Advent

Nadia Bolz-Weber 12-20-2011

To be a people marked by the faith of Mary is to be a people, who say, "Ok, I don’t understand what’s going on and I know that my life isn’t going to end up looking like one I would choose out of a catalogue but I trust that God is at work in all of it."

Blessedness is being used for God’s purpose more than it’s getting what I want or things being easy.

Christmas itself isn’t about getting what you want, or making sure you’re giving others what they want. To experience Christmas is to trust that God can do this thing again. God can again be born in me, in you, in this broken mess of a gorgeous world.

In the 4th century St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.”

See, God is at work in you in much the same way God was at work in Mary. (Not necessarily in that the Holy Spirit’s going to knock you up.) But I do think that you carry in your body the blessing of God and having faith like Mary means allowing yourself to trust that.

Cathleen Falsani 12-19-2011
The seal of Lancaster, Penn. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/vH75i8

The seal of Lancaster, Penn. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/vH75i8

Shoppers at Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Central Market got a festive surprise Saturday when a flash mob of more than 125 people broke into the "Hallelujah Chorus" by the bread aisle.

And watch the flash mob from the heartland inside...

Cathleen Falsani 12-19-2011
Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

The first time I heard Jason Harrod sing was more than 20 years ago at a coffee house at Wheaton College outside Chicago where we were both studends at the time. He sang Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain," and his tenor voice was so pure, so perfect and sweet and heartbreakingly earnest, I ended up crying in my mochachino.

We're both now in our 40s, Jason is stil singing like an angel, and I'm still listening (occasionally in tears) along with many other fans who have discovered the unique charm of Jason's Smokey-Mountains-meets-Brooklyn-subway sensibilities and ever soulful wordsmithery.

Jason and his former musical partner in crime, Brian Funck, recorded "Lion Song" on their self-titled second album, Harrod & Funck that, while not a Christmas song per se, has always felt like a winter tune and tale to me. Seeking shelter from the cold and finding it. Getting lost and being found. The great gift of grace in all of its myriad forms — in relationship, in a light in the darkness, a glimpse of the horizon in the storm, or in the first toddling steps taken by a baby boy sent as a gift (to ALL) to heal and reconcile the world.

Image via Wylio: http://bit.ly/rRaH5G

"Away in a manger" at the Holy Cross Monastery, NY. Via Wylio: http://bit.ly/rRaH5G

I think of Mary, the young woman whose eyes were opened to God’s messenger, whose womb was opened to God in human flesh. The Greeks call her theotokos — the God-bearer.

She is the one who welcomed Jesus to make his home in her. Blessed among women, she is a model for us.

She’s not just an inspiration for a house of hospitality. She is one.

Two years ago, Leah was very pregnant during Advent. Because of high blood pressure, she was on bed rest for most of it. So we waited.

We waited for our daughter to come, and we waited for Christmas. We waited with Mary to greet face-to-face the One whom we invite into our lives every time we whisper a prayer.

Waiting, we learned, changes your relationship to time. You stop partitioning it into blocks, and you learn to receive it.

Timothy King 12-16-2011
Kalenderlys (Advent candle) - Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/rqjL59

Kalenderlys (Advent candle) - Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/rqjL59

There is, once again, a threat of a government shutdown. Congress, once again, can’t get along. Even the most basic decision making has stalled as each party postures for their base.
 
But, it’s almost Christmas and there a better and brighter things to focus on then the latest Rasmussen tracking poll.

I’d like to share some Advent reflections from my former professor at North Park University, Scot McKnight. He is in the midst of a series that points to what Advent is supposed to remind Christians of. It’s a simple message with deep meaning: Jesus is King.

Jim Wallis 12-15-2011
Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

The real Christmas announces the birth of Jesus to a world of poverty, pain, and sin, and offers the hope of salvation and justice.

The Fox News Christmas heralds the steady promotion of consumerism, the defense of wealth and power, the adulation of money and markets, and the regular belittling or attacking of efforts to overcome poverty.

The real Christmas offers the joyful promise of peace and the hope of reconciliation with God and between humankind.

The Fox News Christmas proffers the constant drumbeat of war, the reliance on military solutions to every conflict, the demonizing of our enemies, and the gospel of American dominance.

The real Christmas lifts up the Virgin Mary’s song of praise for her baby boy: “He has brought the mighty down from their thrones, and lifted the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.”

The Fox News Christmas would label Mary’s Magnificat as “class warfare.”

So if there is a war on Christmas it ‘s the one being waged by Fox News.

Jack Palmer 12-15-2011

Census Shows 1 In 2 People Are Poor Or Low-Income; Evangelical Group Links Climate Change And Poverty; Rick Perry Stresses Values On Iowa Bus Tour Kick-Off; Occupy 2.0? Church Leaders Join Movement; The Looming Death Of The Death Penalty; Christ and Consumerism: 'Priceless' At What Price? (OPINION)

Jack Palmer 12-13-2011

Occupy Movement : Winning?; House Votes On Payroll Tax Extension Plan Today; What Advent Has In Common With Occupy Wall Street; Gingrich Has It Wrong About The Poor (OPINION); Occupy The Left; Panetta Optimistic About Afghanistan.

Cathleen Falsani 12-13-2011
Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer

In her inimitably lovely way, Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker singer-songwriter, tells the story of June and Emmett and their children gathered at their Christmas table to sing carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in her should-be classic, "Long Christmas Dinner." It's a celebration of simple pleasures and the powerful quotidian blessings of family, hearth and home.

It's a quiet, soul-stirring tune with images so vivid and familiar they stay with me throughout the year.

http://youtu.be/MYeIgrYpk8k

We asked Carrie what her favorite Christmas song was and this is what she said...

Derek Flood 12-12-2011
Office Grinch peppersprays the Whos of Whoville. Image via officer-grinch-21501-

Office Grinch peppersprays the Whos of Whoville. Image via officer-grinch-21501-1321977693-24.jpg

Pepper spray.

Those two words bring to mind two very contrasting images from recent headline news: One is the shocking image of University of California at Davis students seated on a pathway, arms linked in peaceful protest, as they are repeatedly doused with pepper spray by a zealous campus police officer. The other is of the equally zealous shopper on Black Friday who sprayed her fellow Walmart customers so she could buy a discounted X-Box.

On the one hand we have an image of the power of nonviolent protest to expose injustice, and on the other an appalling image of consumer greed.

These are the signs of our times.

Cathleen Falsani 12-12-2011
Bruce Cockburn.

Bruce Cockburn.

Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite Christmas song comes from Canadian singer-songwriter and longtime Sojourners friend Bruce Cockburn with his "Cry of a Tiny Babe" from his 1991 album Nothing But a Burning Light. The verse, "Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe," puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it.

http://youtu.be/RlX4cDAkz44

I asked Bruce, 66, who said he's "full of joy and wonder" these days celebrating the birth of his baby daughter, Iona, last month, what his favorite Christmas tune was and his answer is characteristically unpredictable and wondrous.

Cathleen Falsani 12-12-2011
Justin Bieber (far right) sings with the Obama family at the Christmas in Washin

Justin Bieber (far right) sings with the Obama family at the Christmas in Washington Concert Sunday 12/11.

"This is the season to celebrate miracles," President Obama said. "This is the season to celebrate the story of how, more than two thousand years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among cattle and sheep. He was no ordinary child. He was the manifestation of God’s love. And every year we celebrate His birth because the story of Jesus Christ changed the world. For me, and for millions of Americans, His story has filled our hearts and inspired our lives. It moves us to love one another; to help and serve those less fortunate; to forgive; to draw close to our families; to be grateful for all that has been given to us; to keep faith; and to hold on to an enduring hope in humanity."

Cathleen Falsani 12-09-2011
Banjo Ben Yahu. http://bit.ly/ry5W6n

Banjo Ben Yahu. http://bit.ly/ry5W6n

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from a fellow who goes by the handle (pardon the pun) "Banjo Ben Yahu" and, in addition to having an epic beard (someone call the casting director for "Whisker Wars" STAT), does the German composer proud with his solo-banjo rendition of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Sharon Harper 12-08-2011
Image by Steven Depolo via Wylio http://bit.ly/so6atU

"For the Poor Charity Box Basilica of St. Adelbert Grand Rapids December 29, 2010." By Steven Depolo via Wylio http://bit.ly/so6

The 99 percent offers work and wealth

to the commons

with blessing and prayer.

In return

schools, fire stations, police officers,

Medicare, Social Security, and Food Stamps

Are snatched from open hands.

 

 

Cathleen Falsani 12-06-2011
The Turtle Creek Chorale, in their more traditional garb. Via turtlecreek.org.

The Turtle Creek Chorale, in their more traditional garb. Via turtlecreek.org.

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Day 3's installment comes from an unlikely gaggle of nuns — in full habits. They are members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, an all-men's chorus from Dallas, Texas. The Chorale has traveled to Europe, performing sold out concerts in Barcelona, Berlin and Prague; as well as two appearances a Carnegie Hall.

Cathleen Falsani 12-04-2011

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Day 3's installment comes from the Just in Time Vocal Jazz "JOURNEYS" Concert, December 2009, performing their rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Quincy Jones' gospel-infused interpretation of the Handel classic.

Carrie Adams 12-02-2011

Last night we watched the First Family light the National Christmas Tree.

We expected what we get every year: a broad message about generosity and the season of giving. But what we got was so much more.

President Obama’s remarks were encouraging. They were about the Christmas that Christians celebrate as a week of Advent, not just Christmas as a generic feeling or a season. Several news outlets, including CBN, CNN, and The Christian Post covered the story in a tone of support, somewhat surprised at the president speaking from a place of deep personal faith. His remarks were so wholly about the Christ in Christmas that it could have been delivered by a local reverend.

Adam Phillips 12-02-2011
By Reuvenk via Wikimedia Commons (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

By Reuvenk via Wikimedia Commons (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

The news is hopeful. We have seen both progress and proof:

  • New data shows that an HIV-positive person on treatment is 96 percent less likely to pass HIV on to others.
  • It only costs, on average, $335 for AIDS treatment through PEPFAR (down nearly 70 percent since 2004!).
  • 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced new HIV infections by 25 percent.
  • Clinical trials show that voluntary male circumcision reduces the risk of new HIV infection in men by roughly 60 percent.

Yesterday was truly a momentous occasion. Looking at all the progress we have made, especially in the last 10 years, it is a moment for us to not only celebrate, but in the words of President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, “recommit ourselves,” to end the fight against AIDS totally.

Julie Polter 12-01-2011

Advent loops past the second coming to the first -- and to us, stuck waiting in the mud of existence.

Enuma Okoro 12-01-2011

Reflections on the Common Lectionary.

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