Advent Day 12

Shepherds

By Kathleen Heppell,
Selah Companion

While we prepare for sleep and night watch of our sheep, the fire warms us. Sky cloudless, black, yet bright with stars… We whisper… how such beauty takes our breath away.

A blinding light. Bright as day. Stunned. Paralyzed. Will we die? “Fear not.” we hear, shaking as we fall on our faces, our arms covering our heads. These words… we try to make sense of what we hear and have seen. 

Lifting our heads, we see an angel announcing Rejoice! Rejoice! The Messiah is born this night in Bethlehem, as scripture foretold. Wrapped snugly in clothes, lying in a manger.

Our Savior lying in a manger?

The sky becomes brighter as the heavenly host sings, filling us with joy as we have never known. We hear Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.

And then they are gone, leaving us with baaing sheep, our fire, and one another. 

How is it that He chose us,

lowly shepherds,

to hear and see

the good news?

We must see our Savior. No one wants to be left behind, yet our sheep must be protected. We don’t argue in our usual ways; a hush among us as we decide who will go into Bethlehem. The fastest run toward the sleeping town to the stable at the inn guided with a knowing in our hearts. 

We stop in front of the opening. Panting, we gather ourselves. How to enter this place with the promised Savior within? This smelly stable is Holy. Our overflowing joy gives unfamiliar confidence. We enter in silence. Oldest to youngest, our torches held high.

There he is, a baby lying in a manger, wrapped in snug clothes. Nearby his parents sit up, rubbing their eyes, questions on their faces. “The angel of the Lord told us our Savior, the Messiah, was born this night. We have come to worship.”

They nod in understanding, with curiosity and awe on their faces. We fall to our knees. Foreheads to the ground, we praise the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Adonai, and in our midst, Immanuel, just as was promised.

We know within our depths…

at the right time…

this baby will grow up to

lead us and redeem us.

Strange… the smells of animals would be incensed to our God. Somehow we know our presence, the offering of our hearts and voices, is pleasing to the Lord Most High.

We excitedly share more of our story with Mary and Joseph. Tired as they are, they, too, praise our God, who keeps His promises. We leave as dawn begins to kiss the earth. Travelers and shopkeepers on the road look at us as worse than the dirt they walk on. They hear us praising God to the highest heaven; we don’t care who we awaken.

Shrinking back from the stench of our clothes, they cannot miss the glory shining, like Moses, upon our countenance when they look at our faces. “Our Savior is born this day in the stable just down the road. The angel of the Lord told us; the heavenly host sang praises. It was the darkest night yet shone brighter than the noonday sun!”

Trying to take in what we are saying, they can see our joy. Some shake their heads, “Shepherds! The heavenly host coming to them? The Savior of the world born in a stable? How can that be?”

We tell them, see for yourselves, providing directions… While some seem curious, most keep shaking their heads. They don’t seem to want to see for themselves.

Yet nothing dampens our overflowing joy. Returning to our flocks, we tell everyone.

As we watch over our sheep, we ponder within ourselves and to one another how is it that He chose us, lowly shepherds, to hear and see this good news. How did He choose this young couple, peasants, to be His parents? How is it that the Messiah was born in a stable? And we ask, when will He deliver His people? 

We know within our depths… at the right time… this baby will grow up to lead us and redeem us.

Advent Day 11

Incarnate One

By Beth Griffith,
Selah Companion

Christ 

Levels the playing field

Meets me where I am

Knows me as I am 

Fully human,

Him

Me

In the face of a client

In the company of a friend 

In the hearts of young adult daughters 

In the voice and touch of my lover 

In my own brokenness and fears

Incarnate One

Christ

Levels the playing field

Meets me where I am

Knows me as I am

Fully human 

Him

Me

Advent Day 10

Light Comes on Purpose

By John Kiemele,
The Rolling Ridge Retreat Center
and the Selah community

Light streaks across galaxies, time and skies

Eyes blink, feet stop, hearts squint

Light squeezes through shadows in slivers and shards

Knots unravel, twists unwind, turns unbend

Light bursts through and holds her face

Pains pause, injustice sighs, tensions fade

Light cries joy and goodness and enduring peace

Gentleness clears her throat, forgiveness reaches, wisdom shimmers

Light from the stars draws light through all scars

Darkness shudders, dreams widen, love winks

Light comes on purpose

Light creates lift

Light renews life
 
breath by breath

beat by beat

hope upon hope


Editor’s Note: John Kiemele founded the Selah Center in the early 2000s and served as its Executive Director until 2010, when his family moved to Massachusetts. Selah Center is part of a growing international movement centered around contemplative living. DRB

Advent Day 9

O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth


Long lay the world in sin and error pining


‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth


A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices


For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn


Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!


O night divine, O night when Christ was born


O night, O Holy night, O night divine!

Soul Felt Its Worth

By Sandy Shipman,
Selah Companion

She struggles with perfection, wants every detail just so. It sounds like criticism.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

Anxiety fills his mind. Overwhelms. He lashes out.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

She wants answers. Clarity. Solutions. Fix it!
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

He wants peace and retreat. Life interrupts. He withdraws.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

She wants obedience. Conformity. Goodness.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

He wants respect, honor, legacy.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

She wants, he wants, they want, yearn, ache, grasp, fight, flail.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

Second Week of Advent

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Day 8

Scriptures

Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

from The Revised Common Lectionary

Peace


God of peace,


Instill in us Your peace


That surpasses all understanding.


As we prepare for God’s coming,


Make us instruments of Your peace


And held us to find rest


In the Prince of Peace


Your Son, Jesus the Christ.


Amen.


ON THIS SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT, we light the candle of peace. A state of being that means tranquility, mental calm, and serenity. We bring our request before God in asking for peace, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. Christmas is typically a time of celebration and joyous expectations. 

Anticipating the Christ

By Debora Buerk
Editor, Here & Now
& Selah Companion

Advent.

[ˈadˌvent] (noun).

Old English, from the Latin

adventus ‘arrival’

and from advenire,

from ad- ‘to’ + venire ‘come’.

Synonyms: arrival,
birth, approach, nearing.

For Christians, Advent is a time spent preparing for Christmas. For many of us, this can include decorating our homes, putting up a Christmas tree, creating an Advent calendar, writing Christmas cards, gathering with family and friends for dinner, and giving gifts.  

The word Advent originates in Old English from the Latin word “adventus,” or “coming”—the arrival of God in human form, umbilical cord, and all. 

While some are tempted to think of Christmas as an event to be observed at the end of the calendar year, they would miss the origin and meaning of Advent.

We don’t know when the period of preparation for Christmas, now called Advent, began. It existed from about 480, with the Council of Tours in 567. What we know and celebrate is a time of preparation for Christmas Day, when we celebrate the birth or beginning of the Christian liturgical year. 

Advent anticipates the “coming of Christ” from three different perspectives:

  1. The physical Nativity in Bethlehem
  2. The reception of Christ in the heart of the believer
  3. The eschatological second coming 

This third meaning, I believe, was the focus of the early church—to wait for Christ’s second coming. This, however, has become downplayed among today’s Christians.

What if our focus

was to shift to waiting

for Christ’s

second coming?

What if our focus shifted to waiting, anticipating, and preparing for the King’s return to earth, the defeat of Satan and sin, and peace on earth? Now that would be something to anticipate and celebrate.

So this Advent season, as you decorate for Christmas, sing the carols, and light the advent wreath, try to anticipate—look forward to Christ’s return and, with it, peace on earth. What if we wished each other a “Blessed Advent” as a prelude to “Merry Christmas?”

In doing so, we can simultaneously give and receive the love of God to each other—as we anticipate and draw near his birth.

I wish you a joy-filled Advent for all of us in the growing Selah community.

Advent Day 7

Contemplative Life & Selah Center

By MARY PANDIANI
Executive Director
Selah Center

Pauses hold possibilities, hope, healing, and perspective. Encounters engage all of who we are with the one who created us. Growth happens in love which moves us towards wholeness through the freedom of God’s abiding presence.

This is the invitation Selah offers through its unique charism—the gift given to others—the pause, the encounter, and growing together. Our intention statement below reflects the space from what is to what can be, a new moment, pregnant with the power of the Spirit who imbues life, abundant life:

Selah is a welcoming community

that PAUSES,

ENCOUNTERS the Spirit through

contemplative practices, and

GROWS TOGETHER toward wholeness

and loving others.

Our name, Selah, is birthed out of noticing the value of pausing before responding. From the Hebrew Psalms and Old Testament books, Selah means to lift up within a song of praise and in times of lament. It gives space between one stanza and another to offer breath amidst what is given. 

By being a “welcoming community,” we reflect the value of hospitality that welcomes those who want to come to the table of what we offer and who we are. These values reinforce that we believe all belong to God, and as a community, we hope to accompany those who want to know God in deeper and more meaningful ways. 

For the verbs, we choose “pause,” “encounter,” and “grow together”—verbs that sustain our priorities of what it means to be part of Selah. 

Pause.

Encounter.

Grow Together.

Pausing offers the opportunity to be present to those around us, to ourselves, and God.

Encountering means that God is already present in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, along with the ongoing work of the Spirit, who is the Divine presence. Through spiritual practices, we find the necessary scaffolding to prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies for God’s presence. 

The pausing, the practicing, and the awareness that comes with contemplation flourish in places where we gather with others to share in the presence of God. Our hope through pausing, encountering, and growing together leads us to greater wholeness and loving others. 

This contemplative life is not meant for ourselves alone. In the fullness of God’s loving embrace, we can extend ourselves in uncomfortable and challenging places, knowing that the stretching and risking lead to healing for wholeness, reflecting in the person God has created us to be.

Through this intention, we listen for God’s invitation to this place of wholeness and loving others. Knowing that it is not by our efforts, we live into God’s embracing love and grace that beckon us into deeper places of community with one another, ourselves, and God. In a world of rhetoric and noise, a place of speed that over-speaks and interrupts, a society that wants certainty without its gift of mystery, Selah offers a posture of listening through the pause, encounter, and growth.

And yet…waiting is at the heart of this season called Advent. We anticipate the joy of once again celebrating the Light that has come into the world. Receiving that good news with joy requires preparation. Advent allows us to join others and God while we wait and prepare. In the waiting, can we also be alert to the wondrous light that seeks to shine through every ordinary moment? Advent is a time to pay careful attention to that gift of Light.

Advent Day 6

Imagine

By Zoanna Pearson
Selah Companion

I wonder what you thought when we changed Christmas into “The Holidays?”
When the star on the tree top became a decoration rather than The Star of Bethlehem?

When we sang Santa Claus Is Coming To Town instead of Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel?
When are we more concerned with wrapping gifts than lighting the Sabbath candle?

We create such turmoil in our souls juggling our schedules to fit in one more party, one more gift exchange, host one more dinner
Sweet Baby Jesus, you came to us helpless, humble, a newborn, a swaddled Messiah.

Holy Spirit, help us imagine this birth to —

feel the warmth of cattle breath,

hear the lullaby of bleating lambs, 

smell the earthiness of clean hay, 

taste the nourishment from a nursing Mother, see tears of joy in the eyes of a new father,

I am wondering if this Christmas might be different?
If there may be moments each day when we stop to truly imagine and enter into the birth of the Infant King

So our souls may be stilled 

and in awe, we remember.

Advent Day 5

Gratitude, Unwrapped

By Edie Finnell,
Selah Companion

One of my favorite picture books is Pearl Buck’s Christmas Day in the Morning. It tells the story of an older man remembering Christmas past. He recalls when he was a young boy who wanted to give his father a gift to show him how much he is loved. He takes time to consider how much he values his father and longs to give him something special, even though he can afford very little. 

In a flash of excitement, he surprises his father by doing his father’s chores. The boy gets up in the early dark of morning and performs all his father’s chores in the yard, and sneaks back into bed. As a reader, I anticipate, with the boy, the moment his father realizes what has happened. He receives the gift with surprise and wonder, deeply touched by his son’s selfless, meaningful act.

This story makes me wonder what it would be like to give gifts in such a mindful way. In recent years, holiday gift buying has become more of a to-do checklist and a “buy now” click. 

What if

I were to

take a moment

to speak a word

of blessing

for each daughter

in gratitude

for their place

in my life?

With three daughters, I’m often more concerned about equity than the actual gifts themselves. I wonder what it would be like to pause more during this gift-buying season and think more about the person and less about the gift. 

Instead of checking off a box and ensuring I have my bases covered, what if I were to take a moment to say a word of blessing for each daughter in gratitude about their place in my life? It is a small practice, yet like the boy in the story, gift-giving can be a transformative experience of letting someone know they are deeply treasured and loved. I can forget this during the hurried pace of the holidays, but I long to remember what matters. Perhaps the seemingly tiny act of pausing extends such an invitation. 

May this season, which can be complicated, offer moments of pausing to remember those you love and have loved and move you to breathe deeply in gratitude for the gift of their lives.

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

By MARY PANDIANI
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
cease.
Let what divides you
cease.
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
possible
and see what shimmers
within the storm.

By Jan Richardson, 
Painted Prayer Book
.com

“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

FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Scripture
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?

By DEBORA BUERK
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. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/about-revised-common-lectionary/

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