Advent 2019 – Day 15

Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Is son Isaac was born to him.  Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”  And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?  Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”  The child grew and was weaned and Abraham made a great fest on the day that Isaac was weaned.

Genesis 21:5-8

We began this Advent by reflecting on the hope of the promises of God to the oppressed and the exiled – prophecies of a coming Messiah.  This past week, we contemplated that hope lived out as faith, the faith of God’s people that His promises were true, and God’s faithfulness to fulfill what He has promised.

With this third week of Advent we light the candle of Joy – the realization and fulfillment of all these things.

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Advent 2019 – Day 13

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’  I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.”  John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.  I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’  I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

The magi knew the King had come because they were watching the skies.  Simeon knew the Messiah had come because the Spirit called him to the temple.  John knew the Lamb of God had come because he had seen the Spirit descend on upon Him.

What do all these have in common?  I mean, besides enviable divinely revealed and clearly defined signs of confirmation?

They were all watching.  They were all looking.  They were all waiting, yes, but waiting with expectation, expectation that God would fulfill His promise.

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Advent 2019 – Day 12

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Verse/Antiphon 3 (Part II)

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Yes, I’m still on this verse.  And it’s only partly because I am a nerd.

Then a shoot will spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11: 1

See that imagery?  A shoot/branch coming up from the roots after the plant is cut down?  That’s adventitious growth right there – when a branch grows from a place you wouldn’t normally find a growth node.  It’s some pretty pernicious asexual propagation used by the most determined of plant species to keep coming back even when you’ve mowed it to the ground.  Know why that wisteria you planted now has a couple dozen clones coming up throughout your yard?  Adventitious growth. And here we’ve got the stubborn remnant of God’s people popping back up after being mowed down by years of oppression – adventitious growth! 

Ok, end of bio-nerd geek out.

Why I’m really still on the references to Jesus as the rod of Jesse is because there is more to unpack; they speak so well to what He has done, is doing, and will do.

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Advent 2019 – Day 11

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit to the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”  And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:25-35

These eleven verses are all we hear of Simeon, yet they reveal a great deal about his character and add to the early insight of who Jesus would become. 

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Advent 2019 – Day 10

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Verse/Antiphon 3

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.  And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

Isaiah 11:1-4

Just before he speaks of the coming stem/rod of Jesse, Isaiah tells of God’s coming wrath toward the Assyrians and all those who “enact evil statutes,” “record unjust decisions,” “deprive the needy of justice, and “rob the poor of [their] rights.” (Isaiah 10:1-2) On the heels of this vengeance, one might expect the rod of Jesse to be depicted as a warrior in the spirit of David, or as a glorious king in the spirit of Solomon.

Instead, the stem of Jesse comes in the Spirit of the LORD, and His character is one of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and righteous judgement.  God, Himself, has laid out a plan for vengeance on the oppressor. Now He speaks to the core need of His people – because cries for vengeance really come from the unfulfilled need for justice.

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Advent 2019 – Day 7

I firmly believe art can be a devotional tool. This is an image that I have been meditating on this week, that has spoken deeply to my own heart.

Mary and Eve, was created by Sister Grace of the Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey. (Available in many forms here.)

As we mark the end of the first week of Advent, I invite you to spend some time contemplating this image, and reflecting on the prophecies surrounding our Messiah.

I like to pair it with this song of expectation:

Advent 2019 – Day 6

Clear Creek State Park, PA

Romans 8:18-25 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

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Advent 2019 – Day 5


Verse 2

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might, who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height,

in ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.

If you asked me to write a couplet based on the prophecy of one called the Lord of might, or mighty God, coming for His people, I would instinctively be inclined to a much different angle.  After all, the people of Israel were often under attack – in need of a mighty God to be their champion; or else they were in captivity – in need of a mighty God to be their liberator.

So why would the author of this antiphon choose instead to highlight the Lord of might as the giver of the law?  Surely there are any number of other monikers with which this would pair better. Continue reading

Advent 2019 – Day 4


Isaiah 59:1-2 & 20 — Behold, the LORD’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so He does not hear.

“A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” declares the LORD.

As ever, Israel is a microcosm of God’s story for us. As their transgressions kept them from the promised land, so too our sins have kept us from God’s presence. We have always been exiles. But, even in the depths, God sees. In our most dire separation, there is hope in the prophecy that a redeemer will come. Continue reading