Tag Archives: Advent2022


Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Heavenly Host by Thomas Nordquist

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Luke 2:1-14, NRSV

Gracious God, give us the wisdom to seek angels, and to see them in our midst. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to love. On this holy night, make us holy. Amen.

Art offered by Thom Nordquist, child of God who is with Jesus.


Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; 2 Samuel 7:18, 23-29; Galatians 3:6-14

And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke1:46b-55

Bringing life into the world to save all that is, was, and ever will be is a matter for pure joy. Before the planning, the uncertainty, the aches and road trip, before shepherds and angels, Mary sings her elation – offering Hannah’s words of thanksgiving and a few all her own.

For the life we were given through Mary’s profound yes.

For the life we are given this day.

For the holiness of it all – good, bad, and everything in between – we give thanks.

Magnify the Lord, O my soul.

Mary and Jesus by Margaret Hill

Words by Johnna Fredrickson and Image by Margaret Hill, children of God.

Mary’s Song

Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; Isaiah 33:17-22; Revelation 22:6-7, 18-20

Modern Magnificat by Joy Cowley

My soul sings in gratitude.

I’m dancing the mystery of God.

The light of the Holy One is within me

and I am blessed, so truly blessed.

This goes deeper than human thinking.

I am filled with awe

at Love whose only condition

is to be received.

The gift is not for the proud,

for they have no room for it.

The strong and self-sufficient ones

don’t have this awareness.

But those who know their emptiness

can rejoice in Love’s fullness.

It’s the Love that we are made for,

the reason for our being.

It fills our inmost heart space

and brings to birth in us the Holy One.

[From John Shelby Spong’s website, A New Christianity For A New World, 19 December, 2007; progressivechristianity.org]

A young and innocent Mary  approached by an Angel with a message that would change her life forever.  I am in awe of her.  She is so brave and it makes me ponder as to whether I could have been so accepting of this Angel’s message.  Mary was humble yet strong, fearful yet faithful.  She could have been miserable, but instead magnifies the Lord.  Instead of a feeling of helplessness, she responds with how blessed she is.  

Christ came to challenge the structures of sin, death and oppression.  He came to do what he has always done: to lift up the lowly, free the enslaved and feed the hungry.  Mary was able to  surrender to God’s will  knowing that this was not about her but  something much bigger and transforming.  

I think we all struggle with wanting to control situations in our lives.  I believe that if we surrender to God’s will as Mary did and believe the Good News, our lives will be blessed with all God has to offer us.

Offered by Donna Ciulla, child of God.


Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; John 20:24-29

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and, my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.” Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.” John 20:24-29, NRSV

Today we commemorate the Apostle Thomas – aka Doubting Thomas. He not only doubted the Lord’s bodily resurrection, he doubted his friends who said they had seen the resurrected Jesus.

Well, I get Thomas. What a wild story. He knew Jesus had died on a cross, and now he’s up walking around? Come on.

And soon a virgin is about to give birth. Let’s face it, the Bible is full of hard-to-believe stories. Theologians over the years have attempted to explain them. The Historical Jesus movement has tried to minimize the miracles to make our faith more pragmatic. Well, good luck with that.

Our faith is full of miracles. They are happening every moment of every day. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and author of numerous books on theology, defines hope as believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change. Jesus exhorts Thomas to stop doubting and believe. That’s good enough for me.

Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief (Mark 9:24)

May your Advent be full of miracles.

Offered by Bill Albritton, child of God.

A Great Light

Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. he will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:2-7, NRSV

In a world where darkness brings acts of cruelty and callous indifference  to the suffering of others, Christ’s light inspires small acts of kindness as well as acts of unspeakable love.  A light so strong, it leads a man to willingly take the place of a stranger in a starvation bunker at Auschwitz.  Another, so inspired by that light,  sacrifices his physical and emotional health to lead a decades long struggle to successfully end the slave trade and then slavery in the colonies of Great Britain.    

One old Christian hymn says His brightness ended darkness.  How true it is that when we bring the light of Christ’s love to others, darkness is replaced by light.  What joy we feel when we experience and share Christ’s love.  Saint Paul tells us we were created  to do these works as expressions of God’s love.  What a joy it is to be led by the Light which enables us to see God’s Truth in our fallen world.

Offered by Phil Ciulla, child of God.


Readings: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Genesis 21:1-21; Galatians 4:21 – 5:1

Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very profoundly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.

The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail.

The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

I Samuel 2:1-10, NRSV

Hannah spent years hoping for a child, but remained childless. When she finally conceived, she gave her son back to God – a life given to her by God, a life given to God by her. Hannah gave Samuel back in a literal sense, losing the joy of raising him from infant to adult. It’s hard to understand such a sacrifice, but for the words of her prayer. Perhaps Hannah understood something even more fundamental than the bond between mother and child: that even the most intimate relationships have global repercussions. Who knows how the love of a mother for a son will transform the world well beyond the confines of their bond?

I hope Hannah’s prayer, her love for Samuel, and her willingness to give him back to God, brought hope to Mary when she had to do the same with her beloved son.

Take A Breath

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel according to his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Granted, Paul was a lawyer – and the four gospels weren’t written yet, so the saints in Rome didn’t have much in the way of scripture. And they were Gentiles, so their knowledge of Hebrew scripture might not be particularly deep or reliable. Still, who begins a letter with a one hundred word plus opener? Paul was doing his best to make sure everyone knew from the start whose words they were hearing, and why they should stick around to hear the thousands more to come.

Fortunately, Paul’s prose wasn’t always so prosaic. He penned some of the greatest verses in the New Testament as well as many mammoth run-on sentences. Paul wanted to be as precise as possible, and used his words accordingly. He also wanted to make sure everyone knew who he was, what he was about, and by whom he was sent.

It’s worth wading through Paul’s words, even though he buries the most important part at the end of his greeting rather than opening with it:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

These are the words that offer life and light; these are the words that hallow our days and sustain our lives. Take a breath and sit with them for a few moments. There’s no better way to begin this last leg of our journey to Bethlehem.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Paul.

True, but not helpful

Readings: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 2 Samuel 7:23-29; John 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. John 3:31-36, NRSV

Heat the oil over medium heat until hot, but not too hot.

Knead dough until it looks right.

Season to taste.

Bake until done.

These are just three pieces of cooking advice that are only helpful if you already know what you are doing. None of them are helpful when you are trying a new technique or working with a new recipe – unless someone who already knows how to do it is present, guiding you through your first attempts.

John’s gospel is full of these kinds of sentences. The one who is of earth belongs to the earth – how is that helpful? He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony – what can you do with such a statement? The whole thing would be hopeless if you and I were alone in this mess.

Thankfully, we never are…for he gives the Spirit without measure.

David’s Prayer

Readings: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 2 Samuel 7:18-22; Galatians 4:1-7

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, “Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our own ears. 2 Samuel 7:18-22, NRSV

Who am I, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? David prays to God, asking him this question. It’s a question any of us could ask – and many of us do. Why do you care, God? What did I ever do to deserve such attention? Why give me this life?

If we listen carefully, we just might hear the answer:

Because I am me, and you are mine.