Christmas Advent: The Thirty-Third Day

THE BRIEF AND POTENT PRAYERS OF THIS WEEK of the Advent season so beautifully weave together all the many themes of Advent.  They have been used at least since the seventh century in [Western Christian] monasteries, which are among the few remaining communities still singing them to mark the week beginning December 17 as a special time in the Advent season. Some Benedictine hospitals keep this tradition as well; only in the pediatric ward will you see

Christmas Advent: The Thirtieth Day

The Russian Nativity Icon The Russian nativity icon vividly portrays the Christmas perspective of the Orthodox Church. Through symbolism and teaching about Gods incarnation (becoming human) the icon presents Christmas as a “feast of re-creation.” The word icon is a Greek word meaning “image” or “likeness.” The nativity icon is done in an art style dating back to the sixth century Byzantine Empire. Orthodox iconography is a purely idealistic art form. Through the Byzantine style

Christmas Advent: The Twenty-Ninth Day

Thin Places (Part III) More hectic than holy? If you visit Bethlehem today, you’ll find that it doesn’t have the same kind of pastoral, quiet and mystical aura of a thin place like Iona. There’s jostling with a long line of pilgrims waiting to get into the Church of the Nativity, monks yelling instructions to be quiet, cameras flashing, security officers mulling about — all for people to get one chance to touch the star

Christmas Advent: The Twenty-Sixth Day

Thin Places (Part I) A thin place, according to the ancients, was the small space between heaven and Earth, and if you could find such a space, you were indeed blessed. Was — is — Bethlehem such a place? The Isle of Iona in Scotland is a tiny, windswept place in the western Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It’s a skinny little island, only about 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, but

Christmas Advent: The Twenty-Third Day

SOMEONE TO SURRENDER TO And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. – JOHN 1:14 Let me begin with a quote from twentieth-century writer G.K. Chesterton: “When a person has found something which he prefers to life itself, he (sic) for the first time has begun to live.” Jesus in his proclamation of the kingdom

Christmas Advent: The Nineteenth Day

THE BLIND FAITH OF MARY AND JOSEPH Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. -ISAIAH 7:14 Kingdom people are history makers. They break through the small kingdoms of this world to an alternative and much larger world, God’s full creation. People who are still living in the false self are history stoppers. They use God and

Christmas Advent: The Sixteenth Day

THE PROPHET MALACHI, chosen in church tradition to conclude the Hebrew Scriptures, has for us both a blessing and a warning. Yes, the Lord we seek will come, suddenly, to his temple. “The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” This passage is echoed in the Revelation to John, when

Christmas Advent: The Sixth Day

GOD, THE SUPREME AUTHORITY, has spoken since the beginning of Creation, and continues to speak, in thunder and flood, in light and darkness, in seasons of rain or drought, in war and peace. We are bound to listen to his voice, for there is no other. And because he sent us his Word, and there is no other, our ears must be open to hear it. When God speaks the entire world must answer. Some

Christmas Advent: The First Day

ANTICIPATION LIFTS THE HEART. Desire is created to be fulfilled— perhaps not all at once, more likely in slow stages. Isaiah uttered his prophetic words about the renewal of the natural Creation into a wilderness of spiritual barrenness and thirst. For him, and for many other Old Testament seers, the vacuum of dry indifference into which he spoke was not yet a place of fulfillment. Yet the promise of God through this human mouthpiece (and

Preparing for Christmas

When we demand satisfaction of one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away, saying, as it were, “Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?” we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given in time by God. When we set