Advent Blessings

Photographed at frozen Irish Creek near Jasper, Ontario, Canada.

I love the beauty of a winter sunrise

The Season of Lent gets its name from a truncated version of the Old English word for Spring.  Etymologically, it is thought that the English words has its root in the Old Germanic word that means “longer,” such that it is the season of lengthening days.  This makes sense, practically speaking, since Easter falls on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox (first day of spring), or roughly right near the mid-point of the sunlit portion of our days getting longer.  Advent, on the other hand, is mostly made up of deepening darkness.  Christmas always falls on December 25th, which means that all but four days of the Advent Season come before the winter solstice.  Here in Bowling Green, that means Advent is spent in more than 14 hours of darkness.  A December 18th new moon will make for a stark reminder of the growing night.

It makes sense, then, that one of the themes we hear about in Advent is the juxtaposition between dark and light.  The Collect for Advent 1 sets the tone for the whole season when it opens with these words, “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light…”  The Seasonal Blessing from the Book of Occasional Services highlights this as well.  “May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path; and the blessing of God…”

The clear reminder of this interplay between dark and light came to me this morning as I read the Psalm appointed for Advent 1, with its ongoing refrain as a prayer to God from those who find themselves in deep darkness.

Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

In the growing darkness of the coming winter, our prayer to God is that we might see the light of God’s face, the unending support of the God by whose grace we are saved, made whole, and restored to right relationship.  This prayer seems particularly poignant this year as the world seems to be a darker place, each day bringing a new danger, further polarization, and heightening fear.  My prayer this season of Advent will be a prayer for light.  I think the Advent Blessing will be my mantra, asking in this time of darkness, that my daily bread might be the Sun of Righteousness shining upon the right pathways.

As you prepare for Advent this year, Dear Reader, it will be my prayer for you as well.  May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path.

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The Feast of the Epiphany

We did it.  We survived Christmas: both the secular version which begins somewhere around July 5th and the Church version which inexplicably lasts only 12 days.  We’ve made it through countless airings of “Feliz Navidad” and every version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” that money can buy.  We’ve gained 5 pounds on cookies, extra wine, and the always beloved fried turkey and roast beast.  Did I mention that the kids were out of school for 2 weeks as well?  We survived that too.  As the alarm went off on this cold morning in LA, so began the first day of the rest of our lives, at least until June 3rd, when the secular Christmas season begins again.

I really like the Feast of the Epiphany and the Season that follows.  I like thinking about how God is manifest in the world He created.  I enjoying looking for glimpses of the Kingdom of God and seeking ways to be a part of it.  I think the arrival of the Wise Men is emblematic of what God is trying to accomplish through Jesus, “that the whole world might come within the reach of his saving embrace” (BCP, 101).

The lessons over the next six weeks: from the Baptism of our Lord to Jesus calling his disciples to the revelation of the demon possessed man to the Transfiguration; invite us to ponder anew what God is up to in the life and ministry of Jesus.  They also, I believe, ask us to think on what God is up to in our own lives and ministries.  What is it about Jesus’ work in the world that we are being called to emulate?  How do we find our calling in a world full of noise and distraction?  Where is God at work, and where are we invited to join in?  That’s what this Season is all about, and who knows, working for the Kingdom might help you lose those extra Christmas pounds.