Advent One – Week of November 29

The Word

Mark 13:24, 27, 32-37

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


Sunrise or Sunset. Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921), Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
As the fires rage, and the days grow shorter, and as our patience thins.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
as the darkness closes in.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
But the last year has been an entire chapter of our communal lives, spent in an ever-present state of dusk, “distanced” as it were, physically, socially, emotionally. I have not only felt distanced, but even further separated still – disembodied even – from my community, my family, my congregation. And this disembodiment has been exhausting. If I was tired last Advent, this Advent I feel simply defeated.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
I know Jesus is coming, that is the entire point of this Season of Advent. Both the birth in Bethlehem, the fantastic conglomeration of light and dark and angels and shepherds. And the rebirth. The rebirth that I so desperately want to see in the routine and mundane and quotidian.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
Awake like the fig tree? The one that grows its leaves every year at just the right time, indicating that summer is about to begin? How does it sense that the time is right to bud? Can it notice the change in seasons, the light and dark of Advent, the light and dark of a darkened sun or moon? I think it must. How else can it grow? How else can it learn when the time will come?

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
Awake like the fig tree. For it senses the cyclical nature of our world. The seasonal blessing of life and death, of birth and rebirth. The promise of springtime, the gratitude of harvest. The sacred gifts of time, and opportunity, and hope, and another chance. The loving embrace of the possibility of God.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
Yes, fires are raging, darkness closes in, but the fig tree still blossoms. Birth, rebirth, still arrives, often unexpectedly, often in the unknown.

Jesus instructs us to keep awake –
As the darkness closes in – so too does God.


WPC Chamber Choir: “Now the Heavens Start to Whisper”

New to us is the advent hymn “Now the Heavens Start to Whisper.” The poet, Mary Louise Bringle, found inspiration in Celtic sources for these stirring words. In particular, the idea of “thin places” – places where two separate realms of existence (heaven/earth, sacred/secular) – seem to come closer. For me, this is a perfect way to explore the paradox of the creator of the universe coming to earth as a child. The tune, Jefferson, was composed by an anonymous 19th century musician from Tennessee. A chamber choir of eight voices from the Westminster Choir sing it together here. To maintain our safety, we recorded – masked and distanced – in the Blomberg Courtyard back in November. The unexpected ‘accompaniment’ of passing DASH buses only further punctuates our music. –Dr. Ben

Now the heavens start to whisper,
as the veil is growing thin.
Earth from slumber wakes to listen
to the stirring, faint within:
seed of promise, deeply planted,
child to spring from Jesse’s stem!
Like the soil beneath the frostline,
hearts grow soft to welcome him.

Heavy clouds that block the moonlight
now begin to drift away.
Diamond brilliance through the darkness
shines the hope of coming day.
Christ, the morning star of splendor,
gleams within a world grown dim.
Heaven’s ember fans to fullness;
hearts grow warm to welcome him.

Christ, eternal Sun of justice,
Christ, the rose of wisdom’s seed,
come to bless with fire and fragrance
hours of yearning, hurt, and need.
In the lonely, in the stranger,
in the outcast, hid from view:
child who comes to grace the manger,
teach our hearts to welcome you.


Virtual Alternative Giving Bazaar

This year, the coronavirus has changed our ways of being and doing together and placed disproportionate burdens on vulnerable communities. With both realities in mind, Westminster will hold our annual Alternative Giving Bazaar (AGB) in virtual fashion during the weeks of December 6 and 13. We hope that the bazaar in this new digital format will still provide concrete help to our local, national and international mission partners and those they serve. As a part of your Advent devotion, we encourage you to participate this year by visiting when the site goes live later this week. Watch some of the introductory videos from our partners to learn how our support is needed and used. If you are able, make a donation online or by mail (using the form you receive in the mail), for which you will receive special bookmarks infused with seeds that you may share with loved ones for planting in their gardens.

James 3:18 says, “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” May you sow peace this Advent as you learn about and support our partner missions with your prayers and gifts on their behalf.