Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent Reflection on Mary (for Protestants)

Click here for a .pdf article by Ruth Haley Barton of the Transforming Center on "The Courage to Say Yes."

I found it really encouraging.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Preparation, Waiting and Wonder

My Advent reflections have focused on three major themes:

1) Preparation - John the Baptizer's message of a cleansing baptism for the repentance of sins speaks to my need to make preparations for the coming Christ. Painful valleys to be lifted up and mountains of pride to be leveled, all by grace.

2) Waiting - Here the testimony of Mary in Luke 1:38, "Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (ESV), speaks to my need to wait with pregnant patience, for the coming Christ. The image of the Christ child developing in Mary's womb also speaks to my need to have Christ formed in me day by day.

3) Wonder - I have been imagining what it would be like to physically look upon the baby Jesus, knowing that this is the God who created all and holds it all together with his powerful word. What wonder is this?! That the great God of the universe would come to us in a stable and say in effect, "I entrust myself to you. Will you care for me?" What an approachable God! He enters our history in utter weakness and poverty so that, among other things, we would not be afraid of him.

May my heart not draw back this Christmas, but press in towards this kind of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

O, Come let us adore Him.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Showing Kindness to Those I Disagree With

Convicting thought from John Newton's "On Controversy":

“If you account [your opponent] a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom are very applicable: ‘Deal gently with him for my sake.’ The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.”

How Christmas and Easter interconnect

“The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr… His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.”

John Donne, opening his Christmas sermon (Dec 25, 1626).

Monday, December 07, 2009

Advent thought from Henri Nouwen

"A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him . . ." (Isa.11:1-2)

These words from last night's liturgy have stayed with me during the day. Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness.

I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God's saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the "shoot that shall sprout from the stump."

When I have no eyes for the small signs of God's presence - the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the words of encouragement and gestures of love offered by friends - I will always remain tempted to despair.

The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown young man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hidden in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.

(An excerpt from iGracias! by Henri J.M. Nouwen)

Thursday, December 03, 2009


I'm hoping I'll have time to post some short devotionals regarding the journey through the Advent season. This is my first week of readings, and I am being greatly encouraged by the Spirit in the Word. This Advent (lit., "coming") seems unique for me in terms of intentional preparation and devotion. We always do readings as a family, but this year seems to be touched by special measures of grace, at least for me personally.

Advent is useful in the hands of the Spirit to cleanse our hearts from idols, to debase pride and shower grace upon our wounds - all for the purpose of making room for the Word made flesh to take up deeper more familiar residence in us. By the work of the Word and Spirit, the Word made flesh becomes enfleshed in us. Advent is a special opportunity to take that year-long truth and more deeply apply it.

Jesus, make your home in me. Remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of our deepening communion and intimacy. Forgive and crucify my pride, lust and selfishness; clothe me in the new self that only you can give; fill me with resurrection life, with the fresh life giving water of the Spirit that never stops flowing.

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