Advent Readings Week 3

Prayer for the Third Week of Advent: “Lord, our God and Father, give to many, to all, and to us as well, that we may celebrate Christmas like this: that in complete thankfulness, utter humility, and then complete joy and confidence we may come to the One whom you have sent, and in whom you yourself have come to us. Clean out the many things in us that, now that the hour has come, have become impossible for us, can no longer belong to us, may, must, and will fall away from us, by virtue of your beloved Son, our Lord and Savior, entering into our midst and creating order. We thank you that you have let your light rise, that it shines in the darkness, and that the darkness will not overcome it. We thank you that you are our God, and that we may be your people. Amen.”                        -Karl Barth

Readings for the Third Week:

“Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”                                                                                               -Henri Nouwen

“But in our waiting there always lingers a certain amount of resignation. Our fondest hopes, all that we wish for, are weakened by an inner feeling that they may not be fulfilled. We don’t want to be foolish. And it would be foolish to assume that the hopes for the future were already achieved; foolish to hold so firmly to our belief that our life would collapse if it were not to happen. Our foolish waiting would then become an agonizing waiting, an unholy selfish grabbing from one another…And we know quite well that this is not the kind of waiting that Jesus speaks of. Such waiting is not Advent waiting.”                                          –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 “It is my belief, that we should not be too sure of having found Christ in ourselves until we have found him also in that part of humanity that is most remote from our own.”                                                                                                            -Thomas Merton

“The kind of peace shalom represents is active and engaged…Shalom is communal, holistic and tangible. There is no private or partial shalom. The whole community must have shalom or no one has shalom…Shalom is not for the many, while a few suffer; nor is it for the few while many suffer.”                       -Randy Woodley

Hymn of Joy

Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies. With the angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Dec 16: Light the pink candle of Joy or Shepherds. Read Luke 2:8-18

Christ brings remarkable joy into our everyday lives; every moment transformed by wonder!

Dec 17 Matthew 2:1-15

Dec 18 Exo 15:11-14a; John 1:35-51

Dec 19 Isaiah 61:1-7

Dec 20 Mark 1:9-11; John 15:8-17

Dec 21 Psalm 46:1-11

Dec 22 Luke 2:8-18

Advent Readings Week 1

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!

Advent 2018

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

lent 2018: the kingdom of God is like....

The presence of Lent in the church calendar—40 full days of preparation for Easter—reminds me that it is wise to prepare.  When we ponder where we are headed and think about what is coming, we sometimes find ourselves strangely more engaged in the present as well.  In the Biblical record, God uses the number 40 as a measure of time for his people (It rained on Noah for 40 days, the Israelites wondered for 40 years before entering the Promised Land, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before publically launching His ministry).  God used this time to bring His children closer to Himself: to increase their desperation for God, to remind them of His power and provision in their daily lives, to encourage and pour into them before a hard season ahead. 

 In the Catholic Church I visit every Ash Wednesday, the priest reminds us that Lent is experienced most fully in three ways:

1)   We sacrifice something in order to remind ourselves of thirst, of hungering after God, or to disrupt patterns that diminish our flourishing in Christ.

2)   We willfully use this experience of disruption to push us toward Christ, placing Him in the front of our minds, or at the top of our day.

3)   We turn our eyes from ourselves and toward others as we intentionally live more generously toward those in need during Lent.

For these 40 days, I pray you would be mindful of these 3 ideas, and maybe use them to orient yourself toward God. 

 His coming sacrifice and resurrection are our only hope for living well with ourselves and others.  Allow yourself to know this during Lent.  Allow yourself to recognize the abundance in your life, and to lean in to the lean placesJ.  Allow yourself to think about people who live with very little, and know that they often hunger for and understand God in ways that may be hard for us to understand.  Allow yourself to hear God’s words in these 40 days, to begin to understand what He cares about, and then think about how you can emulate Him by pouring your life out for others. 

This year I am starting our readings each week with the Beatitudes.  In the last year I have come to see all the ways that I have diminished the power of God in my life because I have cared about protecting and expanding my own power and security instead.  I have decided God’s Kingdom works just like mine, so that the hardest workers, the kindest, the most intentional people win. The Beatitudes remind us that God doesn’t value what I value. He promises to be present, generous and available to those who have no power, to those near the margins, to those who align themselves with the overlooked and against self-interest alone.  This Lenten season I am reminded that if I want to prepare myself for Christ’s coming kingdom, I would do well spend 40 days marinating in the words He used to describe it.  (One other note: all of the selections are poetry.  While we love to be instructed by scripture, W. Brueggemann recently reminded me that the very nature of God is mysterious, wonderful, and creative.  Poetry—instead of a helpful outline—is a fabulous medium to usher us into the presence of God.) 

When the priest at the Catholic Church places ashes on my forehead in the shape of a cross, he murmurs, “Turn away from your sin and believe the Gospel.” I pray that as we read these verses of God we would think about what it means to simply “Believe the Gospel” in the living of our lives.                   

Poetry from the Word of God

14-Feb Matthew 5:1-12                  11-Mar Matthew 5:1-12

15-Feb  Proverbs 2:1-15                 12-Mar  Ps 106:1-8

16-Feb Ps 94:12-22                        13-Mar Eccles 3:1-8; Ps 13

17-Feb  Micah 6:6-8                       14-Mar  Ps 101:1-6; 119:9-20

18-Feb  Matthew 5:1-12                  15-Mar  Micah 4:6-7; Luke 6:20-27

19-Feb  Ps 90:12-17; 91:1-2             16-Mar  Ps 22:1-11; 24-31

20-Feb  Ps 95:1-8                          17-Mar  Prov 3:1-12

21-Feb  Ps 120:1-2; 121:1-4              18-Mar  Matthew 5:1-12

22-Feb  Zeph 3:14-18                     19-Mar  Song of Sol 8:6-7; Isai 41:3-13

23-Feb  Ps 107:1-9, 19-31               20-Mar  Ps 116:1-9; Ps 127:1-2

24-Feb  Daniel 6:25-28                 21-Mar  Ps 9:7-14; 17:6-11

25-Feb  Matthew 5:1-12                 22-Mar  Ps 3:1-5; 21:3

26-Feb  Ecclesiastes 7:5-14          23-Mar  Micah 7:18-20

27-Feb  Ps 130                              24-Mar  Ps 28:1-2; 40:1-11

28-Feb  Job 42:1-3                       25-Mar  Matthew 5:1-12

1-Mar  Isaiah 40:21-31                   26-Mar  Ps 102:1-4

2-Mar  Ps 142                                27-Mar  Isaiah 54:1-8

3-Mar  Hosea 5:15-6:3                  28-Mar  Ps 18:25-36; 20

4-Mar Matthew 5:1-12                   29-Mar  Isaiah 55:1-12

5-Mar  Ps 143:5-10                        30-Mar  Ps 32:1-5; 38:1-11, 15-18

6-Mar  Ps 25:4-18; 19:7-14             31-Mar  Isaiah 61:1-11

7-Mar  Ps 103; 131                          1-Apr  Matthew 5:1-12

8-Mar  Isaiah 43:1-7

9-Mar  Ps 1:1-3; 23

10-Mar  Habb 3:17-19