Advent Day 4

Advent is the Season of Hope

By Lynne Benson
a Selah Companion

Ad = towards

Venture = about to happen

I love playing with language, words, derivatives, and meanings and considering what is intended.  So, my little brain put together “advent” – looking forward to what is about to happen.  This advent season stirs the beginnings of what I can offer to my friends when I send out Christmas greetings.  I want to give something of meaning, and value, something of myself that took effort, thought, and the work of my person.  So, the last few years have been devoted to painting pictures for greeting cards.  While it might not have the intended meaning extended to the receiver in quite the way I began the work; I am drawn to what comes to mind as I look at life.

My first attempt was of Christmas ornaments hanging from the limb of a fir tree.  It is something that most people recognize, no matter what tradition, culture, or country of experience.  So many things come to mind.  If I want to decorate my world with my attitudes, actions, and presence, I realize I cannot hang in midair but need support and dangle in midair, hopefully showing off the reflected light of the other brilliance around and show that I get to be part of a great whole that graces that tree.  Not alone, hanging, dangling with others to make a more beautiful whole.

The candle painting from a different year displays light in a dark place.  Truthfully, my favorite part of the picture is the rounded glass holder that catches the drippings.  Something about how it catches the light and roundness warms me, a reminder that it doesn’t shine on its own.  It holds something of substance that supports a wick that runs through the waxy pillar that, by its composition, warms the hardened to a softened texture and lightens the dark.  Nothing of that pictured object works by itself.

My tree was intended to have a whimsical feel to it.  While in the cold, it holds up the softness of the snow, a tree that is a remembrance of nature, a symbol of the season we often bring into our homes to remind us of a holy-day (holiday), yet in some ways, seems a disconnect with the true meaning as it was kind of a non-biblical, non-Christian way of commemorating the birth of Christ which likely happened in a different season anyway.  

The picture beckoned something else – warmth; I wanted life to speak into what seemed cold.  While bunnies are not often out and about during this time, it just seemed fitting to have the little guy depicted.  Not only does it symbolize warmth to me, but they emerge in little bundles of fur into adolescent fluffs during the spring on our property.  I watch for them as they give me such delight.  Life.  Warmth is expected after the cold and dark of winter.  I look forward to the winter solstice as a reminder that the daylight hours will begin to lengthen.  The tree by itself seemed lonely.  The presence of the rabbit is a bit of hope; in turn, the tree is a bit of shelter: Christmas is the season of hope for our Shelter.

All considered, the conclusion is Emmanuel – God with us.  As I have compiled my thoughts in writing this, all these pictures bring the realization that we are not alone.  And isn’t that what God meant when it was said, “Come,” “I am with you,” “You will be with Me,” and “I will be with you”?  We are not alone.

My painting teachers often point out the need for light.  It is critical when painting realism that you consider “where your source of light is.”  It determines shading, the hues used, where the light hits the objects painted, and whether your finished illustration “makes sense.”  One of the most stirring things in pondering creative handiwork is the eye.  Imagine:  If the pupil of the eyes is too close together in a portrait, you can imagine what that person looks like.  More like a toon, I’d say.  If they are raised, the point, or the “apple of the eye,” as some name it, must be in the correct position for the viewer to know where the person is looking, and you tend to look in that direction and wonder what is being looked at.  Have you ever heard of someone being the “apple of one’s eye”?  That speaks to preciousness.  I find it funny that we also call it the pupil – a place of learning.  It is also a place that uses light and adjusts to it, and the cones of the eye allow for color to be perceived.  The eye’s structure, function, and workings are nothing short of miraculous.  By the way, our pupils widen in darkness to catch whatever bit of light possible.  My cat’s eyes become more beautiful when those huge, dark pupils enlarge.  His face looks more dear to me.  Do I strain to see the Light who calls me precious, and will the learning of my gaze widen with amazement at Beauty? Do I see the Light more clearly?

There are techniques such as the rule of thirds and the “s” curve to provide movement, so your “eye” will travel across the picture, clearer and more distinct in the foreground, less so for distance.  So many things that I have learned to help me to “see” my world differently, including the tremendous variations of green there are when I look at a wall of trees through the “eyes of my heart,” and meaning grows more profound.  Until someone pointed this out, I never would have recognized that, and now my awareness has been piqued for all kinds of details.  This creates profound wonder in the beauty I don’t want to miss and helps me see there is so much more to the world than I realize.  My Light is growing brighter, showing more details, and shining greater wonder into the beauty surrounding me.  And thus, begins my lessons on creativity.  They continue.

Advent Day 3

Sing We Noel

By Evelyn Gerardo Challis
a Selah Companion

Christmas came early this year.

An unexpected card this week with contact information. I had sought her for years, remembering that phone call long ago when she left a message, tentative in trust, expressing gratefulness for the gifts I sent as I sensed her vulnerability, not realizing she was grieving the death of her love. And unknown to me at that time, a profoundly spiritual death of another love. For years. 

Years ago, parents coerced her, unmarried, to adopt out her child; rejection of daughter and grandchild due to fear and shame; lacking boldness to embrace her life and the grandbaby’s life; instead, thrusting mother and child into a lifetime of confusion, shame, anger, rejection, the search for belonging. 

And why is this Christmas? 

A child was born. He once was lost. And now he’s found. She, unable to find him for years because family collusion with church authorities denied her access to the truth. And now he’s found, through the miracle of years of love and persistence. 

Christmas reminds us: To be persistent in love; to be a presence of peace; to be a sign of tenderness and strength in a fragmented world; to bring hope where sorrow and despair prevail; to rejoice that we belong. We are wrapped in the authenticity of Christ’s life, Christ who understands our humanity. Who does not judge but loves. Who does not reject but assures us that we belong. 

Christ is born and embodied in the grief and sorrow, pain, and isolation of all humanity. Christ is born and embodied in the authenticity of yearning and desire to continue searching for love. Christ is born and embodied in reconciliation and forgiveness, the claiming of truth, and owning of decisions that lead to separation. Christ is born and embodied in the courage to restore relationships. Christ is born, and this Christmas brings relief of one sort to this precious family, partnered with the grief of years apart, yet a new naming and embracing of one other as mother and son. Mother and son. 

This is Christmas. Sing we Noel. A child is born, Noel.

Advent Day 2

A Day of Quiet

Executive Director
Selah Center

Blessing in the Chaos

To all that is chaotic

in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamoring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
Let what divides you
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm.

By Jan Richardson, 
Painted Prayer Book

“Christmas, already?!!” Do you hear the impatience, the lack of wonder in the season, the when-will-it-be-over attitude? It’s why I need this blessing for all that is chaotic in my life. With this week, we start Advent. It’s a time to lead us gently into Christmas. To enter into my desired place of appreciating the birth of Jesus the Christ, I need a calming before the storm. And more, I need to cultivate spaciousness that allows God to open my heart in and through this season.

Selah begins the season with a Quiet Day today. It’s an opportunity to listen to the wonder and pregnant moments that this season can bring. In the quietness, we slow down long enough to “see what shimmers within the storm.” Join us if you can. Our Quiet Day for Listening into Advent begins at 9:30am. If you registered, check your email from Erika Mariani for the zoom link and materials to facilitate the day.

May this Advent, a time of waiting, be filled with sweet surprises that breathe new life into you. As fresh expressions of this season awaken in you, remember the birth of a human baby that reminds us of God’s tender and abiding love. Holy Advent, Merry Christmas.

Advent Begins Today


Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

The Revised Common Lectionary

Today we light the first candle in the Advent wreath.

What is a Lectionary?

Editor, Here & Now
& Selah Companion

Sharing in the same scripture through Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, we knit our community in ways that unite us through God’s word

Sharing in the same scripture through Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, we knit our community in ways that unify us through God’s word. For each of these scriptures provided, we are reading scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary that will be followed not only by those who participate in this blog but also by those all around the world who also use the Revised Common Lectionary. We are not alone as we connect with God through God’s words and with others who are being shaped by these words.

For some, the lectionary may be a new resource for use with scripture. Following the church calendar that begins with Advent and ends with Epiphany, we provide a scripture each week, starting with Thanksgiving, that opens us to explore the ways God can shape us through “His words.”

You can participate in these scriptures in a variety of ways throughout the Advent season:

  • You can focus on Lectio Divina, a sacred reading whereby the scripture reads you as you hold words in a contemplative posture.
  • You can use artistic expression through drawing, music, dance, or writing that responds to the words below. 
  • You can journal through the scriptures by using an Examen of gratitude for what these words say to you. 
  • You can engage with the reflections—the observations and responses to the given passages—as a source of encouragement, challenge, and/or comfort.

History of the Lectionary

 About the Revised Common Lectionary—A lectionary is a table of readings from Scripture appointed to be read at public worship. The Lectionary (1969, revised 1981) developed by the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican II provided for a three-year cycle of Sunday readings. This Roman lectionary provided the basis for the lectionary in the 1979 edition of The Book of Common Prayer, as well as for lectionaries developed by many other denominations.

The Common Lectionary, published in 1983, was an ecumenical project of several American and Canadian denominations, developed out of a concern for the unity of the church and a desire for a common experience of Scripture. It was intended to harmonize the many different denominational approaches to the three-year lectionary.

The Revised Common Lectionary, published in 1992 and officially adopted by The Episcopal Church in 2006, considered constructive criticism of the Common Lectionary based on evaluating its trial use. As the current prayer book lectionary, it is a three-year cycle of Sunday Eucharistic readings in which Matthew, Mark, and Luke are read in successive years, with some material from John read each year.

Lectio Divina

The Lectio Divina practice usually follows this process: read through the scripture to familiarize yourself with the passage; read a second time to listen for a word or phrase that surfaces for you; read a third time to let the word or phrase speak to your current situation; close with a prayer to ask the Spirit to let the word or phrase from the scripture shape you. That’s how “letting scripture read you” changes our approach from only reading scripture. (paraphrased from Eugene Peterson)

The Examen

The Examen practice starts with a time of reflection, noting what is life-giving in what you are reading, what is life-draining, and that for which you are grateful. Using this practice through the season allows you to see patterns that emerge in your discoveries

Listening in to Advent

A Quiet Day to Prepare Our Hearts

November 28, 2022

Register Here

Not Only for Christmas

Somehow not only for Christmas

But all the long year through

The joy that you give to others

Is the joy that comes back to you.

And the more you spend in blessing

The poor and lonely and sad,

The more of your heart’s possessing

Returns to make you glad.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Listening into Advent

November 28 @ 9:30 am – 2:30 pm PST

A Quiet Day to Prepare Our Hearts for the Season

The value of intentionally approaching the season with a prayerful heart lays a foundation for encountering God in the mystery of the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

Rather than falling prey to the frenzied expectations of gift giving and holiday gatherings that lose the meaning of Christmas, take this day to sit before the Holy One in quietness and rest. Whether in centering prayer or journaling or any combination of spiritual practices, the time spent with God opens you up to enter into the season with a centered heart.

Starting with a community who agrees to accompany one another on this quiet day, you’ll be given some tools to use as you want. Then for four hours, you can stay on Zoom in the silent presence of others or rejoin us for the closing time. We will end our time together by sharing how we intend to move into the Advent season

Register to receive materials and a Zoom invite.

A Sweet Treat for You

A Grown-Up Advent Calendar

By Debora Buerk
Editor, Here & Now
Selah Companion

As a kid, I looked forward to receiving an Advent calendar from my parents each Christmas. It helped mark the days until Christmas, a very exciting time for me as a child. There are many Advent calendars, but they typically have “doors” for each day leading up to Christmas. Each day you open a door to reveal an image, a poem, a portion of a story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus), or a small gift, such as a toy or candy. Or, perhaps a Bible verse or Christian prayer, which can be incorporated as part of daily Advent devotions. But, as a kid, I was after the chocolate! It was nearly as torturous to wait until the next day to open another door for chocolate as it was to wait for Christmas Day.

German Lutherans used the first Advent calendar in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their use has since spread to other Christian denominations.

Traditional Advent calendars feature the manger scene, Saint Nicholas, or a winter scene, while others range in theme from sports to technology. They come in many forms, from a simple paper calendar with flaps covering each day to fabric pockets on a background scene to painted wooden boxes with cubby holes for small items. The Advent calendars of my early childhood years were homemade. Later on, different types of calendars were commercially available.

Advent calendars aren’t necessarily two-dimensional. Some European villages create Advent calendars on buildings or even “living” Advent calendars, with different windows in a building decorated for each day of Advent.

As an adult, I still look forward to beginning an Advent calendar–although these days, I prefer reading my calendar rather than eating it. I lean toward devotion-based, bound books with a reading for each day–such as Jesus Calling for Christmas and Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent. Some I return to over and over. Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas has become a perennial favorite of mine.

I enjoyed reading my grandmothers’ copies of Christmas Ideals as a girl. If you haven’t guessed, it was the inspiration behind the design of  Wondrous Light: Through Advent and Christmas, published by Selah Center last year. 

A few months ago, as I searched for my grown-up Advent calendar, (I settled on The Carols of Christmas: Daily Advent Devotions on Classic Christmas Carols) and I wondered what an Advent Blog could look like.

So, I reached out to the writers from Selah’s Here & Now blog and the Selah Center books, asking them if they were up for the challenge of writing enough contemplative reflections for every day of Advent. The response was tremendous. Their writings started appearing in my inbox. 

My grown-up Advent calendar has become a community calendar. Starting today, “Here & Now” will publish a special series of reflections for Advent and Christmas daily. Not only did I receive enough writings through Advent, but also for Christmas Eve to New Year’s. I considered it a gift from Selah to read these reflections, and I hope you will also receive them as gifts. 

I hope you will look forward to opening a “new door” each day on the Here & Now blog and find a sweet treat to savor during Advent and Christmastide. I pray you’ll find my grown-up Advent calendar as delicious as the chocolate ones of my childhood. I can hardly wait until tomorrow…

I can smell the Christmas tree already.

Moravian Star

Moravian star is an illuminated decoration popular in Germany and places in Europe and America with Moravian congregations, notably the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and the area surrounding Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

The first Moravian star dates back to the 1830s at the Moravian Boys’ School in Niesky, Germany, as a geometry lesson or project. That star had 110 points based on a rhombicuboctahedron. Today’s star features 26 points.

Listening into Advent

Join us for a Quiet Day to Prepare Our Hearts for the Season

Monday, November 28th, 2023

Rather than falling prey to the frenzied expectations of gift-giving and holiday gatherings that lose the meaning of Christmas, take this day to sit before the Holy One in quietness and rest. Whether in centering prayer or journaling, or any combination of spiritual practices, the time spent with God opens you up to enter into the season with a centered heart.

Learn more about this event and register

Wondrous Light

Through Advent & Christmas

Are you longing to reconnect with the true spirit and spirituality of Christmas? Through reflections from the Revised Standard Lectionary Bible verses, creative writings, and light-filled, inspiring photography, Wondrous Light guides us through Advent, preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth deeply. The centerpieces of Wondrous Light are the personal reflections, poetry, and art contributed by Selah community members which encourage us to contemplate God’s purpose, impact, and action in our lives, during the holiday season and far beyond.

A special section highlights the ministry of National Geographic Traveler photographer and pastor Andrew E. Larsen, whose ministry promotes seeking truth and making peace between Christians and Muslims. Larsen’s extensive international travel inspires him to photograph beautiful landscapes and compelling portraits of the people he meets. Additionally, he’s produced two documentaries on peacemaking, and his photography calendar has been enormously popular over the past decade. 

The book is sold on Amazon, and the proceeds help enable the Selah Center to offer workshops and retreats. If you haven’t purchased one yet, don’t miss out. It’s truly a sweet treat.


You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Psalm 16:11

The Fullness of Joy

By Sandy Shipman
a Selah Companion &
part of the Selah community

Many of us fortunate Americans know the stuffed feeling after Thanksgiving. We ate more than our fill of turkey and stuffing, potatoes and gravy, yams with marshmallows, green bean casserole, and Brussels sprouts. (Every family has that dish that must be made, but few eat.) We garnished with some hotly debated form of cranberry puree and probably olives, one for each finger. We looked around the beautifully decorated table at the mounds of food left over and wanted more, but we were stuffed. Not another bite can be eaten. And we know more is waiting in the kitchen. One or more variations of pie: pumpkin, mincemeat, pecan, apple. This moment of plenty requires us to rest, to digest.

So it is when I practice gratitude. Giving thanks for my simple breakfast invites me to notice all the preparation that brought me my granola and yogurt and blueberries. I consider all the unknown hands that worked together, farmers, pickers, truckers, stockers, each with lives and dreams and aches and their own gratitudes. I marvel at the natural process that made a delicious berry come from a woody branch, that started as a tiny seed. And I have dozens of these tiny miracles right in my bowl! And how do I even fathom that creamy yogurt started in the earth as grass seed, and divinely became milk, and through fermentation of all things, becomes yogurt. I am stuffed already. I haven’t even considered yet the granola with all its different grains and seeds or the ceramic bowl itself, or the wooden table or the warm house or the loved ones within it. And I know more is waiting outside! How will I get anything done today with such a feast of blessings to notice, with so much thanks to give? This moment of plenty requires me to rest, to digest.

In your presence is fullness of joy.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Here & Now. We’re thankful for you.

Listening into Advent

Join us for a Quiet Day to Prepare Our Hearts for the Season

Rather than falling prey to the frenzied expectations of gift-giving and holiday gatherings that lose the meaning of Christmas, take this day to sit before the Holy One in quietness and rest. Whether in centering prayer or journaling, or any combination of spiritual practices, the time spent with God opens you up to enter into the season with a centered heart.

Learn more about this event and register

Join us beginning November 25 as Here & Now celebrates Advent and Christmas with a special series of reflections curated with you in mind. Like the Advent Calendar you enjoyed as a child, you’ll find a sweet contemplation to savor each day you open the Here & Now blog. I can smell the Christmas tree already. Debora Buerk, Editor, Here & Now