2020 Advent Contemplations

Wednesday 23 December

In the week we remember the Holy Spirit coming upon and overshadowing Mary comes a poem by Noel Davis.

Tuesday 22 December

In these final days of preparation, especially as some of our plans feel tenuous, at risk of being undone, this reflection from Richard Rohr is both encouraging and challenging.

To be present to something is to allow the moment, the person, the idea, or the situation to influence us and even change us. Our word for that is vulnerability. Could that be why we are afraid of such a stance? We give the event control over us, and none of us like that. Jesus’ mother, Mary, is a succinct model of such vulnerability. Her “yes” is an assent that comes from the deep well of self. It does not come through logic or reasoning but through profound vulnerability––the opposite of egocentricity. It risks being wrong or being taken advantage of, and allows and forgives reality for being what it is. Mary is able to calmly, wonderfully trust that Someone Else is in charge.

Monday 21 December

Anglican solitude and author Maggie Ross was asked to write 10,000 words on “My Theology.” After pondering, Ross came up with two words, eucharistic entanglement and, in an Advent reflection for this year, she reflects on this compelling phrase.

In spite of all the doom and gloom the light does shine in the darkness and the mystery of the Incarnation is not only with us at this season but in every season; we encounter it most directly in the Eucharist. Maybe “peace on earth, good will among peoples” is part of what could be if we recognised that life is eucharist and everything in creation is entangled with everything else in the love of God.

Friday 18 December

In a reflection on the Advent season, Thomas Merton challenges us to continue the work of John the Baptiser, noticing and naming the presence of Christ in our world as life changes and is even dismantled at times.

But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that his plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to his will. Our Advent is the celebration of this hope. What is uncertain is not the “coming” of Christ but our own reception of him, our own response to him, our own readiness and capacity to “go forth to meet him.” We must be willing to see him and acclaim him, as John did, even at the very moment when our whole life’s work and all its meaning seem to collapse. Indeed, more formidable still, the Church herself may perhaps be called upon some day to point out the Victorious Redeemer and King of Ages amid the collapse of all that has been laboriously built up by the devotion of centuries and cultures that sincerely intended to be Christian.

Thursday 17 December

Yesterday, we picked the first ripe tomato from the bush in our backyard. This morning I nursed a galah who came to our front yard to die near the birdbath. In response, I share this poem from Mary Oliver’s book “Thirst,” written in the year after her long-term partner’s death. It is the fourth stanza from the poem “Six Recognitions of the Lord.”

Of course I have always known you
are present in the clouds, and the
black oak I especially adore, and the 
wings of birds. But you are present
too in the body, listening to the body,
teaching it to live, instead of all
that touching, with disembodied joy.
We do not do this easily. We have
lived so long in the heaven of touch,
and we maintain our mutability, our
physicality, even as we begin to
apprehend the other world. Slowly we
make our appreciative response.
Slowly appreciation swells to 
astonishment. And we enter the dialogue
of our lives that is beyond all under-
standing of conclusion. It is mystery.
It is love of God. It is obedience.

Tuesday 15 December

The sermons of Oscar Romero, martyred Archbishop of El Salvador, continue to challenge us. These stirring words from his 1978 Christmas Eve sermon invite us to get in touch with our emptiness, our spiritual and real poverty.

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.The self-sufficient,
the proud,
those who, because they have everything,
look down on others,
those who have no need even of God––
for them there will be no Christmas.
Only the poor,
the hungry,
those who need someone to come on their behalf
will have someone.
That someone is God,
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

Monday 14 December

We begin the third week of Advent with Noel Davis’ “In the Silence of Prayer.”

Be still a while.
Let me speak to your heart.
Dear God-With-Us
You open our hearts
to our best self
in choosing to live
what they discern for us.
Dear God-With-Us
teach us how to pray
to be ourselves with You
to listen and heed
what our hearts ask of us
in the silence of prayer.

Friday 11 December

For today comes another gem from poet Mary Oliver, an invitation to pause and take in the song of life.

 Oh do you have time
 to linger
 for just a little while
 out of your busy
 and very important day
 for the goldfinches
 that have gathered
 in a field of thistles
 for a musical battle,
 to see who can sing
 the highest note,
 or the lowest,
 or the most expressive of mirth,
 or the most tender?
 Their strong, blunt beaks
 drink the air
 as they strive
 not for your sake
 and not for mine
 and not for the sake of winning
 but for sheer delight and gratitude—
 believe us, they say,
 it is a serious thing
 just to be alive
 on this fresh morning
 in this broken world.
 I beg of you,
 do not walk by
 without pausing
 to attend to this
 rather ridiculous performance.
 It could mean something.
 It could mean everything.
 It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
 You must change your life. 

Thursday 10 December

Today or tomorrow we may wish to bookend our morning and evening with these prayers from the Iona Community.

Wednesday 9 December

This is the beautiful chorus by Christopher Grundy which began our worship on Sunday 8 December ––a prayer for waiting, waking and openness. Well worth having in our “playlist” this season.

We are waiting for you
Knowing that you always abide
We are waking to your presence
And our hearts are open wide, open wide, open wide

Tuesday 8 December

A simple prayer from Noel Davis as we begin the day.

Monday 7 December

As we begin the second week of Advent, a reminder of how we started gathered worship yesterday. 

Editor Nathan Scolare writes in the December edition of Dumbofeather: “We have been told for too long that the only important thing is how much we do: how much we work, how much we acquire, how much we solve. It’s a lie, and we are exhausted. I get that there is urgency in the air, on so many levels, but what if the best foot we can put forward right now is lying in the grass for a couple of hours and closing our eyes? What if, instead of numbing-out with television on a weeknight, we lit a bonfire in the yard and sat around it with our loved ones? Rest, in these times of great flux, is a revolutionary act.”

The first “article” in the magazine is a two-page lilac coloured spread with white words in the corner that read: “This is a moment to pause and bring some spaciousness into your day. You might want to focus on your breath, or scan the body. Take as much time as you’d like to simply be still.”

Friday 4 December

A prayer from the late Brother Roger, founder of the Taize Community.

Thursday 3 December

A little something from Leunig for today to help us focus on the important things and how we might pay attention to them.

Wednesday 2 December

The simple yet profound poetry of Mary Oliver often brings wisdom and a needed refocus. Amidst the varied (and real) concerns of this day, may we make time to be and sing as we wait in hope during this Advent season.

Tuesday 1 December

The Season of Advent reminds us that there is more love and goodness to be received. Spend a few minutes getting in touch with your deepest desires for the world… for those you love… for yourself. 

When you are ready, you might pray with this version of the Advent hymn “Come, thou long expected Jesus.” Charles Wesley’s words have been set to a number of tunes including HYFERDOL, which I personally grew up singing. Here is a youthful version by a band in Kentucky:

Monday 30 November

A prayer by NSW poet Noel Davis for this first Monday in the Season of Advent: