Have you ever wondered how our ancestors worshipped God even amidst what we are told in history as trying? They worshipped, they communicated through song. We have come to know these songs as Negro Spirituals or just Spirituals. During Advent, the season of preparation for the coming of the Christ, Rev. Luke Powery, Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School, invites us to spend a while each day examining, meditating on, praying and singing some of those songs.
While Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of the Christ; the season also mirrors or is the flip side of Easter and Pentecost, the coming of Christ that we anticipate is a second coming. Advent takes us to the experience of the Wise Men, Angels and Shepherds’ encounter with the revealed babe, Jesus, born in Bethlehem. Powery extends our preparation as he reminds us that the babe born in the manger is the teacher and prophet whose physical life ends on the Good Friday cross, but through the spirituals our hope and expectation to a future with Christ will be one of justice and peace in its richness.
In his book “Rise Up Shepherd, Rev. Powery takes the journey and invites us to sing the songs; daily immerse ourselves into their melodies and to allow our spirits to interpret them in a way that prepares us for Christmas. Rise Up Shepherd as a devotional guide draws upon rich spiritual history that strengthens our daily meditations during this season of hope.
Preparation for Christmas is marked by the towering trees, blinking lights, gift-buying, crowded streets and the constant invitation to discounts and savings. Prepare for Christmas in our society is a constant pull on acquiring more and satisfying ourselves. All of this create an illusion that we have more than we actually do; and yes perhaps we do. What do we do with all that we have been blessed with? Renown biblical scholar and author Walter Brueggemann, helps us to look beyond the illusion of plenty and the seasonal busyness and focus on what really is important – the disguise of our emptiness in soul.
This emptiness can only be filled with the abundance of Jesus himself, which is disguised with scarcity. The saviour of the world, giver of plenty and Lord of all life came to us in a stable. So Brueggemann invites us to train our eyes to see through that messy stable, the youth of Mary, Jesus’ mother and the threat on baby Jesus’ life. He invites us to reflect on the fact that within seeming poverty and powerlessness the wonder of God’s abundance – life, grace and presence comes to dwell among us. This is a powerful devotional of daily reflections on the Scriptures and stories of Advent that invites us to look beyond the world’s display of plenty to the realisation that the God whom we anticipate during the season of Advent is the god who provides abundance.
The St. Jude’s Writers’ “Our Hope and Expectation” a small booklet of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas offers us reflections and simple prayers for each day of Advent. Written from the Jamaican context this devotional invites us to share our own testimonies and experiences and to live in hope that Advent offers. The book reminds us that we are a people of promise. Since it takes us to Christmas, which actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6,
we are reminded that we celebrate the fulfilment of the promises God made to us and all people – that God would give us a way to draw near to him. Let us indulge ourselves as we anticipate and live in our Hope for the coming Christ in all His glory and the Expectation of joy with him when he appears.