Archive for category: Advent

Advent: Day 16

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 sixteen.

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Imagine the upper room, the table, the bread, the wine. See Christ divide the bread. See him hold the cup. Hear him say, “This is my body, broken for you; this is my blood, poured out for you. Do this in remembrance.” Feel the weight of the words spoken by candlelight, even while Judas made preparations for the great betrayal.

See the disciples following Jesus out of that room, follow their sandal prints to the Mount of Olives. It is the darkest hour—we know this now—but hear their hushed whispers of confusion. They are on the cusp of the greatest story ever told. Even with all the prophets, all the teaching of Jesus, even with the lingering taste of cracked wheat and sticky wine on their palates, they meander, clueless.

On the Mount, he gives one last command to the disciples. “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial,” he says, and withdraws only a stone’s throw away. There, before his own last trial, he offers an honest, earnest prayer. Enter that mountainside garden in your imagination; hear him pray.

“Father, if you are willing, remove the cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”

In prayer, he discerns God’s will. In prayer, he sees his coming agony. But in prayer, he is given strength from an angel. Even so, the agony.

His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:44)

Smell the sweet salt, the acridity of sweat and blood mixing. Imagine the tears. Imagine his prayers.

Go there. Imagine. Imagine. Imagine.

Then see the disciples, who’ve long since given up all notions of mystery, who’ve slept away Christ’s command to pray. See their peace juxtaposed against the anguished prayer of their best friend. They made prayer and friendship into fickle sport. Jesus made prayer and friendship into a bloodsport.

Now, see yourself in that same garden. Imagine yourself a disciple. Are you keeping watch with your friend, or are you dreaming of the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom that’s surely about to come? Do you imagine him with a scepter, you with a sword, victorious over your enemies? Do you dismiss the pain of your friend, exchange it for visions of victory?

Advent is a time of preparation of the heart, and not just for the coming of the sweet baby Jesus swaddled in the manger (although there is that). Advent is a time of heart reflection, of praying so that we might stand in our own trials, so that we might be ready for the coming of the King. Advent is the time to mimic our Jesus, to stay awake, even in the darkest night.

Are you 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 13

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 thirteen.

***

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5; Luke 22:14-30

We are betrayers. We are partakers. We are everything in between. Remember, remember, remember.

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.” ~Luke 22:19-21

Are you partaker? Are you betrayer?

Advent preparation begs us to ask these questions.

***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 12

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. (Apologies for missing yesterday; I was on the road.) It’s Advent, day twelve.

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Readings: Isaiah 7:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Luke 22:1-13

I always find it odd when the Advent readings take a turn into the passion narrative. Advent–isn’t this the season of preparation for the sweet little baby Jesus, swaddled in the manger? But today’s Gospel reading (and the readings for the next week) push us into the journey of Christ’s cross, and though we won’t reach the crossbeams and the nails, we’ll come right to the cusp.

What gives?

Advent is a season of preparation of the heart. Doesn’t that preparation require us to ask the hard questions, even questions of betrayal and death? Consider today’s Gospel reading.

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

Ah, Judas–the shadow villain, the blackest of biblical characters. How easy it is to dismiss his error, to dismiss him as a man filled with demons. But sometimes I wonder–am I so different?

Are there times I’d sell out my Jesus for bit of extra silver or gold?

Yes.

Are there times I’d consort with the powerful to secure power, validation, and accolades for myself?

No question.

When I’m in secret, when I’m in “the absence of a crowd,” do I find myself mired in betrayal and the darkness of my own heart?

That question smarts.

It’s the season of heart preparation, and any good heart preparation must wrestle with the harder questions. Among them is this one–am I really so different than Judas?

Ask the questions. Examine the answers. Prepare your heart. The King is coming, coming, coming. He’s always coming.

***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 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.

***

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.

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 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.