Announcing the Beginning

The Anunciation
Icon at St. Catherine’s Monastery

Christmas is coming!  We live this Season of Advent as if its purpose is to point to the beginning (or the “re-beginning”).   We prepare for the coming of God!  But think about it.  Something happened nine months before.  This human Jesus, like all of us, had to be grown and nurtured in the womb before the miracles started.  March 25th—The Feast of the Annunciation—is for some traditions the turning point of human history.  It is in this moment that God steps through the fog into humanity and, just like every human that came before, must wait to be fully birthed into this world.

We Protestants sort of skip over the Anunciation.  And then we start with Christmas and count back nine months.  After all, it’s just a bunch of waiting, right?  OK, that works.  Nine months before Christmas…But March 25th is traditionally regarded as the first day of Creation. (Now, really, I don’t even BEGIN to say that THAT is a real date!  But, it’s as good as any, right?)  So, let’s go with it.  March 25th is the beginning.  The Anunciation…the announcement of the coming of Christ, the coming of God, into our little world…IS the first day of Creation. (You know, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was…”)  So, begin at the beginning and count forward…to the birth of God into the world. Like Creation, the coming of Christ was the Light pushing the darkness away.

But the world, like any expectant parent, had to wait.  Advent teaches us to wait.  Advent teaches us that birth does not appear in a flash.  Rather, birth, like all things that matter, is a process.  And, it is definitely worth the wait. 

God will come when God will come.  But we don’t want to miss the process of the birth.

In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of being a part of the process of birthing the world into being.  But part of it means that you have to wait until it’s ready to be.

Grace and Peace,


ADVENT 2B: Something Incredible is About to Happen

ADVENT 2B: Lectionary: Isaiah 40: 1-5 (6-11)
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

First of all, with all due respect to Mr. Handel’s presentation, this passage was probably not originally written with us or our tradition in mind!  This really is talking about the people of Israel.  It really is talking about bringing comfort to a people who have wandered in the Judean wilderness.  Probably written toward the end of the Babylonian exile, this writing offers a vision where a highway (a REAL highway) through the wilderness will be made level and straight.  If, as most assume, this part of the book that we know as Isaiah was written after the exile, it would have been soon after 539 BCE when Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians and, not really caring whether or not the Israelites stayed, allowed them to return to Jerusalem.  So imagine a highway that, typical of the ancient world, would have originally been built to accommodate royal processions.  And so God is depicting a highway made for a grand procession led by the Almighty.

The just-released exiles are returning.  But to what?  Their city and their way of life lay in ruins.  They can’t just go back and pick up where they left off.  They have to feel that God has deserted them.  They are looking for comfort.  They are looking for solace.  They are looking for God to put things back the way they were before.  But God has something different in mind.  Rather than repair, God promises recreation; rather than vindication, God promises redemption; and rather than solace, God promises transformation.  God is making something new–lifting valleys, lowering mountains, and ultimately, when all is said and done, revealing a glory that we’ve never seen before.

In this Advent season, we are given the same vision.  We are not promised solace.  We are not promised that Emmanuel, God With Us, is coming to put our lives back together.  In fact, can you feel it?  The world has begun to shake.  The valleys are rising; the mountains are leveling.  Something incredible is about to happen.  The light is just beginning to dawn.  Life as we know it will never be the same again.   Soon the fog will lift and we will see that the road does not lead back.  It instead leads us home.  But we’re going to have to be willing to leave what we know.

In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of not going back so that God can show you the Glory that is about to be revealed.

Grace and Peace,


Following Mystery

16th century English poet and priest, John Donne said that “to love God is to follow the mystery, to be led by its showing and withdrawing.”  So, what does that mean…to follow the mystery?  We live in a world where truth is defined as a collection of knowledge, as the accumulation of things known, of things proven.  We do not do well with mystery.  We attempt to conquer it, rather than follow it.  We pray that God will somehow swoop in and finally clear all of this chaos up for us once and for all.  We pray that God will give us understanding and easy roads.  We pray for enlightenment.  We pursue certainty.  We try to figure it all out.  And then Advent comes…

Behold!  Hear this!  Keep awake!  Be not afraid!  You see, things are about to change.  The world as you know it is about to be shaken to its core or, at least, to its senses.  All of those things that you have placed around you in at attempt to control your life will mean nothing.  All of those expectations that you have wrapped around yourself in an effort to prepare for the future are probably keeping your hands from doing what they are meant to do.  And as hard as it is for this “Type A” personality to admit, it is not our job to conquer the chaos of the world by organizing it into something that makes sense to us; rather, we are called to follow the Divine Mystery as it illuminates everything around us.  We are called to open our eyes to see what God is showing us.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love preparing for Christmas.  I love buying and wrapping gifts.  I love Christmas trees and lights.  I love baking and giving what I’ve baked away.  And all of those things are on my “to do” list.  But Advent is about mystery.  It is about being open to the revealing of the One whom we cannot define or control.  It is about being open to the possibility that God will enter this seemingly God-forsaken world not with loud, thrashing pronouncements so that we are certain that’s who it is, but more like a whisper in the quiet of the night in a small town and an unkempt grotto in the midst of the chaotic reality of this world.  Advent is about letting go of certainty and following the mystery.

In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of not needing to be certain, of not needing to have everything planned.  Give yourself the gift of being open to the mystery that enters your life.

Grace and Peace,



ADVENT 1B:  Isaiah 13: (24-31) 32-37
32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

The first day of Advent…the first day of the Christian year…and (I know), the first day that I’ve written a blog posting in a really long time.  We begin this Year B of our Lectionary year with a reading from The Gospel According to Mark, whose writer really just sort of skips over the whole Advent / Christmas thing and cuts right to the chase.  Most over-personalized readings of this Scripture leave us with a fear of what comes next.  (Oh my, am I ready?  What’s going to happen to me?) We quickly go to visions of those who are unprepared being uncomfortably ripped from what they know or, as a series of cult fiction writings would depict it, being flat out left behind!  But keep reading…this is not meant to scare us; it is meant to wake us up.  Sure, it is meant to remind us that there is something coming!  We do not want to miss it.  But, more than that, we do not want to miss the present spiritual awakening that we are all having in this very moment.

We have skewed our understanding of Advent a bit.  I think all of us know that.  But, really, can you blame us?  The world is so bent on being prepared for what comes next that it tends to live one season ahead at all times–the Halloween decorations go up the end of August, the Thankgiving decorations go up the end of September, and the Christmas decorations go up the end of October.  The twelve days of Christmas tide, will of course, be filled with merchandise sales, a couple of unreplaced burned out Christmas lights, and and a flowering of little red hearts filled with candy to make sure we’re ready for the next thing.  Somewhere in there, Advent is lost.  Oh, we Christians, do alright with it.  We faithfully light one candle at a time while we begrudingingly ward off the singing of any Christmas carols.  But Advent is not merely a season of preparation for Christmas.  It is much, much more.  It is from the Latin “Adventus“, which means arrival or coming.  It is not really meant to be only a time of shopping and checking off our “to do” list for the December 25th festival. Rather, Advent is our awakening to the realization that the Divine is even now spilling into our lives, even now a new humanity is being birthed, and even now all of Creation is being reformed and recreated.

We cannot live one season ahead.  God will come when God will come.  The full revealing of what God has in store is yet to be.  But this season of Advent, this season of waiting, awakens us that we might see that it has already started to be.  The feast has yet to be set but the dancing has begun.  All we have to do is learn to stay awake.

In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of your own awakening to God’s Sacred Presence that is all around you.

Grace and Peace,