From the Chaplain’s Corner: Advent Thoughts

Greetings to all in the Kaffeeklatsch!

As usual, our gracious host sparked a bit of reflection by the Chaps, with this intriguing post. For many Christians, this past Sunday began the season of Advent: a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth – and reflecting on His second coming. The word is first used in the 12th century, to name this season. (For those interested, Merriam-Webster Online has details here.)

This sentence in ST’s post: “[S]ometimes our present is unintelligible without the future to redefine our past.”, set me to thinking. I was reminded of earlier discussions about the necessity of living ‘heart open, present always” known around here as “The Simon Tao” [TST]. The idea of past truth/meaning only being revealed fully through the unfolding of the future – as an interpretive key – brought me to the idea of patience. An early mentor-in-print, Fr. Henri Nouwen defined ‘patience’ as: “waiting actively, with expectation”.

“All well and good, Chaps”, you may say, “but how does this desire to live ‘heart open, present always’ while waiting actively, expecting everything, fit into God’s plan for my life?” So glad you asked! For most of my life as a believer, I thought of “God’s plan” as firmly set from on high. I felt it was immutable, unalterable, and that I had no say in the living-out of it. That idea can either be infuriating or strangely pacifying. Neither of these two alternatives makes for hope.

Over the past several years, my current pastor – a retired military chaplain, and Scripture scholar – pointed me to a path that routes around both of these blind alleys. He reminded us that: “There is no division of time in God. All time is present to God, at all times.” So, our lives are “written in His book”. Our trajectory – toward or away from Him – is consistent, but not closed – until we draw our last breath. The freedom we have in choosing, moment-by-moment is God’s gift that allows us to invite Him into our days – heart open, present always – in love and hope.

Until next time, Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas! (Happy Chanukah, too!)

Lit Advent wreath

13 thoughts on “From the Chaplain’s Corner: Advent Thoughts

  1. The “other” Advent/Christmas post is being neatened up -an will make its debut for the Kaffeeklatsch ASAP -revisions/comments welcome – before I make a ‘flying visit’ to R>. (Note: The intro and outro will be different for them.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Advent! Did you see my post on Rb, Entering Advent? Imma send it to you!
    As you point out, Advent refers not only to the Infant in the manger, but to the coming of the Judge. We concentrate on the birth, and I’ve always felt Christmas is so euphoric because it’s such a relief, Jesus is just a baby! He can’t possibly know what awful agony is in store for him. And WE can briefly forget the awful judgment in store for US.

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    1. P. S. Hypatia, I love your Advent reflection! (Thanks for the introduction to George Herbert, too!) If you’d like me to cross-post it for you here, I’d be happy to do it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hypatia, Some time ago, a friend presented to me a Kindle copy of George Herbert’s “Collected Poems”. Any suggestions on how/where to start with his work?

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  4. “What/who got you thinking God’s plan was immutable?”

    This, time, dear brother and friend, I can honestly say: It wasn’t you.

    I suppose the sense of “immutability” started with some well-meaning believers – and popular devotionals I read as a youngster (“tween”). In attempting to lessen the pain of disappointments/losses/ consequences of others’ misjudgments (e.g. medical procedures that were not successful), “God’s will” and “for a reason” got used a lot.

    Then, I hit college, and met fellow students who prayed about what they’d eat or what they’d wear. My understanding started to grow around the question of free will (about that kind of everyday stuff). I saw life more as a pre-drawn map, with lots of routes available for reaching the destination. Things chugged along pretty smoothly that way through working and formally retiring.

    A seismic change happened about seven years ago… (No, ST, not *entirely* due to meeting you on the “legacy site”. -grin-)

    Our rural Catholic parish was assigned to a recently-retired Navy-then-Army priest chaplain/Scripture scholar/iconographer/nurse – who’d had helicopters shot out from under him twice in the sandbox – and lived to tell the tale. Oh, and he’s just a few years older than me….Peer-to-peer learning was about to commence. As he’s grown to know his parishioners – and my family – his teaching/preaching has gotten more forceful about the risks believers are going to be taking; that we’re *supposed to* be taking daily. As well, he’s taught persuasively about an alternative to God’s “immutable” plan. One that I referred to at the end of this post, above. Thanks for asking, Simon!

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  5. Our trajectory – toward or away from Him – is consistent,

    Not sure that I can agree with this. I feel that I get closer to God at times, particularly when things are becoming otherwise intolerable; but, I can do just fine on my own, thank you very much, and without Him nagging me when I am ‘in the zone.’

    Also, I cannot understand how there can be both an immutable plan and free will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trajectory – AKA the “fundamental option” – is an overall orientation, a choice to *usually* head in one direction or another. That choice can be reaffirmed or rejected. (There’s that pesky “free will” thing – that Islam currently denies/rejects/ignores – again.)

      We agree that the immutable plan and free will have nothing in common. They almost seem to be stages in one’s personal relationship to God: Being led moment-by-moment by the hand of God is easy and safe, but it makes us less than fully human. Making choices means taking risks – all day, every day – often getting hurt. God loves us enough to let us fail/fall and still risk again. Not something most of us are ready for 24/7/365, but we’re not alone in any of it. (Doshgarn it if “The Simon Tao” [TST] isn’t tucked in here, too.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Time for me to hit the rack, hermano. Thanks for continuing the discussion! Looking forward to Saturday brunch at the corner table. Do you have more of that ‘special blend’ tea on hand? Hoping so….Catch you and everyone later. Peace be in and with us all! Chao for now!


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