A mighty river of the Spirit

Advent 1 Blog

Using the image of a river that swells as its tributaries flow into it, Richard Foster in Streams of Spiritual Life, a community of the Spirit (a.k.a. church community) grows into a “a mighty river of the Spirit”. This Advent we will be spending time with biblical characters found in the Christmas story to help us understand how different spiritual expressions build up a community. We will observe how God is active bringing together streams as we look at the big picture of Christian faith.

One thing that binds Christians of all traditions and places and times and doctrinal distinctiveness come together at the manger of the Christ child born on Christmas Day. As we wait in hope for Christ’s first arrival, we also anticipate Christ’s return when we will worship in unity, the one eternal God.

We begin with Mary, the mother of Jesus. As we reflect on her life and ministry, we see in her a contemplative form of spirituality. “The contemplative life is the steady gaze of the soul upon the God who loves us,” says Richard Foster. ‘It is an intimate sharing between friends,’ to use words of Teresa of Avila.” (49) God is most present in the human condition as reflected in the words of Mary in her song.

Ann Weems summarizes it well in her poem, “Mary, Nazareth Girl” (Kneeling in Bethlehem).


Nazareth girl:

What did you know of ethereal beings

with messages from God?

What did you know of men

when you found yourself with child?

What did you know of babies,

you, barely out of childhood yourself?


God-chosen girl:

What did you know of God that brought you to this stable

blessed among women?

Could it be that you had been ready



for the footsteps

of an angel?

Could it be there are messages for us

if we have the faith to listen?


Questions for reflection:

  1. For what are you listening this Advent season?
  2. Where is God inviting you to become more open to another form of faith expression?
  3. What does it mean to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5.17)?