Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
December 5th, 2021
The Second Sunday of Advent

Excerpt from

Advent Pastiche
c.1985

The old shall conceive
and the mute shall sing
for nothing is impossible
to God.

"PREPARE,
make straight,
HERE is your God!
Open your eyes,
understand with your heart --
THE KINGDOM COMES!

Why this uproar?
Why this impotent muttering?
Break your fetters,
throw off the yoke,
receive the fullness
that awaits you.
The darnel will burn
but the seed in rich soil
shall produce a hundredfold;
the birds of the air
shall shelter in the branches
of the mustard tree.
Seek the lost coin,
buy the fine pearl,
plunge into the dragnet,
mix with the yeast,
BECOME
THE KINGDOM!

The old shall conceive
and the mute shall sing
for nothing is impossible
to God.

The wilderness and the dry land
shall exalt.
Decked in morning's glory,
the wasteland will bloom
with lilacs, orchids, jonquils,
with the most fragrant
and fragile of flowers.

And the blind shall see
and the deaf will hear,
the mute will sing in praise.
The lame shall cast aside crutches,
paralytics, their mats.
The dead shall rise from their graves.

For water flows
through the desert,
through the wasteland,
through the scorched earth
and the parched lands.
The way of the river
is the Sacred Way,
the way born of water and spirit; the unclean may not travel by it
nor fools stray along it."

The old shall conceive
and the mute shall sing
for nothing is impossible
to God.




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Greetings, SBT Readers!

A gun for Christmas. The very thought of parents giving their child a weapon as an expression of their love in observance of Christmas is obscene. This "early" Christmas present that James and Jennifer Crumbley gave to 15-year old Ethan --the Oxford High School shooter-- symbolizes the distorted values of a society in which guns are worshipped, children are indulged and red flags go unheeded. What message did the parents give their son with this gift? What did the purchase of this firearm say about how they related to him? What did they think that a troubled teenager who had already been flagged for problematic behaviors would do now that he could act out his worst fantasies?

Years ago, I read M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie. My memory of the book is hazy now, but there was one case study in which
parents gave their surviving son a gun for Christmas after his sibling had committed suicide (possibly with the same weapon-- I don't recall). The case study illustrated how evil masquerades as "good" through messages we communicate in subtle ways; in this particular case, the Christmas-wrapped weapon was a message to the surviving son that he could follow in his brother's footsteps and shoot himself. That story shocked me then as the story of Ethan Crumbley shocks me now. His parents' actions-- and lack of action-- gave him permission to act as he did. Now, he will get the life sentence, while they will have the lesser price to pay. Meanwhile, a town grieves over lives lost and ruined.

A Blessed Advent!

Elizabeth


SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
   A voice of one crying out in the desert:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
      make straight his paths.
   Every valley shall be filled
      and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
   The winding roads shall be made straight,
      and the rough ways made smooth,
   and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
LK 3:1-6

It is ironic that the Advent season tends to be consumed by external preparations for Christmas -- the usual shopping, decorating, cleaning, baking, partying and so forth. Then there are all the obligations that accompany the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. For those of us who teach, there are finals to grade and end of year faculty meetings; for others, there may be liturgical planning, institutional strategizing, program assessment, performance reviews, budget analysis, on-boarding new clients, inventory taking, product launching, etc. In other words, the contemplative dimension of Advent tends to be overshadowed by spiraling obligations and instead of tending to the soul, many of us find ourselves busier than ever, even as we ache for stillness.

How, then, to prepare the path? How can we level those mountains, straighten the winding roads and smooth the rough ways? Weighed down by deadlines and the excessive demands of the virtual world, how can we find the time and space for self-inventory and personal overhaul? Burdened by chronos, how can we enter into kairos, that experience of timelessness and Presence? For each of us, the answer will be different but the starting point is to face these questions and to acknowledge that the experience of Christmas demands that we be available to God. What is blocking The Way of the Lord to our hearts? What is cluttering our minds and consuming our time? What is distracting us from the only journey that matters?

The texts of the season offer us words of hope and comfort, refrains that we can carry in our hearts no matter how busy we happen to be. Baruch assures us that we are remembered by God (yes, RE-membered or made new!) and that God is leading us in joy, into the Light. Ps 126 reminds us of all the "great things" God has done for us, those touchstone moments from the past that help us hope in a better future. Like the captives of Zion, we, too, not only dream of a new world to come but can wake up to find ourselves already in it -- once we have rubbed our eyes, and cleared our vision, that is! Here in these texts we find those timeless moments that allow us to center, rest, recover, even if only for a brief moment...

QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION

  • What activities or commitments are consuming you this Advent?
  • What can you let go of or "do less" to unburden yourself?
  • What scriptural texts speak to you the most right now?
  • What spiritual practices help you focus on the message of Advent?

RESOURCES
Check out my Resiliency Assessment Tool on the home page of my new website: https://www.embracingpossibility.com

Try my Spiritual Self-Assessment Tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated analysis of your strengths and "growing edges." https://assess.coach/eastewart/

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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com