Dear Friends, we are beginning the beautiful season of Advent and the start of a new Church Year with the Cycle B texts and the Gospel of Mark, the apostle. Mark tends to be someone of few words–just the facts, we might say. These four weeks are a wonderful opportunity for us to check in with our loving God who continually waits for us… Advent is a time of waiting–putting off for a bit the joy of Christmas as we prepare our hearts and minds as we would prepare for any special guest to our home.
We find ourselves now living amid a pandemic, hoping for many good changes with a new administration in Washington. These are hard times calling for the best from each of us. We are completing our Thanksgiving weekend and for many of us–most of us, this holiday of family and friends looked different as we are struggling to come to terms with a virus we can’t see and for unity to be restored within our country realizing that we can get through this time if we all work together. Let that be our prayer going forward. If I can be of help to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to be in contact: 507-429-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace and love to all–Pastor Kathy
To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame. Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame.
Let Us Pray
Mother and Father God, in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of Jesus’ coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother, you, our Creator, and the Spirit of us all, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
- Isaiah 63: 16-17, 64: 1-8
- 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
- Mark 13: 33-37
My friends, you know, because I share with you every year, that Advent is probably my favorite time in the Church Year. This time of “expectant waiting” is then followed by my next favorite time, the Christmas Season, which says, in so many ways, how much our God loves us. And, if we can make the connections—in our own lives, through the ways we reach out in love; we will continue this precious gift of loving, first bestowed on us by our God. But, I am getting ahead of myself—back to that “expectant waiting” for a bit.
The whole notion of expectant waiting is such a rich and life-giving concept. For those of you who have been blessed with physically carrying new life, the idea of pregnant expectation can be very meaningful this time of year. But whether or not one has actually carried physical life within; we have all grown the “life” of new ideas within, or made plans to renew our world through education and projects that benefit not only us, but the wider world. And, we know the joy of carrying such tasks to completion.
That is where we are in our Church calendar—expectantly awaiting the time when our God will be fully present in our midst—a phenomena that happens little by little our whole lives until it comes to completion at the end of our time here—at the end of our journey of love.
Kathleen Norris, in one of her less known books, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, speaks some wisdom on the notion of “waiting.” “Waiting,” she says, “seems at odds with progress”—[what most of us, or many of us seem to be about in our modern world] and we seldom ask whether it might have a purpose in and of itself. Etymology helps us here, [she continues], for when we look up the word, wait, we are instructed to see, vigor. Waiting then, is not passive, but a vigilant and watchful activity designed to keep us aware of what is really going on. Isaiah evokes this radical waiting,” [she says], “as a source of vitality:” ‘Those who wait for [Our God] shall renew their strength/they shall mount up with wings like eagles,’ (Isaiah 40: 31).
Both Isaiah in chapter 63, today’s 1st reading, and in the Gospel of Mark, continue this theme of “waiting expectantly” and underscore the notion that this activity is anything but, stagnant. Mark as a writer, tends to be a “man of few words,” getting right to the point—“stay alert—be constantly on the watch.”
If we ask any child this time of year about “waiting” for Christmas to come, we probably will hear, “I can’t wait!” Children don’t see any purpose in waiting, but we adults know the truth of what Kathleen Norris and Isaiah are saying—that waiting makes us strong and that, this is good for us. And we will tell our children and grandchildren much the same.
In truth, I must add that even though we adults know this truth—that waiting makes us strong; we too, at times, find it hard, to wait. In this time of pandemic; we find ourselves waiting for many things: new leadership that is truly concerned about all the people, a vaccine so that we can all, once again, feel safe from a virus we can’t see, thus ushering in that time when we can all be physically together again—Zoom Masses are the next best thing, but I think we are all longing to be in each other’s physical presence again! I believe Paul’s words to the Corinthians on this 1st Sunday of Advent ring true for us, “I continually thank my God for you because of the gift bestowed on you in Christ Jesus.” Or, in simpler terms—I feel so fortunate that our loving God gave us to each other—as a community.
And again, Isaiah reminds us, “No ear has ever heard, nor eye has ever seen any God like you.” Additionally, he reminds us that this God is, “intervening for those who wait,” [that God is whatever you need God to be, including], “our mother or father,” [that we are truly], “the work of [God’s] hands!”
So, my good friends, if you, like me, set up an Advent Wreath of life-giving green boughs and blue candles, representing “hope” in the green, the strength of our mother-sister, Mary, and the blessed nature of her son, Jesus, ever “waiters,” with us, of God’s goodness, in the blue, with a white candle for the third week, representing the joy over a God “wanting” so much to be with us, and, “almost here,” then you have much symbolism to reflect on these next four weeks!
Besides the idea of “expectant waiting,” the other over-riding theme of Advent is that of hope. Kathleen Norris makes the connection well, I think, of “expectant waiting” and hope in the notion of, “making a hop.” She says of it, “To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better. If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there—no matter how hopeless your situation may appear.
Advent is a special time given each of us to truly consider who we are at our core—what it is that we get up for each day—what it is that drives our lives. I call this our “spiritual selves,” that deep part of us that is the best we have to offer.
Last week we concluded the Year of Grace 2020, which included so much—for so many—a year to remember, perhaps to forget. We celebrated, not a king above us, but a servant, among us. Jesus, our brother and friend, an ever-present example, shows us the way through the beautiful days of Advent and into the Christmas season—may we be “expectant waiters,” vigilant—staying fully awake, keeping our hold on hope and living with full hearts. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “O God let us see your face.”
- O God, be with us each day of this holy season of Advent—draw us ever closer to you that we might truly see you in each person that we meet, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
2. For all elected leaders in our country, may the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow them to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our world, we pray— Response: “O God let us see your face.”
- O God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit, and especially be with those walking with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses today, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
- For those in our midst who have less than the basics of life, help each of us O God, to always see them, and work to alleviate the core causes of their suffering, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
- For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would strive to bring peace to our world, especially assist us as a nation to work for unity, now, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
- For all those who suffer from mental illness, all those who are depressed, lonely and sad, help each of us to bring your love, dear Jesus, we pray— Response: “O God let us see your face.”
- For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
8. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones from COVID and all other causes, this week,—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “O God let us see your face.”
***Let us pray for all the silent petitions on our hearts—pause—then response
Let Us Pray
Loving and merciful God, we praise you today for all your compassionate care toward each of us, especially in your most generous gift of Jesus to us. Give us the strength to always follow his path, sharing the gifts of our earth and world with all, especially the least among us. Be with us this Advent to share your gifts of faith, hope, love and mercy with all who come into our lives. All of this we ask of you who are our God, living and loving us in Jesus, the Creator and Spirit, forever and ever—Amen!
Let Us Pray—Again, we are not meeting in person, but through our prayers and even though we can’t share the bread of the altar, we know that you, Jesus, are always with us.
Prayer of Communion
Jesus, may the time we spend with you, teach us to love heaven. May its promise and hope guide our way on earth and especially during this Advent. We ask this through you with the Creator and Spirit who lives and loves us forever and ever. Amen.