As we begin our journey into Advent Season, I would ask, before we rightly give our hearts over to the joy of Christmas; that we might take a few minutes in prayer over two brief passages, from the past about the meaning of Advent. Here is the first. The great Lutheran Pastor and Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once preached, the following:

“We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the (Advent) message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”

Bonhoeffer spoke those words, from inside the heart of the Third Reich, a regime that finally killed him, for his resistance activities. He knew both the joy and the cost of the Christian faith, and he lived his discipleship heroically in very difficult times. His life makes for extraordinary reading, especially at the hands of a gifted biographer. Eric Metaxas has told Bonhoeffer’s story, in a most compelling book. I would you to urge you to read it.

But Bonhoeffer was not alone in his heroism, nor in preaching the real meaning of Advent, from the depths of a dark time. The second (longer) passage is by Jesuit Father Alfred Delp; who wrote the words below, from his prison cell shortly before the Third Reich executed him—just as it did Dietrich Bonhoeffer—for resistance to Adolph Hitler’s regime.

“We may ask why God has sent us into this time, why he has sent this whirlwind over the earth, why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless and dark, and why there seems to be no end to this in sight. The answer to this question is perhaps that we were living on earth in an utterly false and counterfeit security. And now God strikes the earth till it resounds, now he shakes and shatters; not to pound us with fear, but to teach us one thing—the spirit’s innermost moving and being moved . . ..”

“(We) have stood on this earth in false pathos, in false security; in our spiritual insanity we really believed we could, with the power of our own hand and arm, bring the stars down from heaven and kindle flames of eternity in the world. We believed that with our own forces we could avert the dangers and banish night, switch off and halt the internal quaking of the universe. We believed we could harness everything and fit it into a final order that would stand.”

“Here is the message of Advent: Faced with him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake. Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things. Only then will we be able to guard our life from the frights and terrors into which God the Lord has let the world sink to teach us, so that we may awaken from sleep, as Paul says, and see that it is time to repent, time to change things ….”

“The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. The Advent message comes out of an encounter of man with the absolute, the final, the Gospel. It is thus the message that shakes—so that in the end, the world shall be shaken.”

These are sober thoughts. But they are the soil, from which real Christian joy and hope must grow. They remind us why Advent, as a season, is so vital to

understanding the whole of Christian revelation. The baby born in Bethlehem comes to bring us light and peace. But to do that, He comes to die for us and

rise again. He comes to deliver us from the evil in ourselves and in the world that slew Bonhoeffer, and Delp, and even the Son of God Himself.

May you have peaceful and quite Advent, as you make room in your hearts, to receive the Blessed Christ-child. O come Emmanuel! Jesus Christ comes to shake everything. May He come quickly.

Blessings, M+

I would suspect when most of us think of the Holy Spirit, “the Advocate,” is not the first thing that comes to mind. It is a term we might normally encounter in a court of law. We do not usually think of the third person of the Blessed Trinity standing before the bench, like a spiritual Perry Mason. But, maybe we should.

When Jesus refers to “the Advocate” in John’s Gospel, it is a startling reminder that, in the Christian journey we are not alone. We have someone on our side – a defender, a counselor, an advisor. An Advocate. The Holy Spirit pleads our cause. And not only that, Jesus adds: “He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation.”

But the Holy Spirit is, first and foremost, one who advocates on our behalf.

As the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and fortitude, this Advocate pleads, in our hearts for patience. The Holy Spirit encourages compassion, defends our acts of mercy and humility. And, when it seems most elusive, the Spirit advises prayerful hope.

As the Spirit of counsel, knowledge, and piety, this Advocate stands beside us when we are unsure, or indecisive, or doubtful – nurturing our faith and offering grace in moments, when it seems that they are lost.

The Advocate who came, at Pentecost, the One foretold by Jesus, does not work on retainer. The Holy Spirit does not keep track of billable hours. The Advocate is always at our service, ready to be our defender, our companion, our counselor, our guide.

The Holy Spirit advocates for the Gospel, in order that we enabled to continue to walk the Way of Christ – no matter what trials we may face.

Hear our prayer, O Lord: bless, protect and sanctify all those who bow their heads before You.

Blessings to all. M +

The Disciples had walked with Jesus, during the three years of His ministry. They had just listened to the story of the two Disciples who walked with the risen Christ, on the road to Emmaus. One would think, they would be expecting, hoping, Jesus would also come to them. No, instead, they are terrified at His appearance and think that He is a ghost. Now to me that is amazing!

But then I stop and think. Maybe it is not so amazing after all. Rather than being too harsh on the Disciples, I recall the many times I have reacted to life’s uninvited surprises, in a similar way. In stead of holding onto the anchor of my faith, I sometimes allow cataracts to grow on my heart, creating a foggy vision of doubt and anxiety. This murkiness within is a kind of barrier, preventing the eyes of my heart, from recognizing the risen Christ right there beside me. During these times, Jesus waits to speak the same words He spoke to the Disciples: “Peace be with you. Why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your hearts?”

When I miss the presence of the risen Christ – in others or in what is happening around me – Christ comes to me in the quite of my heart and assures me that He is near. “Do not be troubled. Be at peace. Trust me. Reach out and touch me. I am real. Let My loving presence nourish you. Relax and be at peace.” Unclouded by fear and doubt, I finally get it- and I am amazed and incredulous with joy!

Hear our prayer, O Lord: bless, protect and sanctify all those who bow their heads before You.

Blessings to all.