Tag Archives: Advent

Advent Reflection from a Clergy

As I write this, I am mindful that we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, December 3rd.  I don’t think I fully understood the significance of this liturgical season until one Advent Sunday, some 23 years ago.  It was a gray, cold, bone chilling morning in Chicago, but I was warmed by the beauty of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church with its Gothic architecture, flawless stone carvings, candles casting light into dark corners with dancing flames, while the Skinner organ accompanying the Men & Boys Choir, led the congregation in a mournful yet robust singing of “Come, oh Come Emmanuel.”   I was the Celebrant that morning, and processed down the aisle behind the Thurifer, Crucifer, Torch Bearers, twenty or so choir members, and several acolytes.  I was fully vested in several layers of robes, complete with a magnificent purple chasuble, and great with child, my being seven months pregnant.  The historical events of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, recounted during Advent, from the Annunciation to the waiting for the birth of her child, connected me to Mary in a way that I had not experienced before.

Following the service, I was approached by a new comer, who tearfully told me that she was Roman Catholic, and that she began weeping when she saw me coming down the aisle, a pregnant priest in a chasuble  She explained that she had only seen male priests leading worship, and that she had been waiting for half a century to see a female priest at the altar, and a pregnant one was beyond her imagination.  We talked as Mothers, about that experience of being ‘great with child”, knowing that something mysterious and wonderful was growing within us, and waiting patiently and hopefully to see the face of our child.  We both understood that Advent and pregnancy are seasons when we practice waiting, when we are invited to savor our present state of being, when trust, patience, hope, fears, longings, and anticipation are emotions as well as experiences that teach and refine us both in Advent and in pregnancy.

The root of the word savor comes from the Latin word saporem which means to taste and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. I have discovered, that when I give myself over to the experience of savoring, wisdom emerges. Savoring calls for a kind of surrender, of letting go of my usual way of being; savoring calls me to taste slowness: I can’t savor quickly.  Savoring calls me to taste essentials: I can’t savor everything at once.  Savoring calls me to taste mindfulness: I can’t savor without being fully present.  Savoring is a practice of enjoying the waiting.

Waiting has never been easy; it can be a heavy burden, or boring, or anxiety producing, and our culture has little respect for the value of waiting, as we have come to expect fast food, Amazon prime, instant downloads, snapchat and text messages.  We are conditioned to want immediate action, responses, and results.  The liturgical season of Advent is a counter-cultural opportunity to practice waiting, preparing, savoring, and hopeful anticipation.  I often wonder, is there value in honoring Advent, as stores are stuffed with Christmas items prior to Halloween, Christmas tunes tinkle over the radio on Black Friday, and the bell ringers at the red Salvation Army kettles wish me a “Merry Christmas!”  I turn into a Grinch and say, “Advent Blessings.”

In spite of feeling like a salmon swimming upstream in the cultural river of consumerism, self-gratification, and the pattern of avoiding the dark parts of life with copious colored lights and tinsel glittering 24/7, I think there is a missed opportunity for spiritual growth, when we do not fully immerse ourselves in Advent.  To prepare and wait, stretches us and makes the awaited celebration of the birth of the Christ child, even more joyful.  Without fasting, feasting may become only gluttony.  As we fall prey to never-ending celebrations, we lose some of the thrill and jubilation that comes with the ending of a long wait, an anticipated arrival, a longed-for promise of our Savior.  Our human experience is made up of sorrow & Joy, fasting & feasting, lament & praise, and to skip the one, diminishes the richness of other.

I encourage you this Advent season, as I do each year, to intentionally savor these four weeks of preparing and waiting, by choosing some spiritual practices that will take you deeper into the darkness of the night, away from artificial light, so you might see the gift of the star light and moon shadow.  The long-suffering waiting of the birth of Jesus, like any baby, serves to heighten the wonder, amazement, and joyful celebration when the waiting is over, the Savior has arrived, and we can see the glory of God, in the face of the promised one.  Advent Blessings,  SEB+
The Rev. Susan E. Bentley
St. James Episcopal Church
4515 Delray St. NW
Roanoke, Virginia 24012
(540) 366-4157
SEB@rev.net

 

Layperson View of Advent

As a child growing up in Texas, I attended a non-liturgical church. My family and I were there every time the church doors were open. I became well versed in the Bible and was baptized. Looking back at my childhood church, it reminds me of   Texas’ seasons – not much changed throughout the year. But, then I began dating my future husband. He belonged to a liturgical church. What a difference! Banners, vestments, and altar cloths kept changing throughout the year. I experienced church seasons for the first time.

God had a great plan for the world before he laid its foundation. God determined to give his only Son to be the savior of the world. The first season in the church year is Advent, a season of waiting. In Advent, we look to the past and long for the future; it is a season of hope in the season of winter.

Like the Jewish people before us who waited for hundreds of years for Messiah to come, we look back to Christ’s first coming and forward to his second coming. By faith we can say with Simeon at Messiah’s first visit to the Temple, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in t he presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32 ESV).

By faith we believe with Paul about Christ’s second advent, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV).

In nature, seasons occur in the same sequence year-after-year, i.e., winter, spring, summer, and fall. Although these four seasons have the same names, each year they are different. Not every fall is spectacularly gorgeous. Some winters are warm, while some springs are chilly. Thus, it is with the church calendar. The same cycle of seasons occurs year-after-year beginning the Advent; yet, the church seasons seem to change when, it is we who change.

Shortly after Dale and I got married, I constructed an Advent wreath for our new home and invited my mother for dinner. I was so proud of my home, my creativity, and my cooking. Almost immediately after my mother arrived, she pulled me aside and said, “Ann, that wreath is beautiful, but wouldn’t it be better to have red and green candles rather than that blue and pink?”

 Written by Ann Wolfer, St. John Lutheran Church, Roanoke, Virginia.

Come Long Expected Jesus

Beginning the 3rd week in Advent our energy changes from looking forward to Christ’s second coming to focusing on the birth of Jesus as a baby. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus written by Charles Wesley sums up our feelings as we wait for Jesus’ birth with joy. At the same time, Wesley provided sound doctrine on the purpose and value of this long-expected birth.

 Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

 Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Advent Surprise???

In the Old Testament, God fore-told the advent of his son. Although many prophets wrote about events that mankind could watch for which would herald the birth and life of Messiah, Isaiah wrote more about Messiah than any other prophet. Isaiah prophesied during the latter half of the eighth century before the birth of Jesus, yet, his predictions about Jesus were amazingly accurate. Below are eight of Isaiah’s prophecies and how Jesus full-filled them in his life. Mathematically, the odds of an individual fulfilling eight prophecies are one in 100 trillion.

                Isaiah wrote that the coming Messiah would be born of a young virgin woman and Jesus would be called Immanuel which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9-6). Jesus was born from a virgin, Mary of Nazareth (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35). In ancient times, names had meaning. Calling a child Immanuel identified that in the child, God was with mankind (Luke 1:35).

                Both Isaiah and Malachi wrote that before Jesus began his public ministry, a messenger would announce its start (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). Often, in the Bible a messenger was an angel; but, in this instance the messenger was John the Baptist. Two gospel writers, Matthew and John, recorded that prior to the start of Jesus’ public ministry, John the Baptist preached and baptized in the wilderness of Judea and on the east side of the Jordan River (Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:23-28).

                Isaiah prophesizd that the Spirit of God would rest upon Jesus (Isaiah 11:2). This prophecy was full-filled when Jesus was baptized by John (Matthew 3:16-17). The Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus. A voice from heaven declared that Jesus was God’s son. Isaiah wrote that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was on his son (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus himself identified that he full-filled this Isaiah-prophecy when he read Isaiah’s writing in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:21).

                Isaiah wrote that the coming Messiah’s ministry would honor Galilee and cause its people to see a great light (Isaiah 9:1-2). The province of Galilee was an outback region of the Roman Empire, where little happened of any note in the first century. Yet, Galilee was the region where Jesus spent most of his life. Likely, in the 21st century westernized individuals only know of first century Galilee because Jesus taught there. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy was accurate.

                According to Isaiah, the Messiah’s ministry would include miracles, such as giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, a fluent, clear tongue to individuals who stammered or were mute, and the lame individual would leap like a deer (Isaiah 32:3-4; Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus cured the blind, deaf, dumb/mute, and the lame (Matthew 9:2-8; Matthew 9:28-32).

The eighth prophecy that Isaiah gave about the Messiah was that when he spoke listeners would hear, but, not understand what the Messiah said (Isaiah 6:9-10). Although Jesus didn’t begin his ministry speaking in parables (see Matthew chapters 5–7), after a time he taught almost exclusively in parables to full-fill prophecy, i.e., hard-hearted listeners wouldn’t understand him (Matthew 13:14-15; John 12:38-41).

                Reflection: Should Messiah’s birth and behaviors have been a surprise to the Jews?

Advent: Symbol of Christ’s Second Coming

Most of us are so busy thinking about preparation for Jesus’ first coming on December 25, that we forget that Advent symbolized his second and well as first coming. If you haven’t already the scripture in the preceding blog, do so before you begin this entry.

John the Baptist, a prophet, is credited with heralding the coming of Jesus, the Christ. Yet, John’s first appearance in the New Testament was a parable, not about Jesus’ first coming as a babe in a manger, but, about Jesus’ second coming in glory. Overall, John identified that Jesus was the Messiah and that he would come first as a savior. At the end of the ages, Jesus would come as judge to separate the righteous from the unrighteous. According to Matthew, this is what John said: ““His winnowing fan (shovel, fork) is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out” (Matthew 3:12 AMP).

In this parable, John used the familiar agricultural metaphor of separating good grains of wheat from useless chaff. John taught that when Jesus comes the second time, he will separate Godly believers from those with a superficial, or no, belief in God. In ancient Judea, wheat kernels (seed, grain) were separated from chaff (stalks, straw) on threshing floors. Generally, chaff was unusable except as fodder for livestock, if even for that.

John preached personal acknowledgement and repentance of sins followed by water baptism as an outward sign of repentance. Symbolically, the baptismal water washed sins away. But, John didn’t stop with a message of repentance and baptism. John exhorted those baptized to change their behavior and bear fruit consistence with repentance (Luke 3:8-14). When those baptized asked him what they should do, John’s answer wasn’t that they quit their jobs and dedicate their lives to prayer and evangelism. Rather, in their lives and current jobs they should act honorably, treat others fairly, and share with the less fortunate. For example, John told men with two tunics to give one to the man who had none. Soldiers should stop accusing people falsely and extorting money from them.

John spoke his parable on winnowing wheat soon after starting his ministry. Yet, John’s parable demonstrated a sure knowledge of different outcomes for the righteous versus the unrighteous. Both the wheat and the chaff had an eternal destination. One was in God’s storehouse and the other in unquenchable fire.

Reflection: Jesus isn’t going to accept any dirt, chaff, or straw in his barn. Where does that leave you?

 

(Meditation 8) Liturgy on Jesus’ Second Coming

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:35-37 NIV).

Frequently, Psalm 108 is read in church services during the first two weeks in Advent. This psalm has a future orientation. Psalm 108 shows the power that Father God will give to Jesus at the second coming of Jesus. This psalm is often quoted or referenced in the New Testament. Here are its words:

Psalm 110 NIV: The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.

Scripture, First Two Sundays of Advent 

Scripture readings for Advent are divided into two sections. On the first and second Sundays, Bible readings focus on the second coming of Jesus. The third and fourth Sundays center on the coming of the Christ child at Christmastide. Below are Scriptures read in some churches during the first and second Sundays of Advent:

Old Testament Reading – Malachi 3:1-4 NIV: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Epistle Reading – 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13 NIV: How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day, we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Gospel Reading – Luke 21:25-36 NIV: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. That summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Copyright 12/5/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth

Advent is Approaching

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The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.  Psalm 85:12-13 (NIV)

Advent started on November 27, 2016. From now until 25 December, we prepare for the birth of Christ.  Advent is a season of hope filled waiting. We are waiting for God’s intervention in our land; we are waiting for God to give what is good. The recent horrific events that have occurred in our nation are a prayer point that God is preparing our nation for righteousness. May our prayers be filled with hope filled waiting as our society continues to face the reality of sin. God is preparing the way for his steps (David Whitehead).

The Amaryllis has become a popular Christmas flower, offered for sale in all the catalogs and stores. Interestingly, I buy them but they rarely flower until January. Perhaps that’s what is to occur — we wait for the flower to bloom as we wait for the birth of Christ.

Amaryllis is showy and brilliant and puts plants with only green foliage to shame; but they should never be ashamed.  After all, Christ was described as having no physical beauty. Plants with only, or mostly, green foliage have great value. It is the green-foliage in plants that gives oxygen into the atmosphere and adds appreciable to the pleasing environment of our homes.

By the Way: If you are growing amaryllis, be sure not to let the water level go above the top of the root bulb. I’m sure  there is a lesson in Christian living in that; such as don’t drown when you can walk on water with Christ.

As we walk for Christ in 21st century, most of us aren’t showy or even brilliant; we tend to be more quiet and  simple  as we live each day. That doesn’t make us less valuable, it just makes us what we are: a Christian who does his or her part daily for Christ. We raise children in a Christian home, we are a witness in the workplace, we let a driver into the traffic lane in front of us.

Reflection: Perhaps it is more important to walk day-by-day, year-after-year for Christ than  have a brilliant flare.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 2/14, Updated 11/28/16

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