Newborn Beginning . . . after Caesar

An Advent prayer by Walter Brueggemann

The Christ Child is about to be born,

            the one promised by the angel. 

     Mary’s “fullness of time” has arrived. 

Except that the birth is scheduled

            according to the emperor:

     A decree went out that all should be numbered. 

Caesar decreed a census, everyone counted;

Caesar intended to have up-to-date data for the tax rolls;

Caesar intended to have current lists of draft eligibility;

Caesar intended taxes to support armies,

     because the emperor, in whatever era,

            is always about money and power, 

                 about power and force,      

                 about force and control, 

                        and eventually violence. 

And while we wait for the Christ Child,

     we are enthralled by the things of Caesar– 

            money . . . power . . . control,

                 and all the well-being that comes from 

                 such control, even if it requires a little violence. 

But in the midst of the decree

     will come this long-expected Jesus, 

            innocent, vulnerable,

            full of grace and truth,

            grace and not power, 

            truth and not money, 

            mercy and not control. 

We also dwell in the land of Caesar;

     we pray for the gift of your spirit, 

     that we may loosen our grip on the things of Caesar,

     that we may turn out eyes toward the baby, 

            our ears toward the newness,

            our hearts towards the gentleness,

            our power and money and control

                 toward your new governance. 

We crave the newness. 

     And while the decree of the emperor

            rings in our ears with such authority, 

     give us newness that we may start again

                 at the beginning,

     that the innocence of the baby may

                 intrude upon our ambiguity, 

     that the vulnerability of the child may

                 veto our lust for control, 

     that we may be filled with wonder 

                 and so less of anxiety,

            in the blessed name of the baby we pray. 

Walter Brueggemann. Prayers for a Privileged People. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008. 

Following Christ Through Love of Neighbor

Before continuing the series of reflections that I began several weeks ago, I would like to share with you a prayer. Many years ago I began collecting books of written prayers. At first I thought that joining in someone’s written prayer would not be the same as praying myself. Nevertheless, I discovered that these prayers that have been penned over the centuries often express more succintly my deepest desires and longings.

Serious theological reflections should be bathed in prayer. All too often what goes viral has not been shaped in silence and contemplation. This prayer points the way for further reflections on this blog. It is in this spirit that I share with you a prayer by German theologian, Karl Rahner.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Following Christ Through Love of Neighbor

Lord Jesus Christ, You Yourself have shown me a way to a faith that is real and determines my life. It is the way of the ordinary and actively generous love of neighbor. I meet You on this road, as unknown and known. Guide me on this path, Light of Life. Let me walk it in patience, always further, always new. Grant me the incomprehensible strength to venture towards people and to give myself in the gift. Then You, Yourself, in an unexplicable union with those who receive my love, step forward to meet me in my neighbor: You are the One Who can take on the whole life of humankind, and You remain at the same time the One in Whom this life, handed over to God, does not cease to be love for humankind.

My faith in You is “on the way” and I say with the man in the Gospel: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” Guide me along Your path, You Who are the Way to my neighbor, my unknown, looked-for brother, and therein are God, now and forever.


Caught Up in the Christ Life

Entering into spaces in which we do not entirely feel “at home” teach us about the world and what it truly means to be human. Our eyes must be opened, along with our ears and our hearts. Simply leaving our comfort zone does not enlighten our human experience. We must be humble. Truly humble, like Jesus Christ. He left the splendor of heaven to become one of us. He learned to walk, to speak, to listen and to read God’s Word. Based on His experience with other humans and with God, He chose to live a certain way.

The good news of the Gospel is that we can be caught up into the life of the Godhead. We can participate in the divine nature. We can be like Christ! Our experience with other human beings along with our experience with God inform us how we are to live. As heaven and earth met in the body of Jesus, so does the combination of our soul and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Now we have everything we need to live in a way that pleases God.

Do we take Jesus seriously? Are we willing to set aside our politics and prejudices to accept God’s plan for human flourishing? Are we willing to let God reign sovereign over every aspect of our lives? Will we only give to God our “spiritual” life or might He also have control of every other area as well?

There is so much that I do not understand. Of what I do understand, there is so much that I do not practice to perfection. Nevertheless, I get the sense that Jesus is calling us deeper into His life. This is what discipleship is: to consider ourselves students in Christ’s school that will graduate only when we are exactly like our Master.

I’m frankly not interested in partisan politics. I’m not interested in proselytism either. All I intend to do in these reflections is to invite you to dig deeper, to explore the infinite depths of God’s love for us and others. I want to invite you to imagine the world as God would have it and to work towards that end.

Those who do this must be entirely dependent upon God. Jesus called those needy the poor in spirit. It’s a scruffy group of Kingdom representatives who take His Sermon seriously and try to live it out. Many Christians find Jesus’ call to total surrender and non-violent resistance radical while others find it entirely impossible. I’ll gladly stand with the minority who think that Jesus truly meant what He said and that He not only expects us to live in this way, but that He helps us to do so.

Abba Father, please guide the coming reflections. May they echo your thoughts and your will for our lives. In the name of Jesus who continues to defy human wisdom and expediency, Amen. 

Meditation by Francis de Sales

Second Meditation of the End for Which We Were Created

by Francis de Sales





1. Please yourself before God.


2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.





1. God did not bring you into the world because He had any need of you, useless as your are; but solely that He might show forth His goodness in you, giving you His grace and glory. And to this end He gave you understanding that you might know Him, memory that you might think of Him, a will that you might love Him, imagination that you might realize His mercies, sight that you might behold the marvels of His works, speech that you might praise Him, and so on with all your other faculties.


2. Being created and placed in the world for this intent, all contrary actions should be shunned and rejected, as also you should avoid as idel and superflous whatever does not promote it.


3. Consider how unhappy they are who do not think of all of this, who live as though they were created only to build and plant, to heap up riches and amuse themsevles with trifles.



Affections and Resolutions


1. Humble youself in that hitherto you have so little thought upon all this. Alas, my God, of what was I thinking when I did not think of Thee? what did I remeber when I forgot Thee? what did I love when I loved Thee not? Alas, when I ought to have been feeding on the truth, I was but filling myself with vanity, and serving the world, which was made to serve me.


2. Abhor your past life. I renounce ye, O vain thoughts and useless cognitions, frivolous and hatelful memories. I renounce all worthless friendships, all unprofitable efforts, and miserably ungrateful self-indulgence, all pitiful compliances.


3. Turn to God. Thou, my God and Savior, shalt henceforth be thte sole object of my thoughts; no more will I give my mind to ideas which are displeasing to Thee. All the days of my life I will dwell upon the greatness of Thy goodness, so lovingly poured out on me. Thou shalt be henceforth the delight of my heart, the resting place of all my affections. From this time forth I will forsake and abhor the vain pleasures and amusements, the empty pursuits which have absorbed my time; the unprofitable ties which have bound my heart I will loosen henceforth, and to that end I will use such and such remedies.





1. Thank God, Who has made you for so gracious an end. Thou hast made me, O Lord, for Thyself, that I may eternally enjoy the immensity of Thy glory. When shall I be worthy thereof, when shall I know how to bless Thee as I ought?


2. Offer. O dearest Lord, I offer Thee all my affections and resolutions, with my whole heart and soul.


3. Pray. I entreat Thee, O God, that Thou wouldst accept my desirs and longings, and give Thy blessing to my soul, to enable me to fulfill them, through the merits of Thy dear Son’s precious blood shed upon the cross of me.

My Prayer

Was it so very long ago you came to live on earth?
When will I ever comprehend the value of the Savior’s birth?

A man with rough, but gentle hands, a carpenter by trade
I want so much to understand the sacrifice the Father gave

And in the silence I can hear a voice that calls to me
Sometimes it comes in loud and clear, sometimes I’m just not listening

The rains have come, the winds have blown, and stronger for the storm I stand
Amazing grace I’ve come to know while clinging tightly to your hand

Lord, help me hear that voice inside, the message coming through
Please take my heart and amplify the love I have for you

Please take my heart and amplify the love I have for you


Written by Chet and Danice Sweet of the a cappella singing group, Revival.