Meditations for the Second Week of Advent

Note: Here are the meditations for the second week of Advent.  You can find the first week’s meditations here.

Second Sunday in Advent

Meditation and Prayer

For Meditation:

  • Isaiah 5, 11
  • John 5:19-40
  • Rev. 20, 21:1-8 (optional)

Prayer for the Second Week of Advent:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:  Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Advent Tree:  Catechism Review

Use this Sunday to review the Advent Catechism:

Beauty often resides in the peripheries of our lives.  We walk past such humble miracles, such as the babe in the manger in a little village of Bethlehem, all the time.  In the frantic pace of life, we need to slow down and simply observe natural forces around us and create out of that experience.  What makes us truly human may not be how fast we are able to accomplish a task but what we experience fully, carefully, and quietly in the process.”

Makoto Fujimura
Refractions (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009), 27

Meditations for the First Week of Advent

Note: Several years ago I wrote a series of Advent devotions for my kids. I posted them on a different blog, along with Scripture readings and prayers. They helped a lot of people observe Advent more purposefully, so I wanted to share them with you this Advent season.

Welcome to Advent

American Christians have the unique advantage of ending the Trinity Season with a four-day feast.  Thanksgiving, the official feast day, requires a table so loaded with food that the leftovers last, conveniently, until the following Sunday—the first day of Advent.

The season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas Day, has long been observed in the Church as a time of personal examination, repentance, and preparation for the first Great Feast Day of Christmas.   For this reason, Advent has often been called Little Pascha, or Small Lent, to signify the fasting, prayer, confession, and reconciliation that are to mark this season in the lives of Christians.

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber via Compfight cc

Advent is also the beginning of the much longer season of Yuletide, the “long sequence of holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from the end of November through the beginning of January” (The Christian Almanac, 722). Yuletide begins with Advent, progresses through the feasting and gift-giving of Christmas, and concludes with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving.

It is very difficult for modern Christians who do not belong to traditionally liturgical churches to follow the Church calendar.  This year, to assist my faithful readers in better observance of Advent (and to give myself better accountability in my observance), I want to share with you some devotional readings I wrote for my family for each day of the Advent season.

The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (New York: Mariner, 1999)

Sunday was the birthday of Anne Sexton, one of several brilliant but troubled poet-suicides of the 1970s.  Sexton’s poetry ranges in mood and symbolism and touches on everything from mental illness and the death of children to prayer and the soul’s search for God.

The titles of her books reflect this thematic range:  To Bedlam and Part Way Back, Live or Die, The Book of Folly, The Death Notebooks, The Awful Rowing Toward God, 45 Mercy Street.

Anne Sexton
Here are two of my favorite Sexton poems, both of which deal with gratitude.  The imagery of the second poem is more difficult, but worth the wrestle:

Literature, then, serves to deepen and to extend human greatness through the nurture of beauty, understanding, and compassion.  In none of these ways, of course, can literature, unless it be the literature of the Christian faith, lead us to the City of God, but it may make our life in the city of man far more a thing of joy and meaning and humanity, and that in itself is no small achievement.  Great literature may not be a Jacob’s ladder by which we can climb to heaven, but it provides an invaluable staff with which to walk the earth.”

Easter Dawn

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

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Easter Dawn

He blesses every love which weeps and grieves
And now he blesses hers who stood and wept
And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s
Last touching place, but watched as low light crept
Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs
A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.
She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,
Or recognise the Gardener standing there.
She hardly hears his gentle question ‘Why,
Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light
That brightens as she chokes out her reply
‘They took my love away, my day is night’
And then she hears her name, she hears Love say
The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

from Sounding the Seasons, by Malcolm Guite

He Weeps with You

Of all the poems I’ve read over the last several years, this sonnet has been the most moving.

And it’s perfect for Good Friday.

Gesthemane

Jesus Falls the Third Time

He weeps with you and with you he will stay
When all your staying power has run out
You can’t go on, you go on anyway.
He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
And takes away the hope that drove you on.
This is the third fall and it hurts the worst
This long descent through darkness to depression
From which there seems no rising and no will
To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.
Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
And you could almost wish for that defeat
Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
You find your God beside you on his knees.

from Sounding the Seasons, by Malcolm Guite

A Poem for Maundy Thursday

Over the next few days, I want to share with you some of the poems I’ve been studying with my students lately.  All of these sonnets are from Sounding the Seasons, a collection of poems from Malcolm Guite, one of my favorite poets.

Ignition

Maundy Thursday

Here is the source of every sacrament,
The all-transforming presence of the Lord,
Replenishing our every element
Remaking us in his creative Word.
For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,
The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,
The fire dances where the candles shine,
The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.
And here He shows the full extent of love
To us whose love is always incomplete,
In vain we search the heavens high above,
The God of love is kneeling at our feet.
Though we betray Him, though it is the night.
He meets us here and loves us into light.

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

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O Lord my God,
to you and to your service I devote myself—body, soul, and spirit.

Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works;
enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit;
and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would
have me do.

Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and let me by my life and speaking set forth your true and living Word.

Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my salvation;
in praises heighten my love and gratitude;
in speaking of You give me readiness of thought and expression;
and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word,
all the world may be drawn to your blessed kingdom.

All this I ask for the sake of Your Son, my Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

~The Book of Common Prayer

How to Work in the Dark

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me.

I could say that I’ve been busy with other projects. But that’s not really true.

The truth is I got scared.

typewriter_web

Over the summer I wrote every day. I posted on my blog three times a week, published an ebook, and started two other writing projects for my website.  I wrote some posts that really helped people, and I got excited that my writing was actually making a difference.

But then I hit a wall. The words wouldn’t come. My vision didn’t crystallize. Everything sounded flat.  And subconsciously, I was scared I couldn’t find the right note again.