Saturday in Advent III: December 22

FEAR OR FAITH?

Repeatedly, and more than any other phrase in the New Testament, the exhortation ‘’Be not afraid,’’ or ‘’Fear not’’ is driven home on the lips of Jesus or those who are messengers of that Good news which heralds change and the prospect of adventure into unknown territory.

Jesus comes to unlock the self-imposed barricades of fear, inviting us into that freedom which only comes with trust – a faith and trust, even at those very times when we do not understand the agenda or the course of events. It is in those last days of which Jesus speaks, and which we read in this season of Advent, when so much that is happening will be perplexing, indeed incomprehensible, disturbing and threatening to overturn our present world view. All our points of navigation – the sun, the moon and the stars, indeed those certainties on which we have relied so very heavily to the point of idolatry – no longer serve to give us direction or purpose. But as Jesus goes on to say, ‘’When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’’ (Luke 21:28) So, flee the temptation to pull down the shutters and pull up the drawbridges of that citadel mentality which cannot be open to what is new and changing, compulsively nailing down, everything which threatens to break free and fly.

The man with the bag of nails

‘’And then came man, with his hammer and his bag of nails.
And he nailed the shining sun to the heavens, in case it should leave him cold.
And he nailed the bright moon fast to the silent sky, for fear of being left in the darkness.
And he nailed the clouds to the shifting wind, so they would not gather above him.
And he nailed down the salt sea and each fish fast within it.
And he nailed the bright birds to the empty air, and every creature that flew, or walked, or crawled, or slithered, he nailed hard in its allotted place.
And then came a carpenter’s son. And man, afraid, took him and nailed him tight to a tree, for this man’s tongue could loosen nails.’’ (John Ballard)

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Friday in Advent III: December 21

“It’s all about giving” was the Christmas commercial tag line of a major retailer a few years ago.  It is a season of giving to be sure.  “What do you want for Christmas” is a common inquiry, and there is a wonderful happiness about shopping for or making something for someone we love.  And just to make sure the gifts we give in this season are truly special, we wrap them with special trappings.  On the other hand, Christmas, from a spiritual perspective, is all about receiving.  It is about receiving God into our hearts, our minds, and our lives.  It is about acknowledging that what we want most is not the latest fashion, or plaything, or any thing at all, but God-with-us.  And this gift comes, not with elaborate decoration; it is simply wrapped in human flesh of humble origin.  Giving generally makes us feel good; receiving the gifts of God in Christ will certainly make us feel whole.

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Thursday in Advent III: December 20

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”
                                                                          Mark 10:51

There are so many miracles in the Bible: blind men seeing again, the lame leaping for joy, the Red Sea parting.  Don’t you wish there were some miracles in your life?  Today, miracles are more often declared to be frauds or explained away as natural phenomena.  Isn’t that a sad way to live?  Miracles happen to each of us every day.  We may overlook or fail to recognize them.  Your heart, pumping millions of gallons of blood over the course of your lifetime, is perpetually at work and perpetually at rest.  That is a miracle!  The sunrise is a miracle.  The smile of someone you love is a miracle.  If you are one in a million, that means there are eight of you in New York City, but even so – you are a miracle.

Starting today, look for the miracles in your life.  They are there.  Once you look for them, they will appear everywhere.  You just have to start looking!

Open yourself, open your eyes to the miracles surrounding you every day.  Be like the blind man and let Jesus help you see again.

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Wednesday in Advent III: December 19

The Risk of Birth (Christmas, 1973)
by Madeleine L’Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

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Advent Series for Wednesday, December 19

hernandezDon’t Miss The Final Evening of our Advent Series – Ponder These Things -  Wednesday, December 19, 7:00pm – 8:00pm with composer, Ana Hernandez.
Advent is a season for wonder, mystery and meditation, as we rehearse and re-tell the stories of Mary, Joseph, stargazing shepherds, murderous kings and angelic messengers. To usher us in to deeper places of contemplation, we are spending Wednesday nights in Advent with an artist, a poet, and a singer whose visions and voices plunge the depths of our most familiar religious images.
The final evening, December 19, will culminate in singing led by Ana Hernandez, composer, arranger and performer of sacred music, and author of the Sacred Art of Chant (read more about Ana at www.anahermusic.com). Her workshops lead people in the art of holistic chanting, as a path to opening the heart and mind to the mysterious presence of God. For information contact the Rev. Elizabeth Garnsey at 212-289-5384 or egarnsey@heavenlyrest.org.

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Tuesday in Advent III: December 18

BELIEVING IN ADVENT

‘’The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,’’ Isaiah confidently and optimistically foretells. (Isaiah 9:2) Yet, in the darkest times of life, the platitude that there is always ‘’light at the end of the tunnel’’, invites impatience at best and cynicism at worst. For, it’s at such times, that belief and trust slip away, as the light fades without apparently any promise of returning. The temptation is strong to reflect that perhaps, after all, the light has been permanently extinguished, and that, contrary to Gospel reassurances, (John 1:5) ‘’the light which shines in the darkness’’, has, in reality, finally been ‘’overcome’’ by an impenetrable ‘’darkness.’’
John the Baptist in the darkness of Herod’s prison, shortly before he was beheaded, was driven to  that cliff edge of doubt and despair, which would explain why he sent messengers to enquire from Jesus whether or not he was indeed ‘’that light’’ – ‘’the One who is to come.’’
…………………………………………………………..

The Grey Dawn
He knows not Advent’s meaning who has never sat
by twilight in a dreary cell, its window dim.
Even by day comes little light into the narrow space.
Evening falls, slowly steals away the sun.
Night throws her gloomy mantle round the room,
terrifying, impenetrable.
Will it always be night?
Will ne’er a ray of sunshine pierce the gloom?
And a new day lead on to joy?
A faint light glimmers through the narrow rift, a witness
that the sun sets never and soon will rise again.
Yes, that the light on which men turned their backs
the Lord will bring again, with power and glory,
and establish his everlasting kingdom.
I believe in Advent!

Max Josef Metzger a Catholic priest,
written from prison and martyred in prison, 1944

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Monday in Advent III: December 17

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.                                                                                                                  1 Corinthians 13:11

Doesn’t Saint Paul sound rather serious, putting an end to childish ways?  We are all called to be adults, to take responsibility for our actions and our decisions.  Being an adult, however, is not the same as being a grown-up.  We have to become adults, but we do not have to become grown-ups.  Grown-ups not only take life seriously, they are serious people.  Grown-ups get so caught up in the business and busyness of life, they forget how to have fun.  Jesus warns his disciples that unless they change and become like children, they will never enter the kingdom of God.  In this season of wonder and hope, get in touch with the non-grown-up you.

Know the difference between taking things seriously and being serious.

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