Wednesday, Dec 6th

By: Maggie Leonard

Isaiah 64.1-9

Refecton—v. 5, ‘because you hid yourself, we transgressed’

Have you ever said something like, ‘You made me do it’ to another person? I have. But really? When I yell, did someone else fill my lungs with air, constrict my throat, and choose the words I said? Of course not. I did that. I chose my response. Sure, it has been infuenced by the behaviors I witnessed growing up and what has worked for me in the past. But my response was fueled by my own energy and directed under my self-control (or lack thereof). Nobody can make me yell. Another person might choose a diferent response to provocaton, and on a diferent day, I might choose a diferent response myself. What gall the prophet has in blaming God for the bad behavior of the people. But honestly, we engage in those kinds of ridiculous moral gymnastics all the time, shirking our responsibility. If we are not able to see our own agency in our mistakes, how will the cycle ever stop? In this season of waitng for God to be born into the world, we must not fnd ourselves passing the blame for the woes of our world. Instead we have the opportunity to partcipate in preparing for Jesus. Rather than seeming to stand around incriminatng one another, we should look and see where love is lacking. It is our work to create a world of peace, dignity, and respect. After all, into what type of world do we want to welcome our God?

Prayer Incarnate God, may we be truthful with you and ourselves about our world so that we might create a more hospitable home for you.

Tuesday, Dec 5th

By: Maggie Leonard

Mark 13.24-37

Refection—v. 24, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light’

My brother lives in the 2017 eclipse path of totality. That made it very easy for my entre immediate family to gather and watch the once-in-a-lifetme phenomenon together. In this Markan prophecy, the turning of the sky sounds very dramatc. So was the eclipse. But what struck me most was the length of the process. To the discerning (and protected!) eye, watching the waxing and waning of the eclipse took hours. Signs were all around us of what was to come, if we knew what to look for. For example, the crescent shadows of leaves were a tell-tale sign of the looming eclipse—though honestly, I was so busy looking up, that I forgot to look down. And really, that’s all prophecy is—an interpretaton of what is already around us, if we are looking in the right directon. The signs are there, for sure. But usually the process is longer than we hope. This passage speaks about God gathering together God’s people—not dividing us. In this Advent season, do we notce the ways in which God is gathering us together? Let us stop pointng fngers and begin to look for the ways that God gathers us as one people into God’s kingdom—where everybody is loved and valued.
Prayer God of all seasons, may we see the signs of your love and transformation.

Monday, Dec 4th

By: Maggie Leonatd

Mark 13.24-37

Refecton—v. 28, ‘from the fig tree…branch becomes tender’
When I walked the Camino de Santago in September, I was struck by the abundance of food. Every field and yard was dripping with food from plants, vines, and trees. There were grapes, tomatoes, lemons, oranges, corn, cabbage, and figs. Oh, the figs! Their sweet branches blocked the sun from our backs and offered us sustenance with their fruit. But this passage doesn’t talk about fruit. It talks about tender shoots growing leaves. There aren’t even fowers on these trees, much less fruit. That’s true of this season, too. The season of Advent is a season of darkness and preparaton. It’s a time when we survey ourselves and the world and consider what needs to be done to be ready to welcome the Son of God. The fruits of our labors are not yet seen, but we act with hopeful antcipaton nevertheless. Now is the time to do the unpopular work of confessing our shortcomings with our whole hearts. Growth is a slow process that makes us vulnerable. We become tender, more susceptble to hurt, but its in that place of vulnerability that we can know that good things are near. Every failure is an opportunity for learning. Every injustce is a chance for justce to prevail. Every division creates space for reconciliaton. I hope that during this season, we can keep those growth moments tender—not distractng with humor or ratonalizatons, but truly feeling what is being done and to let that be okay.

Prayer God of tenderness, may we see the signs of your love and transformaton.

Sunday, Dec 3rd

By:Maggie Leonard

Mark 13.24-3713.24-37

Refection—v. 36, ‘or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly’
I suffer from FOMO. It’s been a struggle my whole life. I have the Fear Of Missing Out, Group Pic-01FOMO. It’s that fear that has kept me up late at slumber parties, conferences, dance par- ties, and family gatherings. I want that experience. I want that connection. I want that memory. After all, sleep is for the weak! If I’m honest though, I haven’t had much FOMO when it comes to my relationship with God—which is problematic. I suppose my mental- ity is that God will always be there, so I can catch up with God later. And surely, God wants me to take care of myself, right? God understands that I need to sleep, even if my friends don’t. But it seems like I could be missing out on an awful lot. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we had a Fear Of Missing Out of God and God’s Kingdom? I’m not talking about that guilty, shaming, knee-knocking, hell-fire-and-brimstone type of fear, but rather that fear of missing out on the beautiful, the awe-inspiring, the well-rested, the fun-loving and loving-kindness peaceful existence that could be found in God. How is it that we aren’t scared of missing out on that? It’ll require a change of priorities, courage, and abundant hope, but I suspect that it will be well worth it.

Prayer God, help us turn to you that we may partcipate in your joyful kingdom.

Fri, Jan 6th

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2. 1-12
Reflection—v. 3, ‘they saw the star they were filled with joy’
It was still distant, but the star stopped moving. The end was in sight, their long
journey almost half over. The idea of following a star sounds so whimsical. I
suppose there are some benefits, like never being out in the hot sun, but traveling only at night sounds dark, disorienting, difficult, and lonely. With so many stars in the sky, however did they distinguish them all? It’s astonishing how a little speck in the sky could keep them moving forward over thousands of miles. Hope can be like that, the smallest bit of light can inspire us to do the impossible. There are so many things that beg our attention—other stars that glimmer and flicker—but that do not bring the same joy as following God’s mysterious path. So much around us promises momentary pleasure—more so than ever before. In past years we had to work for the things that bring us pleasure, but these days, with so many pleasurable things at our fingertips, we forget the deeper satisfaction that comes with patience and joy. May we turn to God’s light and experience the joy that comes with God’s promise of presence and peace.
Prayer
Lord of light, help me to discern your light, that I might follow it.

Thur, Jan 5th

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-23
Reflection—v. 18, ‘weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled because they are no more’
We get so uncomfortable by the weeping and grieving of others, but that process
is so important. It is difficult to be present in those moments, there is nothing to
do, nothing that we can fix. Often when we try to comfort others it is because
of our own discomfort, not because they are ready to stop—the release is an
important part of the process. Loss should be honored. Instead of silencing the
voices of hurt and pain, I wonder if we are willing to hear the lamentation so
many try to keep to themselves. There is healing in the sharing of the experience, there is healing that comes from truly being heard and that experience being honored. To work through our own grief and to hold the experience of others, we have to slow down. Together we will find our way through. It may be slower than we want, but we will find our way.
Prayer
God, nothing will ever be right again. There are times when I am so
scared and sad that I don’t know what to do. Help me find my release. Help me
to have safe places to share my story. Help me to move toward hope

Wed, Jan 4th

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-23
Reflection—v. 16, ‘he grew angry’
Anger is not a ‘bad’ emotion. Ever. Anger can be a gift. Which is not to say that we always
respond well to anger, because we don’t. Herod for instance, was faced with a lot of stress
when he got the news of the newborn Jewish king’s birth and the escape of the magi. I
imagine he was still holding on to the fear he felt at the news of the baby and the anger
he felt when he realized his plan hadn’t worked. After all, his own father was murdered
by Malichus, a Jewish official who hoped to bring a Jewish ruler back to Judea (Herod was
raised Jewish, but always seen as ethnically an Idumaean Arab). His own rule had been
precarious with the assassination of Julius Caesar and invasion of Jerusalem—and yet he
was able to retake Jerusalem three years later. He submitted to Rome, but fancied himself
a faithful and generous ruler to his fellow Jewish people. And then, an unforeseen challenge to the throne arises. Anger can indeed serve us, as can fear. When we allow anger to be felt in our bodies and acknowledged, but not reacted to, we can allow the emotion to move us in positive directions. Anger can help give us strength, energy, and motivation. If we deny it or allow it to drive us to reactivity, it can turn to rage. Similarly, fear can help us to become discerning, wise, and protective. However, unchecked it turns into paranoia and panic. May we allow God to use our anger and fear for good.
Prayer
Son of Humanity, help us to feel the feels and channel them toward your
merciful work.

Tues, Jan 3rd

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-23
Reflection— v. 16, ‘When Herod knew the magi had fooled him’
I don’t think that King Herod was fooled. The magi did not set out to deceive the
king. In fact, if anything, Herod tried to deceive them when he claimed that he intended to honor the new king of the Jews. Often we project our own thoughts and intentions upon others. Herod intended to fool the magi. When it did not work, he believed that he had been fooled by them. He may have felt foolish in the end, but that was never their intention. Without being malicious but with more time and information, the magi were entitled to change their minds and plans. We know that Herod’s deception was based in fear, for verse three tells us that he was troubled by the news of this newborn king. That fear, coupled with his newfound anger sent him into a rage—lashing out and devising the murder of thousands of innocent babies. Most of us do not plan mass murders, but many of us do lash out in destructive ways when our own plans go amiss, we feel that we’ve been made a fool, or our power is challenged. May we be less reactive than Herod, realizing that life’s circumstances are more complex than others trying to offend us. May we act slowly and with love.
Prayer
God of comfort, calm our hearts that we not be angry, embittered, or
reactive.

Mon, Jan 2nd

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-23
Reflection— v. 14, ‘and went to Egypt’
Egypt. Why Egypt? I see that Matthew quotes Hosea in the next sentence—though
Hosea seems to clearly be speaking about the nation of Israel during the Exodus.
Theologically there are those who see Jesus in line with this scriptural reference as
the one who enacts the entire history of Israel—living out its history and fulfilling
God’s promises. It’s an interesting supposition, but I cannot help but see other interesting possibilities in the text. Knowing that the Hebrews fled from the slavery they endured in Egypt, I think it’s ironic that Jesus and his family were forced to flee there. Could this be a thoughtless reaction to fear—returning to what feels more comfortable but won’t end in death? Or is it an act of ultimate surrender and acceptance to God? And perhaps it points to the reality that fear and suffering are a part of our exsistence, but there is a larger, hopeful process at work. Sometimes we take two steps back to take one step forward. Or perhaps in this moment, God shows God’s work of redemption. The land of slavery has become the land of safety and security—nothing is outside of the saving grace of God. Perhaps all can be true at the same time.
Prayer
Shepherd God, lead us forward with hope and help us to trust in you, that
your larger purpose might unfold and that humility, acceptance, and reconciliation might become a part of our witness to your presence in your world.

Sun, Jan 1st

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-33
Reflection—v. 13, ‘and flee to Egypt’
This is Matthew’s Christmas story—Joseph almost leaves Mary due to her mysterious
pregnancy, a couple years later magi journey from the east to visit the child, and now
the holy family flees to Egypt to flee political persecution (Herod wanted dead any12898242_959901787427116_5397574148609756469_o
contender for the crown)—as refugees. It’s hard enough taking a two year old to the
grocery store, can you imagine traveling hundreds of miles through the desert with
a baby? I cannot. But millions of people in this world can and do. Running away to
a land filled with a different language and different customs wherein you are not allowed to work is a desperate response to a horrible situation. I cannot help but think that the holy family was just as devastated, scared, and lonely as many refugee families today. It’s not surprising that later Jesus identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. All refer to stressors faced by refugees—by Jesus himself in his first years of life. How quickly circumstances can change—one moment being honored by travelers from afar, the next moment fleeing for one’s life. How do we react when faced by those whose lives are in peril?
Prayer
Traveling God, we pray to you for traveling mercies upon the start of a
journey for ourselves and our loved ones. May we be that bestower of blessing
when encountering strangers visiting for fun or fleeing from persecution.