Category Archives: Advent Reflection

Advent: Encountering the Holy Spirit

The early protagonists had a directness in their encounters with God that was, perhaps, simpler in their simpler world than it is for us in our far more complex universe. *

Advent is the time I remember that Mary had an extremely direct encounter with the Holy Spirit. Each year pondering the angel’s words even as Mary did, offers fresh insight into the Holy Spirit’s work in my own life. 

“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.  ~Luke 1:35

As Advent comes to a close, I invite you to read the article below I wrote for Faithward about the direct encounters with God that Moses, Elijah and Mary experienced. And I challenge you to pray for your own direct encounter with the Holy Spirit this Christmas and beyond.

If you are a spiritual director how might you pray for new experiences of the Holy Spirit during direction sessions. And then how might share them with your supervisor. If you are in spiritual direction, share moments when the Holy Spirit comes over you with your director.

*L’Engle, Madeleine and Chase, Carole F. (ed.). Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts and Reflections. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.


Light: The Ending of Advent

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. ~Isaiah 9:2

O Lord, send out your light and your truth…

May your light guide us toward the truth our souls long to know when uncertainty is ever so elusive.

May your truth lead us toward the faith our souls need to have and to hold when reality is again overwhelming.

May your light and your truth bring us to the hope our souls find in your Son’s true light with joy alas exceeding.*

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6 

And so Christmas comes to us all…Amen and amen!

*(based on Psalm 43:3-5)

Advent 4: Fear, Favor, Forever

I have read and heard this verse quoted many times throughout this  ten months. I even used this quote to encourage others and to seek refuge from my own fears. The pandemic has caused us all to face fears we did not even know we had. 

It is Christmas Eve and I take comfort in the reality thatMary and Joseph faced fears they never knew. As they left Nazareth did they pray for protection,  and guidance. Perhaps they formed a prayed around this verse from Psalm 27:

Teach me your way, O Lord, 

and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

~vs. 11

“Teach us Your way Lord that our fears might not overwhelm us. Lead us Lord on a level path through the  rocky terrain between Nazareth to Bethlehem. Grant us favor and give us a level path from here to there.” 

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. ~Luke 2:1-6

Mary and Joseph also not doubt wanted reassurance that no evil would harm them or the precious baby who was being entrusted into their care.Was this verse from Psalm 27 their silent prayer:

Do not give us up to the will of my adversaries, 

for false witnesses have risen against us

and they are breathing out violence.

~vs 12

There was real and present dangers all around them as they traveled. Their physical landscape and the political climate both threatened their son.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. ~Matthew 2:1-9

What is your rocky terrain? How are you asking God lead you through the pandemic? What do you want God to teach you about the our current political climate? How is hope rising like a faraway forever star in your heart?

Wait for the Lord; be strong, 

and let your heart take courage; 

wait for the Lord !

~Psalm 27:14 


Advent 3: Fear, Favor, Forever

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

~vs 1

This thread of fear, favor and forever continues to be woven throughout my reflections on Psalm 27 and Mary’s life.

Now my head is lifted up

    above my enemies all around me,

and I will offer in his tent

    sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,

    be gracious to me and answer me!

“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”

    Your face, Lord, do I seek.

~vs 6-8

In my mind’s eye, I see Mary praying and God responding by lifting her spirit and giving her a respite from her fears. From a heart that seeks the Lord, Mary praises God:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

    and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

    from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

    and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

    and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

    in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

~Luke 2:46-55

I always marvel at Mary’s words of praise and rejoicing. She humbly acknowledges that the Lord has looked favorably upon her. But not just her. Generation after generation, Abraham’s descendants forever receive God’s promised blessing, mercy and provision.

For three months, Mary remained with Elizabeth before returning home. I wonder how she handled her worry over going back to l Nazareth. She must have realized she was not going back to life as it once was. I wonder if Mary’s prayers included pleas like these:

Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,

    you who have been my help.

Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,

    O God of my salvation!

If my father and mother forsake me,

    the Lord will take me up.

~vs 9-10

In her time of waiting, Mary gathers the courage to return home to a whole new way of life. In our moments of waiting, may we too gather our courage by replacing our fears with praise, by rejoicing in God’s favor and by forever receiving God’s saving grace.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, 

and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the Lord!

~vs 14

Advent 2: Fear, Favor, Forever

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

~Psalm 27:1

This week I have thought about the fear, the shame and the disgrace that compelled Mary to go and visit Elizabeth. This is the disgrace Joseph thought he could protect Mary from by divorcing her. However, God had another plan. Joseph’s dream not to divorce Mary is a reminder that God’s protection is readily available and always timely.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Today as I reread the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, I wondered if those closest to Mary thought she was running away from something or someone. In reality, she was running toward God and the confirmation she needed. 

The impossible was happening. Elizabeth was pregnant beyond her child-bearing years. And Mary was pregnant by the same Holy Spirit that caused the baby in Elizabeth’s womb to “leap for joy.” Their pregnancies revealed that they had both defied biology. 

And perhaps Mary defied her fears by praying as King David once did in the face of his enemies this portion of Psalm 27:2-5:

When the wicked advance against me to devour me,

it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;

though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

In her day of trouble, God sent her to the one place where she would be protected and her faith nurtured. For nine months, Mary’s faith and understanding of God’s favor grew exponentially…into a forever reality.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

~Psalm 27:14

Advent 1: Fear, Favor, Forever

Advent is here and I feel some resistance to embarking on another season of waiting. We have all been waiting eight months for some shift in our pandemic reality. We have longed for the good news of a vaccine and we have waited for a decrease in the number of cases to deliver us from protocols that seem to create angst and anger rather than peace and hope. 

While reflecting the past few days, I realized that the visit between Mary and the angel Gabriel must have happened sometime in March, about the time we went into isolation to slow the spread of Coronavirus. 

Take a moment to read through Luke’s foretelling of Jesus’ birth:

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.  ~Luke 1:26-38

Three words stand out for me. Fear and favor always come to the forefront, but today forever jumps off the page. Together these three words summarize a response to the psalmist’s question in Psalm 27:1.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; 

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; 

of whom shall I be afraid?

Because of her forever favor with God, Mary could be forever unfearful. What is your biggest fear today? In the midst of waiting for the end to the pandemic there are likely many, but our fears can be reminders of God’s forever favor to us. Moreover, the gift of waiting during Advent is the hope that comes from facing our fears and remembering our forever favor with God.

Wait for the Lord; 

be strong, and let your heart take courage; 

wait for the Lord!

~Psalm 27:1