Advent Meditations

ADVENT MEDITATION: She Was The Crowned Queen Of Women by Harriet Beecher Stowe

December 22, 2016

There was one woman whom the voice of a divine messenger, straight from Heaven, pronounced highly favored.  In what did this favor consist? Of noble birth, of even royal lineage, she had fallen into poverty and obscurity.  The great, brilliant, living world of her day knew her as the rushing equipages and palatial mansions of our great cities know the daughters of poor mechanics in rural towns. There was plenty of splendor, and rank, and fashion in Jerusalem then.  Herod the Great was a man of cultivation and letters, and beautified the temple with all sorts of architectural embellishments; and there were high priests, and Levites, and a great religious aristocracy circling about its precincts, all of whom, if they thought of any woman [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: There We Live by Edward Bouverie Pusey

December 17, 2016

But our citizenship is in Heaven. (Philippians 3:20) “Our citizenship is in Heaven.”  Many are the meanings of this word, and every way the Apostle says we are in Heaven.  For the word, in the original language, means the city or state to which we belong, or the way of life of the citizens, and in all these ways he places us in Heaven.  He does not say only, our faith, our hopes, our expectation, the object of our longing, is in Heaven; he speaks not of what is to be, but of what is; “our citizenship is in Heaven.”  Again, he does not say, “It ought to be,” “let it be,” “let our deeds and words and thoughts aim thitherward, thither aspire, thither be directed”; he does not [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Show Me Where You Are, O My God by Elizabeth Rowe

December 15, 2016

From Devout Exercises of the Heart What is hell, what is damnation, but an exclusion from your presence?  ‘Tis the loss of that which gives the regions of darkness all their horror.  O when will you scatter this melancholy darkness?  When will the shadows flee before you?  When will the cheerful glory of your grace dawn upon my mind at your approach? I will revive at your light; my vital spirits will confess your presence.  Grief and anxiety will vanish before you, and immortal joys surround my soul. Where you are present, Heaven and happiness ensue; hell and damnation fills the breast where you are absent.  While God withdraws I am encompassed with darkness and despair; the sun and stars shine with an uncomfortable luster; [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: All Come Together Before God by Phillips Brooks

December 10, 2016

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. (Revelation 20:12) “The dead, small and great,” Saint John says that he saw standing before God.  In that great judgment day, another truth is that the difference of sizes among human lives, of which we make so much, passes away, and all human beings, in simple virtue of their human quality, are called to face the everlasting righteousness.  The child and the greybeard, the scholar and the boor, however their lives may have been separated here, they come together there.  It is upon the moral ground that the most separated souls must always meet.  Upon the child and the philosopher alike rests the common obligation not to lie, but to tell the truth.  The [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: God Has The Keys Of Death by John Donne

December 5, 2016

From Death’s Duel To God, the Lord, belongs escape from death. (Psalm 68:20) This whole world is but a universal churchyard, but our common grave, and the life and motion that the greatest persons have in it is but as the shaking of buried bodies in their graves by an earthquake.  That which we call life is but a week of death, seven days, seven periods of our life spent in dying, a dying seven times over; and there is an end.  Our birth dies in infancy and our infancy dies in youth, and youth and the rest die in age, and age also dies and determines all.  Nor do all these, youth out of infancy, or age out of youth, arise as a phoenix out of the ashes of another phoenix formerly dead, but as a wasp or a serpent out of a carrion, [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: This Wondrous Future Must Come True by R. W. Church

December 1, 2016

And Now Faith, Hope, and Love Abide, These Three (1 Corinthians 13:13) The most literal fact that God has set before us, the most wonderful future, is within the certain reach of every single on of us: as certainly within our reach, as anything that we know of, which we could obtain tomorrow.  This is the plain, clear, certain promise, without which Christianity is a dream and delusion.  The life and destiny of each individual runs up to this; this is what we were made for; for this we have been taught, and have received God’s grace, and have been tried, and have played our part in the years of time.  It is the barest of commonplaces; and yet, I think, to any who have tried to open their minds to its reality and certainty, it [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Origins Of The Season by Philip H. Pfatteicher

November 27, 2016

From Journey Into the Heart of God There is an almost innate pattern in human behavior of fast before feast, preparation followed by celebration, anticipation and preparation leading to feasting, but otherwise the origins of the season of Advent are obscure.  Liturgical historians have in recent decades become notably skeptical regarding our knowledge of the origins and development of the seasons of the liturgical year.  We possess little sure and certain knowledge, only fragmentary and isolated pieces of evidence.  It is like having a dozen or so pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and that basis attempting to imagine what the whole puzzle looks like.  We will see with regard not only to Advent but also to Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: To Believe by Karl Barth

December 13, 2015

From Lukas 1:5–23 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The God Who Is To Come by Karl Rahner

December 6, 2015

From Encounters With Silence Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God.  Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise.  Every year we roll up all our needs and yearnings and faithful expectation into one word: “Come!” And yet, what a strange prayer this is!  After all, you have already come and pitched your tent among us.  You have already shared our life with its little joys, its long days of tedious routine, its bitter end.  Could we invite you to anything more than this with our “Come”?  Could you approach any nearer to us than you did when you became the “Son of Man,” when you adopted our ordinary little ways [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: As I Wait For God by Gerard Thomas Straub

December 1, 2015

From Falling Silent In his book, No Man Is An Island, Thomas Merton wrote: “There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all.  There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent.  And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have any meaning?  There must be a time when a man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: To You Christ Is Born by Martin Luther

December 24, 2012

The angel said to them, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10) The Gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that he died and suffered everything on our behalf, as is here declared by the angel.  In these words you clearly see that he is born for us. He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born.  Neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy.  Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all the people.  This faith no condemned or wicked man has, nor can he have it.  Christ has a pure, innocent, and holy birth.  Man has an [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Bethlehem by Annie Dillard

December 23, 2012

One of the queerest spots on Earth — I hope — is the patch of planet where, according to tradition, a cave once stabled animals, and where Mary gave birth to a son whose later preaching — scholars of every stripe agree, with varying enthusiasm — caused the occupying Romans to crucify him.  Generations of Christians have churched over the traditional Bethlehem spot to the highest degree.  Centuries of additions have made the architecture peculiar, but no one can see the church anyway, because many monasteries clamp onto it in clusters like barnacles.  The Greek Orthodox Church owns the grotto site now, in the form of the Church of the Nativity. There, in the Church of the Nativity, I took worn stone stairways to descend to levels [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Holy Mother by Romano Guardini

December 22, 2012

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.  For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be with me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:34-38) Anyone who would understand the nature of a tree should examine the earth that encloses its roots, the soil from which its sap climbs into branch, blossom, and fruit.  Similarly to understand the person of Jesus Christ, one would do well to look to the soil that brought him forth: Mary, his mother. We are told that she was of [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Coming Of Jesus In Our Midst by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 21, 2012

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment.  Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously.  When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared?  Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place?  Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination.  “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!”  (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings.  It is very remarkable that we face the [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Shipwrecked At The Stable by Brennan Manning

December 20, 2012

Do you think you could contain Niagara Falls in a teacup? Is there anyone in our midst who pretends to understand the awesome love in the heart of the Abba of Jesus that inspired, motivated, and brought about Christmas?  The shipwrecked at the stable kneel in the presence of mystery. God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need.  On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him. We all know how difficult it is to receive anything from someone who has all the answers, who is completely cool, utterly unafraid, needing nothing and in control of every situation.  We feel unnecessary, [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Room For Christ by Dorothy Day

December 19, 2012

It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ.  Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late.  Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives.  It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter.  And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving to Christ. We can do now what those who knew him in the days of his flesh did.  I am [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Light Of The World by Evelyn Underhill

December 18, 2012

Now burn, new born to the world, Doubled-natured name, The Heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame, Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne! Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came; Kind, but royally reclaiming his own; A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled. (Gerard Manley Hopkins) When we come to the first window at the east end of the aisle, the morning light comes through it.  It is the window of the Incarnation.  It brings us at once to the mingled homeliness and mystery of the Christian revelation and of our own little lives.  It is full of family pictures and ideas — the birth of Christ, the shepherds and the magi, the little boy of [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Man Who Is God by Leonardo Boff

December 17, 2012

Jesus, a Jew of Nazareth; numbered among the despised of Galilee (half of whose population was pagan); juridically the son of the carpenter Joseph and the virgin Mary, whose “sisters” and “brothers” are known, e.g., Jacob, Joseph, Jude, and Simon (Mark 6:3; Mathew 13?56); who was born under the Roman Emperor Augustus in the immense romanae pacis maiestas, raised under Quirinius, governor of the Province of Syria (Luke 2:1), and Pontius Pilate, Roman administrator of Judea (Luke 3:1); and Herod Antipas of Galilee (Luke 3:1), who was crucified under Emperor Tiberius on Friday, the fourteenth (according to John) or the fifteenth (according to the Synoptics) of the month of Nisan, and a few days later rose again. How does one [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Human Experience Of Waiting by Joan Chittister

December 16, 2012

From The Liturgical Year When all the feasts have been celebrated and all the prayers are said and done, the strength and power of the liturgical year does not lie in its cataloging of feast days and seasons, as important as these are.  Nor does it lie in its rubrics and rituals.  The real power of the liturgical year is its spiritual capacity to touch and plumb the depths of the human experience, to stir the human heart.  By walking the way of the life of Jesus, by moving into the experience of Jesus, we discover the meaning of our own experiences, the undercurrent of our own emotions, the struggle it takes to go on walking the way. By taking us into the depth of what it means to be a human on the way to God — to suffer and to [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Be Not Afraid by Johann Christoph Arnold

December 15, 2012

Perfect love, the apostle John writes, casts out fear.  So when God’s angel broke the good news of the Savior’s birth to the cowering shepherds of Bethlehem, “Fear not!” was more than an instruction for them to get up off the ground and stop shielding their frightened faces.  It was a declaration of war on fear.  The “glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” meant that fear’s grip on human hearts was going to have to give way to the far greater power of love. People have derived comfort from these words for two thousand years, but millions of us are still afraid.  What’s more, we are scared to admit our fears, particularly our biggest fear of all — death. The fear of death overshadows all our lives. We [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The God We Hardly Knew by William Willimon

December 14, 2012

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God — for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God. (Oscar Romero) Probably most of us have had the experience of receiving, right out of the blue, a gift from someone we really don’t know all that well.  And perhaps, to our consternation, the gift turns out to be nice, something that we didn’t know we wanted and certainly didn’t ask for, but there it [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: To Believe by Karl Barth

December 13, 2012

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. . . .” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Christmas Joy by Emmy Arnold

December 12, 2012

To become like children!  The most beautiful childhood memory that comes to my mind is that of celebrating Christmas and the joy of Christmas. Perhaps my experiences of Christmas came from the fact that I was born on Christmas Day.  A hundred days before each Christmas we children would begin to count the days.  Only a hundred times more I will wake up in the morning, and then, hurrah! it’s Christmas Day!  When at six o’clock on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent the bells rang in the Advent season, it seemed as though the angels were exulting, and we little earthly children joined in.  “O welcome, thou blessed Christmas time!” From then on, the joy and eagerness for what was to come mounted with each day.  Sometimes in [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Original Revolution by John Howard Yoder

December 11, 2012

In the whole body of Jewish and Christian liturgy, only a very few texts might be more widely known — and more vainly repeated — than the two songs from the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. One of these songs is found on the lips of the maiden Mary.  Catholic tradition knows it by its opening word Magnificat, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  But what it says is the language, not of sweet maidens, but of Maccabees: it speaks of dethroning the mighty and exalting the lowly, of filling the hungry and sending the rich away empty.  Mary’s praise to God is a revolutionary battle cry. That simple observation should suffice to locate our topic.  The fad word not long ago of both Protestant and Catholic social thought was [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Yielding to God by Philip Britts

December 9, 2012

When the wise men, or the kings, came from the East, they went to Jerusalem, the capital, to inquire, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?”  And today those who are “wise” make the same mistake in looking to worldly power to solve the world’s problems.  Others go to magnificent cathedrals and follow spiritual paths that appear much more splendid and much more clever than anything which accompanied the birth of Christ. All this is misguided; it concentrates on the question of “how” instead of the question “why.”  We can easily get overwhelmed.  How are we to carry out all the tasks laid upon us; how are we to plan our next year; how shall we find the strength both for securing our economic needs and in [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: From the Stable to the Cross by J. Heinrich Arnold and Edith Stein

December 8, 2012

Jesus’s life began in a stable and ended on the cross between two criminals.  The Apostle Paul said he wanted to proclaim nothing but this crucified Christ.  We, too, have nothing to hold on to except this Christ.  We must ask ourselves again and again: Are we willing to go his way, from the stable to the cross?  As disciples we are not promised comfortable and good times.  Jesus says we must deny ourselves and suffer with him and for him.  That is the only way to follow him, but behind it lies the glory of life — the glowing love of God, which is so much greater than our hearts and our lives.  (J. Heinrich Arnold) The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole.  If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.  [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Penitential Season by William Stringfellow

December 7, 2012

We live now, in the United States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent is no longer really noticed, much less observed.  The commercial acceleration of seasons, whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.  But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.  This situation cannot be blamed merely upon the electronic preachers and talkers, or the other assorted peddlers of religion that so clutter the ethos of this society, any more than it can be said, simplistically, to be mainly the fault of American merchandising and consumerism. [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: To Be Virgin by Loretta Ross-Gotta

December 6, 2012

Lots of people these days are seeking recollection, writing books about it, urging us to do it.  It seems like a nice idea all right — until you try it.  What a lot of the books don’t tell you about is the terror.  To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge may mean not knowing much of anything else. With the peace and quiet of recollection may come the stark edge of fear that this doing nothing, this being, this offering of oneself for God to be the actor, cannot possibly be enough.  It all seems so passive.  Do something, produce, perform, earn your keep.  Don’t just sit there.  It may be good and well for Mary to offer space in herself for God to dwell and be born into the world, but few of possess the radical [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Shaking Reality Of Advent by Alfred Delp

December 5, 2012

(Condemned as a traitor for his opposition to Hitler, Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest, wrote this piece in a Nazi prison shortly before he was hanged in 1945.) There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.  Where life is firm we need to sense its firmness; and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation, we need to know this too and endure it. We may ask why God has sent us into this time, why he has sent this whirlwind over the Earth, why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight.  The answer to this question is perhaps that we were living on Earth in an utterly false and counterfeit security.  And now [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: A Sky Full Of Children by Madeleine L’Engle

December 4, 2012

I walk out onto the deck of my cottage, looking up at the great river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky.  A sliver of a moon hangs in the southwest, with the evening star gently in the curve. Evening.  Evening of this day.  Evening of my own life. I look at the stars and wonder.  How old is the universe?  All kinds of estimates have been made and, as far as we can tell, not one is accurate.  All we know is that once upon a time or, rather, once before time, Christ called everything into being in a great breath of creativity — waters, land, green growing things, birds and beasts, and finally human creatures — the beginning, the genesis, not in ordinary Earth days; the Bible makes it quite clear that God’s time is different [...]