Advent: Day 10

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings each weekday. It’s Advent, day ten.

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Readings: Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; Luke 21:29-38

The world wobbles on its axis this time of year, what with the weight of the season bearing down. The commercial Christmas season comes with its material, and eggnog, and all its pomp and circumstance and promises to bring Joy to the World. But this joy, isn’t it just a distraction from the truth of Advent?

The King is coming again. Stay awake. Prepare your hearts.

In the book of Luke, Jesus says this about the preparation for his coming:

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

“Stay awake,” he says.

Stay awake. 

Stay awake.

Stay awake.

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

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Advent: Day 9

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings each weekday. It’s Advent, day nine.

***

Readings: Isaiah 5:8-12, 18-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Luke 21:20-28

Sin and consequences–don’t the two seem a natural pair? The preacher reminds us there are consequences for sin. Your momma told you there were consequences for sin. The horror movies of the 1980s led you to the conclusion that premarital sex led to a machete beheading–sin and consequences, see.

Today’s lectionary reading from Isaiah is odd. There are sins listed, yes, but where are the consequences? Read the list of Isaiah’s Ahs.

Ah, you who amass houses and lands and squeeze out the impoverished and disadvantaged.

Ah, you who party from sunup to sundown, you who drink, drink, drink with no eye to the future.

Ah, you who lie about the state of your soul, who cover your sin by saying, “See God’s work in my life?”

Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes;

Ah, you who are heroic in your drunkenness, who are blind to the guilt of the guilty, who deprive the innocent of rights.

It is a passage of exposition, leaving the reader naked in his or her own hypocrisy. Don’t you see yourself in this scripture? Can’t you identify your own greed, drunkenness, hypocrisy, false wisdom, or participation in injustice? Do you see the ways in which you wear the beer goggles of humanity? Aren’t you and I drunk on something, stumbling sideways and falling under the Ahs of the prophet? And if you do not see yourself here, consider this: are you suffering under the weight of your own pride?

In today’s companion reading in Thessalonians, Paul warns us against continuing in these Ahs. He asks us to prepare for the coming of the Christ.

“But you, Beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you all are children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober….”

It’s Advent, day nine. Are you preparing for the King’s return?

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Advent: Day 6

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings each weekday. It’s Advent, day six.

***

Readings: Isaiah 3:8-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; Luke 20:41-21:4

Recall yesterday’s reading from Isaiah ? Remember how the prophet wrote that all of humanity’s silver and golden gods would be left to the rodents on the day of the King’s return? Silver, gold, wealth, self-sufficiency–it’s all an illusion, the prophet says.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that today’s Advent Gospel reading also touches on wealth and self-sufficiency. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus preached to the people within earshot of the Sadducees. He warned the people of the Sadducees’ abuse of power, of they way they used their religious position to gain wealth, honor, and respect. But in the middle of his sermon, something caught his eye. Scripture records it this way:

“He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.'” (Luke 21:1-4)

Why was the woman giving everything she had? Why was she so willing to give from her poverty? I suppose we’ll never know the answers to those questions. But why did Jesus praise her sacrifice of copper over the rich man’s offering of gold and silver? This might be an easier answer. This widow, poor as she was, understood that her meager copper (not to mention gold or silver) could not save her. It was likely not enough to buy food or clothing. Perhaps it wasn’t enough to pay her rent. And in her great lack, she understood that she was dependent upon God, the sustainer of her life. He was her provision, and she intended to show thanks by returning to him what little he’d given her.

What a beautiful picture of the circle of life.

He gives.

I give back.

He gives again.

I give again.

Round, and round, and round we go.

I’ve said this before, but Advent is a season of preparation for the coming King. But what good is a season of preparation without actual preparation? Today, ask yourself these questions:

-Do you find your security in gold, silver, or your IRA?

-What will happen to that security when you meet the coming King? Will he take stock of it?

-Are you willing to give from your wealth and poverty alike? Are you willing to sacrifice in gratefulness, knowing it’s the King’s provision that sustains you?

The King is coming. The King is coming. The King is coming. Are you ready?

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Advent: Day 5

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings. It’s Advent, day five.

***

Readings: Isaiah 2:12-22; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40

It’s a season of preparation, and what season of preparation would be complete without actual preparation?  And by preparation, I do not mean the hanging of the stockings, the wrapping of presents, or the soaking of the fruitcake with rum. (Is any fruitcake edible without a good rum soaking?) The preparation of Advent less about ribbons and bows and more about the heart.

Prepare the heart; prepare the heart; prepare the heart. Do you hear the call?

 

In this season of heart-preparation, here comes the prophet Isaiah, and he tugs on the black threads tangled in our DNA. He exposes the darkness of so many human hearts (mine included), and begins today’s passage with no small warning:

“…the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low.” (Isaiah 2:12)

Brought low.

Brought low.

The proud and lofty will be brought low.

Sounding the alarm, Isaiah continues, cautions the people of Israel against finding their validation in their savings accounts, in the gods fashioned from their surplus gold and silver. What good do precious metals do the heart that is not prepared for the return of the King? On the day of the Lord’s return, Isaiah wrote,

“mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty….” (Isaiah 2:20-21)

The gold and silver will be given to the moles and bats. All that shiny security shat on by the rodents.

Brought low.

Brought low.

The proud and lofty will be brought low.

Gods of gold and silver–how do I make them today? How do I chase these lesser gods while ignoring the impending coming of the King? Lesser gods–my, how they occupy my time.

It’s a season of preparation for the coming of the King, and perhaps, like me, you find yourself trusting in the lesser gods of silver and gold. Perhaps, like me, you’ve taken pride in these worthless gods. Perhaps you’ve put your trust in the security of your own making. Is this the black thread running the length of your DNA? If so, maybe this is your mantra of preparation: the security of my making is rodent fodder. Put another way, you might remember it this way:

brought low;

brought low;

the proud and lofty will be brought low.

 

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Advent: Day 4

Each Advent, I commit to reading the daily lectionary, the Bible readings that prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s coming. This year, I’m writing a brief reflection on these readings. It’s Advent, day four.

***

Readings: Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Corinthians 4:1-16; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42

This morning’s readings are a gripping lot. From the sword-tongued servant in Isaiah to the come-and-see admonition of Jesus, these passages are full of ponder-worthy scriptures. And yet, despite all these scriptures, one small sentence in the writings of Paul hooked me.

“I do not even judge myself.”

It is Advent, a season of preparation, and as we continue the journey of preparation, it is natural to turn to self-examination. In that self-examination, though, how prone are we to judge ourselves? How often do we size ourselves up as having fallen short of either real or arbitrary standards? Isn’t self-judgment such a death spiral?

I’m a failure.

I’m a failure.

I’m such a failure.

Woe is me, the failure.

Crash.

Burn.

Self-examination is a worthy task, a task necessary to prepare our hearts for coming of the Christ. It allows us to see just where the black thread has tightened, where it’s constricted, where it chokes. But self-reflection does not require self-judgment or self-flagellation. It doesn’t require us to enter the death-spiral of self-diagnosed failure.

There is only one judge, and he’d rather bring his Kingdom with kindness than beat the hell out of you. It’s a hard truth, but believe it.

You are not your own judge. In your Advent preparation consider the words of Paul, and refrain from judging yourself. Then,

be kind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Do not judge, and be kind to yourself.

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.