November 28 – PROMISE
by the Rev. Steve Wilson
Promises. I made a lot of them when I was a kid. God was often on the receiving end of them–if only my parents didn’t find out, or if only I jumped the culvert on my bike and didn’t wipe out and embarrass myself in front of my buddies, I promised all kinds of things. My mom, too, and my dad, and my buddies. On one particularly important occasion, Danny Flagler and I drew a sharp rose thorn across our thumbs and bled into one another, wincing theatrically as we promised to be blood brothers forever and defend one another from school bullies. His family moved six months later, and we lost track of one another totally. So much for promises, right? Promises are only as good as the promise. And that’s part of the beauty of Advent. In the season of Not-Yet, we’re promised that it’s Already-Here by the only One Whose promises can finally be counted on, by the One Who never moves away, or forgets, or fudges the terms. God’s promise is that in waiting and seeking we find what was there all along: the Kingdom within us and yet always just beyond our grasp. I’ve made a lot of promises in my day. Most of them, I’ve kept or mostly kept. But God’s promises are always already kept, and always in the process of being fulfilled. And they don’t even require sharp rose thorns…
November 29 – STRENGTH
by Jennifer Rhymer
God has a plan, a purpose for me. This path He has chosen is not easy. Sometimes doubt and anxiety trickle in. Am I putting my best foot forward? Am I making the correct choices? Am I smart enough, patient enough, kind enough, etc., to do this? I am NOT strong enough…not on my own. BUT, the Lord God is my strength. I can follow this path with His strength, but I have to choose Him. I have to let go of my fears and anxieties and trust and lean on His strength. Although at times this path will be difficult and scary, I will bear His fruit: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” -Psalm28:11
November 30 – SOUL
by Kat Mercer
Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel. Of course Gabriel told her not to be afraid, because that is what angels do. And with good reason. We’re not talking about cute, tiny cherubs with sweet little voices. I imagine Gabriel as a huge, imposing figure, with a booming voice. The news the angel brought probably shook her to her very core. But she reacted with words we know well: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my savior, for God has looked with favor on the Creator’s humble servant.” [Luke 1:45-48] Mary Oliver speaks to the essence of our humanity, that we call the soul, in these words from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays: “Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled—to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.” Doesn’t that sound like Mary the Mother of Jesus? She was willing to be dazzled. She was willing to step into a future that was intimidating. The nature of her soul, that part of her that God created and that will be for all time, was to wonder and trust and celebrate. As we approach the Nativity, with all its questions and incongruities and cultural baggage, may our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord, and be dazzled.
December 1 – PATH
by Katie Mansfield
Reflecting on what path we find ourselves on is appropriate in any season of life, but especially in Advent. During Advent, people should find themselves on a dark path, waiting for a light to guide them in the right direction. After all, a path is only helpful if you can see it, and frequently we find ourselves veering off it.
When Christ is born in the world on Christmas, His light pierces through the darkness we experienced in Advent. Christ’s birth allows for our path to be illuminated. Throughout our lives, we are constantly looking for a light to provide some guidance on our paths. When we remember that Christ is the one who illuminates our path, the smooth walkway He lays down for us immediately becomes easier to see.
December 2 – JUSTICE
by Stephanie Hasty
Justice, simply put, is ‘just us’. It is the ability to do what is right. It means to create a place that is equal for everyone so we can truly be ourselves without fear of being hurt by others. Many people think of justice as being a punishment or having the ability to punish others, but true justice means that we are all doing what is right for the sake of others. It is a place where we seek to understand situations and people to better understand ourselves. It is a place where the playing field is level. It is a place where we can act to make the world better, instead of react to the unjust. It is a place of peace. Justice is the foundation of who we are individually and who we are as a nation. We cannot live without it.
December 3 – FULFILL
by Spencer Orr
ful·fill – /fo͝ o͝ olˈfil/
- bring to completion or reality; achieve or realize(something desired, promised, or predicted).
a. “Spencer thought he would not be able to fulfill his ambition to complete an Advent reflection.”
- carry out (a task, duty, or role) as required, pledged, or expected.
a. “Spencer was not dismissed because he could fulfill his duties”
Thinking of “fulfill” brings to mind variations of a theme. Each day starts again, and ends, and comes around tomorrow. We strive to fulfill many things – obligations we own – to family, friends, neighbors… strangers?
What sorts of things may you find fulfilling in your day, your time? How could those things be different tomorrow, the next day, and furthermore? Identify variations that could be made in your theme – maybe be less than to some things one day and more than to others the next. At the end of the day, hopefully we fulfill our obligations with some hint of satisfaction. Enough to us may not be near enough to others. Consider, if possible, to fulfill the needs of others before self. It may lead to small good things (known or unknown) and amplify to something greater in those we cross paths with throughout all time.
December 4 – HEART
by Vern Barnett
The birth of joy in a landscape of sorrow happens only in the heart. The landscape may have a long distance and a wide horizon, but the heart is within, and infinite. The journey may take a very long time, but the heart discovers eternity. The passageway may be dark, but the heart is luminous. The nourishment may seem meager, but in the heart it is a feast. In the heart, all things become gifts; the heart is the realm of redemption. Living in the heart of God, all things are holy.
December 5 – PRAISE
by Kim Snodgrass
Heartfelt praise feels spontaneous and joyful. It is the affirmation of a characteristic someone possesses that you hold dear. It would actually be harder to hold it in than to let it out – through a smile, a word, through tears of appreciation. I’m tuned toward praise through nature on a walk, watching clouds change shape, snow falling, or laughing at scampering squirrels, but also when I see the kindness of strangers, the generosity of friends, the selfless work of community. The breathtaking creation we are part of gives me reason to praise the surprising, awe-inspiring, remarkable, spectacular, phenomenal, incredible Source of All Goodness who made it possible.
December 6 – EVERLASTING
by Brittany Sparrow-Savage
When the word everlasting is mentioned in the context of the Advent Season, my mind cannot help but drift to images of vibrant green tannenbaums with wooly needles that emanate a pungent smell of earth and pine. Or squat prickly ivy bushes dotted with white speckles laden heavily with the fruit of crimson berries. Unlike other plants that wilt and die in the winter season, evergreens persist; they remain ever green. Christians have adopted the practice of using evergreens to decorate during this season to remind us of God’s everlasting love and fidelity. In the same way, evergreens endured through the darkest, coldest nights, so God’s everlasting covenant endured during the exodus, exile, and foreign occupation. God remained with God’s people so much so that God put on flesh and dwelt among God’s creation. Our Holy Mother summarizes the everlasting faithfulness of God in her song of praise when she proclaims, “God has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our Fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
December 7 – OFFERING
by Marie Ebert
An offering to God. When you think of the word offering what do you think of? Most people think of money, I know I do. While we may think about the widow mite, money is not everything that we can give to God. There are many offerings that can be given to God. We have as Christians already offered ourselves, have we not? We have given our hearts to Christ and place ourselves in his hands. Likewise, we probably have already offered our children, homes and friends to his care and protection. We offer our help through work at the church as our way of giving thanks to God for hisSon and our salvation. We offer our surpluses or donations to seniors, children and homeless centers. We offer up thanks for the many blessings given to us daily. Offerings can be in many forms, given freely as Christ gave himself for us. What will be your offering today?
December 8 – MESSENGER
by Collin Larimore
“Imagine for a moment all the stories of the Holy Bible that you have read where a message is exchanged between people. Now, holding onto those stories remove the messenger. What comes of the story you were thinking about?
Can you imagine if the prophets had never spoken to anyone? No doubt, a calamity of sorts would have fallen upon the people had the prophets not spoken.
Our lives are filled with messages, messages that come in so many forms of media and conversations. It is so important that we listen with open hearts and our lips open in love for we wish to keep the gospel of Christ in our minds, our lips, and our hearts always.
Listen for the messages of good news around you, speak in love to your neighbor and defend the downtrodden. For the Word was made flesh so that flesh could speak.
December 9 – SPLENDOR
by Donna Meyer
The word covers so much, all of creation is filled with splendor. The splendor of knowing you are created in the image of God, the splendor of waking each day, knowing it is yours and yours alone to live into whatever you are called to do. The splendor of the world around you is amazing, the song of a bird or the laugh of a child, there is no end to the splendorGod surrounds us with, from our first breath to our last. Each of us should daily look for the splendor in everyday things…a sunset, a song, or something as simple as a perfect bite of a crisp apple!
December 10 – REPENT
by Amanda Perschall
Just … encountering this word conjures images of a street corner preacher yelling into the void. I can still hear in my head the man frequently found on my college campus.
Immediately … following that memory, comes the quote from the general confession in Rite One in the Book of Common Prayer “we are truly sorry and we humbly repent.”How many of us can hear those words in the collective voice of our congregations?
Both … the preacher and the BCP are asking us, in divergent ways, to look inside our hearts, acknowledge what is separating us from God, and do better in the future. Inside this one word contains the hope that we will make an internal change leading to a change in the world.
December 11 – COMPASSION
by Doris Fry
I grew up in Corona, California during the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, Corona had the nickname “Lemon Capital of the World” and we owned a small lemon grove. Occasionally, a homeless person would cut through our grove looking for work. On one occasion, my dad, after sending us children indoors, invited a man to rest on our patio. Dad asked Mom to make a hot meal and to find some clothes for the man. Dad spent the next half-hour or more listening to this man tell his story while he ate a home-cooked meal. When the man left our home, he did so with a full stomach, some newish clothes and some money in his pocket. He also left knowing he had been heard and was valued. To me, compassion means taking time to listen and try to understand another’s pain and suffering and to serve others through love, encouragement and understanding.
December 12 – EXPECTATION
by Josh Trader
In the season of Advent each of us may ask ourselves: what do I expect? Advent starts a new liturgical year full of possibilities on our spiritual journey. Advent season invites us into a new hope in God’s plan and promises. Consider the experience of expectation and preparation that we have all been through since the beginning of Advent 21 days ago. Has it been like expecting a child, the anticipation of the arrival of a friend, or the hope of meeting a loved one? All of the expectation typically ends in a time for rejoicing. It just so happens that today is the third Sunday of Advent.
The third Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday, which literally means “rejoice Sunday.” It is marked in the liturgy by the color rose, and it is intended to be a celebration of the expectation of Jesus’scoming at Christmas in less than a week.
December 13 – SHARE
by Mary Bohlen
I love language. Because of that, I was thinking of the word share and its etymology. It comes from a word meaning to divide or to shear. While there is a literal breaking apart when we, say, share a cookie with someone, what is knitted together by that action is so much more significant than the dividing of the chocolate chips, oats, and flour. Sharing our thoughts, time, love, and even baked goods is a way not to reduce what we have or consume, but instead to magnify it. The pieces may be smaller, but the community grows with each act of sharing. In fact, when we consider what it means to have a shared culture or shared language, it is clear that to share something means not to be sheared away from something, but made a part of something larger than ourselves. What a beautiful thing. To give of ourselves, to be willing to shear a piece from ourselves and hand it to another, results not in a loss, but in a gain — of community and of love.
December 14 – EXULT
by Laura Williams
In looking up the word “Exult” in the Bible, Psalm 71, verse 23 stood out to me. It says “My lips shall exult when I sing psalms unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.” I am the youth director for “The Good Redeemers”, youth from Church of the Good Shepherd and Church of the redeemer in Kansas City, Missouri. Every summer, I take a group of youth and adults on a mission trip to complete home repairs for people in other parts of the country. As part of the program, we sing songs in exultation of the Lord. These moments when hundreds of youth and adults are singing out loud, praising the Lord together, gets me every time. I am often moved to tears.
When hearing the word “Exult” what comes to mind is rejoicing and being happy with what I have in my life. In thinking about what brings me happiness and joy in my life, I feel much blessing and thankfulness for what the Lord has provided me. I have been gifted with a wonderful family, great friends, a strong faith community, an awesome youth group, a stable job, and much more.
Let us all remember what the Lord has gifted to us in our lives and strive to be joyful and rejoice in the name of the Lord!
December 15 – STIR
by the Rev. Anne Kyle
“Mamaw! I want to stir!” A little person calls out to her grandmother in the kitchen. The child is tiny, but there is a stool to stand on. Mamaw ties a too-big apron onto her eager helper and hands over the spoon. The bowl is full of simple things. At first butter and flour, then some fruit and sugar, treasures from creation.
The questions come in the way of tiny children. “What will it be? When can we have some?” Mamawsmiles. She knows that time and patience are important now. It will be a pie, dear child, and pie takes time.
More questions come. “What will it look like? How will it taste?” Mamaw smiles sweetly. “Wait and see, little one. Wait and see.”
December 16 – GLADNESS
by the Rev. Isaac Petty
Psalm 4, appointed for Compline, bids a prayer of gladness. By praying this psalm after another day of earthly life, we are reminded that the Lord puts gladness in our hearts, “more than when grain and wine and oil increase.” We tend to live as if our security, leisure, and perceived self-sufficiency –like grain for eating, wine for celebrating, and oils for various purposes– produce gladness. But who ultimately supplies gladness? There is unwavering gladness from God even in scarcity, mourning, and adversity. Because God gives true gladness, we can lie down in peace regardless of our circumstances. “Oh, that we might see better times, ”echoes the psalmist. In Advent, this anticipation of better times, may we look beyond these last days to when Christ’s kingdom is fully revealed. The bearer of gladness, who laid in a manger, will come again; in that hope, let us find gladness.
December 17 – BOUNTIFUL
by Gary Gee
Bountiful … the word means so much to us: expectation, hope, joy, even generosity. In summer we long for that bountiful crop of homegrown tomatoes, big fat red ones for a BLT, enough for canning and salads, enough to give to friends. We know bountiful when we see it, even know we must share what is bountiful when we have enough.
Our season of Advent is upon us. These days are truly a time of expectation, hope, joy, and generosity. Throughout all our years, we are blessed with unconditional, bountiful love from above. As Christians during advent, we quietly wait for Christmas. The hope, joy, and generosity surround us. We know what bountiful feels like when we generously share that love from above with others.
December 18 – SING
by Shirley Bolden
So is it wrong to sing about Christ’s birth before Christmas? Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier each year. This year, I was shocked to see Christmas trees for sale the day after Halloween. In a world where we hear Christmas music in November (or earlier!), why can’t the Church follow suit?
One could argue that the liturgical calendar requires holding off on Christmas music until the season of Advent concludes on Christmas Eve. However, many worshipers want the opportunity to sing Christmas carols throughout December. The Christmas season is short–only 12 days. When the new year rolls around, we breeze through Epiphany (January 6), and Sunday, January 9, is already the baptism of Christ. No more Christmas music. So is it wrong to sing about Christ’s birth before Christmas? Not necessarily. But in doing so, we miss the meaning of Advent. Advent is a season of preparation, of watching, of waiting, and of longing. For Episcopalians, we are lucky that we have a wealth of good Advent hymns. Hymns such as “Come, O Long Expected Jesus” and “O Come, O come, Emmanuel” express the Advent themes well. So this December, I invite you to watch, to wait, and to fully embrace Advent and the music of this season, “Soon and Very Soon we are goin’ to see the King” and the Christmas season will be made even more special.
December 19 – BLESSED
by the Rev. Jonathan Frazier
“Bless his heart.” If you are from the South, you know that is more of a comment on someone’s behavior than it is a wish for goodness. “Bless his precious heart.” If you hear that, you are really in trouble, and you’d better inquire about how to apologize. Would you believe that you can truly be “blessed” even if you are truly in trouble? God blesses us, especially when we do God’s will (“Blessed are the peacemakers…”), but also when we apologize for failing to do God’s will and seek forgiveness: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” [Romans 4:7] To be blessed is to be made holy, and only God can truly do that. So the next time someone says. “Bless you,” say “Thank you, I am blessed, and may you be also,” even if all you did was sneeze.
December 20 – FEED
by Kathleen Jackson
I was a wildlife rehabilitator. One day I received a litter of raccoon kits. The young kits had seen their mother killed before being rescued. They were still nursing, so I picked up a kit. She was not scared of or resistant to me holding her but she was crying and refusing the bottle. I simply cradled her, making soothing noises. Eventually, she calmed and I had no trouble getting her to take her formula.
Advent is the season of food and sweets. We give one another gifts of food with love. Perhaps we are called to deeper action. Life’s challenges do not stop at the door of Advent and many people have trauma associated with the holiday season. When Jesus calls us to feed His sheep(John 21:17), He is calling us to listen intently, accept one another, and pray for healing. Once we have loved one another let the feast begin!
December 21 – GENERATIONS
by Anita Philbrick
As my newborn great-nephew stares up at me with eyes so like my niece’s,I marvel at the myriads of generations this tiny baby represents. Each generation is filled with stories of hope, tragedy, hurt, and joy, woven together by God’s grace bringing our family to this moment of new life.
Jesus’ birth story also begins with a list of names, each one depicting God’s hand at work throughout the generations of Jewish history, as God’s people anticipate the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior–a Messiah to liberate His people. As we see God’s hand in the salvation and healings of our own families and in the larger Biblical family, we recognize that God’s love transcends all generations. No matter the pain or sorrow of the times, God has always had, and will continue to have, every generation in his hands in the great communion of saints.
December 22 – MAGNIFY
by Duchess Wall
When Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord”, does she mean make the Lord bigger? Maybe magnify means more than that? I went outside, looked at a small wildflower through a magnifying glass, and discovered that not- very-pretty flower is actually lovely when magnified. Perhaps “magnify” is more about seeing the small, beautiful things than just seeing a larger size. Now I think one of my prayers each day will be to magnify, or see the small and beautiful things, in God and in God’s creation.
December 23 – FLOCK
by the Rev. Jos Tharakan
I love the movie “Happy Feet.” When the penguins move together I am reminded of the power of a community. When we feel alone, we feel vulnerable and at times lost. Let us remember that we are never alone, we are part of a community beginning with our own family, then our church, and so on. We are Christ’s flock. So, know you are not alone. As Isaiah says, “He will tend his flocklike a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” [Isaiah 40:11] You belong to Jesus. What more to celebrate?
December 24 – GREETING
by Tammy Larimore
Greeting – immediately a word that brings to mind a pleasant and/or warm acknowledgment from family, friends or mere acquaintances. It may be just one or two words, or just a nod of the head and eye contact. A greeting may produce an involuntary smile on your face or produce a memory for reflection, whether it involves a person or an event.
Is it any wonder that greeting cards are big business, given our desire to acknowledge holidays or achievements, or to console losses, with those near and far? Sometimes words do not seem to be enough, but if it is all we have to offer at that moment in time, that is okay. Greeting – so simple, but powerful.
December 25 – CHILD
by the Rt. Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce
When I reflect on the word child during the Advent Season, I can’t help but think about that beautiful line in Hymn 66 in our hymnal:
“Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us for ever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.”
A child brings infinite possibilities into this world and requires our love and care to grow into the person they will become.
Our work during the Advent Season is to prepare to welcome once again the Christ Child into our lives. It is a time for us to recommit to loving and caring for each other and this world, which is the work this child came to do.