Nothing focuses my anticipation and sustains my contemplation so well throughout the Advent season as do daily readings. In keeping with traditions set by my family when I was little, I find that beginning or ending each day with a time to ponder the mysteries of the Incarnation binds all the other festivities of parties, music, festal foods, and flashy colors together into meaningful jubilation, when otherwise they would fall apart in overwrought frenzy.
It is December and the year is waning. The calendar year fades away with its annual decline, while the liturgical year renews itself again in Advent. I don't know about you, but I delight in fresh starts, as long as I carry into the that new beginning a unified vision and the practices to support it.
A popular Christmas song tells us that, when the bustle of Santa’s big day, with the busy sidewalks and the children laughing and the snow crunching, makes its assault, we should listen for the soothing silver bells . I love those busy sidewalks and the children laughing and the snow crunching and all the activity that the season demands. Yet, traditionally, Advent is a time of silent waiting, of reflecting and fasting, of anticipating the Messiah.
Where do we find time for silence and stillness?
Advent is the season of preparation that leads up to the season of Christmas and is the beginning of the church calendar. “Advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” It is far more than a count-down to Christmas.
We need models. We need teachers to show us how to live. And some of the best teachers are those which have never breathed, have never taken on flesh, have never had the urgency of a real death. Some of our best teachers are fictional characters. This is what Leland Ryken means when he says great literature “shows human experience instead of telling about it. It is incarnational. It enacts rather than states. Instead of giving us abstract propositions about virtue or vice, for example, literature presents stories of good or evil characters in action” (p.
In Old Testament times, people carried personal idols around with them to receive guidance and blessing from their deity. Unfortunately, this tradition is often perpetuated in modern times by the way we carry our smart phones. We fear to part with them. We constantly check them to see if they have any messages for us. When posed with a tough question, our first reaction is to ask them for help.
Before Christ came lowly into Jerusalem and riding on a donkey, he came lowly into the world, born in the manger of a donkey.
It is Advent now. And nativity scenes display the paradox of Palm 8 on tables and lawns. In that image the cosmos gathers around a baby, where praise and strength are ordained out of the mouth of the infant Christ, where stars shine and angels sing, where men high and low give gifts, and where “all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field” typologically attend the birth of the Lord.
Throughout this strange December—strung with news of bombings and shootings; campaign bickerings; and quiet, solemn tragedies closer to home—hope burns on in the bright-edged realism of the Christmas carols.
After placing a star atop our family’s Christmas tree a few days ago, I began to contemplate this ubiquitous symbol of the season: what exactly did the Magi see in the sky and why did it lead them to seek the “King of the Jews?”
Happily, my husband is in the midst of studying for an adult Bible class he is teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, so a dozen commentaries and books on the gospel of Matthew, where the account of the Wise Men is found, were at my disposal.
While church father Athanasius of Alexandria is probably best known for his "contra mundum" stance against Arianism, for his defense of the doctrine of the Trinity ("whole and undefiled"), and for the "Athanasian Creed" (which he didn't actually write), he was also an eloquent writer of great clarity and precision. CS Lewis called him a "master mind"; a meaningful sentiment, it seems, considering the source. Here's more from Lewis: