Brood of Vipers or Offspring of Joy by Rev. Greg Klimovitz

Nothing says Advent like being called a collection of young, deceptive, and venomous snakes. Yet this is precisely what we encounter in this week’s gospel story. The crowds had come to hear from and be baptized by the one out of the wilderness and, to their surprise they are greeted with imagery that draws their attention to the ancient creature cursed in Eden. “You brood of vipers,” John lashes out at the swell of religious leaders, tax collectors, and soldiers, exposing their poisonous intermingling with the oppressive economic and militant practices of Rome. John’s contrasting allusion is quite brash, you look less like children of Abraham and more like the offspring of empire.

Again, this is not exactly suitable for the Christmas card or being etched on a Secret Santa ornament.

Still, Luke’s story is crucial to the pilgrimage we call Advent. It is an invitation to linger not only in Bethlehem, but also alongside the Jordan as we remember our own baptisms. There, as those drenched in the sacred and sending waters, we are confronted with similar questions as those posed to the ancient crowds, is our witness reflective of our identity as the children of God or as the hatchlings of systems designed to maintain power and privilege? Do we breed liberating goodness or infuse toxic venom into our neighborhoods? Is our professed allegiance to God’s kingdom come mere deception to our preference for the control of others?

 If we are honest, these are daily questions. They may even lead us to ask one of our own, echoing those who gathered by the river two millennia ago, “what then shall we do?”

What I love about John is his straightforward and practical response to the crowds. He moves his message of repentance beyond mere platitude and towards specified enactments of justice and equity that subvert the abuse of authority: all who have two coats, share with those who have none; tax collectors, refuse to exploit your neighbor and take no more than what is due; soldiers, cease the threats and extortion of money from those you pass by on patrol. This is the kind of fruit John proclaims as worthy of repentance, the working out of our baptism through a concern for our neighbors.

If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we can imagine similar invitations should the camel-skin-wearing, locust-eating prophet speak to us in our time and place, in regions not along the Jordan but in proximity to the Schuylkill: In the midst of pervasive poverty and homelessness, leverage collective resources for the common good. When struggling local school systems become pipelines to prison, work to ensure all children have a fair shot at quality education. When opioid addiction plagues both our urban and suburban neighbors and neighborhoods, collaborate with community partners to promote healing and recovery. When prison systems are unjustly biased against people of color and the poor, promote restorative justice to transform individuals and communities. When gun violence takes yet another life, offer not only prayers, but also systemic and legislative intervention. In the face of the vitriolic public rhetoric, ease the many manifestations of hatred and division. When youth cry out for the world to be different, invite their ideas and leadership as agents of God’s kingdom come. Use whatever you have been given alongside whomever God has sent you to embody the good news in places so often torn by narratives of scarcity and aggression.

Julia Esquivel, an exiled Guatemalan poet, wrote beautifully:

In the most obscure and sordid place,
in the most hostile and harshest,
in the most corrupt
and nauseating places,
there You do Your work.
That is why Your Son
descended into hell,
in order to transform what IS NOT
and to purify that which IS BECOMING.
This is hope!
(“Hope,” Threatened by Resurrection, 1982).

One of the greatest joys of ministry within this presbytery is the opportunity to venture alongside the many disciples of Jesus who have entered into such obscure, sordid, and harsh places to transform what is not into what is becoming. Whether a congregational initiative or community partnership, even anniversary celebrations, the faithful dare to ask in some of the most nauseating places, “what shall we do?” Then, still wet from our baptisms, we resolve to bear fruit worthy of repentance as a brood of foolish saints. As we lean into this third week of Advent, when we light candles of hope, peace, and joy, may we allow ourselves to be confronted continually by the gospel, confess our own entrapments by the powers that be, and imagine new avenues to incarnate the good news wherever the Spirit leads, even among the snakes. After all, this is where God does some of God’s best and most redemptive work.

Above the Fray by Stephen King

A voice crying out in the wilderness (Luke 3:4) is quite a contrast to the cacophony of this season, when the noise, tasks, and temptations around us can be overwhelming. Somehow, it breaks through the clutter and reminds us why the Advent season exists in the first place, and why it matters. It brings new life, not only Jesus’ birth but ultimately his sacrifice for the rest of us, forgiving our sins and giving us salvation. Although anchored in a particular time and place, it is both a timeless and hopeful message.

The wilderness metaphor also contrasts with the distress of the world reflected in last week’s passage, whether that refers to natural or “man-made” disasters. Instead, it suggests a purity, calmness and cleanliness—even peace and quiet—which causes us to pause, catch our breath, and reflect. Specifically, the voice calls us to:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways smooth;”
Luke 3:4-5

I picture John the Baptist standing on a hilltop, surveying the landscape before him, which includes a winding river below. The silence is deafening. Although imperceptible at a distance, the water is constantly in motion, wearing down the jagged edges of the earth, stones, and rocks over which it flows and bringing new life to places downstream. As it passes by, it also cleanses and heals, preparing “all flesh [to] see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6)

And so, much like Luke situates his story “in the fifteenth year of…,” we are called in our own time and place to step back from the fray and make way for new beginnings. While worldly leaders come and go, the passing of George H.W. Bush this week causes us to reflect on a kinder, gentler time in our recent history. There were certainly serious disagreements at that time too, but it is a reminder that we can come together as a nation and with other nations to address momentous issues ranging from the AIDS epidemic, rights of people with disabilities, and an end to the Cold War—leading us back to peace and ultimately justice.

If we could do it then, we as the church of Jesus Christ can do it now, not allowing ourselves to be distracted or deterred by bends or bumps in the road. As the stars shine brightly above us this week and remind us of that starry, silent night in Bethlehem more than two millennia ago, let us come together as thousands of points of light. And in this Advent season, let’s pray for what really matters—the rest is just noise.

Ready or Not – the Season of Hope is Upon Us by Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on the earth distress among nations confused
by the roaring of the sea and the waves….
Luke 21:25

Like the faithful dawning of the morning sun, the season of Advent rises once again. The season of expectation breaks into the rhythms of our lives, reminding us of God’s relentless love for all humanity in the person of the infant Jesus. This season of hope disrupts and interrupts our focus on the harsh reality around us – a reality woven with the signs of distress, confusion, fear, and foreboding. The Lukan text paints a picture of the end-times, which frankly feels and sounds like our times.

I confess – I do not feel ready for Advent. I have not been thrilled with the department store marketing that exhibited Christmas decorations right after Halloween. I do not feel ready for Advent. I find myself in that spiritual abyss that is darkened by the grief, sadness, losses, senseless violence, natural disasters, political hyperbole, racism, and other -isms of our times. I do not feel ready for Advent. I am not one who enjoys the chaos of holiday shopping. I do not feel ready for Advent! It requires attention to all the end-of-year administrative tasks that can be so tedious.

So you see, I really do not feel ready for Advent – there is no room in my mere mortal existence for anything else….. but maybe this is precisely the gift of Advent. Our existential feelings really do not matter.

In a world of apocalyptic-like disasters, brokenness, and emotions, Advent confronts our “existential angst” head-on, ushering us into a journey of hope. As we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath this Sunday, we are escorted into a new reality and sacred claim. It is God’s reality and claim that boldly invites us to “stand up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). It is the reality of God who promises to have the last word – a word claimed and repeated each year for four Sundays as we light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love.

Through the journey of this Advent season, we will again be transported into those transforming moments more than 2,000 years ago that continue to transform the moments of our lives today. We will again encounter beloved Gospel images and narratives – of John the Baptist preparing the way in the wilderness, of Mary singing “my soul magnifies the Lord,” of Joseph and the expectant Mary travelling over land to the little town of Bethlehem, of their being rejected and denied a place in the land where they sought refuge, of the birth in a humble manger of the infant Jesus, as angels’ voices echoed throughout the evening sky.

So perhaps the truth is that this annual pilgrimage is not about you or me. I do not need to be ready for Advent – for it is precisely in my lack of readiness, in the messiness of this world, in the rhythms of my busyness that Advent – this season of hope – claims me yet again. It claims me; it claims you; it claims us through the faithful call of God reminding us that the chaos of this world has not, does not, and will not have the final word. That final word has always been – and will always be – reflected in God’s love.

Advent Resources 2018

Fourth Sunday in Advent Meditation by Rev. Kevin Porter

Happy New Year!

No, not quite yet in the worldly or secular sense, but as far as the liturgical calendar is concerned, we began a new year with the first Sunday of Advent. Even before we focus on the story of the baby Jesus in the manger, the Christian liturgical year begins with the four weeks of preparation and expectant waiting for Christ’s coming, and coming again.

The longer I live, the greater appreciation I have for the Christian approach to marking the passage of another year. In our tradition, we don’t just say, “Good riddance! Out with the old year and in with the new.” We pause and seek to gain perspective on our individual and collective life’s journey. As those whose path is defined by our relationship to God, we profess the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the seminal event of our history, ushering in the kingdom of God in our midst and culminating in Christ’s coming again in the fullness of time.

As if standing on a mountaintop mid-journey, the Apostle Paul calls us in the age of the Church to find meaning in where we’ve been and re-direct our course for the next part of the way. In Advent, the lectionary invites us to use the lenses of hope, peace, joy, and most comprehensively love to order our steps.

In this last Sunday of Advent, in Romans 16:25-27, we have Paul’s closing words from his letter to that Church and to us. The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes in its introduction is “probably the latest of Paul’s undisputed letters to be written,” making these the last words of what they term Paul’s “theological last will and testament.”
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Through the gift of these verses, Paul exhorts us to give glory to the one, true, living God who has blessed us to live in this time when the Creator’s intention for humankind has been revealed through the Word made flesh through Christ.

Earlier in his writings, Paul has spoken the truth of his own rebellions, shortcomings, thorns in his flesh, as well as those of other persons of faith, as a way of connecting our personal stories to the greater story of salvation we know in Christ. In these verses, he encourages us to do the same, wherever we may find ourselves.

Our hope is in Christ, not in our selves. The faith we have is in God’s faithfulness to God’s promise of steadfast love, and that faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1), and the means by which even our sufferings can be catalysts for endurance and character (Romans 5:3-4).

For Christ is our peace. Through him, we have been reconciled with God and as those entering the world already the recipients of more grace than we could ever hope to repay, we can be at peace with ourselves and our neighbor.
We can have joy that is more foundational than our circumstances at any one moment, because of sacrificial love of God in Christ who secured for us the final victory over death (Hebrews 12:2).

And whenever any of the above seems elusive, Paul gifted us with a description of love that is as tenacious as it is patient, kind, and forgiving (I Corinthians 13) and is a glue stronger than even death in assuring us of our relationship with God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39).

I pray you embrace these gifts, making them your own, and sharing them with whosoever this Advent and always. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Anointed to Practice the Better by Rev. Greg Klimovitz

Isaiah 61:1-4 | Third Sunday of Advent | December 17, 2017

On this third Sunday of Advent, we encounter the familiar words of Isaiah 61. This prophetic lection is the same text read by Jesus in Luke 4, a passage that framed the duration of his ministry. The illustration is clear, God’s holy one is anointed and sent to bear good news in the midst of pervasive devastation, despair, oppression, and injustice that had a chokehold on God’s once-exiled people. The jubilant agency of this prophet, which is assumed by Jesus in his time and place, cuts through their raw and real suffering with a much-needed word of comfort and hope longed for by prior generations. The time for lament had passed; theirs was the time to build, plant, and repair what was in distress.

In our time, there are more than enough reasons for lament. Whether another #metoo or #churchtoo story of sexual harassment and assault, mass shooting at a music festival or Sunday morning worship service, reminder that racism and white supremacy are far from issues of the past, or the madness that has become our country’s political landscape, we can quickly become seduced by cynicism and stuck in despair. We may even get lost in the great echo chambers of social media, endlessly reading and occasionally delivering rants laced in fatalism, fear, and righteous indignation in light of whatever issue has unsettled our own prophetic conscience and moral compass. If we read the fullness of Isaiah, we would discover similar, albeit ancient, cries of dereliction provoked by the straying from God’s dreams for a just and whole world.  There is a sure place for such words of woe, especially when the dignity and worth of our most vulnerable neighbors hangs in the balance.

Rest assured, Jesus and the prophets turned over their fair share of tables.

Yet, the witness of Isaiah 61 affirms that the ultimate call of God’s anointed hinges more so in construction versus deconstruction, building versus tearing down, and revitalizing that which is feared to be beyond repair. While we are to speak out against the horrid ways we see the humanity in our near and distant neighbors violated, well-nuanced statements of condemnation will not suffice on their own. We must be known not only for what we say in these moments, but also the ways we subvert the varied manifestations of evil with our own acts of love, justice, and a commitment to the renewal of the world God so loves.  As Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, often says, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” This is what it means to be an Advent people, practicing the better within a world that is simultaneously ruinous and beautiful.

As a networker, storyteller, and resourcer alongside our churches and related ministries within this presbytery, I am overwhelmed by the varied ways the saints have been anointed by the Spirit to practice the better. In the midst of a very real school-to-prison pipeline, ministries within our bounds have worked alongside public schools and local leaders to create mentoring programs for youth in at-risk neighborhoods. On the other end of the prison system, congregations and faith communities have opened their sacred spaces for those who have previously been incarcerated to develop necessary skills to enter or the workforce or create elaborate murals that tell their story and the stories of their communities. In neighborhoods labeled as food deserts, our ministries have launched nutrition programs for young people to enhance a child’s ability to focus in school. Other congregations, in light of the growing opioid epidemic, have collaborated with local service agencies and professionals to develop programs for individuals and their families who battle addiction and loss. Still more, there are congregations who form intentional community across racial-ethnic and political divides, extend welcome and housing to refugees, advocate for human rights, facilitate longest night services for those whom this season is dark and dreary, and host music and arts festivals that confront and work towards the end of gun violence in our city and nation. In virtually every realm where there is evidence of ruin, you can be sure there is also a witness to the gospel as proclaimed by the lives and lips of disciples within the bounds of our presbytery. In these places, as we drape garlands in the midst of ashes, we find God’s favor.

As we wait for the coming of Immanuel at Christmas, may we be reminded of how the Spirit has anointed us to be such counter practitioners of goodness in a world deeply longing for something better than what is currently on display. May we refuse to sit on our hands in expectation, but refresh our sense of mission that works for the liberation of those captive to silence and fear, comforts the afflicted, extends belonging to those isolated and marginalized, offers compassion to those who grieve, and proclaims a word of hope that ensures nothing is so ruinous that it is beyond God’s promise to repair and rebuild, restore and resurrect. May the oil of such anointed promises drip from all we say and do- not only in this holy season of Advent, but also in the long journey from manger to cross and empty tomb.

“What Shall I Cry” by Elder Lawrence Davis

A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
Isaiah 40:6a

The book of Isaiah contains a great deal of familiar reading during advent, providing for many the lyrical vocabulary of the season. At the beginning of the second part of Isaiah in chapter 40, verses 1-11, we find verses that weave a tapestry revealing the full picture of God’s promises in Scripture.

In the context of bringing an end to the Babylonian exile there is at first a message of comfort and forgiveness to Jerusalem (“her penalty is paid,” in v.2), but then there is imagery calling for “all people” to prepare their hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord. In just the first five verses we are assured of God’s complete forgiveness of sin and we are called to straighten our uneven and desolate ways in anticipation of seeing the glory of God (“the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,” v.5). It is a succinct message of grace and spiritual preparation. What more do we need to hear?

Suddenly a voice says to the prophet, or perhaps to the preacher, or even to each of us: “Cry out!” … and the prophet replies, “What shall I cry?” Does the prophet speak on behalf of God for all of us, or are we also called to take on the voice of the prophet? There may be times when we think, “I don’t know what to say,” or, “I don’t know how to pray,” but now we are being challenged to cry out from the insufficiency of our mortal condition (“all people are grass,” v.6) to proclaim the all-sufficient immortal word of God (“the word of our God will stand forever,” v.8).

This adds a new dimension to our advent experience, one that involves our full engagement. What shall I cry? The question is sincere, though maybe a little uncomfortable, but the answer is clear: “Here is your God!” The prophet is to be a “herald of good tidings” that the Lord who comes in might will also lead his sheep, and hold his lambs close to his breast for all time. We are in turn called to proclaim glad tidings of great joy through the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives and throughout the world. Here is your God!

During this season of advent the words of Isaiah in this passage remind us we are not just observers of God’s intricate tapestry; we are completely woven into it.

Thanks be to God!

Do You See What I See? By Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace

Said the night wind to the little lamb – Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky little lamb? Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
with a tail as big as a kite. with a tail as big as a kite.
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy – Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy? Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song, high above the trees.
With a voice as big as the sea;
with a voice as big as the sea
(Christmas Carol – Do You Hear What I Hear?)

As we again begin our Advent pilgrimage to the manger, the question of the little lamb to the shepherd boy in this well-known carol has both intrigued and haunted me. I recently found myself somewhat tempted by the rhythms of the cultural Christmas chaos around us. Notwithstanding my resistance to engaging the consumer chaos that now seems to begin right after the not-so-holy holiday of Halloween, I could feel the pull into the vortex of online shopping and random running around. This prompted me to pause and refocus my spirit, for as you and I claim, there is so much more to this season that culminates on the 25th of December. The power and significance of this season is captured in the simplicity of the words of this carol that I have loved and sung since childhood. Its message reminds us to reflect on what it is we do “see and hear” in this season of great hope and expectation.

As a people called to help others remember the birth of Jesus, we are sometimes caught in the trap of what has often been referred to as the Christmas machine. The Christmas machine is often characterized by the image of tinsel and the sounds of cash-registers ringing. These are not the images and sounds to which you and I are invited to pay attention. These are not the images and sounds that will touch our souls and transform our lives. As we begin our Advent journey toward Bethlehem, it is probably wise to pause and reflect on the images and sounds to which we are indeed attentive, intentionally unplugging the sounds of the cultural Christmas machine.

We can unplug that machine by reflecting on the lighting of the Advent wreaths at church and in our homes. We can unplug that machine by looking to the Biblical Nativity story and its powerful simplicity as we embody the powerful reality of that story in our lives. We can unplug that machine by looking to the human stories that have captured the spirit of the birth of the Christ-child. Those stories are found in each of our congregations and communities of faith. They are celebrated with singing and holiday concerts at our churches, pageants and tableaus capturing the story of the nativity – children, youth and adults retelling the story of the child born in Bethlehem. These are the sights and sounds that will quiet our souls. They will compel us to look faithfully to the evening sky. They will open our hearts and eyes to the light dancing in the night, breaking into the darkness. They will open our ears to the songs and sounds of angels high above the trees.

As we again sojourn together toward the manger, I invite you to pause and reflect on what it is you “see and hear”? Are your heart and mind ready to see that “star” dancing in the night? Are your heart and mind ready to hear that “song” ringing out high above the trees? It is to these images and sights that you and I have been called. May we be like the little lamb and shepherd boy – open to what God has to say anew. May we be open to how God uses the simple sounds and sights around us to break into our darkest realities. Finally, may we be open to hearing the sounds and songs of angels celebrating the birth of the Christ-child once again. Let us follow those sights and sounds – as we embrace the hope of this first Advent week.

Mercy that extends from generation to generation. . . by Elder Larry Davis


“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:54-55)

The closing words of Mary’s song in Luke’s Gospel provide a fitting reminder that as we end our season of Advent we are forever blessed by God’s mercy. Mary rejoices with all humility that she is called upon to glorify God for his saving grace, and in so doing, gives voice to all generations who rejoice in the name of the Lord, our Immanuel.

The lyrics of the song lift up the lowly and the hungry and take them to a place out of the ordinary. How often do we strive in our own way to be in this place during Christmas? Traditionally, it is the time for us to sing carols, to light up the night, and to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child into our hearts during the darkest days of the year. But it is also the time for us to get swept up in the busy customs of the season, which is not always a joyful experience.

We are ordinary people who celebrate the holiday season in a variety of our own ways, sometimes because we need to embrace family and friends, and sometimes because we need to overcome the trials and tragedies of the past year. The gifts get more lavish, the music gets louder, the dark nights for some get longer, and in the midst of it we are unable to hear Mary’s voice over the noise, or over the silence. Lowliness is not always about the downtrodden and hunger is not always about food. We all need to be lifted out of the ordinary and, however we live out the season, God is surely present with us.

We may want to do it big, but God does it small. We may want to do it loudly, but God does it quietly. We may want to dwell in darkness, but God brings us a star. He has given us a different way, and as we sing “Mild he lay his glory by,” (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) we are mindful that his gentle nativity blessing has infinite power behind it; that it is a blessing for every day and for all time. Mary did not simply rejoice in becoming a mother. She rejoiced in serving her God, whose mercy extends from generation to generation. Let us pray that her voice may be our voice, and that her song be our song forever.

Merry Christmas!

Finding Your Part in God’s Song by Rev. Kevin Porter

As we have been reflecting on The Magnificat as a Presbytery staff this Advent, I’ve found inspiration in meditating on the question, “Whose song is it anyway?”

True, when we want to make the rafters of the sanctuary rattle, even many of us “frozen chosen” Presbyterians can belt out a rousing, “This is my story, this is my song…”  We praise the God whose faithfulness has enabled us to own the Blessed Assurance of which we sing.  But my experience has been that the process of owning some of the most meaningful parts of my faith story and song has not necessarily come comfortably.

Much like my experience on several church choirs, I have found myself coming in at the wrong cue or at a different pitch or tempo than intended by God, who is, after all, both the composer and conductor of the life’s song any of us have been created to sing.  Lord knows there have even been times I have been intent on singing an entirely different song altogether than the one I have been called to sing – especially when I believe the courage or confession called for seems out of my range.  And I know I am not alone in that.

“If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  This truism was the inspiration behind comedian Julia Sweeney’s choice of God Said, “Ha!” for the title of her autobiographical film.  After having firmly established herself on the American cultural scene as the person behind an iconic Saturday Night Live character (Androgynous Pat), Ms. Sweeny was preparing to use her fame on the show as a launching pad to greater heights in movies and/or television as others before her had done.  Instead, she was faced with the challenge of dealing with a cancer diagnosis for her brother and then for herself.

In Ms. Sweeney’s case, her crisis of faith as she wrestled with her new reality led her to question the existence of God altogether.  In Mary’s case, the prospect of being a young, unwed mother in the first century would have most likely been a daunting one.  However, contrary to Ms. Sweeney’s experience, Mary had no doubt of not only God’s existence, but also of God’s blessing.  And that made all the difference.

I am thankful for the Biblical witness and the witness of history, both full of the testimonies of people of faith named and unnamed, young and old, from all walks of life who, when faced with choices and circumstances that threatened to leave them speechless and hopeless, instead found themselves strengthened in their embracing of the story and song to which God called them:

  • Esther, the queen called to risk her place of privilege for her people;
  • Claudette Colvin, an African-American high school student in Montgomery, Alabama, who refused to yield her seat on a bus to a white man in 1955. Her arrest set the stage for Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience and the boycott that followed as a seminal moment in the Civil Rights movement;
  • the prodigal son, whose decision to change his life’s direction and seek the forgiveness of the father he had wronged;
  • John Newton, the 18th century slave trader who immortalized the sense of God’s forgiveness he experienced in the hymn he left as his legacy, Amazing Grace.

Yes, Mary’s Song is her unique expression of the blessing she received.  Yet, its power to inspire generations after her, and its relationship to the story and song embodied through each of these other saints, lies in its resonance with the God who composed it, conducts every measure, and calls each of us to sing the part only we have the voice to sing, especially in this time when our common life can seem so discordant.

This Advent, may each of us take the time to listen — listen to the song of Mary and the great cloud of witnesses of every time and place who have found God’s song ringing through their lives as the only song that resonates as truly life giving.  And then, as we discern our part, may we be so bold as to make God’s song of blessing our own.