Last night I saw a star. It shined brightly in the New Mexico sky. Little did I know that what I saw were two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, coming closer together to shine brilliantly. I stood in back yard with reverence for the miracle that I saw, knowing that the last time the planets came this close was during the Medieval period. Maybe the event will happen in another thousand years. Such a rare opportunity left me speechless as I took in the incredible view.
The ancients called what they saw in the sky a miracle, something holy and set apart. I cannot blame them for acknowledging the amazing sight led me to the same conclusion. I wonder if the wise men witnessed the same event that I saw. The site compelled learned men to action and invited them to follow something beyond reason, something that spoke of Divine intervention. They had to follow the light in the darkness.
Taking in the beauty, I could not stop thinking of a favorite poem written by Robert Frost. “So, when at times the mob is swayed to carry praise or blame too far, we may choose something like a star to stay our minds on and be stayed” (Choose Something Like a Star, Robert Frost). The light of Christ starts as a small, beautiful star. Something big enough to capture our attention and hold our imagination; it compels us to follow its beauty. We surrender our hearts to the One who gives us signs that overwhelm us with a reminder of the vastness of Holy love.
Through the season of Advent, I invited parishioners to celebrate Communion each Sunday. I find power in observing the sacrament more frequently than usual. I also reflect on why I find participating in Communion is an essential part of my theological practice. The sacrament is more than a simple memory exercise, but a way to be in the room with Christ at the last meal before His death and resurrection. The Spirit invites us in to feed us and provide for our daily sustenance. As mentioned in prayer, divine guidance offers us the assurance that what we need to live is provided, “Give us this day, our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11 KJSV).
For one moment, we find ourselves present at the table. Jesus looks us dead in the eyes and says, “This is my body, broken for you.” We respond to our Lord by joining in the feast. The table is not fixed in ancient Palestine, but comes to us, right here, right now. The implication that it is not a simple act we do independently for ourselves, but what Christ offers us, is the central part of the sacrament. We focus on the eyes of our Savior, who proclaims through the meal that we are holy children, set apart for acts of service to each other and reverence to our Creator.
As we approach the promised Christmas season, let us use these last days of waiting to reflect on who Christ draws near to us. Be guided by the One who called you out of the darkness and into et lux perpetua (light that never dies). The next time we feast at the banquet, imagine that we sit at the table, invited by Jesus. How does our acceptance of the gift of bread and wine change us? Let us take the experience in and move forward as our waiting is almost over.
As I looked out at the crowd of cars lined up for the parking lot service at our church, I could not help but think that this is my last Sunday with the congregation until the new year. Next week I plan a ski trip and honey-dos. We will celebrate Christmas with all the celebrative bells and whistles that we love, but something touched me about this being the last Sunday of Advent 2020. Maybe I lived in a mode of expectation for so long that I cannot imagine what life holds in store for the future. Perhaps the fear of leaving the darkness and embracing the light that comes into the world frightens me.
The truth is, I know how darkness feels. I see the anxiety and unsureness of not knowing, and leaving it behind brings panic. The procedure repeats itself repeatedly, move from darkness into light. The Savior of the world makes His presence known, so step into the freedom found in Christ. The journey starts with one first step, that is all.
On this last Sunday of Advent, let throw away the negative issues that we continue to carry from the darkness. We surrender everything, and in return, the light of Christ meets us where we are, ready to transform us into the sons and daughters of God. Let us celebrate our gratitude by sharing our story with a world that needs our life-giving narrative. Christmas comes this week. The light shines, families gather, and we celebrate the birthday of the Messiah. Let us not forget that we have several days of work to do as we continue to wait until the day of dancing.
Today, my wife and I celebrate twenty-eight years of married life. As I look at pictures of the person in the photos, I think, “How could God use even someone like me?” I showed up with wounds that ran deep and took years to process. Eventually, life happened, and many years later, I look back at my life and the journey it took to heal a difficult past. I took my vows as a young man, not knowing what lie before me. Now, an older man gives thanks for all the lessons learned, and grateful my incredible bride stayed the course and remained by my side. I am truly blessed.
I continue to think of the strength of our God, for it was Divine love that reigned down on us all. The same Spirit who uses the least of us all. The words of gratefulness rang through the air as Mary responded to her calling, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” A woman of lowly means, transformed by faith, and called by Divine urgency, became the vehicle by which the Messiah came into the world. The Gospel is not regulated to the wealthy and elite but comes to release all the captives free.
On this day of Advent, let us hold tight to the promise of our God. The light shines in the darkness, and all receive an invitation to respond to a new life. As we turn our eyes to Christmas, let us reflect on the lessons learned in our time of waiting. Hopefully, we will come to understand how God revealed Divine presence in our lives, even in the darkest of circumstances.
There are times when we wait, hoping for a miracle that does not seem to come. We look to the heavens and cry out, “How long must I wait, Oh, Lord?” The truth is, we are desperate and want our prayers answered immediately. This expectation is not a judgment statement. We are human and look to our Creator for help in our times of need.
We must realize that God does not answer prayers on our schedule but comes in moments that we least expect. The space between our prayers and Divine answers is time to walk a sacred path of reflection and illumination. We are God’s children and must remain faithful to our communion with our Creator. Our petitions may not find answers the way we intended, but they will make their way to holy ears. It may take a long time to discover the solutions, but in our realization, we uncover this amazing God to whom we surrender our lives to holy providence.
On this Advent day, let us remember that our waiting will give way to joy and that God enlightens our path to show us the way to joyful living. Our supplications find answers in the most unusual ways. When the Holy One reaches out to us by answering prayers, we experience sacred miracles that give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. Be diligent in continued faith with the knowledge that the darkness gives way to light. Our situation is not stagnant, and we find rest unto our souls. May the blessings of this season give way to joy and heavenly understanding that the Divine works in our lives to lead us on our journey.
Many of us know what it is like to feel trapped in darkness. My story started in pitch black, without my knowledge, without choice. I set out on a journey to discover the light, and in so doing, paved a way that exposed me to the deep love that God lavishes on all of us. Finding my way out of the pit of blackness is a long and hard-fought process. I continue to rely on the One who continuously saves me from the horrors of the past. The power displayed to me begins with Divine guidance, always reassuring me that together, we can make the journey to the beauty of the light.
On this Advent day, I am grateful for the journey through the roughest of circumstances. I learned more about myself as I struggle through uncharted waters than if I would have immediately discovered the end of the path. It took walking with the Holy One to find the depth of my faith and the boldness of my own heart to follow the Creator. The road is not easy, and there are some detours we must take to learn all that we need to know, but it is worth every struggle to grow in faith.
My prayer for everyone who reads this blog post is that God’s love continues to journey with you. I hope that all of you struggle well, and as you do, may Divine arms keep you safe. The darkness can be a fierce competitor, but nothing can overwhelm the light of true love. Be filled with the presence of the Divine and let it illuminate your path. Continue to grow as you journey well with God himself beside you every inch of the way.
I have a fierce enemy that seems never to surrender the fight for my soul. It rages fiercely against me and can throw mean into a chaos born in darkness with one swift blow. I cannot fight this lover of humiliation alone, so I depend on an advocate that makes the enemy’s power dwindled in comparison to itself pristine lighted beauty. Once exposed to the light, the enemy must retreat and wait until another day to launch an all-out assault.
The enemy of which I speak is me. I am my own worst enemy. I know where to strike and hit with 100% accuracy. My heart lay bare to the one that strikes with such cruelty and heartless integrity. The only way I know to survive is to retreat into any foxhole that I find until the war ceases. There appears no way to fight back as shame overwhelms me and leaves me paralyzed with fear. I lay in the darkness, praying that someone will discover me and bring me from torture.
Advent reminds me that the light came into the world, and in doing so, released me from myself. My enemy’s voice has no power over me as I rediscover the One who created beauty out of chaos. My challenge is to refuse to let the power of my most prominent critic overwhelm me back into darkness. It is an impressive trick, but each day closer to Christmas, there is a little more hope in the world. We maneuver life by reminding ourselves that we are God’s children, and as such, our most significant power-hungry phantom has a smaller amount of hold on us. Celebrate, give thanks for God, who leads us out of the night and into the hope of morning.
“Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too!” (Ps. 139:7-8 CSB).
We cannot rise above the darkness because we feel so empty and ashamed of our lives. Worry, fear, shame, they all separate us from the light. These forces of darkness swallow us whole and leave us without hope. Despair reigns supreme, and we find ourselves buried in a sea of destruction. Our souls become crushed ice pellets that lack warmth or security.
Hear the Good News, my friends. Our God moves into the chaos of the darkness and searches for us. The Divine goes to any lengths to find us, even going to the grave to pull us back to the light. So great is the love of our Lord that nothing keeps holy arms from gathering us up and restoring us to wholeness. We discover fearless love in the most desolate of circumstances.
This passage from the Book of Psalms is a favorite of mine, as it reminds me of God’s unfailing love offered to all people. On this day of Advent, let us remember the great lengths the Holy One goes to for us. Never will we remain in darkness because we are sons and daughters of the Divine. Restoration is a promise freely given to us through grace. Let us claim the gift given and live in the light of God.
I am often guilty of saying a flippant response and moving to the next person standing to speak with me. We know this year is vastly different from years past, but that does not excuse us from genuinely expressing sentiments of good cheer. Everyone could use a little joy in their lives, especially now. I think of the many children in the Special Pediatric Unit on the University of New Mexico Hospital’s sixth floor. We know what it is like to search for reasons to celebrate while sitting in a hospital room during the holidays.
To those who feel the darkness that surrounds them each day, I wish you wholeness. I am not talking about anything that depends on tangible things to satisfy the message of hope. I speak of an inward calm that rises above the pain that we feel or an inward commitment to higher ideas regarding life and each actual situation. I mean a feeling of satisfaction deep within our bones that steadies us and gives lasting peace in all circumstances. At the core of our inmost being, may God’s light shine.
On this third Monday of Advent, may we not get so caught up in our joy, making that we forget those who struggle. Let us remember, God came into the world to lead us all. Let us not boast so loudly that we fail to see our brothers and sisters who lay beside the road. Hopefully, we can stop and be the hands and feet of Christ by caring for those who need our help.
I found myself fascinated with Isaiah’s proclamation that the spirit of the Lord came upon him. In the prophet language, God shared with him a special message. He announced, “The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners” (Is. 61:1 CEB). His calling to speak came directly from the Divine, and his message contained truths about healing and wholeness. Though written long before the New Testament, Isaiah’s message emphasized a gospel (good news) of hope.
It looks like the prophet receives a herculean task to reach everyone that he could with the holy message of deliverance on the surface. I do not think that his call is any different than ours. The Divine calls us to action, to share the hope found in Jesus, the Christ. How do we reach the ones mentioned in the passage from Isaiah? Anytime we live our faith, we deliver the good news to whom we encounter.
We are present-day Isaiahs, sharing the story of the Holy One in our little corner of the universe. Our calling is the same as the ancient man of God. We share the love of Christ with everyone, speak peace into lives that are in chaos, and liberation to all who need to be set free. Our voices continue Isaiah’s legacy, which reaches across time and into the heart of the modern world.