Coming soon: 2018 Advent reflections

Advent begins this year on Sunday, December 2. As I’ve done in past years, I’m composing a series of scripture-based Advent reflections, drawing from all three of Community of Christ’s standard books: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants.

This year’s reflection series is thematically connected to the 25th anniversary of the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (which will be celebrated during the 2018-2019 liturgical year). The title of the series is “God with us.” There will be four themes:

  • Week 1: God became human and lived on earth as Jesus.
  • Week 2: God continues to live on earth as the Holy Spirit, living in Jesus’s disciples.
  • Week 3: God, living in Jesus’s disciples, is working to transform human beings and all creation.
  • Week 4: The Temple reminds Community of Christ that God is with us, working through us to change lives.

As in past years, I will post each day’s reflection to this blog. I will also make a print version of the entire reflection series available for free download on the blog; I’ll post that sometime during the Thanksgiving break. To give you just a taste, here’s the cover image:

Advent 2018 cover

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In response to the Streeter hoax

I created this blog as a resource for members of Community of Christ. But I hope that audience will forgive me if I use the blog today to address a subject not obviously related to Community of Christ, but one that weighs on me given my LDS background. This post is directed to people in my life who still live within or near the LDS Church.

* * *

It’s Sunday evening, May 20, 2018. Pentecost, as it happens. I have been agitated all weekend by the Streeter hoax and its nuclear fallout. I lay awake until 4:00 a.m. last night, thinking about it.

I say that as a prelude to trying to empathetically imagine what these last few days must have been like–and are still like, ongoing–for people who are more deeply invested in the LDS Church than I am at this point in my life and more deeply impacted by its racist legacies.

There is so much pain, so much anger, for different reasons, from different directions. I find the volume and intensity of it all overwhelming–and again, I speak as someone standing at a considerable remove from ground zero.

To intensify matters yet further, all this pain and anger are ineluctably political. As we speak, boundaries and battle lines are being drawn or fortified. Different voices are competing to be heard, battling with one another to claim the moral high ground, to secure the most rhetorically strategic positions, to be heard most loudly, to marginalize other voices while resisting being marginalized themselves. I’m doing it right now. As I said, it’s ineluctable.

It’s hard for me to see how this can end well.

I’m writing this post because I’m hoping that it can somehow help me achieve enough mental and emotional distance from this incident that I can focus on the tasks of the coming week. Once again: I say that as prelude to acknowledging that other people, closer to and more badly wounded by the blast than I, are going to be struggling to do that as well, but bearing much greater burdens.

Here’s where I find my spirit turning at this moment:

1 Kings 19:11-13

There was a great wind,
so strong that it split mountains and broke rocks in pieces.
But God was not in the wind.

After the wind, an earthquake.
But God was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake, a fire.
But God was not in the fire.

And after the fire,
a sound of sheer silence.

When Elijah heard it,
he wrapped his face in his mantle
and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

The Transfiguration and Kirtland Temple

In 1836, Joseph Smith Jr. and Oliver Cowdery had a vision in the Kirtland Temple that echoes Peter, James, and John’s vision of the Transfiguration. Joseph and Oliver’s vision can serve as a vivid reminder of Community of Christ’s three core Mission Initiatives. (A sermon prepared for the Cincinnati Community of Christ congregation, Feb. 11, 2018.)

 

Download the responsive reflection

December 24 (Fourth Sunday of Advent)

Theme: A Promise Fulfilled

Read from the Book of Mormon:
(abridged from 3 Nephi 1)

Nephi was sorrowful.
He went out and bowed himself down on the earth
and cried mightily to God.
He cried to the Lord all that day.

Then the Lord’s voice came to Nephi:

“Lift up your head! Be of good cheer!
On this night, the sign will be given.
Tomorrow, I come into the world
to show the world that I will fulfill
all that I have caused to be spoken by the prophets.”

The words that came to Nephi were fulfilled.
At the going down of the sun,
there was no darkness.
The people were astonished.
All that night, it was as light as midday.

In the morning, the sun rose again
according to its proper order,
and they knew it was the day that the Lord should be born.

Read also: Isaiah 40:9

Reflection:
Lord— Tonight is the night when darkness turns into light, sorrow into rejoicing. Tonight we celebrate the fulfillment of a promise you made to us. At the same time, tonight’s celebration is a sign of promises still to be fulfilled. As you told Nephi: your coming into the world is a sign that you will fulfill all that you have caused to be spoken by the prophets. The fulfillment of your promises is not complete, but it has begun. The work of building your peace on earth, your shalom, has begun. You have come to us! You are working with us! Those are the glad tidings we celebrate this night. Let the whole world hear!

Sing: Go, Tell It on the Mountain (CCS 409)

This has been the final installment in this series of Advent reflections. May you have a blessed, happy Christmas!

December 23 (Saturday)

Theme: A Hope Delayed

Re-read from the Book of Mormon:
Some began to say that the time was past
for the words spoken by Samuel to be fulfilled.
They began to rejoice over their brothers and sisters,
saying: “Your joy and faith have been vain!”

Nephi, son of Nephi, was sorrowful.
He went out and bowed himself down on the earth
and cried mightily to his God.

He cried to the Lord all that day.

Read also: Psalm 25:1-5

Reflection:
The verses from Psalm 25 capture the essence of what I imagine Nephi would have been praying. Unlike Nephi, I can’t spend the whole day in prayer. But I’m going to take a few minutes now to keep reading those first five verses of Psalm 25 over and over, as a meditation.

Reminder:
Tomorrow is Sunday—and Christmas Eve, the end of Advent. What will you give for your Disciple’s Generous Response?

About this Advent reflection