This is a word that is, perhaps, more relevant and in front of us than could have been
anticipated or imagined. Maybe we heard it from home, or from the Boy Scouts "Be Prepared" first.
Definitions include "equip or furnish," "make ready," , and "make ready beforehand for some purpose, use or activity." More recently they have come to include "Watch for cold and flu season" (fast forward to pandemic) and "meditation and mindfulness." TImes may change but the essence continues from preparing a meal to preparing for battle. And as significant as preparing for a
Advent is a time of preparation for an expectant Mary waiting to celebrate Jesus' arrival. Mary and Joseph prepared. Mary was both expectant and waiting as they journeyed to Bethlehem. We can only imagine what they encountered, and the other lives that were changed on a day like no other before or after.
And so to the present anew.
What can WE do to prepare this Advent, so different and strange:
physically untethered from church, family gatherings, blissfully singing together, tending to those in need or alone -- and so many others? Perhaps prepare Advent Calendars, make prepared gifts and meals that can be distributed. Call someone you haven't spoken to in a while and see what happens. (It usually works). We can pray, fill our hearts with joy and prepare to reclaim the light that will return with the grace of God. So prepare to sit back and your soul will tell you how much in this unusual year you are repaired because you prepared in ways known and unknown.
The blessings of Bethlehem await you.
- Dalen Cole
The stars whisper,
and if they need to,
they call out loud,
Pay attention, won’t you please??
There’s a miracle in process!
- Becky Graber
There are songs and sounds in stillness In the quiet after dark,
Sounds within sounds,
Songs within songs.
There are rhythms in the quiet And pulses in the night,
Beats within beats,
Drums within drums.
Something calling in the
embers, Something crying in the
rocks, And out beyond the
darkness There are voices in the
On the surface it seems that joy has been in short supply these last nine months. As Christmas approaches we can find the joy we have been desperately seeking if we just look to the Bible. There we will find the real joy in our lives. The Angel announced that joy to the shepherds on the first Christmas night. “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” When the wise men saw the star over where the young child lay "they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy".
The great joy in our lives comes through receiving God’s gift of our Savior Jesus Christ. It gives us hope through life’s uncertainties and gives us abiding joy knowing we are right with God. May that joy touch your heart in a new way this year.
Joy to the world the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King.
- Susie Cooley
My dear Mary,
While you were visiting your kinswoman, Elizabeth, I heard that you were with child. I was shocked and saddened to hear this news! While I struggled to understand, I decided it was best to quietly break our betrothal. In the morning, I would send word to your father, of my decision. As I slept that night, I was awakened by an angel! The angel told me not to be afraid to take you as my wife. The child you are carrying is conceived by God! You were chosen because you are pure and good. I was overwhelmed by this message! We are to call the child you will bear, Jesus.
Although, this mystery is hard to comprehend, I know of Isaiah’s prophesy. Out of the house of David, a virgin will conceive and bear a son and he will be called Emmanuel, God with us. The son that we will raise will be our savior! I do not know how all of this will work out, but I will take care of you and the babe. This is my promise to you and to God. Together, we will witness God’s unfolding plan. We must do our best to listen and follow his word.
- Sally Forbes
Mary. Mary...the MOTHER OF GOD. The MOTHER of God! Can you imagine? I can imagine being a mother, yes, (and what a wonderful thing it is to be a mother :)...but the MOTHER of God??!!
Every year in Advent we re-visit the story. The angel appears to Mary... "How can this be (that I will have a child?) since I have no husband?", she wonders.
And then, famously, "Let it be to me according to your word", and the angel departed from her, Scripture teaches.
When I was in Divinity School the church I attended had a Christmas Pageant. A teenage girl was Mary (tradition holds that Mary would have been a teenager - very young to be a mother by our reckoning). The look on this girl's face was anything BUT, 'let it be to me according to your word.' She looked as though she would have rather been anywhere else.
Maybe Mary felt that way too sometimes....a long trip she and Joseph had and then giving birth in a stable. Yikes.
The Roman Catholic tradition makes much of Mary, more, I think, than Protestant churches do. Our loss, I feel. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, we know that. But without Mary...no birth, no Jesus.
How does the word Mary, the idea of Mary, the images of Mary, the hopes of Mary, the questions of Mary and the faith of Mary help me get ready for Christmas?
She carried Jesus. I can try and do that too....(And what would that be like?)
She held him! I can try and do that too...(And what would that be like?)
She gave birth to God. (Let that sink in for a bit....)
I can try and do that too....
As I said in a sermon a couple of weeks ago....we are all meant to be mother's of God, for God is always needing to be born into this world.
Can you think of a place, or a person, or a situation for whom that isn't true?
- Laurie Krooss
Today's picture is something that my beloved middle niece, Diana, drew when she was very little, 'Mary Christmas' indeed!
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
I love that.
Who did the Angel of the Lord first announce the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to? The shepherds! Shepherds at the time were looked down upon because of their transience and their work, which sometimes left them ceremonially unclean. How perfectly appropriate. For centuries Jewish people awaited a Messiah that might be a conquering warlord that would free them from the hand of Rome. Instead, God sent his son, a baby born in a manger to humble parents, and announced it first to lowly shepherds out in the fields tending their sheep.
There were certainly many shepherds during biblical times. David, later to become King David, was a young shepherd boy when he slew Goliath. Moses was a shepherd during his forty years in the Midian desert before God spoke to him from a burning bush and sent him to Pharaoh to bring his people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. But the greatest shepherd of all is, of course, Jesus Christ and I have always loved the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. Sheep are defenseless animals, totally dependent on their shepherd to guide them, protect them day and night and to lead them to food and water ("green pastures and still waters"). Isn't that an apt description of us as humans as we wander our way through the struggles and joys of our earthly existence? What a privilege it is for us as Christians to have God's only son, Jesus Christ, as our shepherd. He speaks to us, and we hear his voice. We await Christ's birth during this Advent period, and we praise God for sending his son to be our Good Shepherd.
- Bill Cooley
I Love to Ponder!
To ponder is to think about something carefully before reaching a conclusion,
to weigh in your mind, to reflect. To think or consider quietly, soberly and deeply.
I ponder change, fears and things that make me anxious.
I ponder when I explore nature, as I create a painting, as I walk on the beach or in the woods.
I ponder many things as I read God’s word.
I Love that Mary pondered.
Have you heard the song “Mary Did You Know”?
It’s a beautiful song about some of the things Mary might have pondered in her life.
Luke 2:19 says, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
When God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary and he told her Gods plan for her, she was greatly troubled by his words and she wondered (pondered).
She concluded by saying, “I am the Lords servant, may it be to me as you have said”.
- Cindy Vitko
There are some things we know about the wise men who traveled far to find the King of the Jews, some things we might guess at, and some things we don’t know. We know they came from the east following a star that foretold the birth of the King of the Jews. We can guess that they were priests of Persia who charted the positions of stars, and that a certain alignment signified this prophecy. We know that they first visited Herod who consulted his scholars who told them that the Messiah, God’s anointed, was to be born in Bethlehem. Off to Bethlehem! There they found Joseph, Mary, and their infant boy.
Now comes something we don’t know. What was their reaction to this? If you were expecting a king or the son of God, would this measure up? Were they disappointed or confused? I think something happened there that convinced them that this was what they were hoping for. They presented their expensive gifts, when they could have just said, “Sorry, wrong house!”. While they slept, God spoke to them in dreams that they must not return to Herod with the news, so they returned by a back road.
Have you ever had an experience where you were expecting God to move in a mighty way and it didn’t turn out to be what you thought it would be? Could God be working in the very ordinary here-and-now? Is God encouraging us to be open to His Spirit in the everyday world we live in? Yes, He is! He is there, in all His power, in the humblest of situations.
Now one thing we don’t know about the wise men is how many there were! There could have been two, three, four, or any number, but the Bible does not say three.
- Carol Barclay
Ring the bells that still can ring
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
The wound is the place where light enters
There is a crack in everything God has made
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
In this time of Advent darkness we all pause to find meaning, and search for joy. Our world is rocking with Covid turmoil and angst. Sometimes it feels both personally and collectively vacant, with our familiar terrain losing its definition. We are not sure how we can move forward, especially when our own spirits are wounded.
And yet, can we see that precious and Holy Light shining through our broken places? It’s there within each of us; the gift of God’s grace, given freely to every one of us.
We cannot earn it – this light that is God’s love – but it can be discovered. God abides in every one of us as Light to share and shine into our world. Is this not the hope of Advent; letting the light we are shine?
So may these cracked vessels that we are let those embers glow; indeed, let us blow on them, and yes, let us help each other fan the flames. What did Jesus say? “Let your light shine!” Yes, it is time to let our light shine…indeed!
After all this time
The sun never says to the earth, “You owe me”
Look what happens with a love like that
It lights up the whole sky
-Heidi Root/Gil Healy
I studied Latin in High School because the teacher was highly eccentric and devoted to the past.
At the last gathering of our group we held a party. Yes, we wore "togas." I played the auto harp and sang "Ubi Omnes Flosces Iwerunt" -- actually "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" All agreed I should move on and I suggested "Donna, Nobis, Pacem".* A young man in our group started in a most beautiful, secure voice and after we joined him the world had disappeared and all
It would be easy to write that peace had broken out and all was well. No such thing. But there have been those who strove for it mightily and become past and future icons. Not a surprise that many invoked Jesus in their speeches, songs and sermons. What can the rest of us do to share the peace, radiate its resonance, pass it around. Practice peace. Yes we can. And we need it now.
Christmas is a time of faith, joy, renewal and peace. Spread the good news. If I had to choose one song from the season it would be "Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin With me". It is accessible, we know it, love it and will surely sing it con brio. And hopefully hear it from Becky.
PEACE ON EARTH
*A round of three short parts of the Latin text from the Agnus Dei of the Latin Mass
NOTE: "Let There Be Peace on Earth:" was written by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller in 1955. Jackson MIller, who had been suicidal after her previous marriage, said she wrote the song after discovering "the life saving joy of God's peace and unconditional love."
- Dalen Cole