is telling us a different story -- a story where love and hope are at the center. Jesus tells us not to be alarmed (verse 6) and that we can trust him because he speaks the truth (verse 2). When Peter got out of the boat to walk toward Jesus on the water, back in Matthew 14, it was only when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at his crazy circumstances of wind and waves that he began to sink. We have the opportunity here and now to be the light of the world, to demonstrate faith, hope and love to a world of anger, despair, and doubt. Jesus did not let Peter sink, but immediately caught him. We can stand firm because we have Jesus right by our side. During this season of Advent as we wait in anticipation of our savior’s return, as well as his birth, we can live assured in God’s ever-present presence, not focusing on the circumstances, but trusting and participating in God’s plan of love. Humbly we come Trusting in Your love Before You we wait

December 6 – Wednesday 1st Advent – Matthew 25:31-46 Judith Reichsman Living this life, I can’t help but notice that I am 1/2 sheep and 1/2 goat. Sometimes I recognize God in my sister, sometimes I miss or resist seeing God in her. All the various translations of Bible headings for this passage in Matthew call it “the last judgement.” What if it is not about judgment at all, but about seeing God in others - our sisters and brothers? What if the “eternal punishment” part is really Jesus using hyperbole -- words not meant to be taken literally? What if his listeners understood that this was a way to exaggerate in order to help them see the TRUTH -- that each of God’s creatures is part of God and must be treated the way we would treat Jesus. When Jesus spoke to his Jewish listeners, he knew that they knew that he was exaggerating in order that we hear his truth - that each one of us is Jesus in his or her own beautiful costume. Have I not exaggerated when I said to a friend, “If you don’t come to this concert with me, I'll never forgive you!” Yes, we too exaggerate. I am sad to think how we have condemned ourselves, thinking that Jesus condemned us. In their passionate book, Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God, authors Dennis Linn, Matthew Linn, and Sheila Fabricant Linn argue that we are all good goats, that our good God will recognize the sheep within us and forgive the goat in us. We see the good God in others. God sees the good in us and welcomes us Home.

December 7 – Saturday of 1st Advent – The Angelus The Angel of the Lord announced to Mary And she conceived by the Holy Spirit (Refrain) Hail Mary full of grace, blessed are you among women And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, Be it unto me according to your word. Refrain

Thank you, Mary, for your surrender, for saying yes to the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your strength, your courage, your protection.

And the Word was made flesh, And dwelled among us.

Thank you for holding, for creating.


Thank you for offering

Pray with us, O holy mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

your body, your life and love

Let us pray: Pour your grace into our hearts, O God, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son, Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the virgin Mary, may, by His cross and passion be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

so that all of us may be free. --Megan Buchanan

Collect Second Week of Advent Collect: Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

December 8 – Second Sunday of Advent – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Joyce Vining Morgan I read these words in the light of our current reality, a kind of parallel parable to Paul’s message to the Thessalonians: the excesses of our industrial world are causing ever-increasing damage to the planet we are called to protect and nourish and too many are asleep or blind-drunk. “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” Right now, the climate crisis can be seen as the destruction that arrives suddenly (despite years of scientific cautions), the day of reckoning coming “like a thief in the night.” Having spent months of every year by the sea all my life, I have seen the rise in the Atlantic sea-level, felt the water’s increasing warmth, noticed the absence of starfish on the shore. From all corners of the world, my students write about the dwindling catch, the dying corals, the killing droughts or floods, fires and the loss of wild life. As in the time of Noah when many did not believe the warnings or address the danger, so we are surrounded by willful ignorance and self-indulgence. Could God be using scientists and the very young as prophets for our generation? If so, the call is to be “awake and sober,” to exchange our profligacy for conservation, to live a more temperate life, and to “encourage one another and build each other up.” Paul makes the believer’s position as children of the light the basis for the following exhortation: since we are not of night or darkness, let us not be asleep spiritually, but be watchful. Let us live in a manner that is consistent with following Jesus and hope in the future glory He has promised.

December 9 – Monday of 2nd Advent – Revelation 1:1-8 Janet Cramer Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it for the time is near. Rev 1:3 My husband’s unvarying question when he wakes up and sees me is: “Anything new?” And sometimes I find a nugget of news from the newspaper or from a conversation, but often I say, sometimes in frustration, “no, nothing new.” This response is odd, as we are being bombarded by a swirl of radio and TV news, blog posts, and headlines proclaiming “pay attention, be aware and be afraid!” In this moment one may lose sight of the importance of John’s Revelation, that the Angel has come to him and told him, There is news! He was told and has told us to testify to the Word of God and to Jesus Christ “even to all that he saw.” There is urgency in his message. We are to read and to tell and to share aloud and to keep what is written, “for the time is near.” Each year in Advent, we reenact this important message. Perhaps the season helps some of us who are shy about proclaiming to our everyday world our good news in Christ’s gift to us and to all humanity. John proclaims, “Look, He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him.” Blessed are we, who hear and keep what is written, who live aloud this good news – always new and always continuing to be new, as we live into him “who is and who was and who is to come.” God grant us the grace and peace that helps us proclaim our love and commitment to hear and to keep what is written. Loosen our anxiety to help us share this good news abroad forever. Amen.

December 10 - Tuesday of 2nd Advent – Revelation 1:17- 2:7 Ross Thurber Sometimes, during this time of year, I wander out in a stand of hemlock on our farm. The forest here is dark and the ground rough and upended. The wind is buffeted by the canopy of trees and the light is sheared off and comes down in broken pieces. …. You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen. CRADLE AND MOUND I’ve put down my ambitions And resistance to whenever The next wave will hit. A slow swell leaves Its ancient tides on trees And perched and buckled ground. Cat tongued woods are sweet and rough. Moon riven stream breaks the enamel And braids through nursery and burial ground. But, your never so far from a roof line And a lamp in the window. You’re lucky, home for you Makes this entanglement unalienable A manger of leaf duff, ferns and needles But for a stranger, it’s newly minted love To begin at the beginning.

December 11 – Wednesday 2nd Advent–Revelation 3:14-22 Jeff Lewis How appropriate that we should be reading from the mysterious Book of Revelation on the eve of the great Revelation—the Incarnation! We are passing through the rush of Advent, four short weeks of preparation for the greatest moment of all as God speaks himself in the Infant Jesus. Word will become Flesh and dwell among us. He will indeed be knocking at the door, ready to enter any friendly heart that responds to his voice. Alongside this welcoming message, John the Revelator makes clear that answering the door is a life changing event: Because you say, “I am rich have become wealthy and have need of nothing—and do not know you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked—” John is opening up the very hearts to which the Christ wishes to speak, calling us to repentance against our very will, for we are comfortable with ourselves and place. But God knows that we are incomplete, buttressed by our possessions against the truth of Revelation which will lay us low with Truth. He tells us that our works will not win us redemption. We cannot earn our way by service, gifts or study. We cannot move slowly through steps that will allow us to measure out our commitment in teaspoons. Instead we must be ready to be taken by storm, to be ‘buked and scorned, called to account for who we have been. And then, if we are zealous enough in repenting, we will hear the voice at the door and God will indeed come into our hearts to dine with us. Thus we stand on the edge of comfort gazing at salvation just beyond our reach. We can have one or the other but not both. We have to choose.

December 12 – Thursday of 2nd Advent – Revelation 4:8-5:5 Matt Miller Here’s a text that’s impossible to fully digest in less than 3,000 words, and yet I shall sum it up in three. Jesus is king. We could burn through 300 words on just the “four living creatures.” Who are these monsters with the wings and the multiple eyes? What are they supposed to represent? The hosts of heaven? Have you ever seen one of those? You wouldn’t have recognized it anyway, and if you had, you’da worshipped it. Well, what do these heavenly beings have to say? “Holy!” Then we could burn through another 300 words on just the twenty-four elders. Who are these casting their crowns? The saints and martyrs. What do they say? “Worthy!” And then who is this Lamb who is also a Lion, who is also the root of David, who sits on a throne? The Holy One! The only one worthy to open the scroll! Can we skip the scholarship? We know who it is – it’s Jesus! Another 300 words: What about these seven seals? Let’s just say they are the wheels of history. So here is Jesus: the holy one acclaimed by angels, the worthy one to saints and martyrs, of whom the world itself is not worthy. Here is the only one who can open the scrolls and bring finality and meaning to history.

Yet there is Saint John, weeping. He doesn’t yet know that the scroll can be opened. He sees the beauty of the lamb, and sings the majesty of the lion, but life itself, history, and meaning are dying slowly in a keyless box. Or as one songwriter once put it, “The keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom.” What is beauty amid despair? Despair itself? May it never be! And yet, we like John, are weeping. Why do we weep? For the long, faith-stretching delay of Christ’s kingdom? For the impossibly utopian vision of Zion? For what we cannot imagine? For a God who cannot exceed our imaginations? No. I will admit: there is something beautiful about a nihilist stubbornly refusing to hang up his harp, in direct and aggressive revolt against nihilism. There is something soothing about stoically sitting hands over knees by the river, fully accepting its endless circularity and its harrowing silence, watching it flow serenely on, yet nowhere. But this is not our faith. Our hope does not fade into the dark. It’s beautiful and it has an end. Say his name. There is one who is worthy to open the scroll. Weep only for joy.

December 13 - Friday of 2nd Advent – Revelation 12:1-10 Valerie Abrahamsen A pregnant woman clothed with the sun, a male child, a red dragon, and a war in heaven between Michael and the dragon. What are we to make of this vision in the last book of the Bible, and why is this passage one of the Advent readings? The Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse of John, is written as letters to seven churches in the province of Asia. Scholars are not convinced that John, the son of Zebedee and the supposed author of the Gospel and epistles, is the author of this work, but it is fairly certain that it was written toward the end of the first century CE. In the words of one scholar, Revelation “is a bewildering kaleidoscope of scenes, punctuated by voices and bursts of heavenly hymnody.” It is not a set of predictions for the 21st century, despite what some strands of Christianity might argue, but it does have lessons for us. Who is the pregnant woman? Many theories have been proposed, including Mary mother of Jesus, the Egyptian goddess Isis, or the Babylonian goddess Inanna. At the very least, this story draws significantly on ancient goddess traditions that portray female deities as strong, powerful, and independent, some of whom even functioned as city protectors. In the Revelation text, this new mother is blessed and rescued by God, and her son is also “caught up to God.” Michael and his angels ultimately prevail over the dragon that is trying to destroy all things good and holy. In the season of Advent, when our weather begins to get colder and the days shorter and darker, and when our society itself seems despairingly divided, fearful and anxious, the images of threat and violence – even as couched in strange visions and imagery – make us shudder. But the outcomes of these tales are ultimately full of hope and victory: the woman and child are saved, and the angels defeat the dragon. Loving God, may we take heart, in our times of fear and anxiety, from the images of the strong woman and the good angels that protect us.

December 14 – Saturday of 2nd Advent – The Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55 John Daly The Magnificat takes me deeply into the heart and love of God, of God-man Jesus and his mother Mary. It is a place of quiet, of calm, of warmth and loving kindness and of humility. It is a place of contemplation. I have always felt that the most difficult and generous act of God was to become human. The incarnation. And yes, thankfully Mary surrendered “Be it done to me according to thy word.” In Advent we can choose to surrender as well. The invitation is to take the seed of God into our very own body and grow Christ within us. It can happen right now. We can live in the presence of the Divine. Within us and all around us, love flows in and out. Christ is everywhere and in all things. It is a place that I have yearned for my whole life. It is Heaven on Earth. Thanks be to God. Adwoa Lewis-Wilson The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is God’s Name. God’s name may be holy, but as I see it, what God has done for Mary at this point is…complicated. This scandalous grace of pregnancy baffles her and her husband Joseph, who needs constant angelic visitations in order to steward it well. Nonetheless, Mary knows that praise has power. In Church we pray the Magnificat at evening prayer but Mary could praise at the dawn of the serpentine journey. From abiding praise Mary claims that her identity and disposition will be determined not by her circumstances but by the grace-filled Word of God spoken of her. This is greatness enough! Sciences attest that the energetic field of a person stretches beyond their body and has concrete impacts on the environment around them. In a world like that praise has real power! It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Let us prepare for the light by putting down the weapon of cursing the opposition in all things and by picking up the ploughshare of praise to our God.

Third Week of Advent Collect: Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

December 15 – 3rd Sunday of Advent – John 3:16-21 Steve Harrison A Transaction As a youngster, I was a paper-boy. Each afternoon I would ride my bike to the paper office, wait for the papers to be printed, pick up my bundle, roll each paper with a rubber band, load them into a sturdy and dirty canvas bag slung over my shoulder, and ride my bike along my assigned street throwing papers onto porches. Saturday mornings I would go to each customer’s door to be paid for that week’s papers. I gave a small, square stub from my collection book as a receipt. I took all of my “collection money” to the paper office to pay for the papers, and I kept the remainder as my pay. It was a simple, transactional process – easy to do and easy to understand. We went to church in those days, too. Every Sunday we would dress in our “church clothes,” go to Sunday School classes, then sit through the real church service with the sermon. Sunday evenings, we went back to services - the same for Wednesday evening prayer meetings. We returned on Thursday evenings for choir practice and as I got older, for youth group. Life revolved around church. As long as I accepted God’s grace, attended services, and refrained from doing really “bad stuff,” I maintained my “Christian” status. It was a simple, transactional process – easy to do and easy to understand. These days, my job isn’t as simple as it was when I was a paper-boy. I still collect money, but I get paid for doing lots of things other than passing papers. It’s not so simple and transactional, and yet I get paid for doing it. Now I only go to church on Sunday mornings (rarely with Sunday Forum time attached), and all too often I miss even those services. I still refrain from doing really “bad stuff.” I still try to accept God’s grace, but I find it challenging to know how to do that sometimes. What I do to maintain my “Christian” status is not so simple and transactional. Am I still a “Christian?”

December 16 – Monday of 3rd Advent – Zephaniah 3:14-20 Marisa Birri I can still smell the scent of the musky hallways leading up to the floor of the day program I attended. The rooms in which the program was held were modern and up to date, but it was on the third floor of a restored, but still very old paper mill. I remember my last day there - handing over my last sample, which would secure my freedom. I made my outpatient appointments, finished my paperwork, and within an hour I was a free woman. Time to rejoice! However the rejoicing did not come from graduating the program. It was rejoicing that I was now free of the drug that had completely destroyed me and destroyed so many relationships in my life. I learned how to stay away from toxic people and places, but little was taught about how I could live again without fear. Fear of one day ending back on the streets, fear of being back in rehab, fear of how I would ever live again. As much as people had to find trust in me again, I had to find trust in just about everything. I had to trust that God will heal me, even as broken and as ashamed as I was. I felt so alone those few days, weeks, months after rehab. I now know that I was never alone. God was with me, helping me fight my battles all along. It was now time to rejoice again. Rejoice that my mind and body would be restored from the demons that once imprisoned me. In order for all this to have been worth it, I also had to find pride and strength to persevere. I had to be mindful of my posture and hold my head up high. I had to find peace and safety. And with God by my side, I did. One of the biggest challenges, besides turning to drugs again -- I had to find redemption. With my redeemer by my side, the war had been won and so have the battles in between. I could finally start searching for the new place to call home.

December 17 – Tuesday 3rd Advent Erika Alin O Antiphon 1: “O WISDON coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end of the earth to the other: you order all things with strength and gentleness. Come teach us the way of knowledge.” Wisdom pours forth and “cover[s] the Earth like mist” (Sirach 24:3). Enveloping all, “she is an initiate in the knowledge of God” and a source of righteousness, virtue, prudence, justice, and courage (Wisdom 8:1, 7). Wisdom offers us a path to living with integrity and care and to a way of knowing that lies beyond our own human comprehension and form. Like mist, she can’t be claimed or made solid through our willful actions. Nor does her presence require our initiative. She is already ever-present around and within us. “O Wisdom…Come teach us the way of knowledge.” By so many small thoughts and actions each day, I instinctively try to uphold the firmness of my self and control the turns of my nearly every waking hour. To be schooled in the knowledge that Wisdom teaches asks that I instead loosen my boundaries and familiar ways of knowing and that I learn to trust that it’s precisely when I think I know the least that I can often begin to glimpse a deeper kind of knowing. Over and over, Wisdom asks me to open myself to the boundless presence of a transformation and mystery that already envelops and dwells within each of us. The promise of the antiphon is clear: to manage such an opening, even if only for a few moments each day, is to know a Wisdom that “order[s] all things with strength and gentleness.” It is to touch the abiding stillness and grace that grounds our being.

December 18 – Wednesday of 3rd Advent Linda J. Neilson O Antiphon 2: O ADONAI, leader of the house of Israel: You appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and at Sinai gave him the Law. Come and redeem us by your outstretched arm. Exodus 3:2, 6:6, 20:1-17 Today’s reading is the Ten Commandments. It’s pretty tough stuff to get through if we really sit and study them closely. I think that, at one time or another in my life, I have broken almost all of these commandments. I have never murdered anyone physically, but I’ve been guilty of indifference to another’s troubles, or being less than charitable in my thoughts (or words) about others. And I believe that is a form of murder. God has made it clear that ignoring these commandments will not be tolerated. And yet…God is merciful, God has lovingkindness for us all. In Exodus 6:6 God says to Moses “…I will deliver you from bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm…” Advent is a season of hope. Our hearts turn to the great mystery of the Savior’s arrival; inconceivable that this tiny infant holds so much promise for us, so much hope for our redemption. In this season of anticipation, we are faced with contradictory scenarios. There is the out-of-control secular frenzy of shopping for bigger and better ‘stuff’ that puts financial situations in jeopardy every year. On the other side of this coin there is the opportunity to dwell on the Word, to ponder on this gracious Gift of God to us all, this Gift of peace, of healing, and of hope. May we all step aside from our busy schedules, even if it is a brief step. May we pause to savor this holy time of waiting for God’s incredible Gift to us, and may we welcome this Gift into our hearts and our lives. Come, dear God, and redeem us by Your outstretched arm.

December 19 – Thursday of 3rd Advent Caroline Hammarlund O Antiphon 3: O ROOT OF JESSE, you stand as a signal before your people. Monarchs close their mouths because of you; to you all nations shall bow. Come and deliver us without delay. Isaiah 11:10, 52:15, Psalm 102:15, Habakkuk 2:3 “That day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples.” Isaiah 11::10 “So will the crowds be astonished by him and monarchs stand speechless before him, for they shall see something never told, and witness something never heard before.” Isaiah 52:15 “Since this vision is for its own time only; eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive; if it comes slowly, WAIT! For come it will without fail.” Habakkuk 2:30 We would do well, as the monarchs are cautioned, to sit “speechless” in the dark womb of Advent; for silence is the language of God and what we hear in the dark will guide us to a newborn Light, a new vision of a redeemed world. And so we wait in the dark as our God instructs us through the prophet. This is our great Advent hope. Child, it lies Within your power of choosing to Conceive the Child who chooses you. “ --W.H. Auden

December 20 – Friday of 3rd Advent Wylene Wood O Antiphon 4: O KEY OF DAVID and scepter of Israel: You open and no one shall shut; you shut and no one shall open. Come and release from prison those who sit in darkness, in the shadow of death. “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Isaiah 42: 7 What resonates with me in the passages above is the command to release prisoners, those that sit in darkness, in the shadow of death. Individuals can be imprisoned not only physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually isolated and closed off from others, unable to act freely, incapacitated by prisons of misery, negativity, hopelessness, grief, loss, addiction, pain, anger, hatred, fear, and so much more. I have known such imprisonment. In May 1980, my 4-year-old Marie was hospitalized in Pediatric ICU at UCLA Medical Center for H-Flu meningitis and encephalitis. She had been admitted with a fever of 105 and grand mal seizures so severe that she arrested. She became comatose and had to be placed in an even deeper coma in order to stop the seizures. Doctors told me she might never awaken from the coma but that it was necessary as the seizures would kill her. They expressed little hope for her survival. I faced this crisis alone as my parents and siblings were far away and my then husband was unwilling to draw near to the crisis. Two days I kept vigil alone, praying that God would give me a sign that my prayers were heard. I bargained with God. I wept. I felt totally helpless. Then what might seem like small occurrences to others began to pull me back into faith, hope, and connectedness. First, a doctor in the unit, not someone attending Marie, approached me and said, “I notice you’ve been here a long time. You must take care of yourself. Go eat something, maybe a peanut butter cookie. You’ll be no good to her if you don’t take care of yourself.” I did as she suggested and felt strengthened by her concern.

Then, my friend Crystal stepped into the door of the ICU with a large shopping bag in each hand and a wide smile on her face. She had brought a huge amount of Golden Bird Fried Chicken and all the trimmings. “Oh, thank you, Chris,” I said, “But I can’t eat a thing.” “It’s not for you,” she laughed. “It’s for the doctors and nurses taking care of Marie. I want them, when they are working with her, to remember she is someone extra special and that they must do their very best.” I will never forget that kindness that helped me know Marie and I were not alone, that we were not forgotten. Then my sister came, then my mother, friends dropped by the hospital, and I was suddenly surrounded by angels. After 8 days in a coma, Marie awakened. She was blind for some time and had to learn to walk, to write, and to feed herself again. We received caring support from friends and professionals alike through the arduous journey of rehabilitation. Through the experience of her catastrophic illness, miraculous recovery, and the extraordinary gestures of caring that kept coming our way, I learned that I can try to help others out of their prisons of misery and grief just as others have helped me. I can use my eyes to see the need in others, to observe their hurt. I can urge my heart to feel and soothe their need. I can employ my hands and body to make even the smallest difference in setting a prisoner free. To me, this is the spirit of Advent - - giving to others as we remember the coming Christ, the most wonderful gift to us all. Dear God, Spirit of Goodness and Right, Open my blind eyes to the ways in which I may be imprisoned by selfishness, grief, fear or failure. Help me recall how Christ released individuals from their prisons of misery by feeding, healing, comforting, teaching, forgiving, and bringing new life to those who were dead in flesh and in spirit. Help me heed Christ’s example of love and service in action, using all I am to serve others in their inner darkness, outward victimization, poverty, addiction, and every kind of need. Amen

December 21st is, at once, a day in Advent on which we are reading an O Antiphon and the longest night of the year, on which many have blue services Christmas and when we look together to the growing of light in the northern hemisphere. It is also the feast day of St. ‘doubting’ Thomas, Apostle. There are reflections for all three occasions to follow. December 21 – Saturday of 3rd Advent Judith Junkins O Antiphon 5:" O Dawn from on high, splendor of God's light and sun of justice; Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness, in the shadow of death". To me the splendor of God's light, for a sinner like me seems so very bright. Justice is hope so true, His light so bright on me and you. Darkness, with Christ, there holds no fear, a prayer to God, so loving and dear, We are saved by His great light death has no sting, Salvation is there for us, have no fear. Jesus is always very near! Many days of my journey as a Christian, I have felt the sting of death of a loved one. The season of Advent always brings to me the wonderful hope that all is well. The Advent prayers, hymns that are sung, the placing of the greens – they all give us visual signs, a preparation for the Great Emmanuel. With God's Son, we have no fear. We believe that God will be with us, evermore.

December 21 – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle – Habakkuk 2:1-4 Adwoa Lewis-Wilson In every epoch of history it is relatively easy for us humans to believe in the Cross; the crucifixion of so much from the earth to the dignity of the addict is grimly all around us. But hope? Frankly, we don’t hope without proof. At least not Christian hope, not only that it can be better, but that there is a larger God story in which all is well. No wonder we read of Thomas (John 20:24-29) every first Sunday after Easter and recognize him as the final Saint we celebrate before Christmas. For me the hope of Christmas is more audacious than the hope of Easter. Just imagine Perfect Unity and Harmonious Multiplicity. God. This God sends not just prophets to speak, but Godself to infuse humanity with the message of Love. God more spacious than the heavens willing Mary’s womb is the real cosmic scandal. Powerless into the hands of an intrepidly wayward species. By choice. Specifically to endure all its wayward tendencies directly. Thomas forces me to ask myself, “Do I trust that this is actually true? Bruised and scarred as I am by collisions with life, am I willing to get up and begin again in God-confident hope?” As I type, I prepare for a day of interviews about ministry, a major hinge point in a process that formally began about nine months ago. It took a long time to get to that point. I’d once hoped in a vocation, that I’d be a nun. It was a naïve, and, in hindsight, embarrassingly self-absorbed hope. But it was also based in a brilliant vision of God’s goodness that enveloped all that is with love within my heart. Anyway, after years of pushing square peg into round hole and consequences that will linger a lifetime, I walked away broken. Shortly after, someone asked me to consider starting a new community; people were interested. I said I’d companion the journey, but with tears in my eyes, I let my heart bleed honestly. ‘I just don’t know that my spirit can survive anymore hope,’ I said to my solicitor. Yet here I am, sitting serenely before a day of ministry interviews. I’ve been reawakened to a very specific hope. Not of this call or that. Not even that my shortcomings are forgiven. It is hope that those things that my limited sight in my

darkest night sees as failure are actually sundry trimesters of what is to be born, by my willingness to say an unreserved ‘yes’, at last. All of this living of mine, and yours, is nothing but the birth pangs of Christ-God being born through me, and you, the only vocation worth the push. Ah!, it is even harder to believe than that God IS in my soul or that the Baby of Mary was in the flesh. Thomas, thank you for your willingness to die with Jesus (John 11:16), which we so often forget. But more than that, thank you for daring to call the bluff on the scandal of God’s love. A lot of my ability to allow Life to happen through this body, birth pangs and all, is upheld by your willingness to check again. Thank you, my friend! ♦ December 21 – Longest Night Reflection Nye Ffarrabas HEAT / DEFROST I learned, this morning the frost scrapes off the windshield a lot easier if you give it a chance to melt a little, from the hea(r)t inside

Goose fly southward, hedgehog gnaw, Who knows how many snowflakes Before spring? Return: dry grass and Wind run slipshod overland Whistling: return ----

A POEM FOR THE LONGEST NIGHT Deep, deep in the shadows we hunger for light Through the dark hours a candle burns, steady and bright Out of the depths daybreak comes; darkness takes flight Bravely a new day dawns out of the longest night

Fourth Week of Advent Collect: Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

December 22 – 4th Sunday of Advent – Collect and Antiphon Reflection Duncan Hilton O Antiphon 6: O RULER of the Gentiles, their treasure and the cornerstone that binds them in one: Come and save those whom you formed from the dust. How confusing our collects and prayers can be! We petition God in this collect to purify our conscience in “daily visitation.” And then, in the very same sentence, we anticipate what Jesus Christ will find “at his coming.” You might be wondering, “Is God with us daily or is God to come in the future? Or both?” I’ve found the Anglican bishop and theologian N.T. Wright helpful in these matters, especially in his book, Surprised By Hope. There he describes “the big picture of cosmic redemption”: God will redeem the whole universe; Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of that new life, the fresh grass growing through the concrete of corruption and decay in the old world. That final redemption will be the moment when heaven and earth are joined together at last, in a burst of God’s creative energy for which Easter is the prototype and source. . . The presence we know at the moment – the presence of Jesus with his people in word and sacrament, by the Spirit, through prayer, in the faces of the poor – is of course related to that future presence but the distinction between them is important and striking. Jesus’ appearing will be, for those of us who have known and loved him here, like meeting face-to-face someone we have only known by letter, telephone, or email. It may be that the God who visits us daily we can only understand as clearly we can understand our loved ones by phone call or email. We pray to remember that we anticipate one day his coming in full glory and encountering him with the clarity and intimacy of meeting someone face-to-face whom we have only known through correspondence. Are you preparing for that meeting? What messages is God sending you now partially, by email or telephone? What does that suggest to you that He will care about when you meet one another face-to-face?

In today’s O Antiphon we pray, “Come and save those whom you formed from the dust.” It reminds us that the work of salvation belong to God, not to us. It gives us permission to let go of our efforts to make ourselves useful, loveable, worthy. The work which belongs to us is to listen for that ring of the telephone in the sacraments, in the Word, in prayer, in the faces of the poor; to pick up the call; and to remember that an even more direct and intimate meeting awaits. ♦ December 23 – Monday of 4th Advent Jean Smith O Antiphon 7: O IMMANUEL, our ruler and lawgiver, the expectation and savior of the nations, Come and set us free, O Lord our God. Isaiah 7:14-17, 33:22 “Come and set us free, Lord our God” speaks a daring expectation of the Incarnate One to come. The urgent beckoning to come among us is a faith statement that God’s will for our freedom is strong enough to set us free from what binds us, that we may become more fully human. I think about freedom in categories of “freedom from” and “freedom to.” We pray for freedom from myriad spiritual, psychological, and social restraints: illness, poverty, our biases, fear, self- involvement, loneliness, and the inequity and injustices of our social system. We pray for freedom to live in safety, to have opportunity for education and work, to make mistakes, to feel worthy, and to experience acceptance and the opportunity to give of ourselves to others. My thinking about freedom has become more embodied since joining a COSA, a Circle of Support and Accountability. A program of the Department of Corrections, it supports people transitioning from prison back into communities. Meeting weekly, we offer support primarily by listening to the “core member.” He works to leave behind his past to face the challenge of making changes to become more than a troubled person who made poor choices and paid for it.

I doubt he received much help during incarceration to recover from the wounds of childhood abandonment. Growing up I knew love and no such abandonment. Yet I recognize myself, too, in some of his reactivity, self-doubt, and struggle to trust. Freedom can be a cause for celebration, yet it feels risky. Changing from old ideas, responses, and actions to life- giving ones is hard work. With God’s help our friend will find a new sense of purpose, joy, and freedom to… God alone knows the possibilities. We pray for him and for us all: Lord, Come and set us free! ♦

December 24 – Monday of 4th Advent -Zechariah 1: 7-17 Devin Starlanyl Advent is a time of anticipation, longing, looking inward. On this day, before the Eve of the Night of Nights, we reflect upon Zechariah’s vision in which he sees men riding horses. Zechariah speaks with angels to learn who these men are. An angel informs him that God had sent them to patrol the nations of the Earth. The men have found that the nations were at peace with themselves. In “The New Oxford Annotated Bible,” the original words mean that those nations are complacent, even though God is angry at them. The nations had not yet received the judgment of God, yet one might say they were feeling smug. That is not true peace. The angel asks God how long mercy will be withheld from Jerusalem and other cities of Judea. God speaks words of comfort to the angel, and the angel assures Zechariah that God is compassionate and will reconcile with Judea. God will once again choose Jerusalem. God does. On this Night of Nights, God’s Gift will be born in a manger in Jerusalem. We may call for Peace on Earth, but such is ours to create. We have been shown the way. It is for us to follow this Jesus, to develop peace in our hearts with humility rather than complacency and self-righteousness, and to work to establish true Peace on Earth.

Collect for Christmas Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born this [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

December 25 - Christmas Day - 1 John 4:7-16 Kim Peavey The First Epistle of John says that “God is love,” which is beautiful, simple and spirit-opening, enough and more than enough. But the writer of First John is also worried, because some in the faith communities are disagreeing: is Jesus pretty much all human or pretty much all divine? Did Jesus really have a body that was born and lived and died in the world as we are born and live and die? This Christmas Day, I offer a poem about incarnation based on my life as a mother, farmer, and writer. It is inspired by artist and teacher Susan Wadsworth, who creates 'poetic landscapes and childscapes' in pastel. She notes that her students increasingly see images of the Madonna as a universal image of mother and child.

Birthing Room Some say pastels, blue or pink. No: this is browns, blacks, reds. In case you misunderstand, the artist in the room says, “I'm not a painter, technically. I work in pastels, though I do use paper as a medium.” The baby on paper, the baby who is using paper as a medium, grows larger and larger, eclipses lake, mountain, sun, moon, sky. In light, shadow, light, colors rise: scarlet, wine, night, blood, sable, onyx, umber, crimson, rose. The mildest of women, most modest of women, looks at the floor and laughs quietly. She says it's like shitting

a watermelon. In case you misunderstand, the farmer in the room says, “It's a little brown potato, nice size, color, coming up, coming out, and I'm thinking, that's not bad, but then it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger!” Seed baby, eye baby, heart baby, the ground trembles, hardpan or silt loam, it doesn't matter: come, come to matter. The Madonna is serene in her frame. One hand holds the Holy Child, the other holds a globe. In case you misunderstand, the student in the room says, “Yeah, it's a mom and a baby. The baby is holding a toy, like a globe, no, wait, maybe it's the mom holding the globe . . ?” The mom in the sky blue robe is holding the globe in one hand, the baby in the other; they grow heavier and heavier. She is steady, holding her ground. Maybe this is the beginning. The end. The beginning.

A Sky Full of God’s Children – Madeleine L’Engle I walk out onto the deck of my cottage, looking up at the great river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky. A sliver of a moon hangs in the southwest, with the evening star gently in the curve. Evening. Evening of this day. Evening of my own life. I look at the stars and wonder. How old is the universe? All kinds of estimates have been made and, as far as we can tell, not one is accurate. All we know is that once upon a time or, rather, once before time, Christ called everything into being in a great breath of creativity — waters, land, green growing things, birds and beasts, and finally human creatures — the beginning, the genesis, not in ordinary Earth days; the Bible makes it quite clear that God’s time is different from our time. A thousand years for us is no more than the blink of an eye to God. But in God’s good time the universe came into being, opening up from a tiny flower of nothingness to great clouds of hydrogen gas to swirling galaxies. In God’s good time came solar systems and planets and ultimately this planet on which I stand on this autumn evening as the Earth makes its graceful dance around the sun. It takes one Earth day, one Earth night, to make a full turn, part of the intricate pattern of the universe. And God called it good, very good. A sky full of God’s children! Each galaxy, each star, each living creature, every particle and subatomic particle of creation, we are all children of the Maker. From a subatomic particle with a life span of a few seconds, to a galaxy with a life span of billions of years, to us human creatures somewhere in the middle in size and age, we are made in God’s image, male and female, and we are, as Christ promised us, God’s children by adoption and grace. Children of God, made in God’s image. How? Genesis gives no explanations, but we do know instinctively that it is not a physical image. God’s explanation is to send Jesus, the incarnate One, God enfleshed. Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest

galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine. Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy? Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing, Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer large enough, and it is time for birth. Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years to show us what we ought to be and could be. Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what it means to be made in God’s image. Jesus, as Paul reminds us, was the firstborn of many brethren. I stand on the deck of my cottage, looking at the sky full of God’s children, and know that I am one of them.

Profile for The Episcopal Church in Vermont

A Season of Faith, Beauty, and Hope: St. Michael's Advent Devotional 2019  

An Advent devotional by the voices of St. Michael’s Parish, Brattleboro, Vermont.

A Season of Faith, Beauty, and Hope: St. Michael's Advent Devotional 2019  

An Advent devotional by the voices of St. Michael’s Parish, Brattleboro, Vermont.


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