Welcoming Love (Advent Week 4)

Throughout the season of Advent, you may want to create a small sacred space for prayer and quiet. Each week I’ll suggest a small “everyday” item you can add to your space (or carry with you!) to help you reflect on the week’s theme. Find the St. Benedict quotation printable here.


2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Say this to my servant David: I took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to be leader over my people Israel.

Luke 1:46b-55

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
You said, “I made a covenant with my chosen one;
I promised my servant David:
‘I will establish your offspring forever;
I will build up your throne from one generation to the next.'”

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38
“The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.”

Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”

Add a napkin to your sacred space. It can be a fine fabric napkin (folded into a swan if you want!), a decorative holiday party napkin, or even a plain everyday paper napkin. It could even be a used napkin instead of a freshly-cleaned one. How does a humble napkin speak of care-full love and useful service?

On this fourth Sunday in Advent, traditionally the “love” Sunday, the lectionary texts show us love in the lives of the lowly shepherd David and the lowly young girl Mary: love is service.

Service is messy. And mundane. Service means paying attention and being willing to provide. It means not being too proud to get down on hands and knees and sop up spills or sweep up crumbs.

Service means anticipating the needs of those who come into our lives. It may mean setting our own needs aside to take care of someone else first. Once, it meant the Holy God “took the form of a servant” and came to be with us (Phil. 2:6-11), putting on humility not as a clever disguise but in the fullness of love for us and our messy, mundane selves.

In this last week of Advent, waiting expectantly for the Servant to come to us, how can we welcome love by serving others in his likeness?

Welcome, child of humility,
you who chose to let go of eternal power
and put on mortality
so you could walk with us, laugh and cry and
celebrate and suffer with us.

You came to live in our way so that
we could finally come to live in yours:
the way of service. The way of love.

Teach us to serve as your ancestor David did,
always aware of divine companionship,
tenderly shepherding those in our care.

Teach us to serve as your mother Mary did,
welcoming the Spirit’s surprising work in us,
tenderly parenting your beloved children.

Teach us to serve as you did,
turning the orders of power upside-down
to kneel at the feet of those least deserving.

Teach us to love as you did, hands in the dirt,
elbow-deep in soapy water,
arms outstretched in faithfulness to the end.

You came to live in our way
so that we could come to life. Teach us to live
to serve and to love
as you did. As you still do.

Welcome, child of humility, love-bringer.
We open the door to you!

The Annunciation, by Henry Wolf, 1899. in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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