This Advent we offer to you reflections following #ADVENTword. Each day corresponds to a word, and we have asked individuals to offer up their own reflections. Some are rooted in scripture and some are more abstract. Some have accompanying images and some call upon our own imagination.
Each Monday of Advent we will offer to you the upcoming week’s reflections. Read them all together, or one a day. However you feel so called to reflect this Advent season.
December 9: Root
by Mary Barnett
Did you know:
There is an Aspen tree in Utah which is estimated to be between 80,000-1,000,000 years old. Over time this one tree has spread over 100 acres via an underground root system that connects some forty thousand trunks into one clonal organism. Something this massive and hard to imagine needs a name: Pando. “Connect enough living things together,” the author Richard Powers writes of this non-fictional Pando in the novel Overstory “and it becomes aware.”
Pando has become for me a metaphor for the Body of Christ: the ultimately mysterious, incarnational intelligence that binds us together: that both is us and is beyond us. The roots of this body reach deep under every boundary. They reach under every nation state, under every wall we build and even under the intransigent obstacles we erect in our own minds. This is what the church might really be because it is what we already are but cannot yet imagine. This is what the Eucharist invites us to remember and enables us to practice. Only connect. Absolutely every body matters. I am because we are.
We reach out to each other underground, across all the great divides. Maybe we too, like Pando, are a forest becoming aware. Maybe this year. Maybe this Advent. Come Holy Spirit come.
December 10: Grace
by Erika Hagan
2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul is talking about the thorn in his side in this letter. He asks God to take it away, and God replies no – that God’s grace is sufficient, his power is made perfect in weakness.
Well thank goodness for that! This season leading into Christmas is such a thorn in my side sometimes. As a church worker, my administrative tasks increase to prepare for the busy season ahead. As a seminarian, my final papers and exams are coming due. As a mom, I am trying to keep our traditions going and the increased household tasks done.
Inevitably, I awaken at 2am and think “I forgot to move the Elf.” And I wonder, in that moment, if all these things, these thorns, of this time could be removed from my life. Instead, I get up in the darkness to shift the Elf from one room to the next. I see the moon shine on the snow out the window. The quiet stillness. God is there in that stillness, and I am grateful.
My weakness is enough. The work will get done, the papers written, the traditions upheld, the Elf moved. Christ will be born. In our weakness, our waiting, God’s grace is with us, and God’s power is made perfect. A-men.
December 11: Confess
by: Tara Shepley
As part of my ministry to others, I spend a lot of time listening to other people’s stories, and these stories very often become a confession to God. When I hold someone’s story, I become a sacred story companion with God. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I begin to listen not only to what happened, but more importantly, I begin to listen for the affliction of negative patterns and responses that have taken root and have begun to distort thinking, attitudes, and behaviors.
As I listen, I call upon the Holy Spirit to resurrect signs of repentance and faith, a willingness to forgive, and the ready will to leave behind old patterns and habits of thinking and behaviors. As I hold each sacred story, I listen with God’s love, knowing that Jesus holds the keys to eternal freedom, love, and new life for each precious person whom God places before me.
Oftentimes, I am called to gently help someone walk through the doorway of freedom that the Holy Spirit is already holding open for them through the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I get to just sit back and watch someone fling themselves into the Father’s loving embrace- a front row seat to God’s miracle of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
Confession is the gift of freedom. It has been said that honesty is one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and to God. As we prepare for Christmas this Advent, let us prepare to give ourselves vulnerably, authentically and honestly to the One who always awaits with loving acceptance and with arms open wide- the One who covers our sin with garments of Saving Grace. Amen.
December 12: Harmony
by: Michael Reardon
In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, Paul remarks, “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are (Romans 12:16).”
We often think of harmony as the absence of conflict, maybe best achieved on a solitary walk in the woods, silent personal prayer, or a weekend yoga retreat. In any case, it is some place where the absence of tension can be expected. These practices, though helpful in our pursuit of harmony, are not where harmony itself will be found. Instead, Saint Paul seeks to reorient our understanding of harmony. It is not to be found in those places where we are most comfortable, but in true relationship with the lowly and in an enduring adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Harmony is to be found precisely where we sense its absence. Christ’s harmony and sense of grace is made known in the bread line, at the methadone clinic, and with his sick and forgotten. Through coming to grow from discomfort into communion with the earth’s lowly places and Christ’s exalted places, we will come to know the harmony of God’s kingdom.
December 13: Water
by: Alli Gannett
Behind my childhood home there was a small creek. My brother and I would play in the creek all the time, catching crawfish and tadpoles in the little pool of water that gathered by the bend in the creek. There was a whole world operating in this small section of the flowing water — time stood still.
After college I took a job in southern Utah. On my off days I would explore the various parks and forests of the Escalante Staircase — a geological wonder of channels and carvings etched by flowing water and wind whipping through the sandstone. One morning I went on a hike with a co-worker through a slot canyon, one of those channels carved by water.
We walked along the bottom of the canyon, at our feet was just a small trickle of water, keepin’ on keepin’ on. But above us was the towering walls of smooth sandstone tattooed with previous flows of water. Along those walls — time also stood still.
Water has this unique ability capture fluid moments of time. A pool of water is still enough for life to begin but is constantly flowing; and rivers of water no matter how small can change stone forever leaving a lasting impression.
It is only fitting that we are baptized by water, don’t you think?
December 14: Gather
by: Matt Handi
This isn’t always easy. There’s the commute to work and getting things done there and making sure your tasks are complete or complete enough before the end of the day before heading home to make dinner for the family and eating hurriedly after picking up the kids from practice before cleaning up and doing homework and more work to make sure we’re ready for that meeting tomorrow and so on and so on and so on. Our day to day lives include various meetings and consultations and visits with doctors and teachers and coaches and friends and coworkers discussing this or that and we are surrounded by people and events that keep us busy. Busy at work. Busy at life. Busy.
And now Advent is calling on us to prepare for the coming of Christ. Isn’t that just one more thing to add to the list? Can we really fit one more thing to do in our lives?
And still we will gather, (still we must gather!) Maybe on a Sunday or during the week we will gather. We will hear the Word. We will listen to the Word. And together, by the very fact of our togetherness, we will encourage one another to hold fast. We will break away from the busyness, from the lists of things to do and run-on sentences, and we together we will find calm.
The day is approaching. Christ is returning to us. Let us gather together then and prepare.
December 15: Turn
by: Michele Adamo
I love signposts. These road markers offer reassurance that I’m on the right road and even show how close I am to reaching the destination.
Yet, in everyday life, the road markers are less clear. God rarely offers turn-by-turn directions. If He did, I wonder what would they sound like? “Michele, turn left when you get to this crossroads in your life,” or “When you reach a fork in the road, look for the blue house.” Nope, it’s not usually that obvious.
The signpost that God that does offer is available to all who have faith. It’s that still, small, inside voice which, when we listen for it, can tell us when to turn away from an outdated job situation, or move to a different lane away from a toxic relationship, or maybe even pull into a parking lot and wait for a break in the traffic.
When we listen to that voice, we can trust we’re on the right path. And although this signpost doesn’t always tell us how close we are to our destination, we know who waits to welcome us at the journey’s end.