Prepare the Way

Little Mary and Joseph, waiting for Baby Jesus

Little Mary and Joseph, preparing a place for Baby Jesus

Christmas is coming, and it is time to prepare the way. There wasn’t any room in the inn. Will there be room in our hearts? When we see the Mother coming down the road, will we welcome her? Will we welcome her in the poor mother, and welcome him in the poor child?

These are the questions that Advent asks, and more and more Christians from outside the liturgical traditions of Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism are finding value in the questions and value in this season.

Our family is Catholic, so we’ve always kept Advent. We’ve lit an Advent Wreath week by week every year of our marriage. And now that our daughter Anna is old enough, she reads the prayers each week. We added an Advent Calendar this year as well. Each night, Anna opens another door and reads a short scripture verse about the coming of Christ.

And we’ve added one more tradition to our observance of the season. One that prepares the way and a place in our hearts through helping the poor parents who in Christ’s eyes are his poor parents, and the poor children who in his words are him. We joined a large group of volunteers helping a local business bring Christmas cheer to hundreds of families who can’t afford to buy for their own children.

We bought for three families, with eight kids total ranging from six months to ten years old. Anna helped us pick out clothes and toys, especially for the girls, and in three hours this evening we made an immeasurable difference in eight lives.

And tomorrow, Anna and Julia will help wrap the gifts. I’m staying home for that part. Given my lack of wrapping talent I’m more help not being there.

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300

Bloggerhood Etc. 12/1/14

An all-purple Advent Wreath

But where’s the pink candle? (Photo: Cara Strickland)

Happy December and a Blessed Advent to all of you. Here’s the best of the last two weeks, beginning with an Advent post.

Best Start to Advent.Dwell” by Cara Strickland at Little Did She Know.

Best Special Needs Post.We See You, Calvin” by Kara Dedert at Not Alone.

Best Dad Post.Sorry Kids, I Will Never “Let” You Beat Me” by Beau Coffron at Lunchbox Dad.

Most Moving.Ghostly Grief: On Miscarriage and Loss” by Micha Boyett at On Faith.

Best Retrospective.A Eulogy for Radio Shack” by Jon Bois at SBNation.

Best List.12 Things For Which I Forget to be Thankful” by Andee Zomerman at Nature of a Servant.

Best Commentary.Why the Lack of Indictment for Mike Brown’s Shooting is a Devastating Blow” by Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan.

Best Personal Essay.Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye at David Kanigan’s Live and Learn.

Best Response.Foolishness, Poverty, Mobility” by Elizabeth Stoker Bruening.

Best Photoblog.Read Me! Please!: Book Titles Rewritten to Get More Clicks” by Janet Potter at The Millions.

Best Interview.Faith and Science: 15 Questions for Dr. Stephen Barr” by Sean Salai, S.J. at America.

Best Reality Check.Pomplamoose 2014 Tour Profits (or Lack Thereof)” by Jack Conte at Medium.

Best Meditation.I Was Wrong About You, 2014” by Natalie Trust.

Best Profile.A Football Martyr” by John Rosengren at SB Nation.

Cutest Video.Paranormal Petivity” by Pets Add Life (via YouTube).

“What?”

Advent is Here

Advent candle

Tonight, we’ll resume our yearly Advent tradition and light the first candle on our family Advent Wreath. Anna has asked to help lead the prayers this year, and I think she’s ready.

I will begin as always by saying my favorite Advent candle-lighting prayer, which is also the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent in the Episcopal Church (my former church) …

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Then we’ll light the first candle, and she’ll read the prayer for the First Sunday of Advent …

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the Kingdom of Heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever. Amen.

Some of you may recognize this as the old translation of the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, that was superseded by an updated translation in 2011. While the new version is more accurate, and at times more eloquent, this is the one from my copy of A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions that we’ve used since Anna was a baby. It will also be easier for her to read.

Then we’ll read the Gospel for this Sunday, and say the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary to conclude our prayers.

Bloggerhood Etc. 12/9/13

Girl lights an Advent Wreath

Whittman photo (via Our Sunday Visitor)

A little Advent, a little Christmas, and the rest of the Best of the Week …

Best Advent Resource List.Prepare the Way of the Lord” at Our Sunday Visitor.

Most Mindful Christmas Gift List.7 Gift Ideas for the One Who is Struggling” by Addie Zierman.

Best Santa Profile.The Real St. Nicholas” by Joe Towalski at Catholic Spirit.

Best Comic.I Don’t Own a TV” at xkcd.

Best Top Ten.Top Ten Pope Moments” by Noah Rayman at TIME.com.

Best Statement of the Obvious.Rush Limbaugh Knows Nothing About Christianity” by Andrew Sullivan at The Dish.

Funniest.Breaking Madden: A land where ‘offsides’ has no meaning” by Jon Bois at SB Nation.

Saddest (But Truest). “Mike Shanahan’s Brilliant Last Act as Redskins Coach; Making Everyone Forget He Sucked” by KC Clyburn at HTTR 24-7.

Best Tribute.A Southern Cross Love Song: Remembering Nelson “Madiba” Mandela” by Lisa-Jo Baker at A Deeper Story.

Biggest Surprise.  The weather in Eugene over the weekend. (Story via KEZI 9 News.)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Bloggerhood Etc. 12/2/13

Numbered Advent Envelopes

Photo: Addie Zierman

A blessed Advent to all of you. Here’s the best of the week starting with …

Best Advent Kickoff.35 Ideas for Cultivating Spiritual Mindfulness at Christmas” by Addie Zierman. The first post in Addie’s week-long “When You Need a Little Christmas Community Project.” For the next four days, she’ll be focusing on a different aspect of “Christmas mindfulness”

Monday: Spiritual mindfulness as we honor the season of Advent and celebrate the arrival of Light.

Tuesday: Mindfulness in our interactions with friends and family.

Wednesday: Mindfulness in the ways we love and welcome strangers.

Thursday:  Mindfulness in creating magic and meaningful traditions.

Which is what Advent is—a season of preparation through prayer and reflection. (And I’ll be tying in my posts with these themes each day this week as well.)

Best Photoessay. “Fifty States of LEGO” by Jeff Friesen at The Brick Fantastic.

Only organic free-range chickens run amuck at the FreeBird food truck. Just don’t get pecked when you pluck.

Oregon (Photo: Jeff Friesen)

Best Special Needs Post.The Reality of Special Needs, and How You Can Help” by Nish Weiseth.

Sometimes, other parents make me want to rip my hair out.

Which is unfortunate, because I quite like my hair. It’s not their fault, it’s just part of the hard reality of having a kid with special needs.

Happy posts on Facebook about the cute conversation you had with your four year old? Shut up. Don’t want to hear it.

Pictures of your preschooler smiling and holding their new baby sibling? Can’t handle it.

Pictures from play dates, evening outings to restaurants and taking him to his first movie? Please just stop.

I want to be excited for you, I want to celebrate the victories of your kids. I really do. But sometimes, it’s really f**king hard.

Best Comic Series.5 differences between life now and life before cell phones” by Twenty Pixels (re-posted at 22 Words).

Before and after cell phones panel

Image: Twenty Pixels

Best Commentary.Beware: Non-Celibates Writing about Celibacy” by James Martin, SJ in America.

(F)ormer Catholics have written perceptively about the church. The problem is that Keller’s article is based largely on the opinions of two priests who left the priesthood and a sister who left her order, and his own speculation about what the celibate life must be like. That’s like writing a piece on marriage and speaking only to divorced men and women. “Yeah,” they might say, “married life stinks.”

Worst Top Ten List (Ever).Top Ten Single Digit Numbers” by Glove and Boots (via YouTube).

See their previous Top Ten Worst Top Ten Lists (now 2-11) here.

Best Advice to a New Dad.An Open Letter To Zack Hunt” By Ed Cyzewski on Zach’s American Jesus blog.

Prepare yourself for some amazing parenting wisdom because if there’s anyone who knows a megaton about parenting, it’s the father who has one 16-month old child. I’m practically an expert. Now that I’m past the one year mark, I’m even more of an expert than those bloggers who give “Tips for a Happy, Lifelong Marriage” after their first anniversary.

Best Video (and Best Christmas Flashback).Honest Trailers – Home Alone” by Honest Trailers.

There’s no better way to start the Christmas season than by revisiting the family holiday classic featuring cutie pie Macaulay Culkin violently standing his ground against two hapless burglars!

In a house filled with sadistic booby traps and far too many poinsettias.

God With Us

Four lit Advent candles

Photo: Elmar Ersch (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The seventh and final O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Emmanuel: God with us. This is the meaning of Christmas. In a cave—which is what the “stable” in Bethlehem really was—born to a poor teenaged girl: a powerless child of a powerless mother in the shadow of the most powerful empire the world had ever known.

God chose not to come in power and glory, but in humility. He chose not to stop all the suffering in the world—and we struggle to understand why—but he chose to suffer with us.

God is with us. In our joy and in our sorrow. He is with all the children who eyes will light up on Christmas morning when they see their presents wrapped and left under a tree, and he’s with the parents who children are not with them anymore: not this Christmas or any other.

And he is with those children too, for nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death.

God is with us.

December 23

Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.