In this first week of advent, we are proud to introduce Capital University Devotions for Advent. The creation of University Pastor Amy Oehlschlaeger and student Matthew Hazzard ’13, the guide is a compilation of devotions written by students, faculty members, staff and administrators, alumni and community partners to serve as a daily guide through Advent, which is observed during December in preparation for Christmas.
“We thought the guide would be a way to strengthen our community and to give faculty, staff, and administrators in particular an opportunity to reflect on and share their faith journeys with the rest of the Capital community,” Oehlschlaeger explained.
Writers were given freedom in what they chose to write about, which allowed contributors to share their interests as they relate to faith.
“It’s no accident that May Schwarz, a musician, included songs in her devotion,” Oehlschlaeger added. “I also wanted to include a couple of feast days that occur during Advent, which many Christians are unaware of and so St. Nicholas Day (written about by President Denvy A. Bowman) and St. Thomas the Apostle (penned by Suzanne Marilley, political science professor) were among the choices that were offered to the writers.”
The guide, which is available in print and online on the Campus Ministries webpage, offers readers inclusive insight into passages, concepts and traditions that inspire — and sometimes even confound — members of the Cap Family.
“Begotten. Alpha. Omega. Big words for little ears, certainly” writes Cheryl DoBroka, associate professor of education. “Big words, truth be told, for big ears. How do we ponder the timelessness of the Incarnation, of God taking on human flesh? How do we fathom how a Being without a beginning or end enters ur world of time and space. Season words whisper, "begin here ...”
“Hanukkah not only commemorates past events, it celebrates the human virtues that shaped those events as well,” writes adjunct religion faculty member Rachel BenDor. “Those are the martial traits of the priestly Hasmoneans family led by Matthias, the zealot, and by Judah Maccabeus, the warrior. Those values have their place in any society that seeks to defend its religious freedom, its national autonomy and its sacred places. However, these uncompromising, combative virtues can be problematic in everyday life.”
Writing about the sometimes minimized perspective of Joseph’s role in the nativity and in the life of Christ, Andrew Protopapas ’13 reminds readers that the earthly father of Jesus lends important insight on the story.
“In the Orthodox church, we consider the doubt Joseph faced as important to our understanding of the story and even seek to illustrate it in our icons … Too often we forget about Joseph in the story of Christ’s birth. I don't mean that we forget he’s there, but we forget to consider how he must have felt … Through Joseph, we learn that the presence of hope does not necessarily mean the absence of doubt and that doubting is necessary to truly experience trust in God.”
The devotion guide’s cover art comes from The Schumacher Gallery’s collections. Titled Madonna and Child, it’s an acrylic painting by Dr. Kay Arwady Broadwater ’73 gifted to the University from Dr. William Haueisen ’66 chair of Capital’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Janice Ferne Haueisen ’67.
Today’s devotion, written by Joy Schroeder, Bergener Chair of Theology and Religion at Capital and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, follows:
"When I was a little girl, our church held Christmas pageant rehearsals on December Saturdays. In late November the Sunday School teachers assigned the parts. My two sisters and I always had a dream—to play the part of Mary. However, there were two reasons why none of us ever got this part. First, we were the children of the pastor. It just doesn’t look good to give the best parts to the pastor’s children. Secondly, my sisters and I had nice clear speaking voices and good memories. We usually were the narrators. Once I got to be an angel, wearing tinsel in my hair, announcing: “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all the people.” My sisters Sarah and Karen each got a chance to be a shepherd who said, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” But none of us ever got to be the silent Mary—who kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
"Since we knew we would never play the part of Mary in the church Christmas program, my sisters and I put on our own Christmas programs in our basement playroom. We placed a doll into a little toy crib filled with dried Easter grass. We gathered all our stuffed animals around the crib, and we each took turns being Mary. We identified with Jesus’ mother because she was the only female character in the story of Jesus’ birth. Part of our connection also came because it was she who was close to the baby: holding him in her arms, swaddling him, and comforting him.
"In the first chapter of Luke’s gospel, as Gabriel greets the Virgin Mary, announcing that she would give birth to the savior, we are invited to ponder the mystery of the incarnation, God the Son taking on human flesh. As we reflect on the young woman who experienced the reality of it—the baby growing in her body—we remember all reflections on the experiences of the Virgin Mother point us to Christ, the one who would be broken by violence and hatred, by nails and spears, by mockery, betrayal and abandonment. We, who are sinful and wounded by the violence and cruelty of the world, meditate upon the love of God, who descended not only into a woman’s womb, but deep into suffering human flesh. And he was raised from the dead with a body that glorified and healed, so that we, too, will be raised and restored on the last day."
"Holy Jesus, the angel Gabriel announced your birth to your mother, the Virgin Mary. Grant that we may receive you into our lives. By your incarnation, passion, and death, may we be brought to the glory of the resurrection. Amen."