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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 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.

Thanksgiving

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