(Sunday, December 25th)

Present: something presented; gift; something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation

Presence: one that is present; something present of a visible or concrete nature; something (such as a spirit) felt or believed to be present


Mary clings to the tiny hand
and Hope wells deep inside.
She knows not what is yet in store
but she knows that by her side
is the One in whom the promise
that was made has now been kept,
so every challenge, every joy
she can now accept.


The Magi come to bear their gifts
and fall upon their knees
as they place their treasures and themselves
in surrender and release.
And Peace then comes upon them
and abides with them, as they
let go of their own plans and routes
to go another way.


The sheep begin to frolic
while the shepherds are amazed
at the news that comes before them
in jubilance and praise.
With Joy then jumping in their souls
they go to tell the story:
God is present in a baby
and we have seen his glory!


Joseph quietly stands beside
in humble, selfless Love.
He knows his role is minor
for the Father is above.
He then falls in adoration
when filled with reverent awe.
His story is a small one
but his impact is for all.


Thank you for these gifts, dear God,
of Hope and Joy and Peace,
and your greatest gift we have in Christ –
the Love that will not cease.
Like Mary, may we cling to you,
Like Joseph, may we fall,
Like shepherds, may we learn to jump,
Like Magi, surrender all ~
that we may feel your presence
more fully and more near,
and our lives become a present
for this world you hold so dear.

Happy Holidays, dear friends! I hope you have been blessed this Advent season. Thank you for your presence here.
Karen 🙂

http://Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash


(Saturday, December 24th)

Tenderhearted: easily moved to love, pity, or sorrow; compassionate, impressionable

I enjoyed my grandsons’ winter concert earlier this month, and as always, was impressed by the musical talents of the high school band. But my favorite piece was a medley of Christmas carols – in fact, tears began brimming at “Silent Night”, then overflowed as the band moved into “O Come all Ye Faithful”! My heart filled with emotion as I recalled the memories of previous Christmas celebrations, held gratitude for these present days, and felt such love and pride for my family. Christmas continues to deepen in meaning and significance with each passing year.

In my time of reflection this Advent season, one word has especially touched my soul: tenderheartedness.

The Christmas celebration of our faith tradition has been a tender connecting thread throughout my life. Each time I revisit the story of the birth of Jesus, there are beautiful assurances and meaningful messages held within it. Each time I sing Christmas carols, the memories of previous Christmas Eve services and family gatherings gently soften my spirit. I recall both joyful and sorrowful moments, but each memory holds the deep recognition that God in Christ has come to be with me through it all; to rejoice with me, comfort me, grieve with me, or simply hold me close. My heart then nearly aches with a combination of joy, sorrow, gratitude, and awe, for I know my years and moments are tied together in one tiny yet infinite bundle of love.

Perhaps that is how a heart becomes tender…

God’s tenderheartedness has been shown to us in the birth of Jesus, this tiny baby who has humbly brought God’s presence among and within us for all of life. May our hearts grow more tender toward others – as well as ourselves – as we once again rejoice at his birth, recognize his presence, recall the memories, remember his faithfulness, and receive his gifts of hope, peace joy, comfort, and love.

As we hear the stories and sing the carols, may we be grateful for the One who has been present in every Christmas, in every day between, for every year of our life, and through every future day – loving us all with gracious and tenderhearted love.

Christmas blessings, dear friends.

(Photo of Advent wreath by Karen, fingerprints in sand by my granddaughter 😉 )


(Friday, December 23rd)

Different: partly or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality; dissimilar; not the same; unusual, special

Divine: of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God; supremely good 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

(Isaiah 40:28)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:8-9)

This week, our family Christmas gathering was postponed (for the third year) when our grandsons picked up the influenza virus. Life is filled with these disappointments. A gift doesn’t arrive on time. A winter storm impacts our travel plans. A power outage upsets our baking process. An expected guest has to cancel. We lament a bit, make new arrangements, and eventually regroup and recover.

But then there are those life-changing moments of anxiety and grief, when life is suddenly disrupted or uprooted. Tests reveal a serious health concern. The position has been filled. A loved one shares the news we had been dreading. An investment goes awry. We are heartbroken and distraught, knowing that life will never be the same.

We initially wonder, What will I do now? Where do I go from here? Will I be able to handle this?

We may then begin asking, Why did this happen to me? Why now? Why can’t life be easier? Will I ever get a break?

And finally, we may deeply question…
Where is God in all of this?

Advent Love is the way Jesus came to reveal God in all of this.

The world seems to teach us that for life to be good, it has to be a certain way – filled with successes, achievements, abundances, joyful days, and loving relationships – until the very end. And there are those whose faith in God is contingent on life going that certain way. When they experience hardship, they stop believing in God “who would allow this to happen.” But perhaps one of the most loving things God has done was to create and set this world in motion, allowing life to play out naturally, allowing us to live freely.

God might not intervene by changing circumstances or preventing hardships, but God can and does help us by changing our perspective, by revealing new ways of living and being in this (imperfect) world. Life becomes more bearable and beautiful when we understand that we do not and cannot know everything. Our perspective deepens when we realize that we cannot see the future, we cannot comprehend the bigger picture, we cannot know the size of God’s perfect, unfathomable love.

What we can know is that in everything, God will work to bring about good. Advent Love is seeing God in Christ endure all of human life, suffering, and death, then overcome it all with the incredible joy of resurrection. Advent Love is knowing that even in our darkest days, a brighter day has been promised. Advent Love is the kind grace that tells us that there is always something more, something significant, something sacred beyond our ordinary and sometimes terrible days.

Advent Love gives us the capacity to look beyond the different to discover the divine.

I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may perceive what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (Ephesians 1:16-19 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible passages are the NRSVUE version, taken from
Photo by Karen


(Thursday, December 22nd)

Detach: to separate especially from a larger mass and usually without violence or damage; disengage; withdraw

Depend: to place reliance or trust

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NRSVUE)

I have a practice of choosing a word to describe my hopes and guide my actions for the year ahead, and for 2023, I am considering a few words that describe reentering community. Since the pandemic, my naturally introverted self has grown quite accustomed to isolating at home, away from crowds and parties and public spaces and worship services. Initially, the isolation was a necessity for protection; now the isolation has become my choice for comfort, convenience, familiarity, and at times, laziness. I enjoy my solitude, slower pace, and simpler living.

But I am missing the gifts of being in community – both the joys and the challenges. Love is best shared and strengthened, best tried and tested, best formed and fostered in relationship.

Our Advent Love today is the Love revealed by God becoming incarnate in Jesus – the desire of God to live and love in our community of humanity. God is not detached from us, but ever-present among and within us. God is here for us to depend on, and God invites us to depend on one another. Two are better than one…

We may be independent and self-sufficient, but we are called to serve one another. We may be introverted, but we are called to meet together. We may be comfortable, but we are called to look out for the needs of others. Love is softened when it is shared. Love is strengthened when it is stretched. Bonds of love are built when we learn to depend on God and one another, when we recognize how much we need God and one another.

May the Advent Love of God-with-us, God who will never detach from us, increase our desire for and our dependence on community.

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible verses taken from
Photo by Karen


(Wednesday, December 21st)

Compete: to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective (position, profit, prize); be in a state of rivalry

Commend: to entrust for care or preservation; to recommend as worthy of confidence or notice; praise

Have you ever felt as if you had the right talent or expertise for a certain position, but you were not hired? Or have you served well in a vocation and then felt as if the time was right to move on – but you hesitated to relinquish because no one else seemed as capable? There may be times when we feel as if we are the best qualified, that no one could do better than we would.

Our Advent Love reflection today invites us to rethink our tendency to compete and to recognize the times to commend.

Let’s look ahead to a Holy Week story. In the hours before his arrest and eventual crucifixion, Jesus gathered with his disciples to share final words of encouragement, instruction, and commendation. He gave the disciples many assuring promises, including this one…

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 NRSVUE)

Jesus knew he would soon leave his friends, so he chose to teach and affirm them before entrusting his loving mission to them. Out of love for God and God’s people, Jesus relinquished his rightful leadership role and commended the future to these faithful ones. We now know how his death and resurrection have changed lives for centuries, but I wonder if Jesus wished he could have had a few more earthly years to make an even greater impact. When we read of the times he corrected or chastised his disciples, I also wonder if Jesus doubted their ability to further his message of God’s gracious love.

And yet, Jesus chose to bless his disciples and bestow his sacred mission upon them.

The Advent Love of Jesus is the selfless surrender of pride and plans. Out of our desire to please God, to not be deemed a quitter, we may be tempted to persevere, but the Advent Love of Jesus shows us that we do not need to compete or impress to receive God’s abundant love.

The Advent Love of Jesus is the generous gifting of roles and responsibilities. When we entrust others with something precious while affirming our confidence in them, they have an opportunity to grow and learn – and perhaps do greater works than these! God’s love flourishes when we enable others to flourish.

The Advent Love of Jesus is knowing when to set aside competition, and then to bless and bestow with our commendation.

Bible verses were taken from
Definitions were found at
Photo by Karen


(Tuesday, December 20th)

Defend: to drive danger or attack away from; to maintain or support in the face of argument or hostile criticism

Dignify: to give distinction to, confer dignity upon; the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed

I was serving as a youth director at an urban neighborhood church when I first met Beth. Beth suffered from a mental anguish that kept her homeless and often fearful. One day she stopped by the church office for a bit of money, and we began chatting. She soon began stopping by more often as our friendship developed. I was willing to give her a warm (or cool) place to rest for as long as she felt comfortable. There were times when the experience was rather difficult, when she would be especially anxious and unclean. But there were other times when she was quite delightful and insightful.

One evening Beth stopped by as our youth group was preparing an Advent dinner for the congregation, and I invited her to stay for dinner. She was visibly nervous, but she was also quite eager to have a warm meal.

While I was busy in the kitchen, Beth must have sensed some fear, and she began cursing in the dining room. Soon I was surprised to see her being escorted, wide-eyed, out of the building by one of our church members, a retired police officer who was trying to protect the people who had gathered for dinner. In a desperate moment, I wrapped my arms around Beth, explaining that she was my friend, asking him to let her stay, promising there would be no more problems. When he refused, I threatened, “If she leaves, then I am leaving, too!” With some harsh words as to how much that would please him, he took her out the door.

I was quite shaken. But I could not leave – I was responsible for leading the worship service that evening while our pastor was away!

My sermon message included thoughts about the love God holds for all of humanity. And during the sharing of Communion, I gave bread to the man who had upset me earlier, now kneeling at the railing.

“The Body of Christ, given for you.”

For all of us…

After the service, I was delighted to find Beth in the parking lot! She was laughing, seemingly carefree, despite the fact that she had been treated badly. I realized that by defending her in her helplessness, I was also dignifying her as my friend. Our unusual relationship was solidified when she realized it was mutual.

There were so many lessons in love that evening.

Advent Love is the love that defends.
Advent Love is the love of Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery (John 8).
Advent Love is the love that stands up for those who are being mistreated –
by protecting those who are being cursed,
and by embracing those who are being escorted out.

Advent Love is the love that dignifies.
Advent Love is the love of Jesus eating dinner with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2).
Advent Love is the love that respects and honors those who need it –
by claiming and naming one as a friend,
and by breaking bread with one who has been hurtful.

Advent Love defends. Advent Love dignifies. Advent Love sustains us through the unexpected encounters, strengthens us to defend the helpless, and stretches us to dignify the difficult.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-18, 21 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible verses taken from
Photo by Karen


(Monday, December 19th)

Enforce: to urge with energy; constrain, compel

Embrace: to hug; cherish, love; encircle, enclose; to take up especially readily or gladly; to avail oneself of; welcome; to take in or include as a part, item, or element of a more inclusive whole

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NRSVUE)

“You must love me.”

By the inflection in our words, we can easily change the intended meaning of this sentence. Said one way, you must love me can sound like a command. You must do this. You cannot do that. You must love me. But in a different context, with a different emphasis, the sentence can sound like a surprising response to a kindness. You made this gift for me? Wow, you must love me! You have been so kind to me. You must really love me!

In our passage for today, when asked which commandment is the greatest, Jesus repeats the commandment from Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God…”

We are commanded to love God. And in a generously gracious way, God helps us to obey this command, not through strict enforcement, but through God’s loving embrace shown to us in Christ. This is our gift of Advent Love today.

The Advent Love of God has come to us first, without our invitation or preparation. God lovingly came to us in the birth of Jesus, while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Advent Love continues to embrace us even as we remain sinners. When we recognize how God has loved us first, how God has lavished abundant life on us all, and how God humbled Godself to become one with us, we could exclaim, “You must love me!” When we remember the life and love of Jesus and how God overcame death through his resurrection, we could exclaim, “You must love me!” When we realize that Christ remains with us through the Spirit, we could exclaim, “You must love me!”

We want to return love to the One who loves us so much.

I believe God is blessed by our love that arises from our genuine respect, gratitude, humility, and joy. I believe God is further blessed when we share that love to others with the same respect, gratitude, humility, and joy.

Love cannot be easily enforced but can be readily embraced.

This is our way of Advent Love.

Definitions from
Bible verses taken from
Photo by Karen



Sunday, December 18th
(Each day this week, we will be focusing on the difference Love makes in our lives.)

You may wish to light the four candles of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE if you have an Advent wreath.

For this, our last week of the Advent season, our focus will be on Love, perhaps the best gift of all. Love also has three definitions for our reflection. The definition of LOVE includes:

~ strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests; warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion

This is the love and affection we have for our dear ones, such as our spouses, partners, family members, and friends. The kinship or personal ties that bind us together bring a richness of care, encouragement, appreciation, and devotion. We are blessed by the mutual giving and receiving in loving relationships.

~ the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration

Love also describes the one who receives our devotion. God is my love, Jim is my love, and so on with the people and pets we treasure. We are devoted to them with affection, care, and appreciation.

~ unselfish loyal and benevolent for the good of another: such as the fatherly concern of God for humankind, brotherly concern for others, a person’s adoration of God

This type of Love is sometimes described as Agape Love, the generous love God has for us and we can have for others – even if love is not returned.

Our gift of Advent Love is all of these. Through God’s incarnation in Jesus, God establishes a kinship, a loving relationship with us. God is also the Love, the One who receives our love and adoration. Finally, Advent Love is the Agape Love, given freely from God for the good of us all, the Love we have been asked to share.


And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
    Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name;
indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation…”

(Luke 1:46-50 NRSVUE)

Mary proclaims these words after Elizabeth affirms that Mary indeed has been blessed to carry God’s son. Love shines through Mary’s response, as she praises the magnificence of God and also acknowledges her lowly state and servanthood. Love leads Mary to fall before God, for even as God’s Love is doing incredible things through Mary, she is lowering herself in humility and reverence.

We cling to hope, let go for peace, jump for joy, and fall in love!

And on this last Sunday of Advent, Mary’s story once again is our story.

God’s Love is also able to do incredible things through us, especially when we fall before God in humility and reverence. Deepening in our Love for God, we lower ourselves in reverent adoration, in humble service, in gracious surrender. As our self-reliance and self-centeredness decrease, God’s strength and guidance will increase. We avail ourselves to become conduits for God’s Love to flow into us, then through us onto others.

Advent Love makes the better difference in the living of our days.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash
Bible passage found at
Definition found at


(Friday, December 16th)

Finish: to bring to completion or issue; to come to the end of a course, task, or undertaking

Fulfill: to bring to an end; to develop the full potential of; to convert into reality

You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:11 NRSVUE)

Jim and I like Wordle so much that we downloaded the app for Duotrigordle. This game has 32 word boards with 37 guesses allowed! With each guess, we are shown the number of attempts remaining in order to win. This is where Jim and I differ. Once he knows he will lose, he stops playing the game. My disciplined nature compels me to play until all 37 guesses are used, even when I know I will not be able to get all the words. But once I realize I will not win, the game is no longer challenging, purposeful, or “joyful”.

I finish the game, but I do not fulfill the goal.

Let’s think about this difference between finishing and fulfilling as we reflect on Advent Joy today. Our Advent Joy comes when we sense that our lives have purpose and meaning, that we can make good differences while we are here, that we will not just finish at life’s end, but we will have fulfilled all we had hoped to do – and possibly all that God hoped for us to do. Our trials and challenges can even bring joy when we regard them as part of our journey, trusting that they hold lessons or insights toward the fulfillment of our purpose.

Our lives are precious gifts from God. We are here not just to exist, but to fully experience all the days that God graciously gives us. Advent Joy is ours when we seek to live as Christ would have us live, serve as Christ would have us serve, love as Christ would have us love. Advent Joy comes when our purpose is to not just reach the finish line, but to have run the race well. We may never know if we have fulfilled every purpose or accomplished all that we were meant to do. But Joy comes in our leaps of faith, our sacred encounters, our meaningful work, our generous hospitality, our humble service, and our search for God in all of this.

May Advent Joy be the impetus for this day – to love and serve abundantly in this life we have been privileged to receive.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose
    and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy
    and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle,
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
    for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

(Isaiah 55:10-13 NRSVUE)

Definitions found at
Bible passages taken from
Photo by Karen


(Thursday, December 15th)

Edginess: being on edge; tense, irritable; characterized by tension; having a bold, provocative, or unconventional quality

Eagerness: marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 NRSVUE)

During the week before we plan to travel, Jim will often teasingly ask me, “Is it time for you to organize your coupons?” This is his humorous and gentle way of pointing out my edginess before our vacation or weekend trips. When we are going to be away from home for any length of time, I busy myself with tasks that have not mattered for months. Culling expired coupons. Tidying shoe racks. Straightening towels. Alphabetizing spices.

This could be what is called, “getting our affairs in order”, only I do this with minutia. I know that my angst stems from the inner concern, “What if something happens to us while we are away?” I hate to think that our family may find an expired coupon should we not return (I hope you are laughing with me)! My edginess keeps me quite busy until we are finally on our way.

I am eager for our getaways, but edgy in the days leading up to them.

But seriously, this angst, this edginess, can come over us whenever we think about our final getaway. This is when the Advent Joy of Jesus – the Joy of God-with-us, the Joy of promised resurrection – becomes especially dear.

Jim and I recently attended a Christmas gathering, and he introduced me to an old friend. His friend had become quite thin and gaunt after struggling with cancer and other health issues in the past year. But this gentleman radiated joy as he said, “I am praying that I will get to hold my (future) grandchild, but if I don’t, I will get to see my parents, our deceased child, my dear friend – and I will get to see Jesus! Who wouldn’t want that?!” He smiled widely as he envisioned that glorious moment. His excitement for the heavenly kingdom was palpable, and his joy has remained with me.

Advent Joy is our reassuring joy that the heavenly kingdom is even better than what we can fathom, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Advent Joy can move us from our edginess into eagerness, each time we trust this promise, envision the glory, and imagine our incredible reunion with everyone we love – including Jesus. We will rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.

As with every getaway, my edginess may always remain, but as departure time draws closer, my eagerness will reign. May Advent Joy lessen our edginess and fill our hearts with eagerness for the living of these days – and on into our eternal days.

Definitions found at
Bible verses taken from
Photo by Karen