4th Sunday of Advent: The Daily Arrival of Christ

Update: Audio for Jim Knipper's homily is also available. Click here to listen.

As we light our fourth Advent candle, this season of waiting and hoping and preparation comes quickly to close with Christmas just a few days away.

Or does it? 

Searching for Peace in the Not-So-Silent-Night

My dad typically only wore his suit jacket to church twice a year – on Easter and Christmas. On those two days, my younger sister and I would always be sure to sit on either side of him.

Just like Frosty’s hat, there must have been some magic in those suit jacket pockets, for at Easter they were filled with black jelly beans and at Christmas – miniature candy canes.

Birth Giver: A Video Reflection for Advent


blessed are the visionaries,
who agreed to My foresight,
and kept eyes for this day;
the yet-to-be has been their company.

blessed is the light-bearer, 
the host who agreed to My Spirit,
who carried My Light in darkness;
we will birth together, and our child will carry My torch.

Walk in the Light

This sermon was delivered Sunday, December 1, 2013 at the Marcellus and Wakelee United Methodist Churches (Kalamazoo District, West Michigan Conference). The Revised Common Lectionary texts for Year A, First Sunday of Advent were Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, and Romans 13:11-14.

My favorite part of Advent is the candles. Seriously. I think we do not have enough holidays that involve candles. They’re pretty awesome.

Tattooed Gratitude

No one would ever accuse me of having big hair.

Does that make it little? Grumpy people call it thin. Baby-fine is another good word; sounds sweet and wispy.

Of course I could wear a wig or have some extensions put in. But the actual hair, the protein sprouting out of holes in my scalp—no amount of homeopathic pill-popping or nightly brushing or schmancy-poo will change it.

Below the Surface

I read somewhere that about 8/9 of an iceberg is below the surface. That, I guess, is what makes it so potentially dangerous for ships at sea. I find this iceberg image to be a fitting metaphor for so much of what underlies human choice. Our actions and reactions, the conclusions we draw from a situation, the words we choose to speak – are consequences driven from a complex mixture of the immediate situation and our prior experiences. We are not WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) creatures. Much is hidden below the acts or words.

The Forest Takes on a Four-Letter Word

“Let’s go into the forest!” yells my girl from her cozy seat in the wagon.

It’s fall, and the soaring hair of the trees is towhead, mass of yellow shot through with light. That I might be doing dishes seems a scandal.

“Pomme. Pomme,” rises the little voice of my one-year-old. Why he begs for scarred crabapples full of astringent bite is puzzling, but I can’t say no. I love that my kids see the woods as a place of food.

But we don’t eat the mushrooms. Sweetpea gently caresses them with a stick, and then Xavi reaches out with pudgy hand and lops a cap off.


There is a house on our street, typical of those in this South Valley, Albuquerque, neighborhood. Run down, with untidy yard, a broken window, it showcases two of our local culture's most prominent images: Our Lady of Guadalupe and a skeleton. I am fascinated and read them as poetry, like dreams—with endless and various meaning. This hallowed eve, I muse….

Remember Job's Wife

The Book of Job is one of the most distressing books in the Bible. Hence, a plethora of interpretations. So shocking is the perspective that some consider Job an entirely fictional character. Yet even if this is the case, it doesn’t solve the problem created by the Book of Job. There are tragedies and sufferings in this world more intense and complex than Job's. The issue is not whether Job really existed or if his suffering was real or imaginary. The main contention is about God: why did God allow such terrible things to happen?

Consequential Naming

My husband and I recently took a short trip to Truth or Consequences, a small city in southern New Mexico. The place won its name in a 1950 contest celebrating the 10th anniversary of the radio show “Truth or Consequences.” T or C is also known for its mineral hot springs (the main reason we went). But the effect of its unique name on tourism has faded. The streets are quiet, buildings crumbling and patched with rescued junk, bright paint fading.

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