Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

Psalm 148, 149, 150 
Amos 6: 1-14 
2 Thessalonians 1: 5-12 
Luke 1: 57-68 

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest . . .my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

I can remember it as though it happened yesterday. After a time of discernment, on December 10, 1989 I converted from Judaism to Christianity. Unknown to me, it was also the second Sunday in Advent. As natural as breathing, Jesus’ presence permeated the room. Being overwhelmed with emotion, I cried profusely, my face drenched with tears. I audibly confessed, “I believe You are the Messiah,” and I asked Him to come into my life and fill me with His presence. With several slow deep breaths I seemed to breathe Him into my being and I knew at that momentJesus loved me. Since that day, I have never doubted His love. Four weeks later, I encountered His presence againwhile driving alone in my car. As though He had been there all along, I sensed Jesus’ presence beside mewhile continuing to drive, even as I shed hot, surging tears.

The encounter lasted for about 20 seconds as He silently communicated a clear message: I would never be alone again. Until then, I didn’t recognize how alone I had felt throughout my life—and I’ve never felt alone from that moment on. It took a few more years to connect to the Advent season of anticipation and awaiting the birth of Jesus, since I only related to the adult Messiah at my conversion. Then I could fully experience the season, and include the second Sunday as another anniversary date of my conversion. The peace and assurance of His love, and constant companionship, would profoundly influence the continuing spiritual journey of transformation, healing, and a call to ministry and vocation. Twenty years later, in 2009, my deepest desire since I was baptisedto give my life to Jesus, was formally realized when I made Life Promises as an Oblate of The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.
–– Phyllis Beauchamp

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Psalm 25 
Amos 7:1-9 
Revelation 1: 1
Matthew 22: 23-33 

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust
Psalm 25:1-2

I was 16 when I first really “heard” this psalm. I was a delegate to a youth synod in Shigawake, a tiny fishing village on the Gaspé coast. The synod speaker, Bishop Tim Matthews, was unlike any Bishop (or priest, for that matter) I had ever met. He was so poetic, prayerful and playful, that I wrote down this quote: “God loves you just the way you are and wants to befriend, that is, to be-friends-with you. You have a place at the Table and in the world.” These words made a huge impression on me as a teenager trying to figure out those very things.

An adult leader at the same event had a different message. He told a few of us “if you can’t speak in tongues, you’re not really a Christian. We’re all just miserable sinners needing to be saved.” These conflicting messages sent me and another confused youth scurrying into the sanctuary of little St. Paul’s Church, overlooking the Bay de Chaleur.

We lifted the huge Bible from the lectern and read from the psalm we’d heard earlier that morning: Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. (Ps. 25: 4-5) We sat there awhile, stunned, and then, mercifully, reassured. I believe it was the first time I ever prayed for guidance.

The prayer of Advent is a prayer for guidance, a prayer for the courage to wait “all day long” for the God of our salvation in whom we can trust. There’s nothing we need to “do” (like speaking in tongues); we just need to “be”, to be friends with God. That kind of welcome enables us to befriend others along the way, remind them they too are God’s Beloved, inviting all to a place at the Table – and in the world.
Frances Drolet-Smith

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Psalm 20, 21.17(814) 
Amos 5: 18-27 
Jude 17-25 
Matthew 22: 15-22 

May your heart’s desires and all of Love’s plans for you be fulfilled in due season. Psalm 20:41 You heed the heart’s desire, answering the cry of the soul, and you bestow blessing upon blessing. Psalm 21:22
These two psalms, coming one after the other, give the impression that our prayers are always answered in a positive way. The Good News Bible gives Psalm 20 the heading “A Prayer for Victory” and for Psalm 21, the heading “Praise for Victory” implying to some degree thanksgiving for receiving that which was prayed for. Therein lies Hope, some would say. But we know from life’s experiences this is not always the case, perhaps even rarely the case. Our hopes can be dashed and we can feel that pieces of ourselves have been washed up on an unknown and rocky shore.

Wherever we land, however, there is a form of hope that, in time, emerges out of the fog that surrounds us, even if it is just for the landing place and that we have made it that far. As we reflect on our situation, a way forward starts to clarify inch by minute, by yard by hour and even days, as we cautiously step out through our new surroundings, sensing we are not alone. As we pass each new destination we find ourselves beginning to murmur a word or phrase of praise, however brief and silent, that small victories are indeed coming our way shreds of hope that we can grasp and pull ourselves along to the next plateau and the next, and to wherever we are supposed to “be” at that time, all the while absorbing new lesson at each step.

Through Advent we each travel our own road to Bethlehem with its stretches of “under construction”, and where the Hope of all is to be born in each of us yet again. Thanks be to God! 

–– Mary L. (Bunny) Stewart

1 Merrill, Nan Psalms for Praying: an invitation to wholeness Publishing, NY 2007, p.32

2 ibid, p. 33

Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018

Psalm 18:120 
Amos 4: 6- 13 
2 Peter 3: 11-18 
Matthew 21: 33-46 

Psalm 18 immediately made me think of a night flight I completed as a student, flying with my instructor into Ottawa in the CT-114 Tudor jet aircraft. It’s a small but flexible jet which makes it not only a good aircraft for training but it is also the choice aircraft for the Snowbirds. Inadvertently we found ourselves in a thunderstorm with no other airports available. Thunderstorms are not the best environment to be in, particularly during an approach to a runway.

We were violently bounced around in the heavy winds and it was quite dark except for the dim lights of the instrument panel. The darkness was interrupted by the flashes of lightning which threatened to destroy our night vision and disrupt our radio signals. Our windshield and canopy were thick with water which, for a while, turned to hailstones. Suddenly there were blue flashes of light dancing on the framework of our windshield. It was a beautiful sight, difficult to describe. It is a phenomenon known as “St Elmo’s Fire” and is a rare occurrence.

Under the monitoring of my instructor, I concentrated and trusted the directions of the ground controller. After what seemed like a long time, we broke through the base of the cloud and right in front of us the approach lights flashed toward the runway which had parallel lights on each side. We landed safely.

The road of life is rough and smooth; the hills are up and down. There are bad times and good times, sad times and happy times. If we listen to God’s voice, He will lead us safely so that we will reach the final approach lights that will guide us to a safe landing.
–– Nora Bottomley

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Psalm 16, 17 
Amos 5: 1-17 
Jude 1 16 
Matthew 22: 1-14 

Protect me. O God, for I take refuge in you . . . O God, you are my portion and my cup . . . In your presence there is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:1, 5, & 11

Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of hope and anticipation, of preparation and longing for the incarnation, of wondering “how will Christ be born anew in me this year?” Advent raises the hope that this year, the Reign of Christ will bring about truth, reconciliation and justice to a world hungry for peace. Psalm 16 is one of my favourite psalms, familiar I expect because of its presence in Compline. It resonates with a confidence that while protecting me, God also counsels, instructs, supports, and shows me the path to take. As I look forward to the Incarnation, I also recognize the vulnerability, the poverty of spirit of Christ and his reliance only on God, the ultimate parent. It makes me wonder how I can put aside my fears and anxieties and live as one with Christ. What do I need to do, to live a life of simplicity, transfixed on God and God alone? Reflecting on this National Day of Remembrance and Action against Violence Against Women to commemorate the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique in 1989, I look at Christ who pushed and breached the boundaries of his own time to eat, drink and minister with women. If the Reign of Christ is to bring about truth, reconciliation and justice, what am I being called to do to help stop violence in the media, the increasing poverty of women, the isolation of many seniors and the continuing alienation of our immigrant and aboriginal sisters and brothers?

O God, help me to be fully present to your wounded children, to be fully present to your presence and willing to act for the One who is the Prince of Peace.
–– Doreen Davidson

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Psalm 119:1–24 
Isaiah 2:1–11 
1 Thessalonians 2:13–20 
Luke 20:19–26

In the psalm for today, the words my soul is consumed with longing...” caught my attention.
Longing is that deep boundless desire that was breathed into us by God to help lead us home. It is force that moves us beyond ourselves and keeps us moving. It is our job to keep in touch with our longing and strengthen it. It is strengthened through hope. Hope is a choice we make and grows through recalling God’s goodness and doing small actions based on that hope.

As much I would like to be consumed by my desire for God, I find to be consumed by that longing is an awesome and uncomfortable place to be at times. I struggle with that desire to know God, do God’s will and be with God and the self - desires of preservation, security and interest. I am both restless and peaceful, full of delight and fear all at the same time, which can be exhausting.

As difficult as the struggle is, the readings remind us we have a choice on what hope we feed. Both men had the difficult task of confronting another. The priest was not in touch with God’s longing and his hope was based on fear and self- glory which led him into deception. He “hoped” to trap Jesus and receive the glory of the world but in the end he failed. Paul believing God was with him, longed to do the will of God.

That desire led to a hope that the Thessalonians see their wayward ways. He chose to honestly rebuke and encouragement them with compassion. Isaiah teaches us that when we join together in our longing for God, our hopes for peace, unity and understanding will be a reality. What is consuming your soul? What actions of hope do you need to take?
–– Sr. Brenda Jenner, SSJD

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Psalm 5, 6 
Amos 3:1-11 
2 Peter 3: 1-10 
Matthew 21: 23-32

The Lord has heard my supplication. The Lord accepts my prayer.
Psalm 6:9

The readings appointed for today remind me of two things. The first is a quote from Jürgen Moltmann. “In hope we count on the possibilities of the future and we do not remain imprisoned in the institutions of the past.” The second is a hymn, “The Holy City” by Frederick E. Weatherly.

This hymn is about a person who has a dream. In this dream the individual is standing in the Old city of Jerusalem by the temple. Children are singing, while angel voices respond from heaven. The mood is tranquil. At second glance, the scene is interrupted. The hosannas the children were singing are hushed and the morning becomes dark as the shadow of a cross appears upon a hill. This scene also is changed as the dreamer looks upon a new old city where the gates are open to everyone and the darkness has given way to an everlasting light.

Both Moltmann’s quote and Weatherly’s lyrics reflect the theme that I see woven within our readings today. The verse from Psalm 6 reflects this nicely. Hope for today is summed up in the fact that our Lord has both heard our prayers and accepted them. In our Lord’s acceptance of our prayers is our Lord’s acceptance of us. It is an acceptance that is all encompassing. It includes us at our best and our worst. It allows for new possibilities, transformations, repentance and absolution. When we place our hope in God we are granted an eternal second chance.

In the days to come may we look to God with hope, acknowledging that God’s love for us revealed in Christ embraces us through the mistakes of the past, the challenges of the present and the hopeful anticipation of that which is still to come! Peace to you and yours!

Debra Johnston

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday, December 3, 2018

Psalm 1, 2, 3 
Amos 2:6-16 
1 Thessalonians 1:110 
Luke 20:18

Hope is a gift of strength infusing endurance for our journey: to weather the storms, the prickly bits and inconveniences that try our patience; to keep the eyes of our hearts upon God and the goal set before us; to find delight in the Way of our path. As we set off down the road, fresh on our way, we typically file through a mental ‘packing list’, asking ourselves if we brought everything. And don’t we check yet one more time that we have all our documents? We are ready: we planned, we prepared, we packed, the compass (GPS) is set, off we go.

As we begin this Advent, I have one more important question. Can we gently unfold our souls enough to offer God a spacious place where God might journey with us and through us? If not, if we haven’t been able to do this, maybe we can pray for this now, knowing that God’s desire for this is greater than our own. In our Gospel reading today in Luke, the chief priests and elders were questioning Jesus and in turn, he asked them, “The baptism of John—is it from heaven or from human origin?” (v. 4)

Though now I take this out of context, I am hearing a relationship between the question and our journey. Today, I want to check ‘just once more’ that I am ready to receive and walk in what God has prepared for us.

Lord, help me to be watchful of my course: that I don’t get sidelined, that my journey doesn’t become something of my own making, the result of circumstances and pressures around me.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 creates swirling echoes around Mary’s fiat, “a work of faith, labour of love and patience of hope”. Such is the nature of our pilgrimage. We are asking neither for ease nor consolation but rather participation in the work of God that bears the fruitfulness of Christ.

Sweet Gift of Hope, set our hearts mindfully on the path Christ has set before us, that from within the darkness and silence of winter, his light might shine through our lives.
Dorothy Dahli

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Psalm 146, 147 
Amos 1:1-5, 13-2:8 1 
Thessalonians 5:1-11 
Matthew 25.113 

It’s autumn. We treasure the light we have and the last warm days before winter. It’s a good season for a tale of virgins and lamps, a Bridegroom and a blazing banquet hall.

I imagine us as young ladies, gathered on an evening that still holds heat in the walls. We are the virgins with our candles, lamps, batteries, and torches. Chatting merrily, we make a cluster of light: If God looked down from the night sky he would see us as a little beacon, twinkling “over here, over here!” to the celestial Groom.

There are historical understandings about the virgins and their lamps; these help explain the urgency and excitement of their waiting. But while we should research what is culturally true of Jesus and his time, we are also asked to research what our own souls  have to say about listening in the dark, with our friends, awaiting the Guest.

My soul says: in my family and circles, in what I know of the world, in my ageing and failures amidst my flares of success, I feel darkness, I feel the cold. I yearn for the Lord’s return and I am staggered that this requires the patience of centuries. I know the night is long and my light uncertain: will it fail before the Groom arrives? If it fails, my face won’t glimmer out of the dark. If it fails, I will be invisible as he strides to the hall’s great doors.

But my soul also says: God bids us to shine by our very own lights. I hold my flame warm in my hands, and you hold yours, and these lights gleam out our unique faces to the world and to the Saviour. Tonight we are the flickering cluster that says: we are here! we are ready! We move in close together, to share the warmth of our lives. As we wait, there is much to discuss, in quiet campfire voices: our stories, our loves and losses; and there is time, much time, to rehearse the songs we’ll sing when we sight Him at last. I hold the light you have given me and I sing for you, Oh Christ. 

– Julie Poskitt