December 23, 2012

Advent-Sacrament

Throughout Advent we’ve looked at the hymn Dear Lord and Father by Whittier, as a guide to a more centered and calmer season. We’ve considered that Advent is about forgiving, waiting, and seeking peace in a culturally frantic time. On this last week of Advent, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day almost here, I’d invite you to consider yet another way of looking at Advent-as a ‘Sacrament,’ a concept introduced, to me, by Thomas Merton:

Advent is the ‘sacrament’ of the PRESENCE of God in His world, in the mystery of Christ at work in history…it is the concrete plan of God for the salvation of men and the restoration of the whole world in Christ…the mystery can only be known by those who enter into it, who find their place in the Mystical Christ, and therefore find the mystery of Christ realized and fulfilled in themselves.” (Merton, Seasons of Celebration, as quoted in Advent and Christmas with Thomas Merton)

A sacrament is defined as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. By that definition, I think we can say that Advent is indeed a sacrament. This idea made me consider the correlation between the sacrament of Eucharist and the Babe in the manger. The result was this poem Holy Table, Holy Manger*:

Come to the Table
Come to the Feeding
Come to the Holy

Come to the Stable
Come to the Birth
Come to the One

Kneel at the Table
Kneel in Submission
Kneel to the Holy

Kneel at the Manger
Kneel in Adoration
Kneel to the One

Go from the Table
Go in God’s Power
Go filled with Holy

Go from the Stable
Go in God’s Presence
Go filled with One

Tell of the Table
Tell of Transformation
Tell of the Holy

Tell of the Manger
Tell of Incarnation
Tell of the One.

May your Christmas be blessed with time at the Manger where you can meet the Holy One born of Mary as we “go forth to meet our Savior on the same Road [Mary] by which He came to us.” (Merton, Seasons of Celebration, as quoted in Advent and Christmas with Thomas Merton)

See you in 2013!
 
*Holy Table, Holy Manger (C) Cynthia Davis 2012

December 16, 2012

Dear Lord and Father-Peace

The week of Advent 3 is upon us and if your house is like most, the frantic pace is picking up. It is even (maybe especially) true at churches as choirs and clergy and other workers prepare feverishly for the special services of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As our thoughts and prayers linger with the families in Newtown, CT, we pray for peace and healing.

This is the time when it is so hard to hear the Spirit of God calling us to find peace. The hymn we’ve been meditating on has led us through Advent with a call to forgive and follow, to wait for the promise of the season. Dear Lord and Father, comes to an end with a call to peace and listening for the ‘still, small voice’ that calls us to calm.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.


Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.


The first week of Advent we looked at the need to turn back to God in this time of preparation and waiting. Last week, we saw that the waiting and preparation is not about doing things, but about allowing the Holy ideas to gestate so we can hear God call to us.

This week, Whittier calls us into the peace of God that happens when we allow God to “take from our souls the strain and stress…[and] breathe through the heats of our desire.” With 2 weeks til Christmas,and hearts heavy with grief, it may be hard to slow down enough to find “the beauty of Thy peace”.

To paraphrase the last verse, for the season:

Quiet the frantic search for gifts
So we may hear Thy Call.
Set aside sales, wrapping, ads,
And worship Thee alone.


What if, instead of picking up the pace as Christmas approaches, we slowed down and listened to the words of the hymn we have been mediating on during Advent? Here’s the Westminster Abbey choir singing the hymn.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faNij71hh7o-
I don’t know if these thoughts have helped any of you have a calmer Advent, but I needed to hear the message myself. Isn’t that often the way it is, when you set out to prepare a talk or write a book or blog?God graciously opens our hearts to hear what we need to hear in the words we prepare to share!
 
Next week is the end of Advent and Christmas Eve is just around the corner!

December 9, 2012

Dear Lord and Father-Waiting

The second 2 verses of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, the hymn we are meditating on this Advent, take us into a place of quiet and prayer with Jesus. A place to wait for God and wait on God’s will and for God’s call. We cannot hear God when we are running here and there ‘getting everything done’ (I remind myself this regularly). Instead, Advent invites us to come away to ‘the calm of hills above’ and be still with God.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!


With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.


Advent is about waiting, not tapping our foot waiting for Christmas to get here. Not the hyper waiting of children for Christmas Eve when “Santa comes”. Instead it’s a ‘pregnant’ waiting, because as The Rev. Laurie Brock or The Rev. Mary Koppel say in their blog, God needs holy things to gestate within our souls and within our communities. These holy ideas, understandings, insights, and actions all need time to become.”
Advent is waiting that invites us into the “Sabbath rest”. Whittier, knows that our busy-ness can “drown the tender whisper of Thy call.” In this season when culture is more obviously at odds with worship than the rest of the year, we are invited into the “silence of eternity, interpreted by Love.” That is the waiting of Advent-waiting for the Christ child, yes, and looking forward to the second coming, yes. More than that, Advent can be a time of waiting to hear God’s call and feel “blessings fall as fell Thy manna down.”
Waiting is not an easy thing to do, esp. amid the excitement and clamor of the season, and yes, the busy, hecticness too. But like a pregnant woman who needs to rest more often, so we must pause and listen for the sound of the loving, whispered call-perhaps to new ministry, perhaps to renewed vigor, perhaps to further quiet time.
I invite you to take a bit of quiet this week, just to gestate and consider the season of Advent itself and the promise it holds out of birth and rebirth.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the final 2 verses of the hymn.

December 2, 2012

Dear Lord and Father...forgive


Dear Lord and Father

I thought the meditations for the Advent season blogs would be a continuation of the Thin Places. A look at the Thin Times and Places where God is found in the lives of those impacted directly by the Incarnation. In this busy season though, it occurs to me that what we may need more than words is quiet places and quiet times. I invite you to join me in praying through the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind by John Whittier, a Quaker poet of the 19th century.

The first couple of verses are very appropriate for this first week of Advent. The season of Advent is theologically and liturgically a time when we are supposed to take time to turn back to God in preparation for the great gift of the Incarnation at Christmas.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise
.


In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.


Whittier invites us to repent so that we can go deeper into our relationship with God. We will then have a mind and life focused on God and filled with reverence and praise. He compares this type of life to the early disciples who heard Jesus say ‘follow me’ and left all and followed Him. 

Too often the hustle and bustle of the season and preparation for the 'big day' distract us from the real meaning of Advent. We forget that we should take a few quiet moments to think about our relationship with our Lord. If music helps you meditate on the hymn, here is one version of it: 

In this season of preparation, take a moment or more to consider what these 2 verses say to you. What is your ‘rightful mind’ toward God? Do you feel reverence and praise toward God? Are you ready to “without a word, rise up and follow” wherever God calls?
Next week, we’ll look at what the next couple verses might say to us this Advent.