Advent Reflection: Keeping Watch in Serenity, Courage and Wisdom


O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  (Reinhold Niebuhr).

This famous little prayer is so beautiful because it is equally truthful.  We go through life’s daily activities trying to grab hold of this straw and the next to control what flows through them.  We want more.  We want what is better than what we already have.  We are not satisfied with having won a particular argument with that certain someone, because, we didn’t get them to see our point of view.  We live in a fantasy world with ourselves and others.

The inescapable reality is, that we really do not have total control over any one thing or any one person.  Ultimately, we are not in control of any particular situation to have the desired outcome.  We can apply for the job. We may get it, we may not.  We can take the medicine, but we cannot make it work.  We can plead with a friend of ours to address their addiction, but we cannot make them do the right thing.

There is one thing we do have in just about any situation.  We have choices to make. Each day and moment, God gives us the opportunity to make choices.  In this prayer that has been used by Al-Anon members for decades, we acknowledge our helplessness to make many of those choices.  So, we ask God to help us to accept what we cannot change with a total peace and surrender of ourselves, or to dedicate ourselves in courage to change what we can, and most importantly that wisdom that will know the difference.

Advent is about letting go, finding courage and looking for the Wisdom that is the Incarnate Word of God.  Jesus wants to come to us.  He can come and knock at the doors of our hearts, but, He cannot make the choice for us as to whether or not we let Jesus in.

May we have the serenity, courage and wisdom to let Jesus in and show us the way to love God, our neighbor and ourselves.


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

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