Meditations - Advent 2018
22 DEC - 2018 Advent
Psalm 139: 1 – 18
139 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
3. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
4. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
7. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8. If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10. even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
11. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”
12. even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
17. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18. If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
In this Advent season many of our readings compel us to meditate on the nature of Christ; we focus on the preparation and the Gospel, or good news, of the coming of the savior. These scriptures establish a context for the wonder of the spirit. They proclaim the amazing possibilities of the coming Messiah.
In this Psalm, however, the lens is shifted inward from Christ to us. It marvels at the depth and breadth of Christ’s love for us; that no matter who we are or where we are (literally and figuratively), God knows us and is with us. There is no deeper commitment of love than one that says that ‘no matter where you go, or what you do, I am with you. I’ve got your back.” Psalm 139 is a prayer of Thanksgiving.
Depending on one’s personal circumstances, the holidays can be a time of great joy or of crushing sorrow. For those who are unemployed, or sick or without family, the comfort and optimism of faith can make a profound difference. The notion that ‘we are not alone’ can provide the inspiration that we need to pull through. Let us reach out to share God’s love. Let us pray.
24 DEC - 2018 Advent
Luke 2: 8 - 14
5. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6. Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7. rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
9. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11. and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I have meditated on this passage, one of Saint Paul’s most exquisite and most famous teachings, and I’ve found it difficult to comment. He said it all. I decided to suggest re-reading this lesson a few more times.
There’s no better time in our year than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to be joyous in remembering to try and have the same mindset as Christ in our relationships with one another. It would be more challenging if we were far away from friends and family, perhaps in a country where Christians are vastly outnumbered, so I’m mindful of those who are alienated in some way as we lucky ones celebrate Christmas in comfort and joy. Let us pray for those who are alone or infirm, or in detention, or lacking food or clean water; who are surrounded by enmity and fear; and let us pray for every one who can hear the Word of God to be uplifted and resolved in following Saint Paul’s encouragement, to love God, and our neighbors, as Christ Jesus did.
Merry Christmas! Thanks be to God!
13 DEC - 2018 Advent
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
What strikes me about this passage is that it describes two different sets of preparations. In the first paragraph, the preparations involve subterfuge, greed and betrayal, all rooted in fear (“for they were afraid of the people”). In the second, the preparations involve worship, celebration and community, rooted in love.
Then I’m reminded of another scripture: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear….” (1 John 4:18).
This suggests to me a very simple meditation as we prepare for Jesus’ coming. Where does fear darken our lives? What would our lives be like if we recognized that fear and turned away from it? Where does love brighten our lives? How can we recognize it and turn towards it?
Because Advent is all about the fact that love is coming. In the words of one of my favorite Advent carols:
People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.
10 DEC - 2018 Advent
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
New International Version (NIV)
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 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. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I share the following with you with Sharon’s permission. Sharon’s sister in law went into hospice care on Thanksgiving day. This was indeed dark news. Sharon spent the later part of the day on the phone with her niece in Florida guiding her through the process of celebrating her mother’s life and beginning to grieve her mother’s dying. This is one of Sharon’s many gifts. She is a nurse by training and is a strong advocate for hospice care having worked in this sector of health care herself.
In some ways, this exchange between an aunt and her niece is not remarkable but for the fact that Sharon’s niece and her sister in law have not been close or in consistent contact with Sharon’s side of the family for over 28 years. Sharon’s brother Danny, now deceased for 8 years, was divorced from his wife and after the divorce, the McSorley family did not really keep in touch with the sister-in-law or the niece.
Through Facebook, Sharon found out that her sister-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was obvious by her sister-in-law’s and her niece’s posting that they needed support to deal with this dark and scary news. Sharon reached out to them. And when it came time for her sister in law to be in hospice, Sharon’s niece asked Sharon to share the news with the family and let them know that they would be welcome at the funeral.
After doing so, Sharon decided to book a trip to visit with them now, while her sister-in-law is still with us. When Sharon and I talked about this trip, the words of this reading filled my ears.
“ But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness…Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up.”