Advent Quotes for Reflection on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

country-church1.jpgI always seek to place a “reflections” in the bulletin. I believe that for most people the Church, and in particular the liturgy of the Church, is the primary way that the sacred words and the familiar words and the poetry and literature of Western Civilization, of the best writers and thinkers of our day and days past, make their way into their lives. Thus, from L’Engle to Donne, from Augustine to Calvin to Sproul, from Gurnall to Weber, the Church is the repository of so many good things. And the minister of the Gospel is the stewad of these “mysteries.”Here are a few quotes that we have used recently (by the way, is there a more wondrous thought than the Donne line, “Immensity cloistered in Thy dear womb?”):

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,There He hath made Himself to His intentWeak enough, now into the world to come;But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,Stars and wise men will travel to preventThe effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how HeWhich fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,That would have need to be pitied by thee?Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.—John Donne, Nativity

On the Morning of Christ’s NativityThis is the month, and this the happy mornWherein the Son of Heav’n’s eternal King,Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,Our great redemption from above did bring;For so the holy sages once did sing,That he our deadly forfeit should release,And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.–John Milton, On the Morning Of Christ’s Nativity

ADVENT—the four-week period that leads up to Christmas—is a series of events designed not to delay the celebration of Christmas, but to enhance it. It’s a kind of delayed gratification that culminates in a … satisfaction that is all the richer for the waiting.—Joan Chittister, Listen with the Heart

Advent spirituality is not a time to meditate on the actual birth of Christ. According to tradition, we ought not to sing Christmas carols until Christmas itself, for Advent is not a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the manger but a time to long for the coming of the Savior. The appropriate sense of this season is captured in the pleading of “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”—Robert Weber

“The authentically hopeful Christmas spirit has not looked away from the darkness, but straight into it. The true and victorious Christmas spirit does not look away from death, but directly at it. Otherwise, the message is cheap and false. Instead of pointing to someone else’s sin, we confess our own. ‘In our sins we have been a long time’ [Isaiah 64]. Advent begins in the dark.” – Fleming Rutledge, “Advent Begins in the Dark,” from The Bible and the New York Times

YOU keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do.So thank you … for the waiting time.—John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

The spirituality of Advent calls us to start our journey in expectation of the second coming of Christ. The end time is the period in history when the work of Christ will be consummated, when the powers of evil will be put away forever, when the earth will be restored to the golden age described by Isaiah and St. John (see Isa. 65; Rev. 20-22).—Robert Weber

IT WAS NOT suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation … . Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of his time, did Jesus come.–Phillips Brooks, The Consolations of God: Great Sermons of Phillips Brooks

CHRISTMAS is fast approaching. And now that Christ has aroused our seasonal expectations, he’ll soon fulfill them all!–Augustine, Sermon 51, translated by William Griffin in Sermons to the People

Next, the second coming says that the ultimate word in history is the triumph of God, the reign of God’s kingdom, the eternal and lasting rule of the good. Here is where our Advent meditation rests. By faith we are promised that evil will be judged and done away with and all will be made whole. This is the vision we want to carry with us as we view the news and visit the hospitals, psychiatric wards, and prisons of our world. Christian hope is an optimism about life that is grounded in Christ and celebrated again and again in the liturgy of the church.—Robert Weber

There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the incarnation.—Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

The Theotokos has been revealed on the earth in truth,Proclaimed of old by the words of the prophets,Foretold by the wise patriarchsand the company of the righteous.She will exchange glad tidings with the honor of women:Sarah, Rebecca, and glorious Hanna,And Miriam, the sister of Moses.All the ends of the earth shall rejoice with them,Together with all of creation.For God shall come to be born in the flesh,Granting the world great mercy.–from the Orthodox liturgy, in Thomas Hopko, The Winter Pascha (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984)

In Advent spirituality we are also called on to meditate on the birthing of Christ in our hearts. In this matter we are dealing with the conversion of life, the movement away from the old life lived under the power of evil to the new life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. True conversion is a turning from one way of life to another. Christ calls us to be converted to him, to make him the pattern of our lives, to make our living and dying a living and dying in him.—Robert Weber

“How can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? Which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in his cottage.”—William Gurnall

Get the new book on theology and life, which includes stories, ideas, and reflections by Mike Milton:Small Things, Big Things: Inspiring Stories of God’s Grace (P&R Publishing, December 2009).

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About Michael Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D. (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David's College), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author. He is, also, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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8 Responses to Advent Quotes for Reflection on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

  1. Kyle B says:

    Where did that quote by JOHN BELL Come from and which “John Bell” is he?
    It is a very nice prayer but I am wondering who he is and where it was found.
    Thank you!

    • mikemilton says:

      YOU keep us waiting.
      You, the God of all time,
      I located that in the Westminster Prayers Collection. His identity is worthy of a search. I will let you know. But I have included the source with the beautiful Advent reflection:

      YOU
      Want us to wait
      For the right time in which to
      discover
      Who we are, where we are to go,
      Who will be with us, and what we
      must do.
      So thank you … for the waiting time.
      John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

    • mikemilton says:

      John Bell is a Church of Scotland minister involved with the Iona Community and author of numerous poems, hymns, articles and books.

  2. What a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark to this site? Regards

  3. Afton Sage says:

    Hi there may I reference some of the information found in this post if I reference you with a link back to your site?

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