Advent Reflections – The Way of Love

The Presiding Bishop is inviting the whole Episcopal Church to embrace a rule of life during the season of Advent. Seven simple practices to help us prepare for the joy of Christmas.

See each day of Advent in this calendar:  ADVENT CALENDAR

A REFLECTION FOR EACH DAY:

WEEK 4

December 23 Worship Advent 4
Linger before leaving worship today. Ask God to prepare and send you to go out into the world to witness to God’s love.

We are called to witness, to bear testimony to our faith. We are called to make sure that the world knows that God loves, cherishes, forgives and blesses, and constantly reaches out to Creation. It’s a tall order and we need to be ready to respond all day, every day. That’s why our Sunday worship is so important: it’s the well to which we go to replenish our emptiness, the charger for our spiritual batteries, the reminder that with God’s help we can move mountains, and we do.

December 24 Go
Notice and pray for all those who, like Mary and Joseph, are in need of shelter.

A tired, sweaty man and a heavily pregnant woman are sent away. Apparently there is no room for them. Can we make room? At our tables, in our churches, and in our hearts? Whom are we sending away tonight and why?

December 25 Learn Christmas Day
Read Luke 1-2. Give thanks for the birth of the Christ-child. Pray that you may follow Christ Jesus on his Way of Love with your whole heart, mind, body and spirit.

Worship, Go, Learn, Pray, Bless, Turn, Rest: the Way of Love.
The idea of a “rule of life” comes from the Latin word regula and suggests a way to regulate or regularize our lives to stay on an intentional path. A rule of life is not just a set of rules to live by; rather, it is a gentle framework to guide and support us on our way. In the season of Advent, you have created a gentle framework for your spiritual life by reading my brief meditation every day and by taking on the practices suggested by the Presiding Bishop. Can you stay on the Way of Love for the rest of year? You can use the material available here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/way_of_love_small_group_curriculum.pdf
and journey with a small group of like-winded pilgrims.
You can find more resources organized by practice here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/explore-way-love
and you can ask me for more suggestions and recommendations. If you “stray from the Way”, be gentle with yourself, but don’t give up: we are doing this together and we can all support and hold each other accountable on the Way.

WEEK 3

December 16 Worship Advent 3
Pray for each person as they receive communion. Imagine who you would like to see at church next week. Invite them to church today.

The greatest joy of my ministry is sharing the Body and Blood of Christ with the children of God. We are all united in our need for God, we are all united as our need is met when we receive Christ in our very own hands.
Pray for those who receive communion next to you and in your community of faith. Pray for those who don’t feel worthy to receive it. Pray that God may show you who needs to be invited to the communal table.

December 17 Go
Read or watch your local news. Where is reconciliation needed? Pray for healing.

The Hebrew phrase tikkun olam (pronounced tee-KOON oh-LUHM) means “world repair.” it is a concept that comes from the Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings compiled in the 3rd Century. Humanity’s responsibility to change, improve, and fix its earthly surroundings is powerful. It implies that each person has a hand in working towards the betterment of his or her own existence as well as the lives of future generations. Tikkun olam forces people to take ownership of their world. It is them, not God, who will bring the world back to its original state of holiness. And God will help by pointing the way, guiding our steps, strengthening our resolve, and giving each and everyone the gifts of Grace that we need

December 18 Learn
Read Luke 1:57- 80. Name three ways your faith community challenges you to practice the Way of Love. Share your list with a member of your community.

Where can you be of service in your community? Is there a new role, a new challenge just waiting for you to embrace it? Are there ministries that could you use your skills and talents? Are you mourning a broken relationship that you could perhaps mend? Is there room for more prayer in your life? Is there an emptiness for you to fill with Grace?

December 19 Pray
Gather with your faith community for a short time of prayer today.

Who is your “faith community”? Who can you turn to if you need prayer and council? Can you get together with them? Can you contact them quickly via e-mail, text, or with a phone call? Do you have a faith community on social media? Take the time to cultivate your spiritual life together, through shared prayer and action.

December 20 Bless
Identify a blessing you have that you could give away. Then share this blessing with your church, a local ministry, or your community.

Time, talent, treasure. We always have more of them than we think. In order to give them away we must first be good managers of them. We must know the reality of them so that we may allocate them wisely, for the glory of God and the good of the community. Are you a good manager of your blessings? Who could benefit from some of them today?

December 21 Turn
Read the Confession (BCP 352) in an unfamiliar location – in the park, at work, at school, or on the bus. What does the prayer inspire you to turn from in that location? What does it inspire you to turn toward?

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Confession is a tool for reorientation. It shows us from what we need to distance ourselves and to what we need to turn. In the middle of a Sunday service we may be surprised by it, and have little time to let it affect our lives as it ought to. Take it with you on this day and read it at different times and in different locations. What changes?

December 22 Rest
How can you or your community open yourselves to people in need of rest and relief from overwork? From oppression? From violence?

We are not the only ones who need rest. Self-care is important and necessary, but what about others? Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” To whom do we need to say the same words? How can we share at least some of their burden?

 

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WEEK 2
December 9 Worship – Advent 2
What word or words from worship today have found a home in your heart? Share these words with someone close to you.

The Book of Common prayer has been described as “the Bible rearranged for worship”. It is is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations and it has also helped to shape a long literary tradition in the English language. The beauty of its language is undeniable and for many literary critics it stands as a monument to admire. What words give you pause or inspire you?What words have become part of your personal prayer?

December 10 Go
Choose to take a different route to work, to school, or to play today. Who or what did you encounter differently?

Encounter, based on Latin in- ‘in’ + contra ‘against’ in the Middle English took the meaning of ‘meet as an adversary’ and ‘a meeting of adversaries’. Today in lieu of “adversaries” we use it to refer to meeting someone or something “strange, new, foreign, alien, out of the ordinary”.The invitation for us today is to go seek a holy encounter by taking a different route. Are we willing to risk a leap in “unknown places”? Are we willing to expand our world?

December 11 Learn
Read Luke 1:39-56. Tell a friend or family member about your practice of the Way of Love and invite them to join you.

When we discover a new restaurant, a challenging book, a piece of music that takes our breath away, we love to share it with others. As you become more aware of the movements of your soul through this Advent practices, with whom do you feel moved to share them? Who may be an exciting and excited companion on this Advent journey?

December 12 Pray
Join a family member or friend for 10 minutes for prayer, either in person or by phone.

I face-time my parents once a week, on Saturday morning. Sometimes we have long conversations in which the whole family participates and the laptop is carried around the house to show the new additions to the backyard, the Christmas decorations, or my daughter’s latest report card. Sometimes I call in between errands, just to touch base and our visit lasts less than 10 minutes. But as brief as it may be, the time is always precious. 10 minutes of shared prayer can give us a peaceful break in a hectic day, lower our stress levels, and help us reconnect with important people in our lives. It is precious time for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for God.

December 13 Bless
Call or write a family member with whom you desire a closer relationship. Tell them what they mean to you. Ask how you can pray for them.

Sometimes we forget to tell people how much they mean to us. We tell those who live in our household, but what about the cousins we used to be so close to when we were children and haven’t seen in years? Look up, down, and sideways your family tree: is there a relationship you would like to renew or strengthen? Don’t think. Just pick up the phone and tell them how you feel.

December 14 Turn
Turn away from the busyness of the week and turn toward someone who gives you life or to whom you give life. Give thanks.

It takes a major effort to turn away from all the “busy-ness”. Being busy makes us feel accomplished, and accomplished is good, right? We can’t fall into the trap of being so busy that we forget our relationships though.
Who are the people who believe in you, who support you, who listen to you? Who are those who don’t need anything from you and enjoy you exactly for who you are? Who are the people with whom you can be authentic?

December 15 Rest
On this day of rest, pause and breathe deeply with a friend or family member. Give thanks for the restorative power of love.

The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as “pneuma” is also the spirit or soul. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere and to all living things..If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist and from our companions on the journey of life. What happens when we choose the intimacy of breathing together with someone we love?

WEEK 1
December 2 Worship – Advent 1
Pay attention during worship. What part of the gathering fills your heart?

Our shared liturgies give us comfort with their repetitive flow. In the British series Call the Midwife, Sister Monica Joan says it best: “The liturgy is of comfort to the disarrayed mind. We need not choose our thoughts, the words are aligned, like a rope for us to cling to.” The flip side of this is that there are times when we stop paying attention to the meaning of our liturgical words and actions. Focus your attention today on the movements of your heart during our communal worship.

December 3 Go
Take time to listen closely to someone you may not ordinarily take seriously, or who has a different perspective than you.

Someone said that the biggest communication problem is that most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. This happens especially when we realize that our conversational partner disagrees with us or is presenting a different side of an argument. Instead of listening deeply, we prepare our rebuttal. Today let us be intentional in our listening.

December 4 Learn
Read Luke 1:26-38. What is God calling you to say “yes” to?

Discern – trust – act. Three movements of the Christian life. We continually discern the will of God for us, we trust that what God can do for us and in us more than we can ever ask or imagine, we act upon our discernment. Mary’s response to Gabriel’s announcement was to take the time to discern, to trust that God loved her and was with her, to say “yes” to the call. Spend some time reliving her process through Scripture and try it for yourself.

December 5 Pray
Set a timer for five minutes. Silently repeat this prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Many of us think that prayers ought to be complex and poetic. After all, the Book of Common Prayer is literary jewel! But prayer is first and foremost an invitation, an opening of ourselves to the presence of God. Prayer is an act of hospitality for our hearts.

December 6 Bless
In the spirit of St. Nicholas, practice a random act of kindness today.

St. Nicholas embodies the spirit of generosity toward the stranger. That’s why he is the model for our modern Santa Claus. Can you discern a need in the people around you? What can you give today out of your abundance? And if you give, are you brave enough to share your motivation for giving?

December 7 Turn
Reflect: Where have I fallen short this week? How can I make amends?

We fall short every day, multiple times a day. We set the bar very high for ourselves: perfection is not for us humans. But God, who is perfect, is much more gentle with us that we are with ourselves. What matters is that we recognize our blunders and make amends. Look back at the past few days: what can you do to make things better?

December 8 Rest
Do something that replenishes your spirit.

We are called to serve, to give of ourselves to others, but if run on empty we cannot be effective instruments of the will of God for Creation. It is necessary that we take time to take care of our own hearts and souls. What fills and refills your heart?

Coming soon:  reflections for Advent 2, December 9, and the following week.