Prayer Guides for Advent
Advent is an eagerly-anticipated time of year. Well, maybe, for some of us, it is a dreaded time of year. Whatever your gut reaction to Advent may be, Advent provides us with a unique opportunity for wonder, for questions, for comfort, and for spiritual exploration. It’s also the time when it’s actually OK to hear Christmas music in stores and restaurants.
Traditionally the word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” I prefer its dynamic sense: someone is on the way; someone is moving toward us with great urgency. Someone wants passionately to be among us in the ups-and-downs of our real lives, to bring new energy to our labors, our joys, our sorrows. That someone is Christ.
There is a paradox inherent in our Advent observance. We prepare ourselves for the arrival of someone who has already come. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) That happened already. So what are we waiting for?
When we celebrate Communion, the celebrant declares, “Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of our Lord Jesus, until he comes again.” Jesus has been here. Jesus is coming again.
In this mysterious in-between time, we have a renewed opportunity to wake up, to pay attention, to watch for the ways Christ is moving among the realities of our world. We also hear a voice calling us to do more than watch. For each of the four weeks of Advent, our worship team is providing you with a prayer guide in the hope of providing you with a few tools to enrich your Advent experience and your Christmas celebration. We also hope these guides will deepen your awareness of God’s love for you -- and your neighbor.
Together in Christ,
This week Peter and Cornelius act on their visions. For Cornelius it's easy: follow orders and send for Peter, for you are to be rewarded for your prayers and alms. There seems to be no downside. The only trap that Cornelius falls into is worshiping Peter instead of God who Peter serves; the charismatic personality instead of God who gives the charism, the gift of grace.
For Peter, there's a massive departure from his comfort zone. As he points out “it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile.” It breaks his holiness code and therefor threatens the thing he values most – his relationship with the Lord. It threatens his very identity as a Jew.
Now they are together “in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded.” As a result of Peter and Cornelius acting on their visions, we have a scene of diverse people come together: Jews and Gentiles, Cornelius' family and slaves and soldiers. All come together for the purpose of hearing what God has to say through Peter.
We should also leave comfort zones, obey God's visions, come together and listen to God.