Advent Meditations: Week 4 – “Let It Be”

(Light three blue candles and one pink candle. Read the verses below.)

 

Luke 1:26-38, from the CEB

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Commentary by Rev. Barbara Wiechel

Although the Mother Mary in Paul McCartney’s song is not Mary the mother of Jesus, his words in “Let it Be” could be addressed to the woman who became Theotokos, God-bearer. Written out of his own need, McCartney says, “And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.” In a few short verses, in a brief conversation with God’s messenger angel, Mary moves from confusion to consideration, to acceptance of her role in God’s plan of redemption. As God’s partner, she agrees to give birth to Holy Wisdom, clothed in human flesh. After the child’s birth, Mary ponders what all this means, knowing from the prophecy of Simeon that “a sword will pierce [her] innermost being, too.” “Let it be” could be a phrase used to mean “leave well enough alone,” a refusal to participate. Instead, Mary’s words are a holy amen, “Let it be with me just as you have said.” When God’s messenger comes to us, and asks us to become God-bearers, will we choose to leave well enough alone, or will we be bold enough to echo Mary’s holy amen, “Let it be with me just as you have said”?

Personal Reflection

In what ways are we called to be God-bearers, to share the good news with our very being? What will be birthed in us if we agree to be God’s partners in redeeming creation? How will we make room within ourselves for all that God intends to birth in us?

 

Let us pray.

O God,

     give us the courage and the wisdom of Mary,

          that we may move from confusion to consideration to acceptance of your invitation to partner with you in redeeming the world.

Fill our being with your presence,

     and send us to the broken-hearted people in our world,

that they may know the answer: Let it be. Amen.



Advent Meditations: Week 3 – “Rejoice Always”

(Light two blue candles and one pink candle. Read the verses below.)

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, from the CEB

Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24 The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.

Commentary by Rev. Barbara Wiechel

As Advent was first practiced in the church, it was a season of penitence and self-denial similar to Lent. But the third Sunday provided a bit of relief, a Sunday dedicated to rejoicing, and the candle symbolizing that joy is rose, or pink. Included in the Apostle Paul’s advice to the church is to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in every situation. Only if we consider all of our life a prayer to God can we manage praying constantly. When we are facing difficult times, it is not easy to give thanks. And if our joy is defined by the world’s standards, it will be limited. The true gift of faith is that our joy is in God, not in life’s circumstances. Our prayers are not just spoken, but lived out in responsible, generous, compassionate acts.

Perhaps Paul’s most helpful advice for us is “Don’t suppress the Spirit.” Help is always available to us if we are willing to accept it. That is the good news. The awkward news is that the Spirit will lead us to rejoice, will enable us to pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances, but at the Spirit’s leading, not ours. If we suppress the Spirit, we may feel safer, but we may also limit God’s grace in our lives. If we trust that God desires only what is best for us, we will refuse to suppress the Spirit, and rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in every situation.

Personal Reflection

Think about a time when it was difficult to rejoice. Perhaps life was overwhelming, or grief was so raw that pain filled every waking moment. What is God’s gift for us when we are places like that? What would the Spirit offer us that would allow us to breathe and move toward rejoicing? Is it possible that rejoicing, praying and giving thanks are ways to ease pains of life? How do we learn to welcome, not suppress the Spirit?

 

Let us pray.

O God,

     when times are troubled and our lives are falling apart,

          still we will rejoice in your love.

We will welcome your Spirit,

     trust in your goodness,

          and learn to give thanks in all situations.

Let your peace rest upon us,

     and keep us intact and blameless as we wait for the coming of the Lord.

Amen.

 



Advent Meditations: Week 2 – “Prepare the Way”

(Light two blue candles and read the verses below.)

 

Mark 1:1-8, from the CEB

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
a voice shouting in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.”

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

Commentary by Rev. Barbara Wiechel

Whenever a celebrity makes an appearance, an advance team comes first, ensuring that everything is set up for the best possible effect. The team inspects the site, orders what equipment will be needed, and often plans for the comfort of the celebrity. That might include ordering special snacks, entertainment options, transportation and comfortable spaces for waiting and preparing. Jesus’ advance team is a wild man living off the land, wearing home-made clothing, and shouting for people to change their hearts and lives. We are told that all the people who hear of this prophet head for the Jordan to be baptized by John. To be baptized is to make a commitment to make a way for the Lord to arrive. It is not the end, but the beginning, of our life with Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah, who is slightly misquoted by the gospel writer, says that valleys will be raised, mountains brought low, and uneven ground made level, that God’s glory might arrive. Advent reminds us there is work to be done, in our lives and in the world, if we are to prepare a way for God. The advance team tells us what must be done, and we must ready ourselves and our world for the arrival.

What are the mountains that we need to bring low? Might it be high opinions of worth that prevent us from seeing flaws in ourselves or others? What are valleys that need raised? Are we called to care for and about those who live in poverty, who lack education or training, who are suffering from addiction, violence, indifference? Where are the rough places that we might smooth out? Could it be our responses to those with whom we disagree, or our busy lives that leave no room for God? What are some of the ways we will go about the work of filling valleys, lowering mountains and smoothing rough places to make a way?

Let us pray.

O God,

     how often we invite you into our lives,

          but fail to make a way for your arrival.

Give us the tools we need to lower our mountains,

     fill our valleys and smooth our rough spots.

Then give us the will to live into the work

     to which we are called through baptism,

          that we might change our hearts and lives,

          through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

 



Advent Meditations: Week 1 – “Stay Woke”

(Light one blue advent candle and read the following scripture verses.)

 

Mark 13:32-37, from the CEB

32 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 33 Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. 34 It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. 36 Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”

Commentary by Rev. Barbara Wiechel
 
Amazon sends customers an email that confirms what they have ordered, when it will be shipped, and when it will be delivered. They even follow up with an email that says, “Your package has been delivered.” God doesn’t work that way. In West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s lyrics say, “Something’s coming, something good, if I can wait. Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is, but it is gonna be great!” That is the same message that Jesus announces to his disciples. Whatever is coming is worth waiting for. We don’t want to miss it because we are asleep.

“Stay woke” is a phrase being used that encourages us to be aware – more aware –

of the underlying issues behind news reports, internet posts, and tweets. Not every source is reliable, insists “stay woke,” and not all information is available to us. “Stay woke” reminds us that God is always at work in our lives and in our world, but if we are not alert, we might miss the signs. The first message of Advent is to wake us up from sleep that dulls are awareness of God.

Think about some of the ways we are awakened to new ideas, new skills, new problems or new solutions. Perhaps it is a conversation, instruction, or an idea that comes to us when we are pondering. If we pay close attention, if we “stay woke,” we discover God is very active in our lives. Take some time to write down some things that have occurred to change your life, or share them with another person.

Let us pray.

O God who is always doing a new thing,

     whose creation is a masterpiece of beauty and diversity,

wake us up to the possibilities of life for us.

Open our eyes with a sense of wonder;

     open our ears to hear melodies that soar to heaven;

     open our hearts to feel your love surrounding us;

     open our minds to knowledge that goes beyond facts.

And then, O God,

     help us stay awake to all that you are doing in and for us,

          through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.