Advent – Wednesday Day 4

“I Wonder as I Wander” by Whitbourn: Carolae-Music for Christmas

pope francis

Prepare to Forgive

Advent reminds us of the new world order ushered in by Christ.  The arrogant will be humbled; the humbled will be exalted.  God’s presence in a manger resets our preconceived notions about who God is and what He demands of our lives.  No longer controlled by fear and guilt, we see God’s love in weakness and vulnerability.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, we forget that you demonstrate strength in weakness and humility.  Show us how to enter the paths of peace by laying down our entitlement and embracing the way of love, forgiveness, and grace.

Scripture

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.  Isa. 2:3-5

Reflection

I recently spent a day reflecting on the Lord’s prayer at a Franciscan retreat center overlooking the Rocky Mountains.  Friar Dan focused our attention on the meaning of each phrase.  I was captivated by his interpretation of Forgive Us Our Trespasses.   “We forgive those who trespass against us,” he said, “because God’s people deserve to live in peace.”  At the time I was struggling with letting go of a hurt that was consuming me.  I was justified in my pain and I replayed the event over and over, but the outcome was always the same—I felt victimized and misunderstood.  I was also powerless to change the memory or to redress the wrong.  I had a right to be angry, yet, in light of the invitation to “forgive and receive peace,” I surrendered the hurt.  The floodgates opened as I left the pain with Jesus and experienced relief for the first time in months.

We are taught to fight for our rights and stand up for ourselves.  The David and Goliath scenario appeals to our sense of justice and self-righteousness.  Yet the way of peace, at times lies in the opposite direction: “lay down your weapons; beat your swords into plowshares.”  Just as God, the creator of the universe, became part of creation, we are called to humble ourselves under the hand of God so that He may exalt us.  This is grace.  It is not what is deserved, but what is given in love.  It is only grace that enables us to let go of pain and leave it in God’s hands, knowing that ultimate justice lies with Him.  How different the world would be if our leaders were to practice grace and mercy in their pursuit of justice.  “We forgive because God’s people deserve to live in peace.”

 Points to Ponder

  • How would it feel to let go of an injustice done against you? What would it take to make that happen?
  • Are there those who hold a grudge against you? What would it mean to have them extend grace and mercy to you rather than anger?
  • God gave up heaven’s throne to redeem us. How does that approach contrast with what you see around you?  How can you extend grace to those around you?

 Conclusion

O Lord we are tempted to demand our rights and to seek justice before we let go of our hurts.  Give us the strength to live a life of grace and forgiveness.  Just as you laid aside the splendor of heaven to be born in a manger, help us to live in humility and reconciliation.

Advent – Tuesday Day 3

By Elaine Knudtson

“In Christ Alone/Cornerstone” sung by Caleb and Kelsey

Prepare to Accept

Christ is the cornerstone on which our faith is built.  If we accept the gift, His presence will shelter us from despair and give us perspective for the journey.  To reject Him is to have the structure of life crumble and the foundation of hope be crushed.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, much of life is routine and we can easily forget our need for you.  In the busy – ness of this season, remind us of the importance of keeping you at the center of our daily lives.

Scripture

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Luke 20:17-18

Reflection

At Christmas, as a child,  I would often receive building blocks in the form of Lincoln logs, tinker toys or plastic bricks.  This was before the days of customized Lego pieces with specific instructions to guarantee success.  If I wanted to build a house, I had to figure it out for myself.  It was easy to build a rectangular foundation and walls, but as soon as I wanted to add a door, window, or roof, the pattern was disrupted and I would become frustrated.  The blocks had no frame to rest on, so the more layers I added, the more unstable my structure became until it finally imploded under its own weight.  I lacked a cornerstone.

“The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” (Wikipedia)

Our scripture reminds us that Christ is the cornerstone of our lives.  Anything that we build without Him will eventually crumble and fall down on top of us, crushing our idealized hopes.  Putting Christ in our lives does not create a fairy tale with a guaranteed happily ever after ending, but it does give us a foundation that withstands the storms and carries the load when we lack the strength to carry it ourselves.

Points to Ponder

  • In a secular world view, life is random, meaningless and totally dependent on what you make of it. How can that be problematic?
  • God’s involvement in human history through Jesus included humiliation, rejection, death, and ultimately resurrection. What does that show us about God and His understanding of our lives?
  • How does a Christian perspective change the way you look at your life?

 Conclusion

O Lord we can’t always make sense of this life, but apart from You life is random and meaningless.  During this time of advent, remind us to look for evidence of you in our daily lives. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts open to receive the gift of Jesus today.

Advent – Monday Day 2

By Elaine Knudtson

“O Come to the Altar” (sung by Elevation Worship)

come fred morgan
“Come Unto Me” by Fred Morgan

Prepare to Receive

We prepare to receive Christ through self-examination and confession.  We are invited in today’s scripture to “come now, let us settle the matter.”  To activate His presence in our lives, we must be willing to let Him cleanse and forgive.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, I confess that it is difficult to let you examine my heart and show me where I need to let go of sin and negative attitudes and fears.  It is easier to hide them from you and myself.  Give me the courage to be open and give you time to do your work.

Scripture

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;
Isa.1:18-19

Reflection

Part of preparation for Christmas is cleaning the house, decorating, and baking.  Traditions are passed on from generation to generation in families and we add layers of expectations each year as we seek to create those perfect moments for our loved ones.  There is inertia that takes hold and we may dread getting started because we remember the amount of work involved in getting ready.  However, once we start, the momentum carries you forward and before you know it, you’re into the rhythm of the season.

The same principle applies to “settling the matter” with God.  We have a nagging awareness that we are lacking something in our spiritual diet.  We can ignore it, hide it, put it off, pretend it doesn’t need to be dealt with, but we know it won’t go away on its own.  We cannot forgive ourselves.  Jesus waits for us to “come.”

Points to Ponder

  • What would I hear Christ say to me if I gave Him a moment to reveal my sins and weaknesses?
  • How would it feel to be freed from those burdens?
  • What is my first step in preparing to receive?

Conclusion

We give thanks to you, O Lord, for waiting patiently for us to turn to you with our sins.  As we prepare for your coming, help us to make time to be open to your spirit.  Thank you that you are eager to forgive and cleanse us.

 

 

Advent – Sunday, Day 1

By Elaine Knudtson

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – (sung by First Call)

silhouette of pregnant woman standing
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com 

The Meaning of Advent

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical church year, starting the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  Christians use this time to focus on the coming of Christ in Bethlehem, in our hearts, and at His second coming at the end of time.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, may this season of advent be centered on preparing my heart to welcome you into my life in a new and fuller way.  May I be open to your active presence in my life.

Scripture

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:3-9

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matt.25:1-13

Reflection

We recently traveled to Ontario to welcome the birth of a new granddaughter.  However, as the expected due day came and went, it seemed as though the baby would never be born.  While we knew that was not a reasonable thought, we were frustrated by the seemingly endless wait.  Eventually the day came when the child was born and we gave thanks for the miracle of her new life.

Advent involves a similar response as we wait for the coming of Christ.  While we’re tempted to give up and assume that Christ will never return, we’re reminded that Isaiah, the prophet spoke of the coming of the Messiah 700 years before He appeared in Bethlehem, and Moses eludes to it 700 years before it.  When Jesus was born, it was nothing like anyone had expected.

In our own lives, we may at times feel as though Christ is strangely absent.  Yet He is waiting to be discovered as we pause and spend time listening and reflecting on His word.  That is the purpose of advent.

Points to Ponder

  • How do I meet Christ in my daily life?
  • What is He saying to me about pausing to listen and watch?
  • What will it take for me to recognize that He is present this advent?

Conclusion

We give thanks to you, O Lord, for reaching out to us in our daily lives.  Make us open to see and hear you in the ordinary.  We wait for your appearance.