Advent Reflections

ADVENT REFLECTION: Wait And Prepare by Enuma Okoro

December 16, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part Two: Preparation and Laboring With God’s Promises The psalmist pleads with God, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long,” (Psalms 25:4-5).  In the earnestness of this prayer we get some sense of what waiting means for this psalmist.  It is not a passive waiting on God but a waiting that anticipates growth, development, and guidance.  Even when the waiting period is painful the psalmist can pray for openness to what God desires him to learn within this space. When the circumstances of our lives suggest that God is calling us to a season of waiting, we [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 14 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 15, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Waiting is difficult business.  Sometimes the hardest work is staying still and trusting that God works even in silence.  We want the confirmation of burning bushes, pillars of fire, and visiting angels.  That is not the stuff of ordinary life, but it does not mean that miracles are outdated or that we cannot expect God to speak new and even unbelievable possibility into our individual and collective lives.  There is something to be said for conditioning ourselves to anticipate these possibilities.  Most of us do not wake up ready and able to receive or understand God’s words.  We have to train ourselves to become the type of Earthly vessels that can endure the challenging joy [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Holy Retreat by Enuma Okoro

December 14, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Divine Preparation by Enuma Okoro

December 13, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. (Luke 1:24-25) After Zechariah’s visit from the angel, he returns home with nothing to say to his wife.  But soon, to Elizabeth’s astonishment, she becomes pregnant.  Elizabeth remains in seclusion for the next five months, and it is just as well given Zechariah’s muteness.  What can there have been to say?  Sometimes contemplation is the most fitting response to God’s word or action in our lives. In traditional religious circles, we are rarely taught the value of quiet [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Dwelling In God’s Strength by Enuma Okoro

December 12, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) We have all said at one point or another, “If I just knew what would [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Silence by Enuma Okoro

December 11, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (Luke 1:20-23) Traditionally we read Luke 1:20-23 as God’s punishment of Zechariah for his lack of faith in God’s words.  The angel [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: A Song From Hollowed Space by Enuma Okoro

December 10, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Oh that thou would rend the heavens, that thou would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as when the melting fire burns, the fire causes the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!  When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou came down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waits for him.  Thou meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Barrenness by Enuma Okoro

December 9, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (Luke 1:5-7) It is a cold word, hollow-sounding, devoid of warmth, almost iron-clad in its finality: barren.  Elizabeth is a barren woman.  Could anything be more devastating in a culture that prides women on the fruits of their womb?  Imagine her wondering what Zechariah might secretly think [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 7 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 8, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Doubt is common to more people of faith than perhaps care to admit it.  Ebbing back and forth in trust and belief is not something to be proud of but it is also not something of which to be ashamed.  It is simply part of our human condition this side of Heaven.  Some people experience less or more of it than others.  We find grace in the stories of scripture that highlight characters who experience doubt and questioning, who want proof of God’s words to them.  We can take spiritual refuge in people like Zechariah and the disciple Thomas who needed proof of the resurrection.  Sometimes God’s goodness sounds too good to be true.  At times our disbelief testifies more to the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Doubt And The Believing Community by Enuma Okoro

December 7, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) It can be scary to admit to ourselves that we are experiencing doubts.  We [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Devoted Doubt by Enuma Okoro

December 6, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:18-19) How do we hold onto our belief in God’s promises in the midst of doubt?  At what point do our prayers become rote, tinged more with habit than with hope, based more on what we feel is required of us than in what is possible with God?  Zechariah has a difficult time receiving the angel Gabriel’s words because they do not fall in line with the reality of his and Elizabeth’s circumstances.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Remembered By God by Enuma Okoro

December 5, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard,” (Luke 1:13a).  It is difficult to put ourselves in Zechariah’s shoes as he heard those words.  How would we respond if God sent a personal messenger to tell us that our pleas had reached God’s ears and all that we had desired was coming to pass?  Do we have a big enough imagination to believe that our prayers can indeed rise up to God?  These five verses from Luke 1 are packed with so much grace and divine kindness that it is hard simply as a reader not to be overwhelmed.  How must Zechariah have felt?  The angel informs him of God’s abundant generosity.  Not only has Zechariah’s prayer been heard, but [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Intercession by Enuma Okoro

December 4, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. (Luke 1:10-13) Prayer has a power we will never be able to understand.  We may never know how the prayers of others may have impacted our lives, or how our own prayers of intercession affect other people.  When Zechariah enters the sanctuary, behind him is a community praying.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Lament by Enuma Okoro

December 3, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.  Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Waiting With Unanswered Prayer by Enuma Okoro

December 2, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part One: Surprised and Silenced by God Traditionally when we think of Advent we immediately call to mind Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel.  But in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the first two people we meet in the Advent narrative.  Much as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ, his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth seem to be the forerunners for the holy family.  The angel Gabriel comes to them first to astound them with good news.  Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth teach us that receiving divine good news can be fraught with all kinds of tensions and questions.  It is an understatement to say that Zachariah and Elizabeth are caught by surprise.  Their [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: All Leads Back To Hope by R. W. Church

November 30, 2018

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three. (1 Corinthians 13:13) “Faith, hope, love”; these, in Saint Paul’s analysis, are the characteristic elements of the Christian mind.  Saint Paul, as we know, in enumerating them, makes one of them the greatest, in order and in nature – “the greatest of these is love.”  But it is a first and foremost place among equals.  All stand together, as nothing else does, in the front rank of the perfections which make Christian goodness.  All are equally indispensable in those who would please God and follow Christ. But why should hope be ranked so high, placed on a level with faith and love?  We can understand why faith should be so singled out; it is the foundation of the whole [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Make Ready by Hugh Latimer

November 29, 2018

From Sermon on the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Advent There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the Earth. (Luke 21:15) How is it that the whole world is so deceitful and false?  Because every one of us would like to fare well; everyone loves to have good meat and drink, and to go gaily.  And when we have not the means to get such things, then we fall to picking and stealing, and to falsehood, and so deceive our neighbors.  But our Savior gives us warning that we must eat and drink measurably and soberly, every one of us according to our estate and measure.  Further, we should labor and do our business diligently, every one of us in that estate in which God has set us; and let us trust in God, who no doubt [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Fight Now With Sin by Hugh Latimer

November 28, 2018

From Sermon on the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Advent There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the Earth. (Luke 21:25) There are some who think that there shall be great eclipses, against the course of nature; and you know that there have been strange things seen in the elements many times.  Sometimes there has been seen a ring about the sun; sometimes there have been seen three suns at once; and such like things have been seen in times past: which no doubt signifies that this fearful day is not far off in which Christ will come with his Heavenly host, to judge and reward every one of us according to our desserts. “People will faint from fear and foreboding,” (Luke 21:26); people will be wonderfully fearful; [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Our Judge Meets Us At Every Step Of Our Way by Austin Farrer

November 27, 2018

From The Crown of the Year Our journey sets out from God in our creation, and returns to God at the final judgment.  As the bird rises from the Earth to fly, and must some time return to the Earth from which it rose; so God sends us forth to fly, and we must fall back into the hands of God at last.  But God does not wait for the failure of our power and the expiry of our days to drop us back into his lap.  He goes himself to meet us and everywhere confronts us.  Where is the countenance which we must finally look in the eyes, and not be able to turn away our head?  It smiles up at Mary from the cradle, it calls Peter from the nets, it looks on him with grief when he has denied his master.  Our judge meets us at every step of our way, [...]