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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Advent 2023: A Celebration of Dreams and Miracles

(Photo by George Becker – Pexels)


Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is the season of the church year that celebrates dreams and miracles. The dry parched desert can burst into a field of poppies and forget-me-nots… Helpless little lambs can snuggle next to mighty ferocious lions… A wild scrawny man dressed in animal hides and munching on grasshoppers can cry out in the wilderness, “REPENT!” and large crowds can listen to his rantings and be dramatically changed… And a young girl, living unnoticed in Podunk, can answer “yes” to an impossible Divine Request and conceive a child who will turn her life and the whole world upside down.

The readings of Advent give testimony to all of these remarkable things. Maybe that’s one reason so many of us are drawn to them. For they tell us: What you see is not all there is. What you assume is the end, is actually the beginning. What you hear is not the final word. What you desire in the deepest recesses of your heart can still be. The incredible things God has done in the past, God is doing in the present. Right now. And God will continue to do such unbelievable things into the future–no matter how bleak, dark, or hopeless our present time may seem.


God is doing miraculous things no matter how bleak, dark, or hopeless our present may seem. (Photo by Koolshooter – Pexels)


But there’s a catch. God needs us. God needs us to help make these dreams come true, to help work these impossible miracles. In the past, God needed an Isaiah to keep the vision of hope alive before God’s people. God needed a John the Baptist to proclaim the message of returning to God. And God needed a Mary to dare to say “yes” to God’s request as no other handmaid before her had ever done. So Advent is not a time to set up permanent residence in comforting readings that promise a better future. No, it is a time to partner with God wherever we may find ourselves this Advent to help bring about that better future for which we long.


How do we do this? The ways are countless. They are limited only by our imagination and resolve. Many of these ways are mighty deeds though they may seem to be pitifully small. Allow me to suggest a few.

+ The refrain for Advent is, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Perhaps we can make this refrain our mantra this Advent as we go about our day. When we first crawl out of bed in the morning, we can say, “Come, Lord Jesus into my entire day. The easy parts, the nice parts, the fun parts. But also, Lord Jesus, come into the messy parts, the unpleasant parts, the difficult parts.” And when we crawl back into bed in the evening, we can say, “Come Lord, Jesus. Give me rest and strength this night so I may partner with you again tomorrow.”


+ Choose one way to make your small world a better place. Do this by following Jesus’ way of unselfish loving. Speak kindly to others. All others. Sometimes we’re kinder to total strangers than we are to the people we live and work with every day. Sometimes we’re kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Overlook some things. Go the extra mile. Where there is little or no love, put love and there will be love.


+ Your attention is a valuable gift. Find ways you can give your attention to someone in your life who is overlooked, taken for granted, living on the margins. It can be a family member… a co-worker… a friend… a neighbor… a pastor… a store clerk… an overworked parent… a shut-in… a caregiver… Simply ask yourself: Who is in need of a gentle word, a “thank you,” a smile, a compliment, a note, a phone call, a visit, an offer to help? In English we use the phrase “pay attention.” There’s always a small price to pay when we focus our attention on someone else.

(Photo by Bastian Riccardi – Pexels)


And finally, my prayer for all of us this Advent 2023 is this:

Come, Lord Jesus! May the readings of Advent bring us great consolation. May they encourage us to dream for a better world. May they strengthen us to partner with you to bring about that better world we hope for. Give us a greater appreciation for the miracle of your life of selfless loving, a miracle we can share in every day. This Advent rekindle in us the deepest longings of our hearts for love, peace, goodness, beauty, and truth. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Amen.


For reflection:

Did anything stand out for you in today’s reflection?

Do you like the season of Advent? Why or why not?

How do you plan on celebrating or observing Advent this year?


Our song today is the Advent/Christmas song, “Beyond the Moon and Stars” by Dan Schutte. It captures so beautifully our longing for God… for peace… for light in the darkness.


I encourage you to write a comment below. Our readers will love hearing from you! Thank you!

45 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    The word “dreams” really stood out to me and here’s why: Joseph was going to “divorce Mary quietly” but an angel came to him in a dream and reassured him all was well. Still, this must have taken enormous courage to believe a dream. It would have meant going against the Torah, the doctrine of the day. But the message he gets is an internal one, one that transcends doctrine. I’m sure this type of thing still happens — people trusting their conscience, the integrity — the interior — of their hearts, despite what doctrine proclaims. Mary’s “yes” was heroic, but so was Joseph’s!

    So good that we’re all together again!

  2. It can be so difficult to observe Advent in a culture that starts Christmas sales, music etc so early. I want to use the mantra you suggest. Thank you!

  3. The song “Beyond the Moon and Stars” truly describes our need. What is it that we truly yearn for in life….more gifts….more of what we already have? Or do we yearn for an answer to our deepest yearnings….to be saved from ourselves.
    Thanks for starting us off on the right foot.

    Blessings,
    Father John

  4. “What you see is not all that is” is one of the themes of this season. I want to see, to be aware, to ponder
    – this Advent season. Thank you for this advent blog. Just a suggestion- how making it into a book? I hold you in my prayer!
    Dion

  5. So glad you are having an advent blog. I really appreciate your books, very inspiring and meaningful. Blessings and prayer, Sr. Julie

  6. Thank you again. I need to remember Gods plans are not always MY plans but to be open to things in my life.

    I really like your blog but still not getting the emails. Will continue to try to remember to search for you every Monday

  7. I love these Advent days and have been anticipating its beginning . I find myself quickly deleting all the advertisements that are monopolizing my mailbox! Thank you much for beginning this week with these reflections!
    Blessings❤️🙏

  8. Sister Melanie! Having appeared in my email after all this time, you are a “God wink”! Thank you for being there for all of us!💕

  9. Sister Melanie,
    Yay! I’m so happy to get your blog again!
    This one is perfect for Advent, and the song is beautiful!
    It really is difficult to keep Advent when being blasted with sales, ads, etc., but I will continue to try to pray “Come, Lord Jesus,” through it all. Thank you for your inspiring message.
    Blessings, 🙏🏻🎼
    Cathy

  10. I love the morning and evening prayers. They are really meaningful to me. I will be passing them on too. So happy for this blog Sister! Anita C

  11. Dear Melannie,
    First of all, I’m so happy to be back on your blog…I have been trying forever but could not connect.
    I loved today’s Advent blog, especially the thought of “ partnering” with God to make a better world. Such a awesome way bring God’s love to all!
    Thank you for partnering with God so beautifully to bring us these messages.
    Prayers for a joyful, love filled Advent…to you and all.
    Sister Josita

  12. Sister Melannie,
    I too am so happy to be receiving your Monday morning blog, once again. I love Advent….a time of possibilities, anticipation.
    I live alone nowadays and with that comes the freedom to surround myself with that which I find uplifting and life-giving….and I don’t have a television, so I am not bombarded by all the ads of glitz and glamour. For these two things I am grateful for the fact that I am living alone after 79 years of family living. It always helps to find positive pieces of every situation, no matter what it is.

    Much of my time is spent in reflection of who I was, who I am and who I am trying to become….I will be more focused on this during this Advent season.

    Thank you, thank you,
    Mary

  13. God is beyond the moon and stars–but also present within us and all God’s creatures.
    The Creator is in and gives life to all creatures, and, as last Sunday’s Gospel points out,
    not least in the poorest, weakest, sickest and most endangered—Christ.

  14. Good morning, Sister!
    Thank you for your message and faith. I have a sign that I put up on the first Sunday of Advent which says “Simplify Christmas ~ Celebrate Christ”.
    Please “Come Lord Jesus” … open our hearts to receive your love!

  15. Thank you Melannie for a most reflective beginning for the Advent season. It’s great to be back on your blog. God is good.

    Blessings
    Mo

  16. So happy to hear from you. Your words are always an inspiration to me. I’m looking forward to journeying Advent with you

  17. Thanks so much for these beautiful reflections. i will definitely use them for ME and for my sisters in my community. Advent blessings to you.

  18. Melannie, thank you!
    “Come, Lord Jesus” always and every time includes you. And Jesus does come through this prayer and through the beautiful reflections you so insightfully share with us.

  19. Hello, Sr. Melanie.
    I’m so glad to be receiving your blog again. I’ve missed you for almost a year. By the way, Sister, just want you to know that I can tell it’s you writing in Give Us This Day even before I get to the bottom where your name is. Wish you contributed more often.
    Happy Advent from Theresa Powers in snowy Michigan.

  20. How timely this is! I’ve already begun wishing “Happy New Year” as the first Sunday of Advent begins a new church year. My husband and I are hosting the “Christmas” family gathering this weekend, but I want the focus to be on celebrating Advent, so I’m taking my Advent wreath with a placard saying “Come Lord Jesus, Come” and a prayer with that same refrain several times. I relish the various seasons and love to treasure and make the best of them!

  21. The haunting question for me is discovering how God needs us to make the divine dream come true. Thanks for the inspiring reflection. What a joy it is to get your blog! Advent blessings to you!

  22. Thank you for the reminder. I live in a senior community where a smile, good morning etc. are very appreciated and many feel forgotten. I, at times, withdraw into my own cocoon and don’t reach out to those around me. Your blog message is a good reminder to get back out there for others. Opportunities are endless if I just look up.
    Thank you for your blog. Happy Advent Sr Melannie

  23. So very happy to be reunited for Advent! My deepest gratitude to my dear friend Nancy for forwarding Sunflower Seeds to me all these months. Beyond the Moon and Stars is a special of mine that we sing often at my new parish.

  24. So glad to be receiving your thoughtful email devotion reflections again Sr. Melannie! Keep them up and Happy Advent!

  25. I haven’t gotten any posts from Sunflower Seeds in months. I attempted to subscribe but it was noted that I’m already subscribed. Please advise.

  26. Melanie,
    I so pleased to be on your blog and preparing for Advent with this new community. I’m going to look up your books.

  27. Inviting Jesus into the messy parts. Always tricky! I invite my friends in sometimes before I invite my Sustaining Power in! I’ve often said of my two best friends, Heather and Deborah: “They know more about me than God does.” And there are reasons the hyperbole seems apt. It’s not always easy to see God as, what, as approachable? As knowing everything about us, and loving us not “in spite of” but “because”? As really and truly the Source of Compassion, willing our good, unswervingly?

    Peace and light to all.

  28. Hi Melannie: So glad to be getting your blog without going through whatever that trail was!
    Thank you!
    This was a wonderful jump start for Advent. I loved that “young girl who came from Podunk”! You nailed it. I need to be reminded of the simple ways to say, “Come, Lord, Jesus…”
    Mary Ann, SC

  29. Thank you for reconnecting. I too tried to resubscribe but it just didn’t work. I am so grateful for the Advent message! God bless you!

  30. Melannie, what a gift to have you back with us as we begin this Advent season! The note today in my email said your email devotional reflections will be every Monday again! When I read your “Sunflower Seeds” every Monday morning, I write one short sentence and I pray that every morning that week.
    Yes, I can hardly wait to play the Christmas Novena here at our Motherhouse. Sr. Ruth Klein and Sr. Amy McFrederick created the Christmas Novena in 1983. It is a treasure for me and for our community! No other Dominican Sisters Community in the US wants to use this one, but we love it!

  31. Thank you so much St Melannie for starting my day & Advent season with this beautiful reflection & song.
    My mantra will be “Come Lord Jesus” in the “nice parts “ & the “messy parts”
    I love the idea of partnering with our Lord❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  32. So glad to receive your inspiring Monday morning messages again. You make my Advent even more meaningful.
    For Christmas gifts, I am avoiding all commercial offerings and instead am making chocolate bourbon fudge for all my gift giving. Got the idea from the Trappists at Gethsemani (sp?) who make the same fudge also with bourbon.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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