Advent Door Day 15: Preparing the Way

ALTO 6

Prepare the Way of the Lord by The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 15 Reading:
Luke 3:7-18

Scripture Summary: John the Baptist brings a sharp message of repentance with clear examples of godly living.

Forget fire, forget winnowing forks, forget threshing floors; is there anything more unsettling than receiving a clear word about what we are meant to do in this world? Is there anything that risks taking us deeper into our insecurities, into our fears, into the dark unknown than when someone who sees and recognizes and knows us, then challenges us to be the person whom God has created and called us to be? And is there anything more full of wonder and hope?
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

How do we prepare the way in this time and place?
I’ve witnessed the modern day prophets
Who dip your two-edged sword in fear and hate
Divining pure from sin, saved from heretic
Confident in their judgments

There are others, too, who take a different path
Coating your sword with sugar and stories
Tickling our ears with prosperity

John picks up your sword to prepare the way
Sharp yet washed in the wilderness of prayer
Dripping with your good news
The antidote for our stealthy, venomous existence

Sever your selfishness
So generosity may grow
Cut out the cheating
So honesty may flourish
Amputate all falsehoods and threats
That your power may raise the powerless

This is Your Way, Your Truth, Your Life
Repentance and Grace
Discipline and Community
Holiness and Love
Make your way in us, O God

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love
– George Herbert

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For more beautiful work by today’s featured artists, The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey, click here

Click Here for another reflection on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled The Ax at the Root. Click Here for his inspiring post Fruits of Repentance.

This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty-five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please leave a comment.

Advent Door 13: To Know and be Known

Transparent Heart by LoveFusion Photography by Kelsey

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 13 Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Scripture Summary: Paul gives thanks for God’s grace and faithfulness in strengthening and enriching the believers in Corinth.

As we have seen in other readings this season, Paul’s words speak to the community’s longing for God to come and be present in their lives. In concert with Jesus, who told of how the Son of Man will come with power and glory; and with the writer of Isaiah, who challenged God to tear open the heavens and come down; and with the psalmist, who prayed for God’s face to shine upon him and his community, Paul reveals his desire to fully know and be known by God. – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

The “work” of Christ has been stressed until it has eclipsed the person of Christ. Substitution has been allowed to supersede identification. What he did for me seems to be more important than what He is to me. Redemption is seen as an across-the-counter transaction which we “accept”, and the whole thing lacks emotional content. We must love someone very much to stay awake and long for his coming, and that may explain the absence of power in the advent hope even among those who still believe in it.
– A.W. Tozer

I’ve always associated the word apocalypse with destruction: the destruction of all life as we know it by an alien force, a giant meteor, a massive super-storm, a mega-bomb in the hands of a villain, or the ever popular destruction of the living by the living dead (Zombie Apocalypse! Must have brains!) Apocalypse is bad. It’s scary. It’s to be avoided at all costs; including scriptures which speak about the granddaddy of them all, Jesus coming again at the End of the Age.

What I’ve realized lately is my understanding is based far more on movie depictions than Biblical truth. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek word apocalupsis which means revealing, disclosure, to take off the cover.

Are there times when a revealing is bad? Sure. Who hasn’t had the “naked in public” nightmare. But for the most part, revealings are good. It’s good to expose corruption. It’s good to disclose our addiction. It’s good to draw back the curtain, take off the mask, uncover the truth. Revelation is the first step of healing.

Apocalypse is a beginning and an end. It’s the sacred journey of God’s revealing, of God revealing God and God revealing us, of knowing and being known by God.

If you trust that God is good, then the End of the Age is a blessed event. No more misunderstanding. No more relationship chasm. No more longing for peace and justice and unity and wholeness. It’s present. The hidden Kingdom is plain for all to see and live.

What if we also used the idea of apocalypse for the smaller revealings along the way? What if God draws us through little apocalypse after little apocalypse as a means of growing us in grace? Little by little, God is revealed and so are we. Layer after layer of disclosure brings healing and new life, like debriding a burn victim, like soot being removed to reveal the masterpieces of the Sistine Chapel. Over time trust deepens and the covers come off more and more hiding places, not for punishment, but for redemption.

God is Love. The Holy Spirit’s relentless, revealing work is Love in action, God’s persevering desire to “strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

May your every false understanding
and supposition
fade in the light of God’s truth

May your every hidden burden
and secret shame
blossom with new life
in the light of God’s healing

May God’s every revealing
Turn your morning into dancing

I want to walk as a child of the light;
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world;
The star of my life is Jesus.

Refrain: In him there is no darkness at all;
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God;
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

I want to see the brightness of God;
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of righteousness, shine on my path,
And show me the way to the Father. (Refrain)
– Kathleen Thomerson

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more outstanding work by today’s featured artist, LoveFusion Photography by Kelsey, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The Advent Door Reading Plan: Preparing for Christmas 2012

Last year I spent the weeks before Christmas exploring my friend Jan Richardson’s e-book entitled Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition]. It’s structured in the style of a classic Advent calendar, with twenty five scripture reflections, each with an original piece of art.

My goal was to set aside a few moments to read and reflect every day between December 1 and December 25. I read the entire book, but only blogged the first half of the readings. (The pressure of posting can hamper reflection. You will find links to last year’s posts below.) This year, the plan is to read it again and blog the last half of the book. (Yes, this is one of those book you want to read again. It’s that good.)

This is a book to savor, not just the words but also the art. Through it you will find space for blessing and centering. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey. – Lisa <><

PS- You might be asking, where did these readings come from? Mary, Joseph and company don’t appear until Door 19.

First, it’s important to understand what Advent is. Advent is a deep season of preparation which helps us keep Christmas in the right perspective. Advent means coming, so its a time of reflection on the coming of Christ as the babe of Bethlehem and the coming of Christ in at the end of the age.

(Click here to learn more about Advent. For a Christmas Reading Plan, click here)

For her book, Jan uses the classic Advent readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. The Revised Common Lectionary is a three year cycle of weekly Bible readings. Each weekly reading contains four Scripture readings: one from the Old Testament, one from the Book of Psalms, one from the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament), and one from the Epistles (basically the rest of the New Testament).

Door 1: Christ Will Come Again
Matthew 24:36-44

Door 2: New Creation
Mark 13:24-37

Door 3: Strength to Stand
Luke 21:25-36

Door 4: Yearning and Resistance
Isaiah 64:1-9

Door 5: Let Your Face Shine
Psalm 80:1-7; 17-19

Door 6: Extending Blessing
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Door 7: Threshold
Mark 1:1-8

Door 8: Reversal and Repentance
Luke 3:1-6

Door 9: Rubbernecking or Responding
Matthew 3:1-12

Door 10: The One Who Carries Us
Isaiah 40:1-11

Door 11: The Covenant Continues
Luke 1:68-79

Door 12: Two Simple Prayers
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Door 13: To Know and Be Known
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Door 14: I Am Not, Therefore I Am
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Door 15: Preparing the Way
Luke 3:7-18

Door 16
Matthew 11:2-11

Door 17
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Door 18
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7

Door 19
Luke 1:26-38

Door 20
Luke 1:39-56

Door 21
Isaiah 9:2-7

Door 22
Luke 2:1-20

Door 23
Luke 2:1-20

Door 24
John 1:1-14

Door 25
John 1:1-14

God’s Presence and Our Presence in Darkness

1 Kings 8:6, 10-12
Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. … And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.”

Psalm 139:11-12 (NIV)
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

The bright darkness by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
When darkness descends on you,
the unknown enfolds you,
the unseen holds you close,

when you look about for light
and see only shadow,
a way that can’t be found:

know that you have entered
the holy of holies,
the presence of God.

In the darkest regions,
the shady neighborhoods,
places under a pall of gloom

where mercy and justice are hidden:
God is not absent, but cloaked,
and holds her beloved even closer.

Bright mystery, holy darkness,
strip us of knowing too much.

Glory so thick you absorb all light,
bless us, who cannot see.

Isaiah 45:3 NRSV
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

Mystery is rarely comfortable. We want to understand what we are doing here, to see more clearly how God is at work, to know how the future will unfold. This Gospel passage confounds us, reminds us that God works in the darkness as well as in the daylight. (Mark 13:24-37) – Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door

Job 23:8-12 NRSV
If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.

Extended quote by Idelette McVicker from She rises while it is yet night 
I embrace Proverbs 31:15: ”She rises while it is yet night …”

Not necessarily in the 4:30am wake up call kind of way, but in the way of rising into the Night that I see all around me and so often struggle with, even within.

  • The Night that looks like gender inequality, violence, oppression, poverty and suffering.
  • The Night that looks like not having all my ducks in a row and all my themes clearly abstracted.
  • The Night that looks like admitting struggle and anguish, but also joy.

I am encouraged because into this very Night –our own and our world’s– women of valor rise.

Eshet chayil, says beautiful Rachel Held Evans.

So– that blessing, that ode to womanhood in Proverbs 31, for me, speaks to our valor and our ability to rise, in spite of.

  • When we don’t have all the answers yet, to rise …
  • When we don’t know exactly what we are doing, to rise …
  • When we are criticized and ridiculed, to rise …
  • When it seems like Night is winning in the world, to rise …
  • When the darkness wants to overwhelm, we will rise …
  • When we don’t have it all figured out yet, to rise …
  • When we make mistakes and fall down, to rise …

I don’t want to be scared of entering into the process any more. I don’t want to be scared of making mistakes and saying the wrong thing or of being overbearing, because I’d like to imagine that we are listening for each other’s hearts –with ears of Love– and not just for the words.

While it is yet Night –in my own struggle and in our world– I want to rise …
I hope you’ll join me.

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If you know the artist of today’s featured work, please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Door 12: Two Simple Prayers

Psalm 85:10-11 by Anna Elkins

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 12 Reading: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

For a description of today’s art by the artist, click here

Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
From Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill

O Beloved,
how gracious You are to your people;
You restore their souls time and time again.
You forgive their iniquity
when they wander far from you;
You give them new life.

Listen, O people, in the silent chapel of your heart
And the Beloved will speak of peace to you,
To the hidden saints, to all who turn their hearts to Love.
Surely new life is at hand for those who reverence Love;
O, that harmony might dwell among the nations.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
Righteousness and peace will embrace one another.
Wisdom will spring up from the ground and truth will look down from the sky.
Yes, the Eternal Giver will grant what is good, and the lands will yield abundantly.
Mercy and compassion are Love’s way,
And will guide our footsteps upon the path of peace.

So where do we see the qualities of God at play in our own day, in our own imaginations? In art, in writing, in liturgy, in the daily living out of our desire to follow Christ, how does God appear around us and within us? Where do we witness the meeting places of mercy and truth, of peace and justice? In this season of celebrating the incarnation, how do we open our own selves to be a meeting place for the qualities of God? – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

When I first became a Christian, I only prayed for others. I never prayed for myself, thinking it was somehow selfish or prideful. I was trying my best as a teenage girl to flee those character traits and the only way I knew how to do it was to avoid anything and everything that might be tied to them.

A wise woman reminded me that it was important to include myself in my prayers. If you want to build a relationship with someone, you need to reveal yourself. In excluding myself I was avoiding honesty and intimacy with God.

My concern was legitimate, but I had thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water. In order to avoid the pitfalls of self-promotion, she suggested two simple prayers.

God, help me to be faithful.
Make me a woman after your own heart.

This was exactly what I needed. I had been aiming for perfect, when in reality faithful was a far better goal for me. Perfect is a fine goal, even Biblical. (Matthew 5:48) Yet in my mind, being perfect was entangled with my strength and will power in a way that came with a great deal of baggage. Faithful felt like God and I working together. It recognized that following God was a lifelong process of becoming more Christ-like. Intentional, ongoing transformation. Faithful was freeing.

And there was more! A woman after your own heart. This phrase tapped into a place with God that felt safe and at the same time awesome and challenging. The heart involved the deepest desire… essence… my very being. Heart spoke to compassion as well as justice, peace as well as righteousness, truth as well as love.

David had been a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) Mary had treasured things in her heart. (Luke 2:19) There was something about their interior lives and my own interior life that I longed to discover and that God wanted to reveal.

God has been so very faithful to answer this prayer. May it be useful to you as you open yourself to be a meeting place for the fullness of God.

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.
– Cleland B. McAfee

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This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.