We stand at the threshold of a new year: a new cycle of remembrance and reflection. This coming Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season and the beginning of the church year. For over 20 years, I’ve tried to write occasional meditations during this season of anticipation. For over 1500 years, the church has observed the Advent season as a time of watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord. Each year, I discover something new from this ancient well of church writings, music, art, and prayers.
As we watch and wait together, we learn afresh the meaning, the hope, the arrival of our Lord in all his glory. We learn from those saints who have gone before us, and we learn from one another as we journey together, share stories and watch for His sudden appearing. I invite you to walk with me and others in this season of watchful prayer. May we exhort one another all the more as we see the day approaching.
How do we practice Advent watching and waiting? Continue reading
Image by Chris Lim (used by permission via Creative Commons).
The darkness closes in. Sadness, grief, loss, or some unspeakable sense of emptiness paralyzes. Each step feels like walking against the tide, pressing against of wall of nothingness. It seems easier to close the blinds. Turn over in bed. Lay in the dark. Continue reading
Image by Manchester Fire (used by permission via Creative Commons).
Sun and moon turned dark. Stars falling from skies. Smoke and fire in the sky. Everything is quaking.
Welcome to Advent…The beginning of the end of all things.
Advent breaks into our world like a thunderclap or a meteor crashing down from the skies and reverberating across the land. Who can sleep when the world is tumbling into cataclysm?
Advent comes like a crisis, like a wildfire, like an explosion that shatters our comfortable worlds.
The culture is filling the air with songs of holly and jolly, with heart-warming commercials of gifts given and relationships forged afresh.
The Scripture readings at the start of Advent focus on families falling apart, nations battling nations, children rising against parents. The texts look a bit closer to our present reality. In Mark 13, all that is holy has been desecrated and made desolate. The places of refuge are crumbling war zones where security is nowhere to be found. Continue reading
Here are a few Advent meditations that have blessed me. One of the earliest books I read on Advent, was a selection of poems from Ann Weems. Her conversational poems speak to our human longing and struggle to pause before the mystery of God’s coming. Alfred Delp and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermons were written from Nazi prisons and carry the weight of a soul waiting human judgment while looking for the coming of God in Christ. There are some paintings from across the ages that explore the nativity. One quick way to get started is by looking at Nativity on Wikiart (some pictures are not relevant but most are). Continue reading
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11–12)
On some nights, the fog of fear and doubt bewitch the mind and torment the heart. We can be trapped in a moment of anguish that feels like ages. For some people, this moment extends to days, weeks, even years. In C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Silver Chair, the prince has been bewitched by the dark Queen of the Underland. He forgets who he is and becomes her slave. When the children try to rescue him, the Queen tries to seduce them and soon they are ready to doubt the sun, the world above, and the hope beyond them. They are falling under her spell.
The constant bombardment of dark news and sad stories can quickly convince us that darkness is rising and the light is fading. Continue reading
The year begins in darkness. Long nights, short days. We gather before the dawn–in the dark of human struggles and fears and loss. What lies ahead? What obstacles may block our way? Will we lose our way in the valley of the shadow of death? Night terrors haunt our days with division and distrust all around us. The nation is shouting. Brother against brother. Fathers and sons turning apart. Our country and even our world seem doomed to repeat another year of anger and hatred; another year of striving. Continue reading
“The Lord comes roaring out of Zion.” The shepherds weep. The mountains wither. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Advent may be far more risky than we ever imagined. The coming of the Lord may cost us everything.
It is so easy to forget that He is a Consuming Fire. Continue reading
We had a simple cardboard Advent calendar that marked the days until Christmas. Each day had a small flap that opened to reveal a little picture beneath the larger picture. This simple, inexpensive calendar opened a window to a world of wonders just beyond my grasp. Continue reading
We call the weeks prior to Christmas, “Advent.” We order this time for intentional watching and waiting on the coming of the Lord. And yet, during these same weeks we feel the pressure to buy, celebrate, and feast. How do we live into the call to watch and wait while juggling Christmas shopping, decorating, multiple parties, and the ongoing challenges of work and home? Continue reading
In some ways, the journey into Advent is a journey into wonder. It begins with the people living in great darkness and ends with the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. As we look and long for his coming, we turn toward Him in our thoughts, meditations upon Scripture, and songs of the season. We sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Continue reading