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Gospel Reflection for December 9, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Advent

7 Dec

Sunday Readings: Baruch 5.1-9; Philippians 1.4-6, 8-11; Luke 3.1-6

“A herald’s voice in the desert cries out: ‘Make ready a road for God. Clear a straight path for God. Every valley shall be filled; every mountain and hill shall be leveled.’” – Luke 3.4-5

John the Baptist heralds the turning point in history by which much of the world marks its calendar. His preaching echoes the prophet Second Isaiah, who called the exiled Israelites to come home  to Jerusalem and be a people, to rebuild their ruined city and temple. God will lead them. Second Isaiah’s imagines God straightening hairpins turns, filling impassable crevasses, and smoothing exhausting terrain to lead the people home through the wilderness. The message invites us to ask what road we are traveling. Is it full of traffic? Is it fast? Or scenic? Where does it lead?

Where is home? What relationships are you building to call home? 


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Gospel Reflection for December 2, 2018, 1st Sunday of Advent

29 Nov

Gospel Reflection for December 2, 2018, 1st Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 33.14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2; Luke 21.25-28, 34-36

“Stay watchful, praying for strength to escape what will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” – Luke 21.36

Advent begins the Church year with a gospel that fairly froths with frightful images. The gospel reminds us that no matter how threatening personal or world events, we live from beginning to end in the embrace of God. In our experience of being alive, we find God within us. In turning to one another and bridging our separate selves, we find God among us. In experiencing our human limits, we find we have heart and hope for mystery—God beyond us. The God of our beginning is the God of all we will become.

Whether we see Jesus’ coming again as a threat or a fulfillment, the gospel challenges us to stay watchful and pray for strength. In living consciously, attentive to people and life within and around us, we will find God already with us.

What gives you hope this Advent? 


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or request a free sample. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Mary says yes to God

20 Dec

Our Christmas gift to you are these two reflections on Mary of Nazareth: Mary’s Heart & Hearth and Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation. If it is hard to find time to pray during this busy week, let these words about Mary be your prayer.

We wish you every blessing this Christmas.

Gospel Reflection for December 17, 2017, 3rd Sunday of Advent

12 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 61.1-2,10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24; John 1.6-8, 19-28

“A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” – John 1.6-7

John’s gospel begins with 18 verses about the preexistent Word who becomes flesh in Jesus. These verses include the three about John the Baptist that begins Sunday’s gospel. The Baptist is a man sent from God to witness to the light. His witness has the same purpose as the whole gospel—that all might believe in Jesus through him.

The Baptist is first of all a witness to the existence we may take for granted, the light that rises with the sun each morning, the air we breathe. To testify to the light is to raise people’s consciousness that the life and light in which we live reveals God and is God’s gift.

Like the people of Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness, the Baptist must have learned God’s nearness in the silence and solitude of the wilderness where he lives. His preaching opens people’s hearts to God’s presence in Jesus, in whom Wisdom, the Word, has come into the world and become one of us.

How do you witness to the gift in your existence in this Advent season?


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or request a free sample. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for December 4, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Advent

30 Nov
Photo via Flickr User Karen Thurmond

Photo via Flickr User Karen Thurmond

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 11.1-10; Romans 15.4-9; Matthew 3.1-12

Two family trees figure in Sunday’s readings: the children of Abraham and Sarah hear God’s call, go to a new land, and await a child who will be the first of descendants as countless as the stars. Faith in God’s promise is their DNA.

The descendants of Jesse becomes the Kings of Israel. God promises Jesse’s son David that his throne will stand forever. Faith and repentance are in David’s DNA.

John the Baptist calls his contemporaries, who are children of Abraham and Sarah by blood, to become children by active faith. Fierce and holy like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist is a lone voice in the wilderness, calling people to repent and prepare for one who will baptize them in Spirit and fire. Repentance is the true inheritance of Israel, John insists. The fruitful tree symbolizes the repentant person.

What spiritual values are in your DNA?

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Prayer For Advent – Week 4

23 Dec

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Mary’s Yes

18 Dec

Mary and Gabriel

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” –Luke 1:26-38

What is Mary calling us to this Advent?

Here she is, engaged, anticipating a certain life. Thinking, maybe, that she had some control over where her story was heading. Then an angel came and spoke. She was open enough to hear. Her life changed instantly. Her role changed. Her path changed. She’d need to weather the possibility of being dismissed, disgraced as her belly grew. She did not, in fact, have control over her story.

Yet, she did have control over her response. “Here I am.”

I like to imagine this wasn’t an immediate response. She seems more relatable to me if I envision a period of serious turmoil, confusion, disappointment and fear. Maybe she grieved for the story she thought would be hers. Yet her response remains remarkable. She chooses to embrace the life that was given to her. She said yes to a role she was not anticipating or feeling ready for. She fell in love with her new path. She wanted the life that she got. Instead of clinging, she opened her palms to what was indeed out of her control.

This Advent, can we walk lightly enough to notice the angels among us? Can we admit that we are not in total control of our lives? Can we open our hands, our lives, and our hearts to unknown paths? Can we be brave enough to walk down the unexpected path? Can we, too, say, “Yes?”

A young pregnant girl in a backwater town encountered God in the unknown. Maybe we can join her in saying, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

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Prayer for Advent – Week 3

16 Dec

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Gospel Reflection for December 20, 2015, 4th Sunday of Advent

15 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Micah 5.1-4; Hebrews 10.5-10; Luke 1.39-45

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child of your womb.'”

(Luke 1.41-42)

The encounter between Mary and her kinswoman Elizabeth is spiritually electric. Each woman has responded to God alone. As they meet, the Spirit arcs between them like sparks. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s baby leaps in her womb. Her words express ecstatic awe at the holy happening within their wombs. The new life that is good news for the world does not come from within the existing temple structure but in the wombs of two believing women. In Elizabeth’s time, new life is stirring among unlikely people — Gentiles, people who are poor, women, tax collectors. Perhaps now like then, people at the margins experience enough discomfort with things as they are to open their hearts to impossible, transcendent hopes.

What do you see coming to birth in younger women? What do you see coming to birth in older women? In yourself?

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Still Waiting in the Dark

11 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Eirik Refsdal

Photo via Flickr user Eirik Refsdal

It is still Advent. It is still dark and cold. Last week we cried out, “Paris, Minneapolis, Colorado Springs.” The list grows. “Syria, California.” Our hearts hurt. We wait.

Unexpectedly, I am experiencing a deep depression that attacks from all sides. I have little strength to deal with my feelings of uselessness. I feel like an outsider, tolerated but not accepted, like but not loved… I crave personal attention and affection… My feelings are so general and attack everything that I see, hear or do, which tell me it is a general depression, not critical observations. I have little control over it. It feels like a form of possession. I try to pray for deliverance, but prayer brings no relief. It even appears dark and frightening. What else can I do but wait? –Henri Nouwen

Waiting is hard. David Foster Wallace, in his amazing commencement speech, “This is Water,” reminds us that while waiting in line at the grocery store after waiting in traffic after a monotonous day of work, we choose how we will spend that time. While we wait, do we judge others, spewing toxicity through our eyeballs, or do we take the time to foster compassion for our line mates? Do we choose to think of interesting things and hum a beautiful tune?

Think about lines at the DMV and airport and retail store. The situation is plum out of your control. How do you wait? How do you choose to spend that time? How we wait says a lot about who we are.

Advent is the season of waiting in the dark.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” –Isaiah 40

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed. But not yet, not yet.

Waiting does not mean being inactive. It does not mean escaping from this place into comfort and distraction. Waiting calls us to be more attentive to this time and place. To know more is to come, but to see the potential in this very moment and be fully present to it.

Advent is faith at its best. Advent is moving through the darkness with the hope of the light that is to come. This is not the last word. Death does not win. A baby is coming. Make way. Prepare. Today, we must choose how we will wait.

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