Advent 2018

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An Introduction to Advent

The Church’s invitation in Advent is twofold: to remember Christ’s glorious coming into the world and to anticipate his mysterious return one day.
READING FOR WEEK ONE
READING FOR WEEK TWO
READING FOR WEEK THREE

We remember the story of when God himself came and took residence among us. Yet he came not as many then expected, and still, if we’re honest, not as many of us now would have necessarily liked him to. He came not as a great warrior or mighty king. Nor did he come with power and order to suddenly deliver his people from the hands of their oppressors. This God came humble and quiet. He came a helpless baby, like each and every one of us. He came among the lowly, the marginalized. Almost hidden, lying in a manger. Enfleshed holiness that would grow as a son, in a particular culture, steeped in Judiasm, and when ready would set the greatest Kingdom the world could know into motion through miracles, teachings, and upside down ethics – but more so through a cross, a death, a resurrection.

And we anticipate that someday near or far this same God will return again to make what he began so long ago full, complete, and final.

We’re all too aware that there are still oppressors and stories too heavy to bear. The suffering, the marginalized, the forgotten are still among us. And we are not too different from them. So until then we live, with open hearts and wounded hands, much like the child. And we watch. We proclaim. In prayer and action, we drag the sorrowful, the dirty, the whole of ourselves towards the bright and glorious day all of humanity was promised, when our King returns and his peace and love, grace and mercy shall reign and fill our hearts with joy.

So in a word, this remembering and anticipation, brings about in our souls longing. In a culture where our calendars are overflowing, our eyes are glazed over with the blue lights of screens, every question is reduced to thoughts and formulas, our neighbors threaten with hatred and violence, we find we live with fearful, caged hearts…

Longing though, again if we’ll give ourselves to her in Advent, will lead us towards hope. The invitation in Advent is to pay attention to the longing, to give ourselves to it, to open our hearts again. The invitation is to prepare room in us for Christ to be born, to dwell, to live within us now. It is not past. It is not future. Hope has arrived on the scene. In Advent, he comes to us fully – that we may grasp his beauty, his love, his glory again.

This Advent, may the longing lead you – and all of us – home to him.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

A Word on How to Use this Guide

What is provided for you here is a simple prayer and scripture guide, adapted from the Church of England’s daily prayer guides, that covers the duration of the Advent season. It is meant to be used individually or within your house church, family, and friends for the purpose of prayer, meditation, and reflection. You will also find these themes and some of the scriptures and prayers mirrored in our Advent Sunday gatherings and on Christmas Eve.

Each week will begin with a reflection written by a Bloom Staff member. These reflections will cover the historical themes of Advent: Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. These reflections are intended to help guide your heart and mind each week as you ponder and await Christ. These themes will also mirror the themes of the Advent candles each week during our Sunday gatherings.

Then, each week will provide for you a simple format of morning and evening prayer, complete with daily scripture readings. You are encouraged to use some or all of the readings during morning and evening prayer. Again, these readings follow the lectionary and each Sunday will also be the readings we hear together as a community, alongside the global and historical Church.

This prayer guide is intended to be one to quiet your soul and wonder with God, as we invite Him to come and be born in us. Take it slow, if some days you choose only to sit with a portion of it, that is enough. If you want to respond in worship or journaling, feel free to do so. If you want to have a conversation with someone close to you about what the Spirit stirs within you, do so. Our hope is that you would find new spaces of wonder, peace, hope, and joy with Christ. Let the Spirit guide you however he may.

Lastly, Advent and Christmas is a season that prepares us to make room for Christ to live within us and among us, which naturally opens us to generosity and hospitality. Therefore, we invite you to give out of your abundance and even out of your lack. We would encourage you to give directly to organizations in our city and world who are close to your heart; or as always you can give directly to Bloom (bloom.church/give) as we seek together to live out the call and ream God has given us.

As you awaken to the longing of your hearts this Advent, may you remember that it is Christ himself who comes and lives within you and may you anticipate him to reign in you fully and anew. Come Christmas may your hearts and eyes be full of his great love and joy.

With love,

The Bloom Staff

Week One: Hope

Weekly Reflection: Hope

Advent calls us to walk honest and somber roads, to remember those for whom hope has been lost, and to remember those for whom hope has never been known.

 

The plight of those without food and home.

The suffering of those crushed by war and conflict.

The agonizing cry of those enslaved by addiction..

The quiet sigh of those who ever feel the pain of loneliness.

And even the vaults of our own hearts, where no other may traverse and no light may shine. 

The Light that shines in the darkness has come, and Darkness shall not overcome it. But still there are places and still there are hearts to which no light has shown. There is darker still a shadow that seeks to bring a great death to us all. It is into this world that Christ the Light came, walked as one of us, healed and touched us as our God, and gave himself over to this world to die as a servant of all. The Light was subjected to the darkness of this world, and Darkness did not prevail. The Light was killed by the darkness of this world, and yet it was Darkness who was defeated. The Light is eternal, and the Light of the world is Jesus the Christ.

Foretold by prophets, experienced in the dreams of the awaiting ones, it was the Advent of Christ the Light that bore hope in the hearts of those who saw beyond this darkness. They prayed, and they waited, and they hoped for a Light, for love and mercy and grace and peace. And into this world where Darkness is the reigning power, the Light came and established yet another reign. Not one of force or war or oppression, but of peace eternal. Two reigns in one world; two rulers: Darkness and Light. Our universe lay heavy with the weight of two kingdoms.

We feel the weight of this as surely as we breathe. We feel the clash of darkness and light all around us, and we feel the pain of those who have been overcome with the dark. We hear their cries. We sense their pain. And we feel it within ourselves. In the quiet, we can sense the heaviness of this world, of the reign of Darkness. It is in these moments that we feel yet something more strong and more beautiful than darkness: we feel the light. As we open ourselves up to Christ the Light, hope floods our being, and we are awakened to the beauty of what all of this once was and what it will be again at the end of all days. It is in these moments that we join with those who came before us, and we too await the Advent of Christ. Not the first Advent; not the coming of Christ as a servant to plant the seeds of a new kingdom in this world, but the second Advent: the second coming of Christ as King to establish an everlasting reign that will shake the foundations of this world to ruin and will put Darkness away from us for all time.

This is the Advent for which we hope, to see Christ coming upon the earth. The expanse of space will be shaken; the heavenly bodies will forsake their orbits; the earth will tremble. But it is to this undoing that we look, for within it is our salvation, once and for all. The Light is coming, and Darkness will not overcome it. The kingdom of this world will fall in ruin, and the hell that hopelessness has wrecked upon its’ people will be thrown off of us. Into every dark place in our world, the Light has come; the Light is coming. Upon every war and oppressive force, the Light has come; the Light is coming. Into every heart that has lost hope, the Light has come; the Light is coming. Hope is what holds us still in the face of Darkness. Hope is what was born in the first Advent of Christ.

Hope is what opens us up to the Advent of Christ in this present age, and hope is what draws us to await the coming Advent of Christ, when all things will be made new.

May you allow your hearts to hope in the midst of all things.

-David

O come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Readings for Week One

December 2

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • Psalm 25:1-9
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
  • Luke 21:25-36

December 3

  • Isaiah 1:10-20
  • Psalm 122
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:1-20
  • Luke 20:1-8

December 4

  • Isaiah 1:21-31
  • Psalm 72:1-8
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  • Luke 20:9-18

December 5

  • Isaiah 2:1-11
  • Psalm 23
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
  • Luke 20:19-26

December 6

  • Isaiah 2:12-22
  • Psalm 118:19-24
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
  • Luke 20:27-40

December 7

  • Isaiah 3:8-15
  • Psalm 27:1-6, 17-18
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
  • Luke 20:41-2:4

December 8

  • Isaiah 4:2-6
  • Psalm 147:1-12
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Luke 21:5-19

Morning Prayer

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;

let us pray with one heart and mind.

 

Silence is held

 

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,

so may the light of your presence, O God,

set our hearts on fire with love for you;

now and forever.

Amen.

 

Scriptures are read and meditated upon

 

Blessed are you, God of all,

to you be praise and glory forever.

In your tender compassion

the dawn from on high is breaking upon us

to dispel the lingering shadows of night.

As we look for your coming among us this day,

open our eyes to behold your presence

and strengthen our hands to do your will,

that the world may rejoice and give you praise.

Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Blessed be God forever.

 

Intercessions are offered for:

  • The Church, that she may be ready for the coming of Christ
  • The leaders of the Church
  • The nations, that they may be subject to the rule of God
  • Those who are working for justice and peace in the world
  • The broken, that they may find God’s healing

 

The Lord’s Prayer is said

  

May the Lord, when he comes,

find us watching and waiting.

Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Evening Prayer

That this evening may be holy, good, and peaceful

let us pray with one heart and mind.

 

Silence is held

 

As our prayer rises before you, O God,

so may your mercy come down upon us

to cleanse our hearts

and set us free to sing your praise

now and forever.

Amen.

 

Scriptures are read and meditated upon

 

My soul is waiting for you, O Lord:

in your word is my hope.

My soul is waiting for you, O Lord:

you are my hope.

There is forgiveness with you,

so that you shall be honored.

In your word is my hope.

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit.

 

Intercessions are offered for:

  • For peace
  • For individuals and their needs

 

In peace we will lie down and sleep;

for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.

Abide in us, Lord Jesus,

for the night is at hand and the day is now past.

As the night looks for the morning,

so do we look for you, O Christ.

 

Restore us again, O God of heaven and earth;

show us the light of your countenance

and we shall be saved.

Bless and keep us, this night and always.

Amen.

Week Two: Faith

Weekly Reflection: Faith

Advent is the season of expectation, which could also be described as the season of faith. For the Jewish people of Luke’s time, they perhaps expected a Messiah like the earthly rulers named in Sunday’s Gospel passage. I think Luke intentionally includes these names for a few reason. Firstly, as a historian, he wants to verify the events in his story by appealing to contemporary authorities, whether political or religious, but this is not the only reason. Right on the heels of Luke naming all of these powerful figures, he comes to the man through whom God will initiate the salvation of Israel and the nations: John the Baptist. In this way, Luke intends to draw a contrast between the powerful Roman rulers and Jewish establishment leadership and the lowly John. It is in fact John is one who finds himself looking urgently for the consolation of his people as they have faith that the Messiah will come.

Of particular interest is where John is found in Luke’s gospel. He is found in the wilderness. Wilderness in the Scriptures continuously is a place where God prepares His people. A retreat into the wilderness can mean a time for God’s refining work, His sharpening of the tool He will use, or time for God to pour His purpose into a person. Although these times are frequently less than enjoyable, they seem to be a time when the individual or group is most available to the activity of God. Faith can be a difficult thing to have during these times, but it is what is being shaped in us and most certainly is part of what gets us through.

We are all familiar with the wilderness, and yet this Advent season some of us may be feeling as though the wilderness is an inescapable place that will never end. However, for all of us the story of the Israelites and John the Baptist would say otherwise.

God will come to you.

Give it time. Give way to the silence. Give God the space necessary to develop His work in you.

No matter how long you have wandered in the wilderness, Advent is the season to look forward to how God may come to you afresh, just as He did to the Jewish people.

I encourage you to look for and pay attention to the activity of God in your life this week. Have faith. Begin to trust. Look for God to show you His salvation this Advent, and I trust that He will appear in the places that you’d least expect.

-Daniel Martinez

O come, O Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From the depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to you, O Israel!

December 9

  • Malachi 3:1-4
  • Psalm 148
  • Philippians 1:3-11
  • Luke 3:1-6
READ DEC 9

December 10

  • Isaiah 5:8-12, 18-23
  • Psalm 85:8-13
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
  • Luke 21:20-28
READ DEC 10

December 11

  • Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25
  • Psalm 50:7-15
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
  • Luke 21:29-38
READ DEC 11

December 12

  • Isaiah 6:1-13
  • Psalm 103:1-10
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
  • John 7:53-8:11
READ DEC 12

December 13

  • Isaiah 7:1-9
  • Psalm 145:1-4, 8-13
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  • Luke 22:1-13
READ DEC 13

December 14

  • Isaiah 7:10-25
  • Psalm 1; 2
  • Thessalonians 2:13-3:5
  • Luke 22:14-30
READ DEC 14

December 15

  • Isaiah 8:1-15
  • Psalm 80:1-3, 14-18
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
  • Luke 22:31-38
READ DEC 15

Morning Prayer

O Lord, open our lips

and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

Reveal among us the light of your presence

That we may behold your power and glory.

 

Silence is held

 

Now it is time to awake out of sleep,

for the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed,

for the night is far spent.

Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness

and put on the armor of light,

for the day is at hand.

Put on the Lord Christ

and make no provision for the flesh,

for the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

  

Scriptures are read and meditated upon

 

Savior, light everlasting,

by your first advent justify us,

by your second, set us free:

that when the great light dawns

and you come as judge of all,

we may be robed in eternal majesty

and ready, Lord, to follow

in your blessed footsteps, wherever they may lead.

 

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now,

and shall be forever. Amen.

 

Intercessions are offered for:

  • The day and its tasks
  • The world and its needs
  • The Church and her life

The Lord’s Prayer is said

Evening Prayer

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

 

Most merciful God,

we confess to you before heaven and your people,

that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed

and in what we have failed to do.

Forgive us our sins,

heal us by your Spirit

and raise us to new life in Christ.

Amen.

 

Silence is held

 

Keep me as the apple of your eye.

Hide me under the shadow of your wings.

  

Scriptures are read and meditated upon

 

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:

your word has been fulfilled.

My own eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared in the sight of every people;

a light to reveal you to the nations

and the glory of your people Israel.

 

Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace;

that we may rejoice before you with a perfect heart.

  

Intercessions are offered

 

Stir up your power, O God,

and come among us.

Heal our wounds,

calm our fears,

and give us peace;

through Jesus our Redeemer.

Amen.

Week Three: Joy

Weekly Reflection: Joy

Luke’s Gospel this Sunday presents a wrathful, frightening scene at first glance. We find John the Baptist pleading with the crowds to repent of their sins, give their belongings to the poor, and be content with their material lives. A harsh message for a group of people who thought they were spiritually safe, that their lives reflected God’s ethic, and that lived in a time of poverty and oppression. And a harsh message for us too… Shall we too be thrown into the fire if we do not produce good fruit? The way we steward our money and belongings is surely good enough, isn’t it? And my Christmas wish list isn’t too long and is full of stuff I really want, I mean “need”?

But John follows up this little conversation by pointing to the one who is to come: The Messiah – Jesus – God with us. But he proclaims that this Messiah will baptize with Spirit and fire, and that all that is not worthy of this fire will be burned away into nothing.

This is the Good News! I think… maybe? It is supposed to be anyways.

December is an odd month in our culture. Right of the heels of a holiday void of gift giving and intended for abounding thankfulness, we are thrown into a hurried month of consumerism, endless parties and commitments, and fluctuating expectations and disappointments from loved ones about what our time together is supposed to look like. Oh, and then there is supposed to be something about Jesus’s birth thrown in there as well. This has always frustrated me. December never seems to actually offer us the right things, and instead just vies for our money, our time, our emotion and bids us distracted from remembering Christ’s birth and pondering who he is. And we get to the end of it and feel like we have missed the actual point of the season entirely.

While the people John the Baptist was talking to in Luke’s Gospel certainly did not have this same cultural context as we do, I wonder if he is trying to speak right to the heart of the same matter. That as human beings we are massively distracted, hoarding, selfish, and just entirely amiss from who we were intended to be and how we were meant to live and thrive. And this business of Christ’s peace and joy seems too far off to actually attain and dwell in.

It is as if John is saying:  Listen, this way you live and the things you let the world pull you in to are utterly ridiculous. Stop it. Give away your shirt. Feed the poor. Be satisfied with all that you have. And oh, by the way, the one who’s coming – He’s utter love wrapped up in flesh, and his way of life will bid you die to the things of this world in order to find a way of living that is full of peace and joy.

This is good news of great joy because it allows us to let go – to put down all of the consumerism, emotion, expectation, disappointments, and distractions – and give ourselves to something else.

To the one who comes to us and humbles us. To the one who gives us the Holy Spirit – his presence – the only true thing we need. To the one who asks us to serve the poor and feed the hungry, because he knows in doing so we will not only see his face, but we will not be weighed down by the things we think we have needed.

Contentedness is not an outcome of the Gospel that we usually think of or talk about, but it is one of the things, I believe, that leads to deep joy. And the way that Jesus, through John the Baptist, is inviting us to is all about contentment.

The most joyous people I know have cancer. The most joyous people I know have very little material belongings. The most joyous people I know are keenly aware and honest about all of their shortcomings and believe instead that there is one who loves them. The most joyous people I know do not throw themselves into the hustle and bustle, they are thoughtful about how they spend their time and with whom. The most joyous people I know look, at every single moment, for the one who has come to dwell among us and free us from all that weighs us down, all that pulls at us to be something we were never meant to be in the first place.

This week, I want to invite you to put it all down. Put down the rush from one party to the next. Put down the temptation to buy every last person you know a Christmas present. Put down the expectation that all of your loved ones will be in perfect harmony when everyone sits down to Christmas dinner. Put down your inner frustration with yourself.

Let it lie.

And in its place may you find your heart content with the knowledge that the one who created you, came to you. And the one who came to you loves you. And the one who loves you invites you to a different way, a way where joy abounds and flies in the face of a world bent on chaos, frustration, and loss. And that way – it is utter and wild joy.

-Melissa Guthrie

O come, thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to you, O Israel!

December 16

  • Zephaniah 3:14-20
  • Psalm 63:1-11
  • Philippians 4:4-7
  • Luke 3:7-18
READ DEC 16

December 17

  • Isaiah 8:16-9:1
  • Psalm 25:3-8
  • 2 Peter 1:1-11
  • Luke 22:39-53
READ DEC 17

December 18

  • Isaiah 9:1-7
  • Psalm 34:1-8
  • 2 Peter 1:12-21
  • Luke 22:54-69
READ DEC 18

December 19

  • Isaiah 9:8-17
  • Psalm 85:8-13
  • 2 Peter 2:1-10a
  • Mark 1:1-8
READ DEC 19

December 20

  • Isaiah 9:18-10:4
  • Psalm 30
  • 2 Peter 2:10b-16
  • Matthew 3:1-12
READ DEC 20

December 21

  • Isaiah 10:5-19
  • Psalm 67
  • 2 Peter 2:17-22
  • Matthew 11:2-15
READ DEC 21

December 22

  • Isaiah 10:20-27
  • Psalm 113
  • Jude 17-25
  • Luke 3:1-9
READ DEC 22

Morning Prayer

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

 

Your words have I hidden within my heart,

that I should not sin against you.

 

Silence is held

 

Like the sun in the morning sky,

the Savior of the world will dawn;

like rain upon the meadows,

the Christ will come down upon us.

Amen.

 

Scriptures are read and meditated upon

 

Keep us, O Lord,

while we tarry on this earth,

in a serious seeking after you,

and in an affectionate walking with you,

every day of our lives;

that when you come

we may be found not hiding,

nor serving the ourselves,

nor yet asleep with our lamp dim,

but waiting and longing for our Lord,

our glorious God forever.

Amen.

 

Intercessions are offered for:

  • Those who seek justice and mercy
  • The leaders of every nation
  • Our Bloom family
  • The brokenhearted and the sick

 

The Lord’s Prayer is said

 

May the Lord make us ready for his coming in glory.

Amen.

Evening Prayer

The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end to this day.

Amen.

 

Our help is in the name of the Lord

who made heaven and earth.

 

Silence is held

 

Almighty God,

give us grace to cast away the works of darkness

and to put on the armor of light,

now in the time of this earthly life,

in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;

that on the last day,

when he shall come again in his glorious majesty

to judge the living and the dead,

we may rise to eternal life;

through him who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.

Amen.

 

Scriptures are read and meditated upon

 

Lord Jesus, you are the one who is to come,

the one whom we await with longing hearts.

Come, Lord Jesus!

  

Thanksgivings from the day are offered

 

Intercessions are offered

 

Before the ending of the day,

Creator of the world, we pray

that you, with steadfast love, would keep

your watch around us as we sleep.

Amen.