The greatest gift in our life of faith is that God lives in each of us. Quiet prayer is a chance to reconnect with our best self and the God who made us.

As you enter into prayer, know that the peace of God is available to all who seek it. In fact, it is already in your heart. Try to claim it now.

And remember that tomorrow is another day.

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The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ. John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” With many other words John appealed to them, proclaiming good news to the people.

Luke 3:15-18

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It's hard to hear good news in John's proclamation about Jesus separating the righteous from the unrighteous. Especially when the fate of the unworthy sounds unbearable and cruel, the Bible seems set on scaring us into good behavior. That strategy almost never works, and God knows it.

I believe there’s a better way to read these passages than “am I in or am I out?” What if each of us is made of both wheat and husk? What if the work of our lives — of Jesus working in and on us — is to help us throw off the lifeless shell that we think will keep us safe but actually only separates us from our vocation as God’s holy people?

When I read in this translation that Jesus is holding a shovel (other translations have “winnowing fork”) it also conjures for me the image of our Lord mucking out a barn stall. I take great comfort in the idea that Jesus is mucking me out, shoveling out the mess and leaving only what God has made.

Kyle Oliver

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Jesus, you are not afraid of my mess. Thank you for the work you do in me, sifting and winnowing and helping me find both myself and you. Amen.

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Spirit of Peace, you dwell in my heart.

Spirit of Love, you make me whole.

Spirit of Joy, you teach me to serve.

Kyle Oliver

Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is an Episcopal priest who believes in the power of digital media to help people engage their faith. He serves as digital missioner for the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary and lives with his wife in New York City. He enjoys doing yoga, making things, and listening to podcasts.

Advent Reflections: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Joseph Martin

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