December 25 - #AdventWord #Child
The prophet Isaiah and Handel the composer reach across the ages to teach us to sing out the Good News: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”
From the Prologue of John’s Gospel, we know “the Word (Logos) became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
Luke the physician tells us of angels singing the wonderful news of a child born to Mary: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
Phillips Brooks has us sing with countless others around the world the joyful news. The waiting has ended:
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
— The Rev. Donald Fishburne worships at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church on Pawleys Island. He is a coach and consultant to clergy and churches.
December 24 - #AdventWord #Greeting
A “greeting” seems like such a simple thing, yet it can be deceptively complex. The word comes from the Old English “greting” which in verb form, “gretan,” meant to “come in contact with” in any form—from a welcoming salutation, to accosting someone, or even an attack. Here in the South, we all know well the layered complexity of such a seemingly simple act. I am reminded of a quintessentially Southern story involving then candidate Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian, and a political reporter covering the presidential campaign. The reporter arrived at Mrs. Carter’s home whereupon she greeted him with warmth and welcomed him into her home telling him, “It’s so good to see you.” During the interview, the reporter asked Mrs. Carter about her son’s promise to never tell a lie. To which she replied, “Well, there is a difference between a lie and a little white lie.” Thinking he’d caught her, he pounced, “What is the difference? Isn’t a lie just a lie?” Mrs. Carter sighed and said, “Do you remember when I told you it was so good to see you?”
In all three synoptic Gospels, Jesus warns of the potential duplicity of greetings as he tells of the scribes “who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets” [Mark 12:38-39, see also Luke 20:45-47 and Matthew 23:6-7]. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus asks, “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” [Matthew 5:47] This strikes at the heart of what we are called to do in this season of Advent as we are waiting to greet Him. We should remember that everyone we encounter every day, not just our family and friends, we are greeting by virtue of its very definition. If we do so with an open heart and a genuine love of neighbor, then we are truly living God’s call to us.
—George McDaniel, The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Summerville
December 23 - #AdventWord #Flock
We’re fortunate in the Lowcountry to see flocks of seabirds and songbirds, coveys of doves. Not so close at hand to most of us is a flock of sheep.
What good are sheep? They can supply wool and food, for starters. We teach about them in nursery rhymes. Lullabies. They turn up in Christmas carols. You’ve heard preachers say that sheep aren’t the brightest of creatures. They need tending lest they go astray. We resist some comparisons to sheep: we don’t want to get fleeced.
We can’t overlook sheep in the Bible. Together with rams and lambs, they are all over the place, with more than five hundred mentions in Scripture. “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Jesus teaches that he is the Good Shepherd, the gate, the protector of the sheepfold, the guide who knows his sheep by name, and they recognize him. The one who nurtures the sheep. And lays down his life for them. The one who goes after that one lost sheep and carries it home to safety. The one who comes that we may have life, and have it abundantly. Jesus abides with us and in us as the Shepherd of our souls.
Ultimately, Jesus is born to be the lamb who gives his life for the world. Behold the Lamb. All this makes us the flock. Among us Jesus inspires some shepherds and sheep dogs: Bishops with shepherds’ staffs of one fashion or another. Lay people and clergy engaged in pastoral care.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus assures us, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Are there any lost sheep you will invite in and bring to the manger this Christmas Season? If you are a lonely sheep, isolated and in pain, Jesus is born for you. Join us.
— The Rev. Donald Fishburne worships at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church on Pawleys Island. He is trained as a mentor in the clergy Thriving in Ministry initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment.
December 22 - #AdventWord #Magnify
“Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.” - Ezekiel 38:23
Magnify has both secular and non-secular meanings. Since the 1800s, the use of the word magnify has been on the decline. But during this season of Advent, we should be reminded that magnify appears in scriptures at least 36 times. It is a word of praise and exaltation of the name, mercy, and other attributes of God, God’s words, Christ and even man!
—Harriett Green, Church of the Good Shepherd, Sumter
December 21 - #AdventWord #Generations
Some South Carolinians and equine enthusiasts have something in common. They have turned tracing blood lines to both an art and science. It’s part of our collective history as well, although I am looking at two births that changed the world forever. Abraham thought that God was playing the fool. Angels don’t negotiate. Mary, who some scholars think was around fourteen, carried a child even though she was barely an adult herself. She took on the responsibility of birthing the One we had been waiting for. What will future generations think our stewardship? Our time is now. Please say yes as our ancestors did before us.
—Mike Thomas, Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island
December 20 - #AdventWord #Feed
Feeding is central to life and health. The necessity of nutrition is a daily reminder of our dependence on providence. Feeding is filled with Advent themes of anticipation, preparation, hope and expectation. This daily action nourishes and strengthens us for the work God calls us to. Our longing to be fed also draws us to the Eucharist. At the Eucharist, we feed on Jesus and become who we are, the body of Christ for the world around us.
—The Reverend Bill Watson serves as priest-in-charge at the Episcopal Church on Okatie (Ridgeland) and also is a member of the Standing Committee.
December 19 - #AdventWord #Blessed
I have often heard the word “blessed” tossed around in the midst of good fortune, wealth and positive circumstances. It is harder to feel “blessed” when life brings us adversity and pain, if that is our framework. But more ancient understandings of this word include being made holy, consecrated and under God’s provision and protection. In the Jewish tradition, to bless means to increase in joy and peacefulness, trusting in God to reign over circumstances, good and bad. To be blessed from this perspective, is not a recognition of riches or special privilege, but rather a humble confession that we are not self-sufficient.
If we are to consider these alternative meanings of the word, the Beatitudes of Jesus make more sense. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn. I have come to believe in my own faith journey, that we can find peaceful blessing even in times of trouble, knowing that those who are vulnerable, are under God’s watchful compassion and protection. God calls each of us to be agents of God’s care, especially to those who need a word of hope.
During this Advent journey, as we watch and wait for the incarnation of hope into a suffering world, may we all make that humble confession and turn our hearts to being a blessing to others.
— The Reverend Denise Trogdon serves as rector of All Saints Episcopal Church on Hilton Head Island, and she is also a member of Diocesan Council.
December 18 - #AdventWord #Sing
The psalmist implores us to sing, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our Sovereign, sing praises.” (Ps 47:6) Singing in a small monastic choir brings home the value of each voice. When one whom we know and love is missing due to illness or travel, it is easily noticed and the choir feels incomplete. And at the same time, we also acknowledge that only one member of the choir can show up to pray the office and all the saints and angels will fill out the choir. In this Advent season, even as the church is called to sing praises, I wonder whose voice is missing from the choir of our praise? Whose voices were with us in our last Advent season but are now gathered with the saints; whose voices have left the choir, and whose were never welcomed and thus never heard among us? The psalmist does not call only singers of particular skill or range. Nor is there division by any other name. “Clap your hands, ALL you peoples; shout to God with a cry of joy….Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our Sovereign, sing praises.” (Ps 47:1, 6) Because every voice matters.
—The Rev. Sr. Miriam Elizabeth Bledsoe, OSH, The Order of Saint Helena
December 17 - #AdventWord #Bountiful
As we journey through Advent, we are expectant and eager to celebrate the coming of the Christ, as child and as Prince of Peace. As we continue to make our way through the pandemic, we have learned to make do with shortages, delays, disappointments, and isolation.
All the while we know that our loving God is not one of scarcity, but of abundance. We hear the young woman Mary sing, in response to God’s invitation:
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
We are among the rich, by the world’s standards. And we are also followers of Jesus. We abide in him, and he in us. As we bow before his cradle soon, hungry to be nourished to minister in his world to his people in need, we find a home. There is room for us in his life. He prepares spiritual mansions for us as his sisters and brothers. May our Lord find in us a mansion prepared for himself – in our hearts, churches, worship – in our giving and in our ministries.
Soon enough we make room in our hearts, to hear again the proclamation of John’s Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.” We, too, can be filled with this grace and truth from God, as he pours upon us the new light of the incarnate Word. And we will have more than enough to share.
As we sing Advent songs of expectation, and as we join with angels in carols welcoming the Savior, may we sing in our spirits these words, as well:
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us!
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, and the next!
— The Rev. Donald Fishburne worships at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church on Pawleys Island; he is a coach and consultant to clergy and churches.
December 16 - #AdventWord #Gladness
“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” So writes the 18th century British poet Samuel Johnson. Now, we can laugh at any number of things. But gladness, true gladness comes from a deeper place. I believe Grace can be described as the unexpected spark that kindles gladness in our heart. It’s unexpected. It’s unmerited. It’s a gift!
People who practice gratitude seem to uncover the gift of gladness more readily. Gladness seems to take up semi-permanent residence in their heart, in their steps, and in their words. I enjoy being around those who gladden the human experience – they enrich us all.
Many clergy have been ordained to the priesthood in Advent. Bishop Alexander Stewart ordained me on this day – December 16, 1978. All these years later, I continue to be joyfully humbled in thanksgiving to God and the Church for the journey of gladness.
May God fill your heart with gladness today. Please share that gladness with those you meet and those you love…and look for the unexpected sparks!
—The Reverend Bill Coyne attends St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Charleston.
As part of this effort to create a global, online advent calendar -- led by Forward Movement -- we will share a new word each day from November 28-December 25, 2021, with meditations from people around the diocese. Each day, the meditation will be accompanied by an image relating to the word of the day as well.