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Advent Meditation: Wednesday, December 25, 2019

By Cynthia Briggs Kittredge

Psalm 72, 111, 113 •  2 Samuel 7:1-17  •  Luke 1:39-48a(48b-56)

“And it came to pass in those days.” Here begins the first, and for a long time the only, passage of scripture I had ever known by heart, thanks to my starring role as narrator in the Christmas pageant as a child. On first hearing, it is understated, laconic, and vague. And yet the irresistible rhythm – four metrical feet, four accented syllables – draws the speaker and her audience  inexorably toward the decree, the taxing, the piling up places: Galilee, Nazareth, Judea, Bethlehem. As each phrase is pronounced in sequence, Mary and Joseph make their tentative trek down the aisle, the innkeeper wordlessly turns them away, we are carried onward to the bringing forth, and we come to rest before the wrapped bundle in the manger. Mothers in the shadows of the transcept urge the shepherds abiding in the field to make their way also down the aisle accompanied by facsimiles of sheep. The multitude of the heavenly host arrive one by one into the arches flanking the sanctuary. Each angel is crowned with tinsel and clasps a twinkling candle.

There are NT hymns that sing of Christ with more beauty and drama. There is kenosis, descent, and ascent. But for the evocation of the incarnation, the divine shimmering through the material, I can do no better than “it came to pass in those days.”

Holy and Loving God, you are known through words of scripture and through performance and pageantry. Thanks be to you. Amen.

The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, ThD
Dean and President and Professor of New Testament
Seminary of the Southwest

The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge is dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest. The focus of Dean Kittredge’s leadership is the formation of Christian leaders in community for the vitality of the church and to advance God’s mission of reconciliation. She believes that critical engagement with scripture, tradition, and context, energized by imagination, and grounded in prayer is the center of formation for mission.

In the wider church, Dean Kittredge is a respected scholar and preacher who teaches and leads retreats on the vital intersection of scripture, spirituality, and preaching for Christian leaders. In her role as dean and president, she continues to form students at Southwest in creative and faithful approaches to biblical studies, early Christian history, Greek reading, and the embodied practice of liturgical leadership.

Dean Kittredge is the eighth dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest. She was appointed in 2013 after serving on the faculty as the Ernest J. Villavaso, Jr. Professor of New Testament and as academic dean. Committed to theological education for the church, Dean Kittredge has served as a member of the Steering Committee for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, as Chair of the Board of the Episcopal Evangelism Society, and President of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.

A biblical scholar valued by her colleagues for her insight and generous collegiality, Dean Kittredge is a contributor to The New Oxford Annotated Bible and the Women’s Bible Commentary, and the author of Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John and Community and Authority: The Rhetoric of Obedience in the Pauline Tradition. She co-edited The Bible in the Public Square: Reading the Signs of the Times and Walk in the Ways of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. She is the co-editor of the Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament (2014).

Fascinated by the interplay of intellect and imagination in the interpretation of scripture, she wrote A Lot of the Way Trees Were Walking: Poems from the Gospel of Mark (Wipf & Stock, 2015).

Prior to joining the seminary faculty in 1999, Dean Kittredge taught at Harvard University and the College of the Holy Cross. She serves as assisting priest at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin.

She is married to Frank D. Kittredge, Jr. and they have three grown children.

The Advent Meditations and Prayers are a gift to our seminary community and are made possible through gifts to our Annual Fund. Seminary of the Southwest appreciates the support of its friends, alumni, and the communities around the world that its graduates serve for the glory of God. This support ensures that Southwest, as an institution made of individuals dedicated to service to God and their fellow members of the body of Christ, can continue doing its part to build the body of Christ.


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