Tag Archives: Advent

Prayer, In Advent

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 19, 2018

o come Emmanuel

Prayer, In Advent

Advent lasts for quite a while. Almost a whole month. Why does Advent last for such a long time? Why can’t Christmas hurry up and arrive, already?

This waiting-period reminds me of one of the leading cast of characters in Advent preparations, John the Baptist. What does John the Baptist have to do with Christmas, anyhow?

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, does not fit into your typical Nativity scene. Usually, in most drawings or figures of the Nativity, there are a usual cast of characters. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, kings, animals, and a manger. John the Baptist just does not fit in here. Where does he fit? With his rough clothing, different kind of diet, and hollering about repentance, he will not easily fit onto a Christmas card, either.

Yet, John the Baptist is featured in the Advent readings, for several weeks. “But the schedule for children’s pageants and choir Sundays often allows us to avoid him, and it is understandable that few of us complain.” [1]  However, John the Baptist is a featured part of the whole reason and purpose behind Advent. Advent is all about repentance. And waiting.

True, the crowded calendar in December often provides little room for repentance and devotion that is strongly suggested for Advent. What gives with this hurry-scurry, rush-rush attitude which now seems to be part and parcel of the holidays? It’s either that, or an extra dose of guilt unloaded on those who are also trying to have Advent devotions on top of following a full calendar of holiday dates.

Dear Lord, help me steer through all of this extraneous stuff and find the expectation and anticipation of Advent. Lead me to discover anew the great worth and value of John the Baptist, and his important message of repentance. Thank You for Your patience and understanding for the many people who are striving to get closer to you—including me. It’s in the name of Jesus, God-with-us, we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

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[1] (This devotional by the Rev. John Thomas appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 19th edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois. Advent 2018)

Prayer, Because Yes

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, December 8, 2018

hillside with fog - credit Rich Lewis Experiencing God wp

Prayer, Because Yes

Ever have an awful couple of weeks? I have. A loved one is seriously ill, and I need to travel out of state to the hospital. Yes, it is Advent. Yes, I am in one of the busiest times of the church year and of the calendar year. And yes, I am taking time out to go and see this dear loved one.

Sometimes, I need to give myself permission.

I am a member of a dear church some miles away from my house and from where I serve another church. This dear church has had an online Advent calendar each year. The Rev. Barb Bolsen submitted this marvelous poem to the church online Advent devotional. I appreciate so much these messages of encouragement and hope that come quietly into my email box early each morning. This was the one for today.

God Says Yes To Me – Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish and she said honey
She calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want
Thank God I said
And it is even okay if I don’t paragraph
My letters
Sweetcakes God said
Who knows where she picked that up
What I’m telling you is
Yes Yes

The magazine this poem was printed in, This Land (thislandpress.com), says Ms. Haught lives in Oklahoma. She lives in a small town, in a house older than the state itself.

I love the way Ms. Haught had such confidence in a loving, nurturing God. I appreciate that God talked back to this dear woman in the poem as she prayed, addressing her sass and questioning and inconsistency. (I know I have sass, questions, and inconsistency. Lots of all of them.) And sometimes, I just need to give myself the permission. Permission to pray, to go and visit a loved one, permission to say “yes.”

Dear loving God, thank You for Your nurture and love. Thank You for the promise You give in Jesus. Thank You for giving me—us—permission to be and to do and to love. Amen.

(The poem and this devotional originally appeared in the Equality Illinois “Seasons of Inclusion”)

@chaplaineliza 

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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Christmas Music for Everyone (#BestOf)

Christmas Music for Everyone

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 14, 2013

I hear Christmas music on the cd player as I write this. Choral, a capella. Complex chords and harmonies. These aspects of the music make my heart sing. The winning combination of beautiful music and meaningful words helps my heart to worship, too.

Since I am a classically trained musician and have a bachelor’s degree in church music, music has been and still is an important feature of my life. My avocation and my deep joy, as well as an aid to worship. Sometimes music can bring me to tears, and the next minute can lead me to worship and praise. Especially at this time of year.

A great deal of Christmas music was written with the church in mind, or at least, based on the Gospel accounts in Luke and Matthew. (I know there are some fun songs, secular songs, but I’d like to focus instead on the sacred music.) Composers and songwriters in many diverse cultures have tried their hands at writing Christmas music—and Advent music, too. Diverse songs like “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming” (German, Michael Praetorius, 1609) to “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” (Traditional West Indian Carol, popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1958).

Different cultures portray the Holy Family in contexts that are familiar to them, too. Many people are familiar with the olive wood nativity scenes, carved by Palestinian Christians and imported all over the world today. But I’ve also seen a Kenyan nativity set with animals native to the Kenya bush. And a Peruvian nativity with everyone dressed in traditional Peruvian garb. And—to me—the familiar Advent calendars with the northern European features.

One more recent Christmas carol comes from the mid 20th century. The words by Wihla Hutson evoke the differences in how children all over the world see the baby Jesus. “Lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” “dark as they.” The Baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He was born into this world to identify with us. And we can identify with Him, just as much.

This Advent period is a period of waiting for the coming of the Baby in Bethlehem. However we may see Him, however the Holy Family is presented in our culture or setting or church tradition, we are to wait with eagerness. With quiet and prayer. With expectation in our hearts. And in one of my favorite ways, with music to assist us in this waiting time.

Let’s pray. Dear God, Gracious Lord, this Advent waiting time is a time of expectation, but it’s also a time of preparation. Help me to prepare my heart to receive You. Forgive me for closing the door on others who don’t see You in the same way as I see You. Forgive me for being so narrow-minded and thoughtless. Thank You that You came into this world for everyone. For each child, for each adult, for each senior. Help me to look on those who are different from me with Your eyes. Emmanuel, God with us, all of us. Thank You, Jesus.

@chaplaineliza

 

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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

How Should I Then Pray?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, November 26, 2016

jigsaw-puzzles-615x200-ehow-images-800x800

How Should I Then Pray?

A new year. Yes, tomorrow begins the liturgical year again, with the first Sunday in Advent. That season of hope and expectation, where we wait for the birth of the Christ Child with baited breath. Well, not really. That is, not everybody does. Even in the church.

I feel like I am running as fast as I can, and I still haven’t caught up. I don’t have a chance of catching up. (Alice, I fully sympathize with you in your conversation with the Red Queen.) The turning of the seasons is getting faster and faster all the time.

These two seemingly disparate things are connected. So many people are scattered and fragmented—including me. Pulled in many different directions. It is increasingly difficult to focus on one thing (even when it’s so important, as the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ). That is, when there are so very many things calling for my attention.

Dear Lord, help me to slow down. Help me to sift through the urgent and important, and focus on the one thing that I need. The one thing that gives me nurture and strength. My relationship with You, dear Lord. Help me bring my other needs, pains, joys and concerns to You, too, because then I will not be distracted. Gracious God, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Joy! Jesus is our Joy!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 25, 2015

joy to the world blackboard

Joy! Jesus is our Joy!

As much as I love Henri Nouwen’s writing, he is by no means the only Christian writer I fangirl.

I need to make a confession. When I was considering the Advent season and the month of December (last month), I chose two writers of stature, whose writings I greatly respect. I ordered two books of Advent meditations featuring their writings. And, I said to myself, whichever book arrives first will be the one I use. Henri Nouwen’s book arrived first. So, that was settled.

However—Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book of meditations and reflections is also rich. Deeply moving and meaningful. Even though I couldn’t manage the whole season of Advent, at least I could finish up December with Bonhoeffer. See whether I can finish this year of prayer well. Bonhoeffer is certainly a heavy hitter, as far as prayer, meditation and devotion are concerned.

Joy to the world! That’s what I am called to consider. Joy to the world!

Bonhoeffer walks us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Vignettes, in a brief glimpse form. Different ways in which Jesus revealed Himself to different segments of humanity. Until, at last, Jesus was resurrected for all of us, that Easter morning.

This hymn, “Joy to the World,” is full of theological detail from a broad scope, The vast sweep of eternity. Yet, I am drawn to consider the birth of Jesus. That specific moment in time, over two thousand years ago. Bonhoeffer makes reference to 1 Peter 1, especially “even though you do not see [Jesus] now, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”

Yes. Jesus is my joy. I find joy in the entrance of the eternal God into this world. I find joy in God the eternal Son loving the world so much that He chose to empty Himself and become human. I find joy in God desiring a relationship with me. With me!

Thank You, God. I know I don’t deserve any of it. But, I try to be grateful. Thank You, God.

@chaplaineliza

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Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Immanuel. God with Me, and with You

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, December 24, 2015

IMMANUEL God with us stars

Immanuel. God with Me, and with You

Christmas Eve service can be special, moving. This year was no different. I had the joy of programming the evening service. Setting the scripture readings, and the special music, as well as the hymns.

Because this service was concentrating on Luke 2, this service concentrated on the Baby born in Bethlehem. All the music was set specifically for the Baby Jesus, too.

The Advent meditation for Christmas Eve reminded me of this, too. The Baby Jesus came into the world. Henri Nouwen speaks in this entry, about the Baby coming into the world of humanity.

Immanuel. God with us. I am not alone, and neither are you. After the weeks of Advent, Christmas is finally here, too. God has broken into this fallen world. Amen. And, let us welcome Him into our hearts.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

What Does Make Christmas?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas stained glass Luke 2

What Does Make Christmas?

The holiday season is coming to a crescendo. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow will be a wonderful service at my church, and lots of warm and fuzzy feelings. Christmas carols sung, special music at the service, candles lit, closing with “Silent Night.”

Yes, all of those things, and more, are wonderful. Special. One of a kind, even.

But, Henri Nouwen’s words in today’s Advent meditation bring me up short. “Somehow I realized that songs, music, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas.” [1]

So, what does make Christmas?

I feel like Charlie Brown at the Christmas pageant rehearsal. “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” I know Linus responds, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He then recounts the Nativity narrative from Luke 2. Except—it doesn’t penetrate into Charlie Brown’s head. Yet.

I realize—intellectually—that “Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine….it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.” [2] Feelings do not come into the equation. It is, in fact, something far beyond all feeling and emotion, as Fr. Nouwen says.

Yet, God wants all of me. All of us. Intellect, physicality, emotions, and feelings, and all. The salvation of the world is, indeed, God’s doing. God wants to save all parts of us. Not just emotions and feelings. Thank God. Thank You, God.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 50.

[2] Ibid.