Category Archives: Advent

Christmas Hope

DSC_0076

There is a wondrous poem found in many places on the Internet. Maybe you have seen it. It does a wondrous job of reminding us of that truth. It is titled, “Do You Still Have Hope?” I’m going to shorten it just a little bit, but hear its message:

If you can look at the sunset and smile, then you still have hope . . . If you can find beauty in the colors of a small flower . . . If you can find pleasure in the movement of a butterfly . . . If the smile of a child can still warm your heart, then you still have hope . . .

If you can see the good in other people . . . If the rain breaking on a roof top can still lull you to sleep, If the sight of a rainbow still makes you stop and stare in wonder . . . If the soft fur of a favored pet still feels pleasant under your fingertips, then you still have hope . . .

If you meet new people with a trace of excitement and optimism . . . If you give people the benefit of a doubt . . . If you still offer your hand in friendship to others that have touched your life, then you still have hope . . .

If receiving an unexpected card or letter still brings a pleasant surprise . . . If the suffering of others still fills you with pain and frustration . . . If you refuse to let a friendship die, or accept that it must end, then you still have hope . . .

If you look forward to a time or place of quiet and reflection . . .

If you still buy the ornaments, put up the Christmas tree or cook the turkey . . .

If you still watch love stories or want the endings to be happy, then you still have hope . . .

If you can look to the past and smile . . . If, when faced with the bad, when told everything is futile, you can still look up and end the conversation with the phrase . . . “yeah . . . BUT . . .” then you still have hope . . .

Hope is such a marvelous thing. It bends, it twists, it sometimes hides, but rarely does it break . . .  It sustains us when nothing else can . . . It gives us reason to continue and courage to move ahead, when we tell ourselves we’d rather give in . . . Hope puts a smile on our face when the heart cannot manage . . .  Hope puts our feet on the path when our eyes cannot see it . . .  Hope moves us to act when our souls are confused of the direction . . .

Hope is a wonderful thing, something to be cherished and nurtured, and something that will refresh us in return . . .  And it can be found in each of us, and it can bring light into the darkest of places . . . Never lose hope . . .

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Waiting

Icon of the Presentation

Isaiah 40: 28-31

God seems to bless those who wait. Waiting is a timeless discipline with eternal rewards. The scripture has many stories of those who waited and learned.

Noah waited for years as he built a boat on dry land and learned the lesson of deliverance. Jonah waited three days in the belly of the fish and learned the lesson of obedience. The prophets waited for centuries to see the Messiah and learned the lesson of faith. Joseph waited in prison and learned the lesson of forgiveness. Zacharias waited to speak and learned the lesson of humility. Anna and Simeon waited a lifetime to see the Savior and learned the lesson of perseverance.

Waiting during the season of Advent can serve as a discipline to teach us many spiritual truths. While waiting we can develop patience and true obedience. We can glimpse the hugeness of God’s love and grace and learn to recognize holiness when we encounter it. Waiting nurtures our compassion and opens our eyes to see others in need. It opens our hearts to service and fosters a freedom to give and encourage others. As we pause and wait for God, we have time to assess our priorities, discover happiness where we are and develop an appreciation for what we have.

Advent is a time to deal with our fears, our anger, our disappointments, and learn to both give and receive forgiveness. It is a time to internalize the cleansing joy of repentance and to know the peace of taking last place. While we wait, we can use the unknown time to realize that living with mystery builds faith, and suffering and sacrifice reveal God to us. While waiting we acquire a dependence on God, we gain hope, and we become sure that while we wait we are never alone.

During Advent, the Church waits to celebrate the first Advent of God into the world and waits for completeness and perfection at the Second Advent. In the waiting, we find our peace.

Reflection – What have you learned from God during those waiting times of your life?
Monica Boudreaux

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Expectations

Rembrandt Simeon houdt Jesus vast

Rembrandt Simeon 

Luke 2: 22-35

The season of Advent gives us many opportunities to develop spiritual disciplines that become part of our faith journey all year long. As we look forward to the celebration of the birth of Christ and anticipate his Second Coming we find that being faithful in times when the road ahead is unclear builds our dependence on God’s grace.

We can learn from Simeon about keeping faith. The Scripture tells us that he was a just and devout man in Jerusalem who had been promised by God that before he died he would see the Christ. As Mary and Joseph were taking the infant Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Lord and make a sacrifice, the Spirit led Simeon to the Temple, also. When he saw the baby he immediately recognized Him as the Messiah, blessed Him, and made a prophecy about His mission. Then Simeon spoke to God and told him he was ready to depart this world in peace because his promise had been fulfilled, his longing had been satisfied, and his waiting had been rewarded. After a life time of expectation the reality of the Messiah had been confirmed to Simeon. His life’s goal of actually seeing the Christ had been accomplished.

Simon had spent those long years of faithful anticipation as an opportunity to know God more intimately and to practice his devotion more fully. Some lessons can only be learned in a time of spiritual darkness or uncertainty, so God gives us the blessing of this time to realize the rewards of faithfulness. He gives us a sure hope that binds us to the assurance of holy promises. He frees us from the limitations of the measure of earth’s time or human standards of success or achievement.

When Simeon did see the Lord, he knew Him at once because his years of waiting had given him a clear understanding of God’s revelation. When finally realized, our expectation brings the joy and affirmation that God’s promises are real. A transcendence of head knowledge engages the heart and soul – that eternal part of us that is made in the image of God. We find that God’s promises are a certainty not a possibility. We can be sure of the outcome, not doubtful of the end.

Advent is a time of spiritual expectation and longing, a time of confirmed promises, a time of unashamed hope of Christ’s Second Coming. Advent is the celebration of the realization of God’s promise to Simeon and to us – Christ has come and Christ will come again.

Reflection – What spiritual lessons would you like to learn this Advent?
Monica Boudreaux

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The Family Tree

from http://home.earthlink.net/~sanchadeayala/...

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord

Isaiah 11:1-3
 We are all curious about our family heritage. Many of us take time to go to family reunions. Still others log on to research sites to find out if there is an exciting person in their background. Isaiah traces the roots of Jesus back to show His connection with King David. It is that strong heritage of freedom that Jesus proclaims for the people.

We share in that victory and heritage because we are children of the king.

  • Meditate on your spiritual heritage and thank God for your experience.
  • What is something you are most grateful for in your heritage?

Let us delight on these things as we worship Him.

Monica Boudreaux

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Advent Virus

English: Maggie tired from watching her doggie...

You know I have the virys when I use this picture.

I picked this up through my fax machine(I know this confesses my age) a few years ago. Then is was given as anonymous. If you know who really wrote it, let me know. I took the liberty of adding a few symptoms of my own. Please feel free to share it.

Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
  • A sudden rush of generosity that is very costly.
  • A strong desire to be foolishly optimistic.

I get back to the Mystics and Monastics this week.

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Thomas Merton on Advent

English: An acolyte lighting Advent candles on...

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen.

It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendencey to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw. There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…

In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…We may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. 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 a celebration of this hope.

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Advent-A Coming

advent 2007

Advent comes from the Latin meaning “a coming” or “arrival”. The season begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent begins our new church year as Christ comes to us again with the peace and joy needed to take us through another year.

During the season of Advent, the church celebrates two comings of Christ. First, we remember his incarnation, the coming of the Messiah, the world’s Savior. Second, we look forward to the second and final coming as reigning Lord and Judge. We thank him for His first Advent, prepare for his Second Advent, and celebrate His Presence through the Holy Spirit. It is a unique time when the past, the present, and the future realities of God are combined.

Advent gives voice to the joy and hope that the Christ Child brought to the earth and the expectation of the total restoration of God’s Kingdom when He comes again. The church looks forward to the completion of our salvation and the end of the world’s suffering when Christ comes again. The season forces spirituality into an increasingly secular Christmas and enriches our relationship to God, to each other, and those who have come before us.

The earliest recorded observances of Advent are from the fourth century. Monks set aside approximately six weeks before Christ’s Mass as a time of penitence and devotion and fasting. Advent became a time when new Christians prepared for baptism. For more than a thousand years, the church has set aside a four week period to recover Christmas as a holy time of expectation and preparation.

Today in the midst of so much despair Advent offers HOPE – the hope of the church, the hope of the restoration of creation to completeness upon Christ’s return, the hope of the salvation Christ brings. In the midst of so much war and death, Advent offers PEACE – the peace beyond our understanding, the peace that is more than the absence of conflict, the peace of Christ. In the midst of so much prejudice and hate, Advent offers LOVE – the perfect love of God, a way to love one another, the yearning to love His church. In the midst of so much sadness and loneliness, Advent offers JOY – the joy of salvation, the joy of new life, the joy of heaven.

Reflection – Reflect on ways that the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Advent season have been yours and how you can share with others.

Monica Boudreaux

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Cure for Loneliness

Mother Teresa 1985 cropped

Mother Teresa

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

–― Mother Teresa

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My Soul Shook

It was dark with only a small fire for light and warmth.  Suddenly an intense brightness, a light such as we had never seen, a light that could never be produced from a fire or oil lamp flooded our field.  An angel stepped out of the blinding light.  I have never been so terrified.  But the angel spoke words of reassurance to us and then the promise of Good News.  The Angel instructed us to go look for a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough!  This baby was the Messiah, the Savior.  The sky was suddenly filled with a multitude of heavenly beings singing a holy hymn of joy.

Still partly blinded by the light and recovering from fear on trembling legs, we were led by a sense of holy presence to a barn behind an inn.  He was lying in an ordinary crude manger filled with fresh hay.  I saw Him – MY SOUL SHOOK! Aaron, the shepherd.

Emmaus

It was the day after Passover.  The crowds were leaving Jerusalem, traveling back to their homes.  The Temple was nearly empty after the hectic days of the annual pilgrimage.  I am a doctor of the law and on that day, I made my way over to meet with my colleagues for the discussion of the day’s questions.  I was surprised to see in their midst a small boy.  All of us were amazed at the depth of his understanding of the intricacies of the law. For him, the law was more than rules; it was a matter of heart.  He led us to see Yahweh’s purpose.  With all our combined years of study, our insights paled in the light of his knowledge.  For those hours, the law lived.

After three days of conversation with this remarkable boy, his parents showed up in a panic.  His mother reprimanded him for worrying them so.  His response has never left me.  He said to her, “Why are you searching for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

I saw the impact of his words on his mother’s face.  She knew.  I began to wonder – His Father? Could he be? As He walked away, He looked back. I saw Him – MY SOUL SHOOK! Saul, Temple Rabbi

The Scripture tells us of many others who saw the Christ, recognized Him, and felt their souls shake – the magi, Anna, Simeon, Paul the Apostle, the centurion at the crucifixion, Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.  Today, when we see Christ with spiritual eyes, recognize Him in our heart; sense His real presence – our Souls Shake!

Reflection – When did you feel your Soul Shake because you saw Christ?

 Monica Boudreaux

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Juan’s Story

Christmas Eve supper. Only compote, kutia, bor...

Christmas Eve supper. Only compote, kutia, borscht, herring, varenyky and salt are shown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Juan was a tiny eight-year-old boy in a little Mexican town quite untouched by any other influences.  In its simpleness and poverty, time had stood still for 100 years.  Juan was one of the town’s orphans.  He had lived on the streets as long as he could remember and had no memory of how he came to be there.  The church with the convent next door was where he could be found more often than not.  The nuns saw to his basic needs as best they could.  They shared meager rations of food with him and left the door of the church unlocked on cold nights.

The season of Advent was Juan’s favorite time of year, because the church was so magnificent with its candles and crèche on the altar.  Inside those four walls, he felt embraced by light and warmth and security, but he also felt the mystery of God’s presence, which gave him a sense of the only love and peace he knew.

On Christmas Eve, one of the sisters invited him to join the other children of the town in the traditional processional as they brought gifts to the Christ Child.  Juan’s joy at being included was soon replaced by sadness at the realization that he had nothing to bring as a traditional gift to present the baby.  All day he thought and prayed and not long before the service was to begin, he found a piece of paper and made his gift.

The processional began.  The infant Jesus was laid in the manger on the altar and the children presented their gifts of fruit, flowers, and sweets.  Last of all Juan walked up to the Nativity and laid in the manger the piece of paper he had found and fashioned into a paper doll.

The next day a kindly nun asked Juan about his gift.  This was his story:  “Sister there are many nights that I am cold and alone.  I had no gift to bring to Christ, so I made myself from a piece of paper and thought I would just lie next to the Baby to keep Him warm.”

The old nun with tears in her eyes said, “Juan, you truly gave to Christ the best of all gifts.  You gave him yourself, all that you are.  You gave Him your heart.”

Christmas is a time for gifts.  I do not believe that God who created all things is impressed with any grand gift we could give Him, but I know God is overjoyed when we offer Him our hearts.

Reflection – What must I do to truly give God my heart, all of who I am?

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