During the season of Advent, each essay will consist of daily Scripture Readings and a weekly prayer, hymn and reading. I pray this guides your time as you recognize your own longing for wholeness and anticipate the coming of Christ. I will post each week’s scriptures to the website on Sundays, so visit there if you do not want to wait for Tuesday’s emails. Merry Christmas!
For many imitators of Christ, who try to bear witness to the life he lived and lives in the way we function in the world, Advent is the name we give to the Christmas season. The Latin roots mean “to come toward” or “coming,” and Advent offers some space to reflect on the coming of Christ, the coming of hope, the coming of joy, and the coming of Christmas. This year the readings remind us of the context that the Messiah came out of and into; Christ is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with us; He is the manifestation of the Word—the prophecies and scriptures—that came before Him. We begin at the beginning, and move toward the coming hope of the Messiah, waiting expectantly with creation for the final story that becomes our new beginning. For people dependent on Jesus, we must contextualize our love of work and independence with a deeper loyalty to merciful rest and interdependency. We need a God who never leaves us, and we need people to hope with and around us.
This year, I have been reminded again and again that healing and hope come in the middle of pain, not when it ends. We become healers when we see and hold our own vulnerabilities. Part of waiting on God, part of actively hoping for Him, begins with my honest lament over all the brokenness in and around my life. It is not unfaithful to be scared or disappointed or angry or brokenhearted—these are conditions of humanity. During Advent, we celebrate the One who “comes toward” us, not just as a baby—the Son of God—2000 years ago, but also as the redeeming One who will come to make “all things new”, and, importantly, as One who offers healing and wholeness right now. As you approach Advent, can you first realize the places in your own heart, relationships, city and world that need the healing and wholeness Christ will bring? Advent is a season to remember what it means to hope in our own hard places, and to expectantly wait for Immanuel to be “God with us.”
My prayer for all who read these words:
Like Mary, patiently wait for God to bring new life into broken places.
Like the Wise Men, study the Scripture and learn to look for Christ, especially in unexpected spaces in your family or town that have little hope.
Like the Shepherds, wait expectantly for the Glory of God to visit your ordinary lives, and then actively follow Christ by moving toward humble others.
Thank you for being a God who comes, who moves with us, who refuses to leave us alone. Give us a rhythm of confessing our need for you as we feel the longing for your presence. Thank you for the crazy mystery of Christmas, for knowing our worst but seeing our best. Teach us what it means to know you come toward us in the year to come.
A note on the structure
There are daily scriptures, divided into weekly themes (Each theme has a prayer, a hymn, and other readings). Each day, read the prayer and daily scripture listed (bottom of page). You can use the optional readings once per day, all together, or not at all. If your tradition uses an Advent wreath then each Sunday, light the candle, read the scripture, and sing or listen to the hymn listed for that week.
With big love from a heart often breaking and hoping,
Prayer for the First Week of Advent:
“Lord, may you now let us this year once more approach the light, celebration, and joy of Christmas Day that brings us face to face with the greatest thing there is: your love. What could we possibly bring and give to you? So much darkness in our human relationships and in our own hearts! So much over which you cannot rejoice, that separates us from one another and certainly cannot help us! So much that runs directly against the message of Christmas! What should you possibly do with such gifts? But all of this is precisely what you want to receive from us and take from us at Christmas—the whole pile of rubbish and ourselves, just as we are—in order to give us in return Jesus, our Savior, and in him a new heaven and a new earth, new hearts and a new desire, new clarity and a new hope for us and for all people. Be among us as we once again…prepare to receive him as your gift. Amen.” -Karl Barth
Readings for the First Week:
“The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come…Not all can wait—certainly not those who are satisfied, contented, and feel that they live in the best of all possible worlds! Those who learn to wait are uneasy about their way of life, but yet have seen a vision of greatness in the world of the future and are patiently expecting its fulfillment. The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God the child in the manger. God comes, the Lord Jesus comes, Christmas comes.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“In the biblical world, hope does not emerge from the self-aggrandizing act of recounting our successes. It is the desperate plea for God’s intervention that arises out of lament that reveals a flickering glimpse of hope. What about us? Even after tasting God’s fury and wrath, do we still have hope? Do we still have the ability to worship even as our faith is being tested?” -Soong-Chan Rah
“We are not elevated above God or even above God’s creation. We do not stand in the place of Christ, able to incarnate ourselves into another community as if we could operate as the Messiah. Our only hope for meaning and worth is in the fullness of Christ as God’s created beings. Lament recognizes our frailty as created beings and the need to acknowledge this shortcoming before God.” -Soong-Chan Rah
Hymn of Prophecy
“For unto us a child is born, unto us, a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world, is become. The Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah.” -Handel’s Messiah
Daily Readings: Week 1
Dec 2: Light the purple candle of Hope or Prophecy Read Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7
Christ is the Hoped For One, the fulfillment of prophecies and the law.
Dec 3 Deut 18:18; Psalm 45:6-7
Dec 4 Gen 3:19-21; 9:4-12
Dec 5 2 Sam 7:11-16; I Chron 17:11-14
Dec 6 Gen 15:1-6, 22:1-18
Dec 7 Exo 3:13-15
Dec 8 Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7