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Let ADVENT shape us . . .

The Christmas season rushes by each year – and if we don’t stop, pause, open our eyes, it will be gone before we know it.  This is one of the main reasons I sought to discover the season of Advent, as the Church has called it for hundreds of years.  My Christmas’ were always meaningful — but I felt they had grown “weak” at times.  The Celtic Christian tradition called parts of life that were ripe with God reminders “thin spaces” — and I recognized Christmastime was certainly a thin space.  But, I longed to recognize God in the season–more than a few hymns and a nativity seen.

But, I what I was really asking, was, “how can christmastime shape my soul — my entire life?”

I have dug into Advent over the years with our Convergence Community — and it has shaped me–and I pray many others.

Advent means waiting.  Henri Nouwen calls the waiting that Advent refers to as “active waiting.”  In our English language, wait tends to often imply passivity.  But, in Hebrew, the word wait and hope are virtually the same word.  They can be interchanged.  So, “Wait for the Lord” can equally be translated “Hope in the Lord.”  I’m not great with waiting–I tend to be impatient.  And, honestly, I struggle with cynicism — to HOPE isn’t always my first response.  In fact, cynicism (i’ve found) is a strategy to guard against unmet hopes.  Yeah, we all have those — and the longer we live, the more hopes we will have that go unmet.  And yet, Advent, is the season to be reminded that waiting and hoping never go out of style — they aren’t meant to be “grown out of” for more sensible things like busyness and cynicism.

This is our season to recalibrate HOPE in the Lord.

This is our season to grown in patience and wait.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

– Psalm 130:5-6

The readings below are meant to spark further discussion and reflection in our life as ADVENT does it’s work on us . . . leading us toward living the GIFT of JOY and LOVE to one another.

The following First Sunday in A Family Worship Service for the Four Sundays of Advent by Martha Zimmerman

ADVENT SUNDAY • 01

THEME:

Preparation • We light the candle on the first Sunday in Advent to remind us that we must prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.

READING: 

Isaiah 9:2, 6–7

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (NIV).

PRAYER:

Ask God to help us make room for Jesus in our hearts and in our home.

 

 

ADVENT SUNDAY • 02

 

THEME:

Love • We light this candle on the second Sunday in Advent to remind us that Jesus came to earth to “show and tell” us of God’s love.

READING:

John 15:9–11

“I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (TEV).

PRAYER:

Ask God to help us love one another. Thank Him for His gift of Love, which is what Christmas is all about.

 

ADVENT SUNDAY • 03

 

THEME:

Joy • We light the candle on the third Sunday in Advent to remind us that the angels said, “We have news of great joy!”

READING:

Philippians 4:4–7

“May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus” (TEV).

READING:

Let’s pray each day that the joy we know, the joy that is in our hearts, will be shown through our life.

 

ADVENT SUNDAY • 04

 

THEME:

God’s Gift • We light this candle on the fourth Sunday in Advent to remind us of God’s gift.

READING:

2 Corinthians 4:6

“God, who first ordered light to shine in darkness, has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ” (Phillips).

PRAYER:

Ask God to help you understand real giving, which is the gift of yourselves. Ask God to PREPARE you to be a GIFT, to open your eyes to see who and how you can serve through LOVE and JOY.

 

While we are wrap and unwrap gifts this season, let us remember God’s gift to us.

 

Merry Christmas * Contemplative Walk Practice

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Contemplative Walk and Visio Divina

a practice from Christine Valters Paintner
added to the Convergence Advent Book 2013
by Daran Freund

CONTEMPLATIVE WALK

Set apart some time to take a walk. You might choose a nearby park, an urban setting or your own neighborhood.

Take a camera with you so you can capture any images that strike you.

Slow down enough to see what is around you. Listen closely to your own intuition about where you are being moved to go next.

Notice the details of things – the many shades of flowers, the texture of tree bark, or architectural details on houses or buildings. You aren’t looking for something beautiful, you are looking trying to be present to life as it is.

 

If a certain image resonates with you,  take a moment and receive what it has to offer then take a picture of it. 

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VISIO DIVINA

Sometime in the days following your contemplative walk, take a look again at your photos. Choose one that shimmers or stirs something in you. You don’t have to know why, trust your intuitive sense.

Gaze upon your photo for a few moments. To gaze on something is not to look at it intently, analyzing every detail. To Gaze is to look softly in a receptive way.

Allow your eyes to wander over the whole landscape of the image, exploring all of its shapes, colors, contours, details, and symbols. Allow yourself to simply be present to the details of the image. 

Gradually notice if there is a place on the photo where your eye is being invited to rest.

Begin to allow this place on the photo to unfold in your imagination. Close your eyes and notice what memories, images, and feelings are stirred within you.

Slowly begin to notice if an invitation begins to emerge from these memories, feelings and images moving in you.

In the concrete circumstances of your life right now, what awareness or action is God calling you to? What is God inviting me to do? How am I being called to respond? 

Take a few moments and journal your thoughts.

the unifying of advent

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This 3rd Sunday of Advent, I read this passage in Isaiah and it left me pondering, “How many of us have a faith that looks like this–that is like a glue rather than a knife? that leads us toward unity and compassion rather than dividing (and attempting to conquer)?”

God, this advent, let us have eyes to see the Light that brings love.

The spirit of The Lord God is upon me…he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners. -Is 61.1

Rohr, in Preparing for Christmas,

The Spirit always connects, reconciles, forgives, heals, and makes two into one. It moves beyond human-made boundaries to utterly realign and renew that which is separated and alienated.

What divisions exist in your life? How can you let the Spirit mend those divisions?

it is always now * a communion reflection

Gary Caplinger [ @urbanlivingokc ] shared this video (below) with me – and I immediately thought of the Advent conversation I was preparing on the Incarnation.  I believe the incarnation validated the incredible value of the everyday—the importance of the NOW.

We used this video as our communion reflection.  The now – is what communion bring us.  Christ manifest in us and through us . . . now.  Body and blood . . . now.  Like it was for Him, it is for us . . . now.  May we be in the now – and a blessing to all . . . now.

Lauren Winner quotes Elana Shuartz in her book Still:

“If Christ is to visit us it will be on such pitiful days as these.”

And by pitiful – I’d say the mundane everyday moments.

Watch the video – let the words wash over you – and consider Sam Harris’ words.  It is always now . . .

the risk of advent

Advent is a time to place ourselves into the inbetweenness – the undone – the middle of the story.  Our gathering conversation has been around the tension of the middle, with all of our hoping–and our dying or misplaced hopes, with all of our waiting–and feeble attempts to be patient, with all of our unresolved moments—and the uncertainty this mystery brings.  Advent is a preparation for Christmas and it’s in this preparation that we are being shaped.

Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.

So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is: salvation. 2 Peter 3

No matter our expectation of the future – our belief about the way things are wrapped up – our HOPE should plant us firmly in the ground of the now–the living moments where we can be.  It’s really only the now that can be shaped, lived within, and felt.

Last night we watched Parker Palmer (the work of the people) share his words about the Incarnation — the theological term for the embodiment of God.  Watch the video and consider the RISK that is our living in the NOW.

 

Nearness is Risky

In response to the question: What are the risks of us truly living “embodied” lives – Rachelle responded with some words that are still ruminating in my thoughts.  I feel that it’s risky to not recognize the image of God in others.  Wow.  Do you get what she’s getting at?   How often do we have some kind of “fear and trembling” about the holy ground we walk on every single day — in every conversation, every interaction, every existing moment with others.  We are the ikons of God – all of us — whether we recognize it, shimmer in it, or profain it.  And we are to live with one another in such a way that it would magnify the view of God.  It’s risky to be asleep.  It’s risky to miss what a profound moment we live in NOW.

It’s also risky to step into our life from the disembodiment of cynicism.  To truly live is to risk hope–to be cynical risks nothing.  I would be a self-proclaimed optimist/cynic.  I’m not even sure that can be a combination.  But I generally see life through a lens of wonderment and beauty while I really guard myself from hoping or getting too dreamy about the future.  I am equal parts loving life and worn out from past hopes that have been dashed past beliefs that have become hard to stomach and past experiences that have “taught” me to take life as it comes rather than thinking I can bend it toward what I think should be.  But the risk of incarnation is starting to rework some of this.  There are still beliefs I’ll long leave behind, there are still expectations of the future I won’t toil with anymore—but it’s the cynicism that is starting to be exposed.  It’s the fear of caring too much that is starting to show itself as the lack of living that it truly is.  I want to risk.  I want the incarnation to be the risk I am willing to undergo.

 

The Ugly side of the Disembodied State

Palmer speaks of the Triumphalism that results when we see God and life through a state of disembodiment or FLOATING ABOVE.  I think that we become FUNDAMENTALISTS and TRIUMPHALISTS when we err on the side of thinking God is COSMIC (only) — we mimic this view of God when we judge and when we are distant from ourselves, from others, and from the moment.  We risk nothing real as disembodied people (except maybe fellow disembodied peer acceptance).  The risk is in the incarnation.  The risk is God’s move to live both COSMIC AND NEAR – both holding everything together and becoming a part of that which needs the divine glue.  Jesus, the Messiah, became vulnerable, became helpless, became near.

The incarnation validates every moment of our life–whether we see them as profound or mundane is up to us.  But the moment you live right now—has been validated as valuable in the very act we celebrate at Christmas.

I pray that during advent, we will, in the words of Palmer – “be born and born and reborn into the true self.”

 

“I see it NOW” (Mary’s acceptance of the RISK)

Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.

And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.

Then the angel left her.

– excerpt from Luke 1

 

What will the RISK of being present NOW cost you?

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