5th Day of Advent: A Prayer of Unity and Deliverance from 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

My Creator, I want to pray from my heart for my colleagues in distant places. I have never seen all of them face to face but I know them by their marks around this strange brain we call ‘the Internet’.

Though we can deliver our words instantly, God we need your divine guidance as we work toward common goals. Our work draws us deep into our callings, even through difficult stages. Often, the scent of distraction is too much for us and we become lost not only to each other but to ourselves.

This Advent season, give us a collective beginning. Make us a community. Shape each piece of that community to interface with each other, on the one hand, and to fit with our working communities, on the other, so that we can become true bridges. Take that special part of ourselves, that oft forgotten soul element, and shape it to know you better.

As we continue through this Advent journey, bless each step we take to get closer to our Messiah – an unexpectedly compassionate figure in our shared culture who, nevertheless, grew to be a source of courage and inspiration for all of society. We thank you for raising Jesus, and none other, to begin the ministry that we continue today.

We ask you to help us not to be short-sighted as we look to the future, because we are not simply fire-keepers–we are all blessed with your fiery Spirit of Pentecost which was the definitive victory over despair. We became one that day because Jesus was able to become one with his Creator.

Please send your spirit into us. Make us thankful and contagiously joyful. Bless us through each other with a love that comes directly from you. In your sweet name,

Amen.

A prayer by John Daniel Gore

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JD is a Methodist missionary living in Bethlehem and serving in Palestine. JD tweets from @Xavier_Phoenix and blogs from xavierphoenix.wordpress.com

4th Day of Advent: Hope

Watch for this: The time is coming’—GOD’s Decree—‘when I will keep the promise I made to the families of Israel and Judah. When that time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot sprout from the David-Tree. He will run this country honestly and fairly. He will set things right. That’s when Judah will be secure and Jerusalem live in safety. The motto for the city will be, “GOD Has Set Things Right for Us.” –Jeremiah 33:14-16, The Message

Anyone who knows me knows that the season of Advent is my favorite time of year. I put up my tree early in November, and it doesn’t come down until February. I listen to Christmas music before it’s even on in the stores. I buy eggnog the second I see it in the grocery store. I keep my eyes out for that perfect gift way before the last minute. The Sundays in Advent are probably the best worship services of the whole year.

There is so much I love about this season. I’m one of the few that love the dwindling daylight. I love the darkness coming at 5pm on my commute home. For some, this season speaks of hurriedness and running from one event to another. To me, it speaks of something more.

Quietness.

Silence.

Peace.

The closing of one year.

The hope and anticipation of the coming year.

Advent is about waiting. Waiting for Christmas. Waiting for the coming Messiah. Waiting for the coming hope. It is in the slow, unhurried darkness where we have time to contemplate. Time to wait. To hope. Waiting for hope and the coming of a new day was illustrated to me most clearly this year through experiencing my first hurricane this past October. As Sandy arrived in NJ, the strongest point of the storm came through during the
evening. I sat in my little apartment as winds blew hard against the walls that protect and guard me from the outside elements. I hoped the walls would hold up this time too.

As trees creaked and fell, and as the power went out all around me and darkness surrounded me, I prayed for a new day and the rising of the sun more than I ever had before. As I write this, I am looking at a mailing for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy and other disasters. And their catch phrase is “Out of Chaos, Hope.”

More than anything else, many of us need hope. Hope through the storms of life. Disaster. Divorce. Disease. Disruption. Death. In the midst of this darkness, we can push it away with hurriedness, distraction, one more event. Or we can sit in it and wait expectantly, with attentiveness, for hope to break through.

Christ broke into our world.

Light in the midst of darkness.

The hope of all nations.

God has set things right for us.

A reflection by Angie Rines.

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Angie is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Angie tweets from @AngelaRines and blogs at http://angierines.wordpress.com

3rd Day of Advent: A Reflection on Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Days are surely coming. Branch to spring up. Execute justice. Righteousness in the land. Judah will be saved. Jerusalem will live in safety.

Cool. So, what do you want me to do, God? It sounds like from this short passage, that God’s got things covered… so what are we supposed to do again? Live.

That’s all. Just live. But live as one who believes the story is going to end this way.

In the great theological work, Back to the Future, Michael J Fox’s character goes back in time only to discover that he has disrupted the time space continuum by making his mother fall in love with him. He not only knows how the story is supposed to end, his very existence is dependent upon his parents falling in love at the dance and eventually conceiving him. As he works to get them together, he looks at a clue from the future to see if he is on track: a picture of his family. When it looks like his dad isn’t going to get his girl, Marty and his sister begin to disappear, but when they fall in love, the family picture comes back into focus.

Marty didn’t work to get his dad together with his mom because they were a clear match. The girl was way out of this guy’s league. No one would have given McFly a chance with her. No one except Marty… Marty knew that is how the story ended. And when you know how the story ends, you can live in such a way and wait for certain things that might seem crazy to others.

When I bartended I often would place bets on games that were going on. I never lost. Not once. What was my secret? I only bet on games that were replays.

When you know the ending, making choices others call risky, are in reality, a safe bet. Stanley Hauerwas (imagine Doc Brown as a theologian) says it this way:

Christians are called to nonviolence not because we believe nonviolence is a strategy to rid the world of war…. But in a world of war, as faithful followers of Christ, we cannot imagine being anything other than being non-violent. And that will make the world possibly more violent; because the world does not want the “order” it calls “peace” exposed as the violence it so oftentimes is. Learning how to wait as a people of nonviolence in a world of war… you’ll know what Advent is. Advent is patience. It’s how God has made us a people of promise in a world of impatience. Christ has made that possible: for us to live patiently in a world of impatience. ~Stanley Hauerwas

Jeremiah is telling us how it is all going to end so that we can live differently. Because we know it will all end in peace, not only do we not have to live in war, we don’t even have to live into the “reality” that the world sells as “peace”.

That means when the Church tells us that it is “normal” and “the natural order” and “peaceful” for us to have cheap food at the expense of abused, enslaved immigrants–because we know how the story ends, and because we can live into that ending right now, when we hear lies like “dehumanizing farmworkers is okay,” we can call bullshit.

That means when the Church tells us that it is “normal” and “the natural order” and “peaceful” for us to exclude certain people from our community, leadership, wedding aisles, or ordination stoles because they were created by God to love the same-sex–because we know how the story ends, and because we can live into that ending right now, when we hear lies like “it’s not time yet,” we can call bullshit!

When we do that, it will very possibly make things worse… because the Church does not want the “order” it calls “peace” exposed as the violence it so oftentimes is.

Thank God for that Christ child, cross and resurrection. Days are surely coming. Branch to spring up. Execute justice. Righteousness in the land. Judah will be saved. Jerusalem will live in safety.

And we can live patiently in a world of impatience. Patience isn’t sitting back and doing nothing. Patience is actively being a peacemaker in a warring world because you know how it’s all going to end.

A reflection by Andy Oliver.

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Andy is the Communicatons and Technology Coordinator serving Reconciling Ministries Network. Andy tweets at @HeyAndyOliver and blogs at http://about.me/andyoliver

2nd Day of Advent: A Reflection on 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Have you ever had that feeling of excitement when a good friend was coming to visit? You know, that excitement that may cause you to clean a little, cook a little, and sleep too little?

An excitement that, at the same time, means you don’t have to have the perfect looking house or dinner on the table because you know that just seeing each other is going to be all that really matters?

Well, that same excitement is present in our celebration of Advent is–it so often becomes the focus of our celebrations, but it’s really only part of the journey.

This scripture points to another kind of excitement, an excitement of a relationship that doesn’t end because of time and distance. A relationship that wishes the best for another even if that wish isn’t something you can provide for them–a deeper relationship that’s full of excitement, full of hope. A hope that some time, things will be like they used to be. That the closeness that comes when we think of one another will be fully realized when we’re together again. And even as we are apart, we are not separate.

No, we are part of one another, connected by a power we cannot easily escape. The desires for one for another are so strong that the distance between us is a minor hurdle that we know will be overcome. This excitement, the excitement of knowing that something will be even though we know it is not (and may not be) soon is essential to our story as Christians.

It is a hope that when God comes, everything will be as it should be. It may not happen today, but we know it will happen. So, even as we wait for that day to come, we share in relationship fully, apart yet moving together. Hoping together, planning together, sharing life together.

And that, just that, is wonderful.

A reflection by Adj Williams. 

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Adj is the Director of Educational Ministries at Harbor View Presbyterian Church. Adj tweets at @keepsetting and blogs at http://keepsetting.blogspot.com