The Advent Wreath, by Jennifer Profitt

Candlelight_AdventThe Advent wreath, which graces my kitchen table this month, reminds me with the warmth of glowing purple candles of Christmas approaching. Nightly as I say a grateful prayer of blessing upon the meal before me, the increase in candlelight with every new Sunday magnifies the growing message that Jesus is coming.

This late autumn I have been blessed to have friends welcoming in new little babies into the world. The arrival of these new babies, the growing excitement to meet them, to hold their tender selves in the new World outside the protective one they have known for the last 9 months, is thrilling. Something in my spirit catches at the sheer joy of it all.

How easy it is for me to conjure the image of Mary awaiting the birth of her child –especially in the last weeks before delivery. How easy it is for me to grasp the joy of others who anticipated His birth.

As exciting as it is to welcome any new child into the world, to appreciate the wonder of tiny fingers and wrists, to share in the joy of a family that adds another little one. Here is where I marvel most: Mary’s little baby who will be called Jesus, who will be surrounded by his mother’s arms and held so closely to her that His tiny ears hear her heartbeat, this little one will be the Savior of us all. Yes, the Savior to someone like me, the very woman who this month enjoys her nighttime meal with flickering purple candles and anticipates His arrival in participating in an advent remembrance tradition some two thousand years later. What a wonderful way to acknowledge that Jesus is coming to the world for everyone.

Jennifer Profitt
Spirituality & Psychology Retreat Facilitator
Oldenburg Franciscan Center

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, by S. Therese Tackett, OSF

4thSundayAdventFirst Reading: Isaiah 17: 18
Second Reading: Romans 1: 1-7

Gospel: Matthew 1: 18-24


Reflection
As we approach the celebration of Jesus coming into the world, the readings are filled with the urgent theme of the reality of what happened over 2000 years ago.  God came into our world in the human form of a small baby.  He came to live in our reality and grow up in it.


In all three readings we hear the words “God is with us.”  God is still in our world in each one of us.  How does my life show God to the world around me?  How is God present to me?  How can I better reflect God to those around me, and to those with whom I live or those with whom I work?  How can I reflect the Compassionate Love that God sent into this world in the form of the small infant Jesus?


Prayer
Emmanuel, please guide us to imitate your Son’s love in all that we do each day.  Amen.


Therese Tackett, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, by S. Marta Aiken, OSF

First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12


Reflection
After years of destruction and waiting, today’s readings mirror hope with a word of caution and repentance as is echoed by Paul in the second reading and in the Gospel by John the Baptist with his urgency to repent.  Indeed, “The Spirit of the Lord must rest upon us.”  This new life is and may become a reality if we hold to the practice of a life of true reconciliation.  Beautifully, Isaiah gives us a symbolic lesson that holds the means to live it:  “…accept one another and live in harmony.”


Prayer
Paul promises that the desert will bloom again, so Loving God, rest upon us so that the depth of life, a life of goodness and integrity, of wisdom and sound judgment, will blossom and be our new transformation.  May you guide us in our attempt to bring peace and harmony to our world.  Amen.


Marta Aiken, osf

One Advent, Not Two, by S. Maureen Irvin, OSF

Peace&Hurry

As we begin the season of Advent, many of us feel torn. We sense a conflict between our desire to really celebrate the season by reflecting on the readings of the Church and concentrating on the spiritual meaning of Advent and Christmas, and the fact that we are constantly bombarded by the advertisements, the carols and the decorations that begin earlier each year. There is some wisdom in the encouragement that “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  The super-busy, hectic, all-consuming preparations for and celebration of the holiday of Christmas are probably not going to change, but they do not have to dampen the real spirit and meaning of Advent. This year, I am determined not to have the usual tug-of-war.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I posed to my family, how they would suggest maintaining a calm and peaceful balance between the spiritual and secular preparations for Christmas. My brother, Dan, suggested fully entering into all of the shopping, baking, gift- wrapping and parties of the season, but also consciously setting aside a time each day or each week to pray and reflect on what it means to have God incarnate in our midst. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but just a dedicated time to which we can be faithful.

My sister-in-law, Karen, advised constant mindfulness. She encouraged that while baking or wrapping or decorating, we enter into the experience fully. Don’t think about what else is on the “to-do” list or what you will do when you complete this task. Just do whatever you are doing with great mindfulness. Enjoy the lights, the colors, the aromas, the textures, the music, the friends, family and co-workers, the delicious foods and festive drinks. All are gifts from our loving God. All are a part of human experience and part of our natural world, which God wanted to share completely—hence, the incarnation.

My own idea is to look for the symbolism is what we see, hear and do. Candles can remind us that Christ is the light. Children’s voices can speak to us of hope, joy and love, while also calling to mind Jesus’ birth and childhood. Wrapped gifts can represent the multitude of gifts, yet to be discovered and realized from God’s bounty. Decorations show that this is truly an important feast for which we want to “deck the halls.” Parties and festive food and drink can represent the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, Christ, our spiritual food.

The beautiful season of Advent is to be lived, not just endured or tolerated.  It is one season that holds incredible richness, not two seasons (one secular and one spiritual) that compete for our attention. Let’s make every effort to really celebrate all that we experience these days as we await the Feast of Christmas. Relax, enjoy, be mindful, be calm and at peace.

May you have a happy and holy Advent season!

S. Maureen Irvin, OSF
Congregational Minister
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, by S. Therese Tackett, OSF

twoFirst Reading: Baruch 5:1-9
Second Reading: Phil. 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

Reflection
On this second Sunday of Advent John calls us to prepare for the Lord coming into our lives. Paul tells us he prays that our love may increase more and more in our perception and knowledge, so that we are able to know what is of true value to us. What do we consider important in our lives? What makes us happy in our hearts? When I can answer these questions I can say with the psalm response, “I am filled with joy.”

Prayer
God, source of love and joy, help me in my search for real love in my life, love that does not depend on the presents I receive but on the times I help and make others happy. Only then will I have true joy in my heart. Amen.

Therese Tackett, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, by S. Patty Campbell, OSF

adventoneReflection for December 2, 2012
First Sunday of Advent
First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm: 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36


Reflection
The days are coming…there will be signs…two phrases to ponder as we begin our move into a new Church year.  Advent always seems to become a time of pondering something that happened over 2000 years ago…the birth of Jesus.  And yet the Scripture readings need to be pondered in our time, our lives.  As we reflect on the life of Jesus, what would he say to us today about the days ahead of each of us?  And will we recognize the signs God sends us today to ponder and apply?  Advent is four weeks of walking with Mary and Joseph toward the human birth of God’s son.  And as we walk, what would Mary and Joseph whisper into our hearts to help us become more aware, more vigilant or what needs to be birthed in us each year to draw us closer to who we are being called to be in today’s world.  Hopefully, we will set our heart on the true way…the way of Jesus.


Prayer
O God, let us follow the way of Jesus, the way of love.  There is no other way.  Help us, God, to discover the truth more deeply as we enter into this new Church year.  With your help, as we become more deeply wrapped in your love, help us be able to go forth to spread it to others we meet.  We make our prayer in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Patty Campbell, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg