Daily Devotions

The Sacred Spirituality of Advent

main image

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

We are already into the season of Advent. The rush of decorating our homes and purchasing our Christmas presents is in full swing. Jill and I are getting ready for this Friday, with our staff Christmas party. With all this activity, if we are not careful, we will get all the way to Christmas Eve without experiencing the spiritually powerful season of Advent. Let’s look at the spiritual gift Advent is to our faith.

Advent comes from the Latin, adventus, which is a translation of the Greek word Parousia, which speaks of the Second Coming of Christ. Advent looks forward to the Second Coming of Christ. As we read the lectionary Scriptures of the ancient people waiting on the coming Messiah, we can relate as we wait for the Messiah to come again. Our waiting is active and not passive.

We, Christians, perform a number of spiritual activities to enhance the meaning of the seasons. We might keep an Advent calendar; we light an Advent wreath at home and at Sunday worship; read a daily devotion; we put up our Christmas tree with decorations; and, hang the greens. Not all the activities are visible. Advent is a sometimes considered a time of fasting, to enhance one’s focus on the sense of waiting for sustenance amidst discomfort. It matters less what form of spiritual discipline you use, than you focus on your faith during this period of the Church year.

Advent is a shorter length of time than Lent. Advent consists of the four Sundays that are reflected in the four candles at the four corners of the Advent wreath. They encircle the central, white candle, that we light on Christmas Eve. The white candle is called, the Christ candle, because it was brought to flame on the night we celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Do not let the rush of Advent pass by without experiencing the spiritual rituals of this holiday season. By participating in the rituals of Advent, Christmas comes alive and the coming of the Messiah is experienced as a past blessing and a future joy. Pray for God to speak to your heart and mind, giving you the Advent and Christmas blessing found in spiritual waiting, before experiencing the fulfillment on Christmas Eve night. May God bless us all, this Advent and Christmas season!

How You Practice Is How You Live

main image

But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)

About 25 years ago, I was on the board of a homeless shelter. This not-for-profit did great things and its Director was passionate about the issue of homeless. As time went on, it became apparent the Director was more concerned about homeless in theory, than about caring for the homeless around him. The Director found every reason to be away from the restored motel where homeless families were cared for. When he went to homeless conferences, he stayed at $300 per night penthouses (that would be about $900 in today’s money). That is when the board finally terminated his employment. One cannot have a commitment in theory, yet ignore that commitment in practice. How you practice is how you live.

It was Booker T. Washington who said, “Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the everyday things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon.” It is when our beliefs and our commitments fail to align that dysfunction takes place. This dysfunction creates unhealthy compartmentalization. One of the worst examples of this dysfunctional compartmentalization is the Roman Catholic Church’s issue with priests who have abused children. I am sure the vast majority of these dysfunctional priests have given their lives to the faith, and have done many profound actions in their ministries, but still, they compartmentalize the horrific acts of child sexual abuse. This is an extreme example of theory and actions not being in harmony. 

Another example of spiritual disunity is the person of faith who also struggles with alcoholism. The person wants to live a life in unity with Christ’s example, but their alcohol abuse leaves them hurting those around them and damaging her/his body, mind, and soul. The person rationalizes their destructive actions by saying, “alcoholism is a disease.” The response needs to be, “Yes, and someone with a disease needs to get help before the disease kills.” 

Today, reflect on your own life. Have you created any unhealthy compartments in your life? Is there someone you love who is struggling with a dysfunctional disparity between what they rationally affirm, and how they act? Pray for those who are not being guided by a spiritual ethic, leaving their beliefs and actions at odds. Finally, give thanks to the God who makes all things possible. No struggle or disease is beyond God’s ability to heal and restore!

12345678910 ... 399400