Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24 - Advent Devotional 2015

Thursday, 25 December 2015

Stories simply written can teach many lessons. "The Story of the Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke proves this point clearly. The story is simply this. A well educated astronomer and physician by the name of Artaban has planned to join his colleagues, the three wise men, to go in search of Jesus Christ, the new born king of the Jews. Artaban starts off to meet Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. He brings with him three gifts: a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. His colleagues are bringing the Christ Child gold, frankincense and myrrh. Artaban was to meet the three wise men in ten days. He never meets them. The wise men saw Christ in Bethlehem. Artaban never sees the child. Artaban fails to meet the three wise men and Christ because along the way he is delayed.

Why didn't he meet the wise men at the appointed time? He met a man along the way who was sick and dying. Artaban ministered to him, took care of him and restored him to life. But in doing so he missed the three wise men who had to leave without him. And so the search for the person of Christ was something Artaban had to do on his own. He gives the sapphire to a small caravan to help them go across the desert. He takes counsel from a scholarly Jewish Rabbi who tells him that the new born king is not to be found in a palace, nor among the rich and powerful. His kingdom is a new kingdom, the royalty of perfect and unconquerable love. Artaban followed the counsel of the Rabbi and though, as Van Dyke says, he found more to worship, he found many to help. He fed the hungry, he clothed the naked and healed the sick and comforted the captive. His ruby was given to a soldier to protect a small child from being slaughtered. His last gift, the pearl, was given to prevent a young woman from being taken into slavery.

The quest for Christ continues for some 33 years. One day, at Passover, people were talking about a crucifixion that was taking place. The earth started to quake. The sky darkened. Artaban and the young woman he had given the pearl to sought shelter. A heavy tile struck Artaban on the head. He was badly injured. Then Artaban, with blood all over his face, seemed to be whispering and saying, "not so, My Lord, for when did I see you hungry, or thirsty and gave thee to drink? When did I see a stranger and take thee in? For 33 years I have looked for you and never saw your face." And the voice that prompted all the words of Artaban became more clear and strong and said, "as often as you did it to one of these, my brethren, you did it to me."

There is no doubt that the other wise men found the king. But Artaban also found him in his own way. There is no doubt in reading this Christmas story that the author was telling us that there are so many Christ-like people in our own life that have to be ministered to.

The journey of Artaban to see Christ is a reminder that Christ, in the person of the homeless or the forgotten elderly, is in our midst. Van Dyke has told us that the most beautiful words that we can hear are the words "as long as you did it to them, you did it for me."

May all of us experience and hear these words as we journey to find Christ.

Source: Spirituality for Today, December, 1995, Volume 1, Number 5
Photo: Artaban, The Fourth Wise Man

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23 - Advent Devotional 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

There's a company that makes t-shirts with spiritual themes. One of them shows an airplane being flown by a frantic pilot. The shirt says, "If God is your co-pilot, switch seats."

That's a state that's simple, but sort of sums up our struggle. We often talk about how faith is hard. But a certain amount of faith is really not difficult at all. The Gallup Organization conducted a survey that consistently reports that about 94 percent of Americans believe in God. Making God your co-pilot is not easy.  Like this:

God, you keep an eye on the horizon and the dials and gauges which I fly the plane. But you be ready in case a storm comes up or we lose an engine or the wing falls off, because I'm gonna need you to save the day. Of course, when we have blue skies, I'll just take over again.

That's not hard. What's hard is to relinquish the wheel. At the Annunciation, Mary gives us the blueprint for a different kind of faith - the hard kind.

Mary may have had many ideas and expectations about what her life would be like. We all do. We knew she was expecting to marry Joseph. And then this angel shows up with a message from God that lays out a whole different plan for her future. To say this was going to complicate her life is putting it lightly. While Scripture talked a lot about the coming of the Messiah, it didn't include instructions for being the Messiah's mom. Mary is the ultimate example of a life yielded to God's purpose. Mary puts God in the driver's seat. But how do we live out faith today, and walk in submission of God? The answer begins in Mary's story, an act of grace that has the power to transform our lives. We need to remember that Jesus didn't come just to accept the shepherds' worship or the Magi's gifts. We need to see the cross as well as the manger.

Christ said to Martha in John 11: "I am the resurrection and the life. You who believe in me will live even though you die, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" We all want to surrender our lives, to let go and let God, to turn over the wheel. It is in answering Christ's question that we find the confidence to do this.

There are times when we wonder whether we matter to God, whether God really knows who we are, or cares. God responds to our doubt and our feelings of inadequacy by saying this: "Come live with me at my house. I have prepared a place for you! It's a great house, too. And I'm not talking a two-week lease - it's forever! And, not only that, you can invite all your friends, too!"

Believe it. Switch seats. Follow Mary's example, and make God the pilot in your life. Let go of the wheel, and grab hold of Christmas with all your strength.

Source: REMinistries, the Internet outreach of Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Photo: Airport Delay a Gift From God

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22 - Advent Devotional 2015

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sing Out My Soul

Sing out my soul,
sing of the holiness of God;
who has delighted in a woman,
lifted up the poor,
satisfied the hungry,
given voice to the silent,
grounded the oppressor,
blessed the full bellied with emptiness,
and with the gift of tears those who have never wept;
who has desired the darkness of the womb,
and inhabited our flesh.
Sing of the longing of God,
sing out, my soul.

Source: Adaptation of Luke 1:39-53, by Janet Morley
Photo: Annunciation Glass, Mary via Flickr

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21 - Advent Devotional 2015

Monday 21 December 2015

A Prayer For The Children

We pray for the children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never "counted potatoes,"
who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for the children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find bread to steal,
who don't have rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for the children
who spend their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
who never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and
whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything
Who have never seen dentist, Who aren't spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being

We pray for the children
Who want to be carried and for those who must,
Who we never give up on and for those
who don't get a second chance.
We pray for those we smother and for those
who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

Source: Marian Wright Edelman
Photo: Microsoft Clip Art

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20 - Advent Devotional 2015

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The story of Jesus' birth recalls how the angel Gabriel appeared before a young woman in Nazareth. Scripture describes their encounter including Mary's confusion, fear and the words of Gabriel: Do not be afraid. It also tells of Mary's acceptance: Let it be as you have said. Let it be. We think of Mary when we think of the Annunciation. But, as the Gospel according to Matthew tells us, Joseph also played a part here.

Since the Reformation, emphasis has been on Joseph not as father of Jesus, but as the husband of Mary to make things look proper. Actually, Joseph finds himself caught up in a cosmic drama of redemption without ever being asked. He is simply told that the woman to whom he is engaged was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit not by him.

So Joseph was placed by God, no less in the predicament of marrying a woman who would be seen as unfaithful, or of ending the relationship with her and there by preserving the community standards. He could expose the one he loved to public disgrace possibly even death or he could take Mary as his wife and share the shame living day after day as a member of the community that regarded his wife as a tainted woman. What was he to do?

There is no hint of anything except an overwhelming concern for Mary's public reputation - there is not angry outburst, no violence to Mary, no consultation with experts in the law. Matthew simply says that Joseph was a righteous man, and for that reason he planned to dismiss her quietly salvaging, in effect, her reputation and his.

But something happened, didn't it? And it is in this action that Joseph becomes more than the husband of Mary. He becomes the father of Jesus. The sacrifice and faithfulness of both Mary and Joseph were essential for the birth of Jesus. Joseph affirms the worthiness of Mary unconditionally. In the midst of things he cannot comprehend, disturbing things, mysterious things, he affirms Mary anyway. And, in doing so, he affirms the child Jesus that is within her. He awakes from sleep, and acts on the message that he hears from the angel of the Lord. He takes Mary as his wife, and he welcomes Jesus into his life.

Joseph made a decision to let Jesus be born into his life when he took Mary as his wife. We find ourselves in the same place: we must make a decision to allow Jesus to be born into our lives or not. Like Joseph, we must be present. We must trust. We must decide, through the prompting of the Spirit, to step out in faith for Jesus' sake. When all the evidence to the contrary says that we should play it safe to follow the conventional wisdom of dismissing quietly the direction of the Lord, we must follow Joseph's way of being faithful in spite of. We must be true to our conviction.

Even when we are sure, a voice from within, or a voice from without, whispers. Maybe I am wrong . . . the dream is only a dream, not reality . . . don't be a fool . . . look out for yourself. In these situations of conviction surrounded by doubt, when things outwardly at least seem out of control, the words of the angel to Joseph take on their highest significance: Do not let fear overwhelm faith, he was told. Do not let fear overwhelm faith, we are told.

Source:  Daniel Rondeau
Photo:  St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

December 19 - Advent Devotional 2015

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Whatever upheaval Zechariah had to grapple with was minor league compared to Mary’s dilemma. Let’s consider her situation when confronted with the news that she would bear God’s Son through the virgin birth. What might this mean to her?

Mary was probably about 16, perhaps even younger. She becomes pregnant. Given the societal mores of the time, she could have fully expected that she would be disgraced, that her fiancee Joseph (who knew he wasn’t the father) would abandon her, and that she would probably never marry. It’s also important to understand that Jewish society in the first century took a real hard line on “blasphemy,” as later accounts of Jesus’ ministry and death make clear. A young, single woman claiming that God had made her pregnant would have encountered trouble.

We can try to imagine ourselves in Mary’s shoes, but I don’t expect we can ever really grasp the enormity of her situation. Mary must have known there could be problems. But rather than focusing on the size of her problems, she chose to trust in the size of her God.

I am the Lord’s servant,” she replies. “May it be to me as you have said.

In Luke, Mary offers one of the most powerful examples of a person submitting to God’s will, surrendering self and setting aside fears about the future. It is a response that ultimately has little to do with Mary’s age, gender or marital status. Mary’s example of a life yielded to God’s purpose speaks powerfully to us today, its simplicity transcending 2,000 years of complex theology.

God touches our lives often, in ways we almost never expect. We can relate to Zechariah’s confusion, but we must aspire to Mary’s faith. We need to try, as best we can, to be the Lord’s servants, entrusting ourselves to His care as we walk through each new day in His world.

Source: REMinistries, the Internet outreach of Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Photo: St. Matthew-In-The-City, Auckland, New Zealand.

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18 - Advent Devotional 2015

Friday, 18 December 2015

What would happen if one morning, during the middle of your daily routine, an angel appeared and told you that God had a plan that would completely change your life? How would you respond?

Luke's account of the Christmas story includes two such incidents, and there are important truths and lessons to be found in these events.

In the first instance, the angel Gabriel appears to the priest Zechariah in the temple as he conducts his duties. Zechariah "was startled and gripped with fear." Well, I suppose you and I would be, too.

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah," Gabriel tells him. "Your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John ... he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Zechariah has been confronted with the heavenly glory of God's messenger, a clearly supernatural interruption of his day. Yet his response to the angel's astounding news is to try and fit it into his existing assumptions about his life and his future.

"How can I be sure of this?" responds Zechariah. "I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Zechariah can't believe that he and Elizabeth could have a child, much less grasp the magnitude of John The Baptist's mission.

Gabriel, who was pretty sure he was being clear, is unamused. "I stand in the presence of God," he says. "You will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

When God communicates with us or takes action in our lives, it is rarely with the impact of the angel's appearance. But our reaction is often much like Zechariah's. We question whether it is real. "Was that God speaking to me, or a hallucination? Was that a miracle, or just a coincidence? And if that really WAS God, can that really be what God meant?"

While we may relate to Zechariah's confusion and skepticism, we must be aware that it has its cost. It's not so much that we might be struck dumb if we doubt God's authority or interest in us, but that we might miss the blessings and peace God desires to share with us.

Whether they come to us through a heavenly messenger or a passage of Scripture, God's promises are trustworthy, and our ability to accept them and live them is limited primarily by our ability to believe them. As Zechariah's story demonstrates, God is never predictable, but is always faithful.

Source: REMinistries, the Internet outreach of Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Photo: Annunciation to Zechariahfragment of Russian icon

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17 - Advent Devotional 2015

Thursday, 17 December 2015

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Source: Touched By An Angel, by Maya Angelou
Photo: Warsaw, Poland, April 2012 via fotopedia

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16 - Advent Devotional 2015

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Source: Luke 1:26-38, NRSV
Photo: Annunciation, by Fra Angelico

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Passages: Judith Frances Austin, 1938-2015

Judith Frances Austin, 1938-2015

I found out last Saturday, December 12, 2015, that my Aunt Judy had passed away . . . on November 29th.  In fact, I found out the same way most of my family did: from a phone call long after she was dead and buried. In fact, if it hadn't been for a family member driving by the cemetery last week, and seeing fresh flowers and a new grave next to Judy's husband's grave, we would have no idea that she had passed.  A nice way to inform the family, right?

As for my Aunt Judy, I had no knowledge of her existence while growing up. When I asked what happened to her, my mother said that she "ran away" when she was young and the family was always looking for her. So Judy was my "missing aunt" up until about 1991 when I received a frantic call from my mother one evening.

"I found Judy!" she said while crying over the phone. I couldn't believe it. After almost 35 years with no contact, my mother located her long lost sister. And she did it the way I as a genealogist would have done it: she used an obituary.  For some reason, Mom read the obituary for a Joseph Froehlich in Honesdale, Pennsylvania and a wife was listed as "Judith Austin." So that evening my mother hopped in her car and drove several hours to Connecticut where she found out that Aunt Judy's son was living. She knocked on the door and saw her sister for the first time in over 30 years.

Within a few weeks, my mother arranged for a reunion with the remaining brothers and sisters in June 1991. It was held at our house and was the first time in over 30 years that all 12 siblings had been together.  There were many tears and stories shared that day.

I can only imaging how overwhelmed my Aunt Judy was. I have located a letter she wrote to my mother on June 28, 1991, after that reunion:

I know your [sic] not home from vacation yet, but I wanted to talk to you. My head is still spinning from Saturday, no it isn’t the booze. I normally don’t drink, but I was so nervous, WOW, all of my sisters and brothers were there, and seemed so very happy to see me. I still can’t believe everyone wants me. How strange life can be, it takes away something that means everything to you and give you something that could mean as much.
I have to admit, my son and daughter-in-law love you. They think you are great. They want me to invite you to come here for a few days, or a day. Whichever you want. I do want you to come, whenever you like. I don’t plan on spending too much time at my home in PA, I can’t yet. It’s going to take some getting use to – it was Joe’s favorite place of all the one’s we lived in. He was happiest when there. He never wanted to go anywhere, not even to town once a week. I guess he felt secure when away from people. He fussed something terrible when I went to work but had to accept the idea after awhile.
Well, I can’t put everything I want to say on such a small sheet of paper. So, I’ll just have to come visit you one day or evening so we can talk about how ours [sic] lives were after I left home.
Hope you enjoyed your vacation and left some of Washington DC for me to see when you and I go.
Will call on Monday the 1st.

* * *

There are many more details to the story, including the reasons for her disappearance, but in order to protect the privacy of family members, and out of respect for my family, I can't post them here. What I do know is that Aunt Judy came into my life in the early 1990s and made up for lost time: she was fully integrated in the family and loving life with her seven sisters and four brothers. She will be missed.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

December 15 - Advent Devotional 2015

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Spring Song

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

Source: Spring Song, by Lucille Clifton
Photo: Crocus in Snow via Flickr

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14 - Advent Devotional 2015

Monday, 14 December 2015

Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart

That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come

Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave

From o'er the fortress walls
the wind would his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow

I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lover's breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the morning's mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

Source: Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross, adapted by Loreena Mckennitt 1993
Photo: Saint John of the Cross, Salvador Dali

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December 13 - Advent Devotional 2015

Sunday, 13 December 2015

One of the most simple stories pertaining to Christmas is the story of the juggler of our Lady. This story applies to everyone whether you are Christian or non Christian.

The story is simply this. Many centuries ago, as written by Anatole France, there lived a man by the name of Barnaby. He was a juggler who lived from day to day on the small donations he received. He went from town to town and he would take knives or balls and juggle them. And that is all that he could do. He felt embarrassed over his lack of talent. He almost felt totally useless. People in the town in which he juggled would be involved in their business work. Some would run small little shops. Some were doctors and teachers. And Barnaby would see all these people working every day and be more discouraged with each passing day.

One day on his travels he was passing a huge monastery and he started to think and pray. Maybe, if they let me enter this monastery I can do the most menial tasks, do something positive and save my soul and have more meaning and happiness in my life.

He knocked on the monastery door and was greeted by the brother who was in charge of all the monastic duties. Barnaby told him he would perform the most menial tasks for just a place to sleep and a little something to eat. He was admitted and was given a small place in which to live and told when meal time was to happen. He did this for months and seemed to find more meaning and happiness to his life. But then his sense of meaning and happiness started to lessen. He knew all around him that the brothers of the monastery were preparing for Christmas. One brother was writing a new musical score for the midnight Mass. Anther brother was making special bread to be given to the poor on Christmas Day. Another brother was making a beautiful Christmas crib for the birth of the Christ Child. Barnaby, in seeing what was done by others so talented, felt more inadequate than ever. His sense of his own inferiority became more painful than ever. Christmas was coming closer. And what was he doing but the most menial jobs in the monastery. He went to bed each night heartbroken.

But then one night, and no explanation has been found for this, he took his small little blanket and his eight juggling balls and went to the chapel. He stood in front of the statue of Our Blessed Mother and gave her the only talent he had, the art of juggling. At that moment something extraordinary happened. The statue of our Blessed Mother almost came alive with radiance that Barnaby had never seen before. The brothers of the monastery, seeing how the chapel was becoming filled with this new light, rushed in thinking that something tragic had taken place. The Abbot was there and as all of them came into the Chapel they saw Barnaby juggling with joy and happiness. The statue of Mary, whether it took on new life to others, took on new life to him. This man who thought he had so little talent had brought joy to Mary, the Mother of Christ, at Christmas time.

The lessons from the story of Barnaby, the juggler of our Lady, has application to everyone who thinks that he is untalented and that he does not matter. The story is a reminder to all of us that each one has a talent that if used can light up the life of many people.

The story of Barnaby, the juggler, the individual who thought he was a nothing in anyone's eyes teaches us that God has given to each one gifts and talents that if used can bring greater joy and meaning into each one's life. The story of Barnaby, the juggler of our Lady, teaches each one that you have a purpose, a value, a meaning that will become clearer when you daily use the talent that God has given you.

Source: Our Lady's Juggler, by Rev. Mark Connolly

Photo: Juggler via Flickr

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December 12 - Advent Devotional 2015

Saturday, 12 December 2015

For the darkness of waiting
of not knowing what is to come
of staying ready and quiet and attentive,
we praise you, O God:

For the darkness and the light
are both alike to you.

For the darkness of staying silent
for the terror of having nothing to say
and for the greater terror
of needing to say nothing,
we praise you, O God:

For the darkness and the light
are both alike to you.

For the darkness of loving
in which it is safe to surrender
to let go of our self-protection
and to stop holding back our desire,
we praise you, O God:

For the darkness and the light
are both alike to you.

For the darkness of choosing
when you give us the moment
to speak, and act, and change,
and we cannot know what we have set in motion,
but we still have to take the risk,
we praise you, O God:

For the darkness and the light
are both alike to you.

For the darkness of hoping
in a world which longs for you,
for the wrestling and laboring of all creation
for wholeness and justice and freedom,
we praise you, O God:

For the darkness and the light
Are both alike to you.

Source:  All Desires Known by Janet Morely

Photo: All the Beauty Things

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11 - Advent Devotional 2015

Friday, 11 December 2015

Che Jesus,

They told me that you came back to be born every Christmas. Man, you're crazy!

... with this stubborn gesture of coming back every Christmas you are trying to tell us something:

That the revolution that all proclaim begins first of all in each one's heart,

That it doesn't mean only changing structures but changing selfishness for love,

That we have to stop being wolves and return to being brothers and sisters,

That we ... begin to work seriously for individual conversion and social change that will give to all the possibility of having bread, education, freedom, and dignity.

That you have a message that's called the Gospel,

And a Church, and that's us­
A Church that wants to be servant of all,
A Church that knows that because God became human one Christmas there is no other way to love God but to love all people.

If that's the way it is, Jesus, come to my house this Christmas, Come to my country,
Come to the world of men and women. And first of all, come to my heart.

Source: Anonymous, Cordoba, Argentina, at Christmas, 1970
Photo: Che Jesus, Chas Bayfield and Trevor Webb for the Churches Advertising Network

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 10 - Advent Devotional 2015

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Earth teach me
stillness as the grasses are stilled with light.

Earth teach me
suffering as old stones suffer with memory.

Earth teach me
humility as blossoms are humble with beginning.

Earth teach me
caring as the mother who secures her young.

Earth teach me
courage as the tree which stands all alone.

Earth teach me
freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky.

Earth teach me
resignation as the leaves which die in the fall.

Earth teach me
regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me
to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me
to remember kindness as dry fields weep with rain.

Source: Ute prayer
Photo: White via Fotoblur

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 9 - Advent Devotional 2015

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The scene of the Nativity of Jesus has been prolific throughout the ages. It has inspired painters, writers and musicians to create magnificent works of art that have become an intrinsic part of our Christmas tradition. The vibrancy of Handel's "Messiah", the individuality of "The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Murillo, the pageantry of "The Adoration of the Magi" by Di Farbriano, the simplicity of The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, are monumental achievements of the human soul to manifest the greatest event of all times -- the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is true that the majority of us are not capable of creating such masterpieces. Yet, all of us can experience the birth of Jesus within our hearts. We are also capable of extending this experience to others in many different ways. The core of the Christmas season falls upon the simple Nativity scene: the glorious rapture of the shepherds, the angels singing, the King's paying homage to a child. A child who forever changed the destiny of mankind. This experience can and should bring depth and meaning to our life.

The celebration of Jesus' birth is called Christmas or "Cristes maesse" which means Mass of Christ. For many this is a wonderful season filled with hope and expectations. It is a season filled with laughter, joy, love of family and friendships. We are so enthralled by the magic of the season that we become oblivious to the loneliness and the sadness that others bear.

But, if the divine radiance of the newborn Child is to affect and touch our lives, we cannot set aside or forget the lonely, the sad, the homeless. These are not some distant people that we cannot reach. They live in our midst. They are our friends, our neighbors, our family. How often we tend to ignore or not realize that the one's closest to us are the one's that are experiencing loneliness, sadness and despair. How perceptive we need to be to observe and act upon these carefully guarded feelings. We cannot permit indifference to their pain to cast a shadow over the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is discovering within ourselves that we are capable of love, forgiveness and compassion. It is recognizing that we have been blessed with many gifts and therefore, we must reach out and touch the lives of those who are alone. Then we shall be able to celebrate. Then our creative spirit will soar. Then and only then our masterpiece shall be rendered.

Our masterpiece is allowing the Nativity scene to permeate our life. Our masterpiece is reaching unto others, bringing comfort and happiness. Our masterpiece is the capability of taking the sublime from a simple Nativity scene and making it the central force of our life.

Source: Christmas Masterpiece, by Dorothy Riera

Photo: "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December 8 - Advent Devotional 2015

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Wild the man and wild the place,
Wild his dress and wild his face,
Wilder still his words that trace
Paths that lead from sin to grace.

“Knock down every proud backed hill!
Every canyon, valley fill!
Plane the soul and pray until
All its raucous ramblings still.”
“Throw yourself in Jordan’s streams,
Plunge beneath the wave the gleams,
Wash away what only seems.
Rise and float on heaven’s dreams.”

“Leave on shore unneeded weight,
Fear and doubt, the skeptic’s freight.
Toss them off and do not wait.
Time is short. The hour is late.”
“One now comes whose very name
Makes my words seem mild and tame.
I use water to reclaim
Lives that he will cleanse with flame.”

“You will see him soon appear:
One whose steps through prayer you hear.
Christ is drawing, drawing near,
Christ is coming, coming here!”

Source: Thomas Troeger © 1986 Oxford University Press, Inc

Photo: Cross in the Wilderness, Frederick Church, 1857

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7 - Advent Devotional 2015

Monday, 7 December 2015

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza,
quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta
sólo Dios basta.

May nothing disturb you.
May nothing astonish you.
Everything passes.
God does not go away.
Patience can attain anything.
He who has God within,
does not lack anything.
God is enough!

Source: Teresa of Avila. Let Nothing Disturb You: A Journey to the Center of the Soul with Teresa of Avila. Editor John Kirvan. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1996.

Photo: Beautiful Ice Window With A View

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6 - Advent Devotional 2015

Saturday, 6 December 2014 - Feast of St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) was the traditional day for giving gifts to children. It is still the day on which children receive gifts from St. Nicholas in the Netherlands. Epiphany (January 6) is, in the western Church, the commemoration of day on which the three kings presented the baby Jesus with gifts.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, which is in modern Turkey, sometime before AD 350. Nothing is known of his life except for the legends that have built up around him, but he was associated with kindness to children. He was a widely admired saint throughout the eastern and western churches. The Dutch custom of giving presents to children on St. Nicholas Day was brought to America by early Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, which was renamed New York when the British took over the colony. Santa Claus is the American pronunciation of Sinter Klaas, which was colloquial Dutch for Saint Nicholas.

* * *

During World War II it was necessary for Americans to mail Christmas gifts early for the troops in Europe to receive them in time. Merchants joined in the effort to remind the public to shop and mail early and the protracted shopping season was born. Since those days, retail merchants have been hard at work to escalate our retail observances this time of year. Accordingly, we shop longer and buy more than ever before. Retailers have taken the gift motif from Saint Nicholas’ Day and Epiphany and have used the combination to supplant the meaning of Christmas. They have instituted a secular sacrament of shopping, which pays no attention at all to the arrival of the Giver who gave His all. They call it a season for giving, and with that laudable slogan have lured us into a time of great expectations, huge let-downs, and lascivious acquisitiveness. They could not have done this without our full cooperation—for instead of celebrating the arrival of our salvation, we jump with glee and clap our hands at the arrival of the UPS truck!

Truly, we have a form of giving, but not the spirit thereof.

* * *

Poor Jesus! For on His birthday we give earrings to Mother and slippers to Dad and a bicycle to Junior, but nothing to Him. We yearn for possessions, and not for Him. We seek out appropriate gifts for all our loved ones except for Him for whom we can shop without money or credit cards or lay-away plan. Some of us no longer even give Him lip service, lest someone think we are too religious.

Jesus once spoke of a person taking good things and bad things from a storehouse. At this time of the year, we become that person, taking good things and bad things from our historic Christian heritage. We cannot simply reject or embrace everything that is there: we must discern what is good and reject what is bad. We do not want to end up with ‘bah humbug’ attitude of the Puritans, nor do we wish to tacky up our homes with decorations until truckers stop and ask if Jolene is working this shift. Neither extreme is desirable. Christmas is a jumble of good things and bad things, and we must be discerning.

Think of our nominal birthday boy this year. If anyone can have compassion on people who are plagued with holiday blues, it certainly must be Jesus on His birthday. This year, let Him be the guest of honor at your party.

Source: Christmas Facts, Ken Collins

Image: St. Nicholas "Lipensky" (Russian icon from Lipnya Church of St. Nicholas in Novgorod)

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 5 - Advent Devotional 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Stir up our hearts,
we beseech you, to prepare ourselves
to receive your Child.
When Jesus comes and knocks,
may he find us not sleeping in sin,
but awake to righteousness,
ceaselessly rejoicing in God's love.
May our hearts and minds
be so purified,
that we may be ready to receive
the promise of eternal life.

Source: The Galesian Sacramentary, c. 500

Image: Jesus Knocking at the Door via flickr

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 4, 2015

December 4 - Advent Devotional 2015

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Song for the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Source: Czeslaw Milosz, 1941

Photo: Arctic Photo

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 3 - Advent Devotional 2015

Thursday, 3 December 2014

A Christmas Carol

In the bleak midwinter,
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold you,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When you come to reign.
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Living God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But your mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped her beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give you,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a seer,
I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give you:
Give my heart.

Christina Rossetti, 1871

Photo: Winter when its the most beautiful

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2 - Advent Devotional 2015

Wednesday, 2 December 2014


Every year around this time, I have a familiar experience. I'm out shopping, and I'll go through the checkout line, and pay for my stuff. When the cashier hands me back the change, they'll say "Happy holidays," or perhaps even "Merry Christmas."

I realize that this comment is not always motivated by the cashier's genuine interest in whether or not I enjoy my holiday. I'm aware that they may be saying this because they've been told to. I can envision the memo from K mart corporate headquarters directing cashiers when to switch from "Have a nice day" to "Happy Holidays," on the assumption that this will somehow help cement a lasting bond between the store and the customer that won't evaporate when a Wal-Mart opens across the street.

I'm aware of all that, and suspicious of the whole business. But at least once every year, I have a cashier who looks me in the eye and says "Merry Christmas," and really means it. And it changes my whole day.

There really is something genuine to this whole idea of Christmas cheer. As Dec. 25th draws near, people warm up just a bit. If you're out and around on Christmas Eve, you'll notice that people are friendlier than on any other day of the year.

Folks warm up when they are mindful of the Christ child's birth, and make an extra effort to practice the virtues the angels sing of - "peace on earth, goodwill towards men."

But consider this - why do we notice this at Christmas? Why does this surge in warmheartedness stand out? I think it's because, despite our best intentions, good will towards men can easily become a seasonal event rather than a standing policy.

When Christ entered our world, he didn't come to brighten our Decembers, but to transform our lives. It can be hard work to practice good will towards one another. But John the Baptist's message was that as we prepare for Christ to come into our lives, we can change our ways.

The Gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry provide the blueprint for loving our neighbor in a busy and complicated neighborhood. Christ made a point of seeking out the broken and disenfranchised people of his day - the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors - and he saw the value in each one of them. And in so doing, He helped them recognize the value in themselves.

This Christmas season, let us recognize that just as faith is a decision, good will towards people is a series of decisions that work themselves out not in temporary holiday cheer, but in the details of everyday life.

Source: These meditations were prepared by Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Rich is a lay speaker who attends the The Hopewell United Methodist Church in Hopewell Borough, N.J.

Photo: Adoration of the Magi, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1488-89

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1 - Advent Devotional 2015

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Preparation for the Coming of The Kingdom of God
by Lani Jo Leigh

In traditional Christianity, the Old Testament is significant in that through the Law, the Prophets, and the history of Israel, a profound system of oracles and prophecies is built symbolically foreshadowing the coming of Christ. The Old Testament period was one of anticipation. God was Sovereign over all His creatures, but His people sensed that the Kingdom had not yet come and would only be truly inaugurated by the coronation of a Davidic King or by the glorious descent of the Celestial Son of Man. Prophets, such as Isaiah, also testified to the One who would come as a Suffering Servant, ushering in a Kingdom with personal liberation, but the majority of the Jews looked for a temporal king who would bring liberation from political, economic and social oppressors.

The liturgy of Advent stresses the hope for liberation and deliverance by referring again and again to "captive Israel" and to "the people that walked in darkness." However, being on this side of the resurrection in history, the Church knew that true deliverance would come from the Suffering Servant, and that even in the midst of painful, destructive political, economic and social oppression, a new and almost unimaginable freedom would be found.

This new-found freedom comes from the forgiveness of our sins and our subsequent reconciliation with God. Thus, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, St. John the Baptist, preached a message of repentance in preparation for the coming of Him who would be the Savior of the world. Advent gives special emphasis to John the Baptist's mission, and beautifully combines images from Isaiah of the arid ground of the desert waiting for the winter rains with the preaching of John the Baptist in the wilderness. Christ's coming will liberate us from the arid past and revive us with the water of eternal life.

Finally, as Advent draws to a close the Church begins to focus on the blessed Virgin Mary, for it is in obedience and allegiance to God, our King, that we are found to be faithful subjects in which the Kingdom can come. Her response to God was an overwhelming "yes" and in the face of rebuke, shame, and even death, Mary replied to the angel, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

Thus with the close of Advent the stage has been set, the cry has gone out from Israel, the way has been prepared.

Source: Spirituality for Today, December, 1995, Volume 1, Number 5


View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Advent Devotional 2015

[Editor's note: for Advent 2015, I've decided to repost parts of last year's Advent Devotional.]

Each year just before the last leaves of Autumn see their way to the ground, and the shadow of evening comes earlier each day, my thoughts turn to the season of Advent.

Growing up in the Roman Catholic church, I learned that there was indeed such a season. As a child it was marked by an Advent Wreath with its four candles - three purple and one pink - each of which were lighted in succession starting on the first Sunday in Advent. I could see that Advent was a time of change: the church calendar actually changed, the priest's vestments changed color. We were no longer in "ordinary" time.

As I grew older, with my participation in Protestant churches, I kept the habit of marking the Advent season. For me it was a time of waiting, a time of preparing. And in 1996, I published an Advent Devotional, a book to be read each day to mark the days before the celebration of the arrival of Christ.

It was during these years in the mid to late-1990s, that I was considering a career change to one of ministry and I actually enrolled in seminary. But it was not to be - family and life obligations would soon take me away from that path. I was put upon a different path, one that made me realize this: plans have a funny way of changing suddenly and there is a purpose and a meaning to that change.

The "waiting" as I call it is all about change and anticipating change. Preparing for change. Leaving the old ways and welcoming the new, even when it is unknown and scary.

Over the next twenty four days, I hope to recreate my work which was entitled "Stir Up Your People, O God!" and comprised of images, poems, quotes and stories about the arrival of Christ. Even after 18 years, this work still has meaning and a message which I hope you enjoy.

Photo: Stained glass windows in the Mausoleum of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California; originally created in the 1920s for Saint Vibiana Cathedral, Los Angeles.
© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.