Tag Archives: Advent

Advent Actions: First Week

Advent is a season of waiting, but it’s not a season of waiting around. In this holy season, we remember a time when the world yearned for justice, when people hoped a mighty king would come and rescue them. We know, with 20 centuries of hindsight, that the people got their king, but that the King of Creation was born in the most humble of circumstances. God entered our history and shared our journey in the most human, vulnerable way possible. In this story, we find hope and salvation in our own story. God’s salvation – health, wholeness, redemption – comes to us not in power and might but in humility and vulnerability.
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In Advent, especially on this First Sunday of Advent, we also yearn for a time of justice, when God’s reign of justice and righteousness will be manifest. Along with the prophet Isaiah, we look for a time when “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Advent, then, is a time to remember and a time to hope. It is a time to prepare our hearts to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, but it is also a time to prepare for God’s reign. In Jesus’ ministry, no one got upset when he said that the kingdom was coming. But he got into trouble for saying it is here, now. When God’s reign of justice and mercy, righteousness and truth is made real, we Christians know to proclaim God’s reign.

A few days ago, a priest from Minnesota, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, contacted us at Forward Movement with an idea. What if we used this Advent – this year’s Advent, coming in a time of increased division and proliferation of hatred – as a time of action and change? In other words, what if we looked for opportunities to see and proclaim God’s reign among us?

Each Sunday in Advent, we will post three suggestions for action or conversation. One will be connected with governance or civil society; one will be connected to loving our neighbors; and one will be rooted on transformation and conversation at home or among friends. We invite you to try these practices and encourage others to do the same. Please share your experiences in a comment here or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

May Jesus Christ’s light be in your heart this Advent season, and may you be a beacon of God’s love for the world. I am,

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn


ADVENT ACTIONS: FIRST SUNDAY

· Visit a restaurant owned by someone from a different culture. Strike up a conversation. Do you share any hopes or fears?

· Call your local mayor’s office. Share your hopes for your town or city. Do your hopes sound like Isaiah 2:1-5 (the first reading from today)? Why or why not?

· Gather friends or family around a meal table. Talk about how recent trends (rise in hate crimes, increased fear, violence, division) in the United States might or might not make this Advent different from previous ones.

Remember to share your experience with friends, either in person or online. Please consider posting these stories here in the comments or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

Soul Proclamations: God Is With Us

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Luke 2:41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the

festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Meditation for Sunday January 3, by Christine McSpadden

As you enter St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish church across from Trafalgar Square in London, you confront a remarkable sculpture by Mike Chapman. I have seen it many times, and it still takes my breath away and brings me to tears. Under the portico, outside the west doors, presides a large, four-and-a-half ton block of light grey Portland stone. The opening line from the Gospel of John is inscribed in the stone and wraps around the plinth of the block: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh and lived among us.” On the top of the block, hewn out of the rough surface, a life-sized baby emerges from the stone—an infant utterly vulnerable in his nakedness, chubby arms spread apart ending in tiny, clenched fists, plump legs kicking open. The stone breathes and pulses with this fragile babe, his umbilical cord still tethered to the rock.

I cannot help but think of my own newborn son, minutes after his birth, pulled from my womb and thrust into this world, fragile yet fiercely alive! I am amazed again and anew that God deigned to take human flesh, so that the Almighty might share the divine self so intimately with us. It utterly stuns me that the Creator God who fashioned all that is seen and unseen, the Cosmic God whose existence knows no bounds, the Infinite God beyond all time and space, the eternal God who is, who was, and who shall be from everlasting to everlasting, the Omnipotent God all powerful, the Omniscient God to whom nothing is not known, and the Loving God in whom everything brings delight, meets us at our most vulnerable in this most vulnerable form of human being.


The Rev. Christine McSpadden, a graduate of the University of Virginia and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, has served in congregations from New York City to San Francisco. She currently lives in London where she is a member of the clergy team at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She has written several times for Forward Movement, including as an author of meditations for Forward Day by Day. She and her husband have two children.

Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary is a new collection of daily meditations for the Advent season. Authors include broadcast journalist Ray Suarez; Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church; Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral; Thomas E. Breidenthal, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio; and Christine McSpadden of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The book invites you to share Mary’s journey through the Advent and Christmas seasons. To walk with Mary each day this Advent, order a copy of the full volume of Soul Proclamations ($5).

Soul Proclamations: Be Not Afraid

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Luke 1:39–55

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said, “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.”

Meditation for Sunday December 20, by Tom Breidenthal

Today we are brought alongside Mary, as she races through the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She has just been informed by Gabriel that she is to give birth to the Messiah by the power of the Holy Spirit. No doubt she is motivated by the need to share what has happened to her, to seek the advice and encouragement of a trusted adult, and to sort out what is real from what she may have imagined in her impressionable heart. But Mary’s driving emotion is excitement: any self-doubt is the byproduct of her whole-heartedness.

Mary has received a call—one so sudden and so new that even now she cannot know for sure whether new life has been conceived within her. When she questions Gabriel— “How can this be, since I have not known a man?”—he says she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Luke uses that expression only one other time in his Gospel, when he describes the cloud that envelops Peter, James, and John as they see Jesus transfigured in glory on the mountaintop (Luke 9:34).

Some have identified this overshadowing cloud with the dark night of the soul, the “dazzling darkness” we enter into when all the normal props of life are removed, and we are simply in the presence of the living God. Luke notes that Mary was among the disciples when the Holy Spirit lighted on them on Pentecost. Was this a reprise for her? Or perhaps nothing noticeable happened after her yes to Gabriel: I am the Lord’s servant—be it to me according to your word. In any case Mary believed what she had been told by Gabriel and proceeded accordingly. Can we who have been promised so much do the same?


The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal was consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio in 2007. With a Master’s degree from Church Divinity School and a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology degree from Oxford University, Breidenthal has served congregations in Oregon, Oxford, England, and New York as well as serving as a high school chaplain. He taught at General Theological Seminary from 1992 to 2001 and served as dean of religious life and of the chapel for five years at Princeton University. He is the author of two books, Christian Households: The Sanctification of Nearness and Sacred Unions. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Margaret Garner Breidenthal. They have two adult daughters.

Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary is a new collection of daily meditations for the Advent season. Authors include broadcast journalist Ray Suarez; Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church; Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral; Thomas E. Breidenthal, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio; and Christine McSpadden of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The book invites you to share Mary’s journey through the Advent and Christmas seasons. To walk with Mary each day this Advent, order a copy of the full volume of Soul Proclamations ($5).