Archive for category: Advent

The One That’s Not About Politics

Yesterday, I sent out the first edition of this month’s Tiny Letter. Why the wait? This one came together like a slow slog. Uphill. In a blizzard. Through a vat of tar. At 3:00 in the morning. On a Monday.

Brutal, eh?

It’s a piece that touches on the darkness of Advent, the Eucharist, and the best medicine in a world with out-of-control healthcare costs. I hope you’ll read along (excerpt below) by following this link and signing up.

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*Authors Note: Welcome to the TinyLetter it’s taken me a near-eternity to write. You may be tempted to believe this is political commentary, and as George Orwell said, “`In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….” Please keep reading. This is not so much about politics as it is about this season, Advent.

1.

Advent crept up on me like a black cloud, an omen, a ghost, a specter. Some dark crack opened in the sidewalk, a seam in the everyday, and I was pulled headlong into it. It’s a dramatic sounding thing, but how else do you describe being chased by a feeling or falling into one? I don’t know.

It started when I began shopping for health insurance for my family. I’m a self-employed writer, and my Cobra coverage from the old nine-to-five is on the wane. I’d heard the Government flicked the neon Open sign on at healthcare.gov, so, I joined millions of other Americans in the great holiday tradition–pricing health care plans over a mug of egg nog.

(“There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and health care to buy don’t y’know.”)

I hoped to find an appropriate plan, one that afforded the same level of coverage as my existing Cobra plan. I filled out the forms, followed the prompts, and waited for the estimates to appear on the screen, and when they did, I nearly choked, then refreshed the screen. There had to be a mistake. My already too-expensive medical insurance was going up over thirty percent.

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For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

I’m starting a little poetry series for these waning days of Advent. I’ll be posting a few here. For the entire series, join my Patreon community for as little as $2.00 a month.

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For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

A year will come when December looks less like Christmas and more like Advent, a hidden promise waiting in dark waters, a buried body sojourning in the womb of an immigrant woman, pregnant.

In that year of our Lord, childhood music will hollow out, and you will be left with the muted shells of drums, a memory frosted to fantasy, the want for the peace of staying.

When that day comes, know this: In the darkness, a great light shines, even if it is shrouded by the womb of a holy mother or held in two cupped hands, bread crumbs sprinkled on the chapel rug like stars scattered in the night,

either way, body of Christ in the world without end, Amen.

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Advent: Day 19 (Laws and Lineages)

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 nineteen.

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Readings: Isaiah 9:18-10:4; 2 Peter 2:10b-16; Matthew 3:1-12

In yesterday’s Gospel reading, we found John the Baptist in the wilderness, preaching repentance to the people. And today, here we are again in that same wilderness with the same prophet speaking to the same people. He preaches the same message of repentance, makes the same reference to the sandals of the Christ. He talks of fire and water again. So much is the same, here, so why the juxtapositions of the Mark and Matthew passages? Why are we repeating the lesson?

Take a closer look. Notice the difference. See the crowd? Matthew notes the many Pharisees and Sadducees who’ve joined the crowd, writes that they were “coming for baptism.” Perform, perform, perform–they were performing for the people, acting as if they, too, were seeking the repentance preached by John. But John saw through the ruse, and he exposed them.

“You brood of vipers! … Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree that therefore does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The religious leaders were skilled in the art of performance and political pageantry. “Words, words, words–” John said, “all you do is speak words. Instead of relying on your law and lineage, show the fruit of a reformed life.”

The words of John are a reminder to us today. We have our own laws and lineages, don’t we? We have the faith of our fathers, the rules and regulations that have been passed down from generation to generation. Baptists? You have your rules, your favorite fathers (whether of antiquity or present day). Catholics? You have yours, too. Non-denominational Bible-Churchers? Don’t pretend you’re free of your own laws and lineages. (I’ve seen the Christian living section at the local bookstore.) And make no mistake about it, John’s call isn’t to ignore those laws and lineages, at least not altogether; instead, it’s to live a life that bears the fruit of repentance, that embodies the spirit of those laws and lineages.

Bear fruit.

Bear fruit.

Bear fruit.

This is today’s Advent reminder. Live into the spirit of the laws and lineages of the faith. Repent. Bear fruit.

It’s the nineteenth day of Advent. Are you preparing?

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

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Advent: Day 18 (Power is Coming)

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 eighteen.

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Readings: Isaiah 9:8-17; 2 Peter 2:1-10a; Mark 1:1-8

Today, we move from Luke’s passion account and push into the Gospel of Mark. Mark opens with this salutation: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It is the genesis according to Mark, the first inkling that the words of Isaiah have been enfleshed.

“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'”

This is the good news of the Scriptures. Power has stooped low; it has come. This Advent, it’s coming again. Can you see it?

***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.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Advent: Day 17

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 seventeen.

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Readings: Isaiah 9:1-7; 2 Peter 1:12-21; Luke 22:54-69

Over the last few days, we’ve been following Jesus as he makes his way to the cross. In that, we’ve examined the disciples–Judas, Peter and the sleeping ones. Are we so much different? Aren’t we the betrayers? Aren’t we the deniers? Aren’t we Peter? See him follow Jesus into the courtyard of persecution. See him following, though, at a distance.

This is the story from the courtyard of Christ’s persecution:

About an hour later, someone else spoke up, really adamant: “He’s got to have been with him! He’s got ‘Galilean’ written all over him.”

Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” He went out and cried and cried and cried. (Luke 59-62, The Message)

Deny, deny, deny–this was the way of Peter at the trial of Jesus. I suppose I’ve been a denier, too. I suppose I’ll be one again. I’ve been drunk before; I’ll be drunk again. I’ve been asleep before; I’ll be asleep again. This is the human condition. We fall, and fall, and fall. Don’t we?

But there’s a beauty in the pairing of today’s readings. When they scheduled the lectionary readings for Advent, the church fathers didn’t let Peter twist in the wind of his denial. Instead, they juxtaposed Peter’s traitorous moment with the proof of his redemption. (Ain’t that a breath of fresh air?) The one-time denier was recreated by the affection of the resurrected Christ, and it was in this recreation Peter that stood as a living reminder. Read his words, written to the believers of his day and of all the days to come:

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:12-15)

Remember.

Remember.

Remember.

This is Peter’s clarion call–remember the truth; live as a reminder.

Remember.

Remember.

Remember.

It’s the seventeenth day of Advent. Are you preparing your heart for the return of the King? Are you living in remembrance of his eventual coming? Are you preparing to stand firm until his coming?

Remember.

Remember.

Remember.

 

***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.