Words for reflecting and meditation during Advent

Monday, 30th November

The Advent wind begins to stir
With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver-pale.
The world seems travelling into space,
And travelling at a faster pace
Than in the leisured summer weather
When we and it sit out together,
For now we feel the world spin round
On some momentous journey bound –
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.’

from Advent (1955), by John Betjeman

Tuesday, 1st December

During Advent we become one with those who waited in darkness for the revealing of God’s light – and who dared to hope that god’s salvation could come in the birth of a child …

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a Christian is not empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for!

Christians wait in Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We wait after the Ascension of Jesus for his coming again in glory – that Second Coming – which is a particular focus for us in Advent.

from In Joyful Hope, by Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, 2nd December

We are in fact always waiting! It is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.

Our waiting should be active, alert – yes, joyful – waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when we comes.

from In Joyful Hope, by Henri Nouwen

Thursday, 3rd December

One thing Advent tells me is that people of faith know it will get darker before it gets light. That is what our calendar teaches us., beginning when it does. Week by week we will light new candles, but even as we light them the darkness will increase. We also know that the sun will come back, just like we know that God will be born in a barn in Bethlehem. These are sure facts of our lives, but so is waiting in the dark. Anyone who has ever hungered for morning knows that. It will come, but it will not be rushed. You can prop the clock right by you face on pillow pillow. You can count to 60 500 times and it will not change a thing. Night creatures will still rustle in the leaves outside your window. Your heart will still beat like a drum in your ears. Morning will come, but it will not be rushed. Our job is to wait without losing hope…

from Gospel Medicine, by Barbara Brown Taylor

Friday, 4th December

Christ is coming.

With a gentle touch, with an angry word, with a clean conscience, with burning love – to make all things new …

Within us, without us, behind us, before us, in very place, for this time, for all time – to make all things new …

Saturday, 5th December

Every Advent the scriptures take us through the desperate longing and eagerness of God’s people, awaiting God’s coming among them to heal and save. The readings for Advent and Christmas progress from this longing to a vision of the fulfilment of God’s promises: the Peaceable Kingdom, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the marriage of God and humanity, he renewal of creation.

Gretchen Wolff Pritchard

6th December, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Almighty God,

Purify our hearts and minds,

that when your Son Jesus Christ comes

again as judge and saviour

we may be ready to receive him

who is our Lord and God.

Monday, 7th December

The prophet cries out:

“In the desert prepare the way of the Lord ! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be laid low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country a broad valley.” (Isaiah 40.3-4)

Like the beginning of work on a new highway, construction in our personal lives means work. The Christmas present buying may, for example, need levelling! Just as we cannot drive a car where there is no highway, so God cannot come to us unless we prepare the road.

Tuesday, 8th December

As we look for Christ’s coming among us, open our eyes to behold your presence:

The wilderness and the dry land shall rejoice, the desert shall blossom and burst into song… Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame leap like a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 35.1, 5, 6

Wednesday, 9th December

Who will cry out with comfort for the hurting?

Who will call out the purveyors of pain?

Topple the towering mountains to division

and use the rubble as the foundation

for God’s new motorway

straight into the hurting heat of the city,

into the heart of the problem,

into your heart and mine.

Bend and break the proud and the powerful,

Raise up those who are bent and burdened,

Lift up their eyes from all they have known

The painful past and the present impotence

So that they can see that God is coming

Bringing real peace, tangible hope

and justice that cannot be bought.

Cry out…

after Janet Lees, Virtual Methodist

Thursday, 10th December

As we remember the coming of the Christ child let us be aware that he may not come in the form of a baby, but as a stranger, a beggar, a member of our family in distress, as an enemy, a soldier, an oppressor. But these may be hiding the face of Christ.

We have to hold our doors open.

Quaker Prayer, Ramallah, 1992

Friday, 11th December

Life on earth is an inevitable mix of joy and pain. Indeed, life is full of disappointments and frustrations. Sometimes the pain of personal failure, the loss of loved ones, the fear of following a traumatic event, or the thought of facing the future, feels almost intolerable.

It is then that the message of Advent, with the hope that it brings in its wake, is most comforting, even healing.

Saturday, 12th December

Lord Jesus, thank you that so often you choose to come to us through the love of family and friends.

Signs of this love surround us in our homes. The plant on the window sill, the books on the shelf, the photograph of a shared memory, the card received when life was tough.

We thank you, Lord.

Caroline Bashford

Sunday, 13th December, 3rd Sunday of Advent

God for whom we watch and wait, you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son: give us courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice, and to suffer for the cause of right with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, 14th December

Advent is like a wake-up call. It calls us to wake up to the hope that defines our faith.

To wake up to the hope that the promised reign of light and life and love is coming. To wake up to the hope that keeps us participating in God’s new creation in spite of so much working against us. To wake up to the hope that the glad tidings of Christ’s birth and the Good News of God’s love may be realised in our lives and in the world.

William Van Gelder

Tuesday, 15th December

Advent taps our memory of other times when we have waited – waited for meaning, for a dream to be realised, for grief to lessen. Or for abuse to end … Those waitings take their toll, but, when they are joined to Advent waiting, the edges of the wounds begin to heal. They are gathered into the renewed remembering of God’s desire to love, to come down and finally to love us in person. All the waitings are fused, and the relief of God’s longing to love us seeps into our pained impatience.

Wednesday, 16th December

“There is no enough darkness in the world to put out the light of one small candle”

I have always remembered those words, not so much for their poetry or imagery as for the truth they contain. In moments of discouragement, defeat or even despair, there are always certain things to cling to. Little things, usually: remembered laughter, the face of sleeping child, a tree in the wind – in fact, any remainder of something deeply felt or dearly loved.

Arthur Gordon

Thursday, 17th December

Advent is also a platform on which we stand to get a good view of piled-up layers of beginnings and endings.

The most obvious is the birth, but Advent reminds us that there will be another beginning somewhere in the future when Christ will come to judge the living and the dead.

It is not easy to think of a hopeful beginning and of the end of a world at the same time – whether it is the end of the whole world or the world of one beloved life. Beside the layers of Christ’s beginnings and endings, we are invited to stack the layers of our own beginnings and endings. It is hard to look at them all and let God into them, but there is an Advent fact: you cannot find the fullness of Christmas until you wonder through the thoughts of last things (especially your own) and feel the pain and taste the fear, and then hold them out to the healing power of God’s love.

Margaret Gatter Payne, from Christian Century

Friday, 18th December

Advent addresses our bewilderment that there have to be any endings at all. it pulls the ending into the beginning and forces us to look at the while picture so that we can be comforted.

It is vitally important to remember that the good news is that our salvation depends, finally, not on our goodness but on the goodness of the judge, who is not some stranger behind a glass wall, but a saviour – a saver of life – who has pledged us his presence, his help, his love.

Saturday, 19th December

The truth is that God’s coming in judgement is inseparable from God’s coming in grace.

Christians are encouraged to look forward to Christ’s final coming not with terror but with eager anticipation.

One thing you can say for sure about judgement is that it will have far less to do with who we are than who God is. And if we can face the prospect of it with eyes wide open, it is not because we are confident in our own goodness but because we are confident in God’s goodness. Jesus is the judge, yes, but his chambers are the chambes of his compassionate heart. No judgement takes place outside of there, by the same Lord who offers us peace, pardon, and transformation every day of our lives.

We can refuse him, of course. We can fail to believe him. We can fear him, we can run away from him. Or we can say yes, here I am, see me that way I really am, tell me the whole truth about myself, refine me, transform me.

I give up trying to figure out how good or bad I am. I give up trying to be God. You be the judge. You be God. You have better credentials anyway.

Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine

Sunday, 20th December, 4th Sunday of Advent

Eternal God,

as Mary waited for the birth of your Son,

so we wait for his coming in glory;

bring us through the birth pangs of this present age

to see, with her, our great salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, 21st December

The one who is coming is not an enemy but a friend. He may come in the light, but he may also come in the evening, or at midnight, or at three in the morning. Darkness does not stop him, and it does not have to stop us either. Our job is not to lie in bed with the pillows over our heads or to shove all the heavy furniture in front of the door for fear of the darkness outside.

Our job is to watch for the one who comes to us with healing in his wings and to open the door for him before he raises his hand to knock. Who knows when that will be? No one, that is who.

Watch therefore. Take heed, watch.

For what he says to us he says to all: Watch.

Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine

Tuesday, 22nd December

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God”.

Comfort? Where is comfort in the thought of the day that sneaks up to you like a thief in the night and tears your world apart ?

How can there be anything but cold terror at the idea?

The judgememt theme of Advent that reminds us of the Second Coming of Christ is often sidestepped because it is no fun to think about end times and last things; it ruins the innocence and hopeful peace of Christmas. About all we can ever manage is to listen to John the baptist’s ranting in he wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, and to elaborate on Mary’s story of her time of waiting. But observing all the wisdom of Advent, not just the parts that are easy or pleasing, brings a deeper understanding of the birth to come – of a Christmas powerful enough to address death and disappointment.

Margaret Gatter Payne

Wednesday, 23rd December

Mary is fiercely glad that God has asked her to bear a son and to name him Jesus. But although she is rightly proud of her own role, she also knows that this is not just about her. The Bible shows that it is about God coming to establish a new world order, and to be close to the poor and powerless. Part of Mary’s memory is suddenly seeing what god was doing and being filled with a joy that made her sing aloud.

Jane Williams, adapted: Approaching Christmas

Thursday, 24th December, Christmas Eve

  • Here we go again, carefully unpacking the figures of the crib, tenderly wiping dust from Mary’s eyes and Joseph’s beard all the while practising my contemplative skills.
  • Here I am, duster in hand, seeking to emulate the shepherd’s enthusiasm and openness, the wise men’s courage and generosity.
  • Mary’s mysticism, Joseph’s humility, the Christ Child’s vulnerability.
  • Who am I kidding?

It is the absent figure that haunts me. I stand shoulder to shoulder in grim, callous, irritable solidarity with that wretched innkeeper.

No room. No time. No way.

  • Nobody has ever dared carve him in wood and include him in the Christmas crib, have they?

Sylvia Sands: Advent Absentee