This week as we enter the season of Advent there are many methods of reflection and meditation available to us to deepen our experience of this time. Here is a wonderful article which may provide a new avenue of reflection for this blessed season.
"The season of Advent, more than any other time of the church year, invites us to embrace the spiritual discipline of waiting. The season of Advent will not be rushed. The Advent carols must be sung, the Advent candles must be lighted week by week, and the doors of the Advent Calendar must be opened day by day. Christmas will finally come when all the expectant Scriptures have been read and when the baby has finally been born."
That's a beautiful description of the first season of the Christian church year from Holly W. Whitcomb, a United Church of Christ minister, in her book Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting She sees this four-week period that ends on Christmas Eve as going against the cultural grain of the times; we don't like to wait for anything; we expect instant gratification, even in our spiritual lives. But God is not to be rushed. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin advised, we need to "trust in the slow work of God." That is what the Israelites did during their long sojourn in the desert and what Christians do during Advent.
The following practices may be helpful for your exploration of a blessed Advent
This article is an excerpt from Spirituality in Practice.
Dear Creator Family,
Even a pandemic can’t touch our season of plenty. God’s abundance—abundant blessing, abundant mercy, abundant care and provision in all the ways He abides and cares for His people is harder to see in these isolating times, but it is still there. I pray you are able to experience His love and care for you in very real and tangible ways this month, and that you and your loved ones navigate the different, difficult, frustrating, lonely and sometimes heartbreaking days ahead.
His “plenty” is there for the asking. We ask by praying. We ask by worshipping. We ask by fellowshipping and reaching out to the members of our church family. What do you think we were called to be together for - the good times only? In this time of loneliness and restriction, fear and suffering, hardship and honest crises of the faith--Please, my brothers in sisters in Christ, reach out to one another. See your parish church with new eyes, as a place of genuine connection and belonging so that we, strengthened, can walk together.
Who knows if we will meet inside or out, in-person or online, but we are together, always, united in the love of Christ and that corporate communion we have shared for years? Let us feast on that in our hearts and feel inspired and emboldened to reach out. Please keep up the faith, and the “fight” for health, and for inner peace, calm and sanity during Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season. I promise, because He promised - his plenty is there for the asking.
Speaking of plenty…we have much happening this month and next. Please keep time with us. I encourage you, as always but perhaps this year a little more, to join us in the observance of a holy and intentional Advent. Our church programs and weekly worship opportunities will be aimed at just that, and I truly hope you will consider joining us. Imagine having such nice things on your calendar, in this, our ninth month of the pandemic.
I know that ZOOM is the least desirable method of meeting/worshipping, but please try to attend our gatherings. It is what we have. It may not be that great, but we need each other, and like all signs, symbols, practices, and efforts on our part--when given fully, they become invested and imbued with the love of the Holy Spirit.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Here we are, in the season of the “yellow wood,” and this famous poem has captured the hearts and minds of generations since it was penned in 1915 by Poet Laureate Robert Frost. In an Autumn wood, and from the sounds of it, at an “autumn” vantage point in the narrator’s life, the wisdom of his choice is mused and meditated upon for us to see. The reader is struck by the choice and can identify in his or her own life similar decisions, choices and turning points best illuminated in hindsight. The focus of the poem is a reflection of the process that led to taking the road less traveled and, I think, encourages us to reflect in the same way. You can see this fork in the road in your mind’s eye, can’t you? Not just of a distant memory, but of the decision that lies ahead.
At Camp Hanover, as you enter to drop off your camper or retrieve little Johnny a week later, a helpful counselor/guide stands where the gravel road divides, holding a giant plywood fork, probably 10-15 feet tall and spray-painted silver. I think the prop must be so that, when you call the office for instructions about bringing your camper to camp, they can say “Just go to the fork in the road and turn right….” It’s a pretty obvious sign!! Not all of our choices are this obvious, but I do believe the “fork” to be a good symbol for the choices God sometimes holds us to -- and through. We all have them; life is often the closing of one door to open another, the reluctant resolve that, try though we might, we cannot be in two places, or choose two parties or events, or be two people, at once. And we understand that “sigh,” as well, because life gets along and we often do not, in fact, go back.
Spiritually understood, for people of faith, the “fork” is where we stand now and will forever stand, as this is the place of discernment and prayer, of spirit and flesh. Here, now, is the moment when I decide to follow God’s call and brave the shoddy road, the unkept path to who-knows-where; or the town road, pristine and well-maintained by planned effort. It will always be this way for us and we will always be here, because God is always showing us the alternative, the better, less-traveled road of godly intention. Yes, it appears unkept and pricks our fears of getting lost or wasting time on a dead-end, but just around that corner we will find a garden path of unimaginable possibility and beauty.
On Sunday, November 22, we will hold a short Parish Meeting after the 10:30 service to elect three new Vestry members for 2021. God is calling you to serve our family and our parish in ways that glorify Him and bless you further into being His -- which path will you choose?
On this day of great possibility and potential, please pray for our nation and people as we carry out our responsibility to vote.
Loving God, creator of this world who is the source of our wisdom and understanding, watch over this nation during this time of election. Help us to see how our faith informs our principles and actions.
We give thanks for the right to vote. Help us to hold this privilege and responsibility with the care and awareness it merits, realizing that our vote matters and that it is an act of faith.
Guide us through this election as a nation, state, and community as we vote for people to do work on our behalf and on the behalf of our communities. Help us to vote for people and ballot initiatives that will better our community and our world so it may reflect the values Christ taught us.
Help us create communities that will build your kingdom here on earth – communities that will protect the poor, stand up for the vulnerable, advocate for those who are not seen and heard, and listen to everyone’s voice.
We pray for this nation that is deeply divided. May we come together for the common good and do as you have called us to do – to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you through creation.
Help us act out of love, mercy and justice rather than out of arrogance or fear.
Lord, continue to guide us as we work for the welfare of this world. We pray for places that are torn by violence, that they may know peace.
We pray for communities who are struggling with inequality, unrest, and fear. May we all work toward reconciliation with one another and with God.
Help us to listen in love, work together in peace, and collaborate with one another as we seek the betterment of our community and world.
Lord God our Creator, guide us in truth and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Father Bill Burk†