Tag Archives: Advent 2023

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

Matters of the Heart

Daily Readings: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Mark 11:27-33

I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28

A few people have had that effect on me, and I know I’ve had the same effect on a few others: the hardened, flinty presence behind the ribcage that replaces the warm beating heart that sustains life. Sometimes, it brings narrowed eyes and clenched fists; it always feels like a dark cloud, and an ill-wishing pushed outward toward the unwelcome one. It’s an awful feeling for any one.

When that heart of stone is a communal reality, a national reality, the consequences are real and dangerous. When the darkness is thrown on a multitude of people, or projected on a specific group, two-fold violence surely follows – the violence that is done to the soul of the people whose hearts are stone, and the violence their actions inflict on others.

Ezekiel writes of a time when God will replace the hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, hearts capable of loving God and self and neighbor (that’s what God’s ordinances are all about.). When that happens, no matter where a people happens to live, the land they inhabit will truly be the holy land. If it doesn’t happen, no matter where a people happens to live, the land they inhabit will never be the holy land they long for.

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


Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Every day [Jesus} was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. Luke 21:34-38, NRSV

Is every day Judgement Day?  To what extent is my heart weighed down with dissipation?  With drunkenness?  With the worries of this life?  Am I alert at all times, praying for strength?  Or is my awareness diluted, distracted, dissipated, so that I do not notice the miracles and the mighty workings of God all around?  What if the shepherds were too busy with their thoughts, their plans, their worries, their regrets, to notice THE STAR?  

Keep Awake.

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

Offered by Michael Giordano