Category Archives: Advent

Travel Companions and Guides

Once again, we find ourselves living in a world so beloved that God-With-Us came to live here. Although the journey to Bethlehem is undertaken every year, each year brings its own unique experiences. Many people offered their words and images to guide us on our way to the stable. I am grateful for their willingness to add this to their pre-Christmas to-do lists. To learn more about these children of God, click Advent Authors and Artists 2023 above…

Breathe and Welcome Christmas

Daily Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4(5-12); John 1:1-14

How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion,” Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:7-10, NRSV

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory…make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises…let the sea roar, and all that fills it. Psalm 98:1, 4, 7a, NRSV

In ruminating on my blog post this year, I asked myself: what message do I want to hear? It’s the same message I think everyone worldwide wants to hear. Whether true or likely or not true or likely, we want to believe there are reasons for all the current strife, that it will eventually end, and that most of us will be alright.

I looked to my Scripture choices for confirmation of this promise and what I found were strong verbs, auditory imagery, and nature personification. But, with judicious excerption, I discerned a theme that appealed to me and seemed to answer the question above.

To further flesh it out, at least for myself personally since I happen to be reading the following two books and getting a lot of out of each, I compared the state of the world in 1944-45 that Dr. Eva Eger, current 96-year-old psychologist and former Auschwitz and Mauthausen concentration camps and death march survivor, writes about in her memoir The Choice: Embrace the Possible. Certainly times then felt catastrophic, apocalyptic. Even in the most horrific of circumstances, however, Eger argues (inspired by her mentor Victor Frankl) that we have a choice on how to respond. Faced with torture and death people can despair or can find hope. 

The other book currently rocking my world is Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. He is an engaging science writer and puts the whole history and current practice of respiration into an understandable perspective. I’ve never thought so much or so deeply about nose vs. mouth breathing, why exhales and CO2 are more important in many ways than inhales and O2. And much more. I now understand why I’ve experienced some of the respiratory issues I’ve had over the years and what I can do to mitigate having more in the future.

To merge these texts with the Biblical verses referenced above is an easy jump for me. There is no lifting up of voices or singing, certainly no shouting or roaring or doing anything for joy if I struggle to breathe. No breaking forth! All involve not only an inner attitude of exultation but also the impulse and ability to show it in loud and forthright ways. 

In the face of wars and hate how can I even feel like praising unless I take back control of the narrative? Instead of allowing external events to dictate my mindset, how much more desirable and healthy is it instead to control my inner response to troubling current events? Experiencing peace and happiness is our privileged inner choice, if not for immediate dire occurrences but as a way of affirming the future. Eger had no way of honestly knowing she would survive the war let alone go on to marry, have three children, earn a doctorate degree, and help thousands of other people. None of this was without intense struggle and much courage to face the traumas she endured, but, in the end, everything was alright in that she lived and thrived.

In writing this post I hope I’ve said enough to encourage you to obtain and read these two books yourself. They have, in quite different ways, provided me with inspiration and hope at this time in our world’s desperate history. I am doing breathing exercises to rehab my diaphragm and choosing to believe in the spirit of this holiday season that there is hope for better days to come. 

Welcome, welcome, God-With-Us!

Offered by Jill Fredrickson

A Promise Kept

Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalms 96-97; Luke 2:1-20

A world in a dark night of its own making sleeps in the stillness of despair,

as the turning of creation slows in its dusk to darkness.

A sudden vibration wakes the rocks and grasses, man and creatures alike feel the quickening of life.

The brilliance of the stars begins to obliterate all shadow.

And while the planet begins to spin, a haunting melody whispers and builds

to a song of praise echoed by every living thing.

The tiny cry of a savior has awakened all senses and beings to the promise anew.

A heavenly song of praise,

A promise kept,

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Hallelujah! to Hope and Salvation,

once again.

May shadow and light guide you to God-With-Us.

Offered by Debbie Hill


Daily Readings: Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Judges 13:2-24; John 7:40-52

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I has sworn to my servant David: I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.” Psalm 89:1-4, NRSV

Did anyone expect steadfast love to manifest in this way?

On the Road to Bethlehem by Margaret Hill
Mary and Child by Margaret Hill

With all we know, would we expect it now?

May both shadow and light guide you to God-With-Us.

Art offered by Margaret Hill

Notes from Chaplin

Daily Readings: Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; 2 Samuel 6:12-19; Hebrews 1:5-14

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Psalm 89:1-4, NRSV

May both shadow and light guide you to God-With-Us.

Offered by Sharon Walker. [Sharon took the photograph in a friend’s garden.]

Sustaining Word(s)

Daily Readings: Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; 2 Samuel 6:1-11; Hebrews 1:1-4

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4, NRSV

The words of Jesus are prophetic: the prophets said much the same to the people of their times that Jesus said to the people of his. What sustains doesn’t change because our deepest needs and longings haven’t changed. The words of Jesus sustain us because the words his faith provided for him sustained him.

But words are meaningless unless they point beyond themselves to something, Someone. What sustains isn’t a what but a Who. It’s getting to the Who behind the words that counts. Whatever words God is behind are holy words because they come from the Holy Word. And Christ will meet us at the doorway they create.

Reflecting on Psalm 25

Daily Readings: Psalm 25; Malachi 3:16-4:6; Mark 9:9-13

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose. They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. My integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles. Psalm 25, NRSV

In the quiet advent of reflection, the psalmist in Psalm 25, like the unwavering Mount Zion, seeks a steadfast trust amid the seasonal battle. As the verses unfold, I connect this ancient assurance with the anticipation of Christ’s advent. The psalmist acknowledges human frailty but emphasizes reliance on God’s mercy, wisdom, and protection on life’s journey.  It’s a profound expression of faith, humility, and the intimate relationship between the individual and the divine. In the context of today’s world, Psalm 25 can resonate as a heartfelt prayer for guidance in navigating life’s challenges, seeking wisdom amid uncertainties, and acknowledging the need for divine assistance in the face of personal struggles. It encapsulates a universal theme of turning to a higher power for strength, guidance and forgiveness in life’s complexities. I reflect on Psalm 25, weaving its ancient verses into the tapestry of my painful past, acknowledging the scars etched and to seek divine guidance. This meditation becomes a pilgrimage toward a place of inner peace. Through these sacred words, I find solace, forgiveness, and the strength to transcend the shadows, inching closer to a sanctuary of healing and serenity. In the gentle glow of advent candles, I find a reflection of the son of righteousness, casting rays of healing in the shadows. This contemplation is a reflection on the enduring hope embedded in the promise of a coming day, where all hearts of generations turn toward restoration, echoing the gentle whispers of divine grace, as we await the dawn of the Savior’s birth.

May both shadow and light guide you to God-With-Us.

Offered by Donna Eby

A Hard Thing

Daily Readings: Psalm 125; 2 Kings 2:9-22; Acts 3:17-4:4

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 2 Kings 2:9-12, NRSV

It’s not an easy transition, going from apprentice-learner to master-teacher. We meet Elisha today at that transitional moment: he walks with Elijah in one role and returns without him in the other to face a world of expectations. The request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit reveals Elisha’s fear that his own God-given internal resources and abilities won’t be sufficient. Perhaps a double portion of his master’s spirit will guarantee that he won’t ever face a situation beyond his ability to handle?

It doesn’t take long for any of us to realize that the world is full of situations we are ill equipped to handle on our own. But we don’t have to handle them on our own; life is not a solo endeavor, and recognizing our own limitations (and those of our mentors) opens us up to trusting in the gifts and compassion of others – and in the God who created us.

When and if we learn that lesson, we are well on our way to trading know-how for wisdom.

No Other Goal

Daily Readings: Psalm 125; 1 Kings 18:1-18; Ephesians 6:10-17

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

Have the wiles of the devil convinced some who identify themselves as followers of Christ to target certain people or groups of people? The gospel message is clear, for Christ made it so –  share His love with the world.  Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive those who hurt you, do not judge others, welcome the stranger  and love your enemies.

In his book, Radical Grace, the Catholic priest Richard Rohr claims “there is no other goal on earth for the Christian but to grow in love. Spirituality is always about love.”   He also states that “in our egocentric western culture, God, for many, becomes a projected image of the self:  what we need, like or want God to be.”  We may see this in others.  Can it be true of ourselves?  Examining our spiritual beliefs with honesty and objectivity can be difficult.  After all, much of all of what we believe to be true has been present most of our adult lives.  Paul tells us to fasten the belt of truth around our waist and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 

Let us pray that we possess or come to possess these “pieces of armor” and that they will lead us to a better understanding of what God truly desires of us.

May both shadow and light guide you to God-With-Us.

Offered by Phil Ciulla

Hands Outstretched

Visualize the Scene

Daily Readings: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

The Doxology (traditional)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Do you ever visualize the scene in the song we sing before Communion? I see us standing there, hands outstretched, palms up, while angels descend into the sanctuary, meeting us halfway for a heavenly celebration.

Now, imagine this further: this song, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and other songs of worship are sung the world over every Sunday morning – in every town, in every country, and through multiple time zones. There is continuous worship for hours on end, a praising of God, a sense of holy belonging, a rolling jubilation like a wave across the world, and we are part of it.

What Joy!

May both shadow and light guide you to God-With-Us.

Offered by Astri Kilburn