Advent liturgy

The music for this litugy is O Come, O Come Emmanuel from A Quiet Knowing Christmas by Jeff Johnson –

A high resolution version of this video entitled Waiting for the Light is now available for download from mustard seed associates

Check out the new 2008 Advent Meditation

And the Advent meditation for 2009


Preparing for Advent

It has been snowing in Seattle over the last few days. Not quite what we expect in this part of the world. What has fascinated me is to see how the world around us has slowed down in response to the weather. Schools and businesses were closed and the malls were not swamped by the crowds they normally expext. People stayed at home just relaxing and enjoying themselves.

As we move towards Advent and Christmas we are meant to slow down. This is a time to watch, to reflect and refocus as we wait and prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ our Saviour and Redeemer into the world. During this season we need to set aside time to reflect on our faith. We need to put down deep roots that will provide a solid foundation for our lives and anchor us against the storms and droughts that may lie ahead.

I love the tradition of the Advent wreath during this season. We set up ours on the dining room table and light the appropriate candles before breakfast. After we eat we read the scriptures from the Book of Common Prayer. It is a wonderful way to help us focus on the true meaning of the season. As a result I find I have very little desire to get out amongst the consumer hype around me.

Filled with the spirit

This week I have been reflecting a lot on what it means to be filled with the Spirit. As a young Christian (more years ago than I care to remember) I was involved in the charismatic movement in Australia and back then thought that being filled with the spirit meant to have an experience of speaking in tongues. Now I have a very different idea. To be filled iwth the Spirit to me now meanss that I intentionally choose a way of life that is integrated with God and God’s pruposes. Might sound a little pompous I know but I am struggling to realize that what being filled with the spirit means is that I deliberately choose each day to lay down my own self centred life and consiously live each moment in God’s presence and doing God’s will. Some days I do better than others.

I also struggle to recognize that God has gifted me not for my own satisfaction but so that I am better equipped to play my part in God’s family and work towards God’s goal of restoration of all creation, living towards that day when Christ returns and all are made whole.

I am seeing more and more that God’s spirit is constantly working within us to break down the barriers that distort our ability to lead a life that is fully integrated with God and there are lots of barriers. Thre are barriers within ourselves that resist God’s life – selfishness, greed, fear, covetousness, the inability to believe God really loves us all separate us from the life God wants us to live. There are also barriers that separate us from an ideal relationship with God – busyness, serfcentredness, independence and the desire to “do it my way”. Then there are barriers that separate us from others – lack of forgivenenss, the desire to control and a lack of willingness to listen to people who think very differently than we do all separate us from God’s people.

Lastly there are bariers that separate us from God’s creation – a lack of the sense of the sacredness of creation through which God’s glory shines, lack of proper stewardship and a lack of understanding of the interrelatedness of all created things. The list of barriers that separate us from God seems endless. Thank goodness we do not need to break them down alone but can rely on the Spirit to keep working within us to change us.

Liturgical gardening

Last Saturday we spent a couple of hours as a household out in the garden. It wasn’t the best day for it – though many would say it was pretty typical of Seattle – not too cold, rainy and definitely soggy. The good thing was that the rain had loosened up all the weeds and made them easy to pull. When we had finished we sat around drinking tea and coffee and eating apple cake (made from the fruit of our bumper apple crop this year. Then we read the liturgy below.
Gardening is an important part of the rhythm of my life but this was the first time I had ever connected it in such a hands on way to the scriptures and the wonderful sense of God’s participation in creation and in our work in the garden. The sense of God’s presence with us as we read the liturgy was astounding for me. It made me realize how disconnected my spiritual practices usually are from my everyday life and how much more intimate my relationship with God can become when I connect my prayers to my daily activities. Something I know I will need to experiment with more in the future.

A liturgy for the Celebration of Creation

God of wind and storm,
God of trees and flowers,
God of birds and beasts,
God of men and women
God of all creation
Come down, come in, come amongst us
God all of life reflects your creative presence and sustaining love
God we see you in the wind and calm
We see you in the sun and the moon
God all of life reflects your creative presence and sustaining love
God we hear you in the song birds and bees,
We hear you in the crash of waves and waterfalls,
God all of life reflects your creative presence and sustaining love
God we feel you in warmth of sun and cold of ice
We feel you in the richness of soil and softness of fur
God all of life reflects your creative presence and sustaining love
God we smell you in the perfume of rose and jasmine
We smell you in a fresh cut apple and peach
God all of life reflects your creative presence and sustaining love
God we see you in the rich abundance of the harvest
God we hear you in the voices of those who enjoy its bounty
God we feel you in the care of those with whom we share its
God all of life reflects your creative presence and sustaining love

Adapted from Ps 65:5-12
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
God our Saviour you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
You are the hope of the farthest seas,
When morning dawns and evening fades
You call forth songs of joy
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
You care for the land and water it;
You enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
To provide the people with grain,
For so you have ordained it.
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
You soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
And your carts overflow with abundance.
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
The grasslands of the deserts overflow;
The hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
And the valleys are mantled with grain;
They shout for joy and sing
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth

Upon all who seek to care for God’s good creation,
Lord, have mercy.
Upon all who seek to conserve and preserve the earth’s bounty
Lord, have mercy

Upon all who seek to preserve or restore this world’s
Lord, have mercy
Upon all those who suffer through pollution and destruction
of creation,
Christ, have mercy
Upon all whose land has been spoiled by drought or flood or war
Christ, have mercy
Upon all farmers, market gardeners, foresters and all who
work the land,
Lord, have mercy
Upon ranchers, shepherds, zoo keepers and all who work with
Lord, have mercy
Upon conservationists, landscape gardeners and all who care
for the environment
Lord, have mercy

Almighty God, Creator of all life,
The work of your hands reflects your great love and compassion,
May we share with justice the rich resources of your world,
And ensure that none of your creation will be spoiled or misused.
Unite us through your covenant of peace
So that we may share your generous bounty
And work to ensure that no one will hunger or face oppression,The blessings of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always Amen



We Got Rhythm but what kind

We are moving into the busiest time
of the year, and in a world that seems to grow faster and busier by the day perhaps like me you feel that
is not good news for any of us. It seems
the shops are full of Christmas decorations and toys earlier than ever and
everything about the upcoming season is already demanding more of our time and

When Christmas is over, I wonder
how many of us will look back on the season with a sense of betrayal. There is
no greater contrast between the world’s focus and the Christian
meaning of the season. What should be an
opportunity to strengthen our faith and model our Christian values to the world has become instead the greatest
display of materialism and consumerism imaginable.  Even non Christians buy Christmas cards and hold celebrations.

How can we counteract these insidious
forces? Dare I mention it – we all need to
develop rituals that help us connect our everyday lives to our faith – particularly at this season.  Those of you that know me well will recognize this as one of my passions.  Unfortunately, as evangelicals, we shy away
from the very mention of the word ritual because it conjures up images of legalistic
practices from the past or of New Age or pagan rituals that we know have
nothing to do with our faith. Sadly,
when our faith does not provide these rituals the secular culture quickly jumps
in with its quasi spiritual offerings. Massage therapy, aromatherapy, a day at the local health spa and our
increasingly secularized and materialistic approach to Christmas all tantalize
us with the promise of peace and relief from our stressed out lives. Tragically people of faith are just as likely
to be sucked in by these rhythms and ignore the rich traditions from their faith that should
provide the rituals for their lives.

There is a
growing recognition of our need for practices that flow from our values and
enable us to develop a rhythm that helps us cope with the escalating stresses
of life. Psychologist and life coach,
Martha Beck, admits “I know that ritual is an incredibly powerful psychological
process…Modern Western culture has had most of the ritual stripped from it,
leaving us less grounded and more alienated than many so-called primitive
peoples. By putting ritual back into your life, you can help ease stress and
enhance enjoyment, benefiting everything from your immune system to your
parenting skills, to your creativity.”[1] She encourages us to make rituals simple and
meaningful so that they won’t overwhelm us or add to our burdens. Simplicity also means we are more likely to
stick to them.

My husband Tom and I are “Anglicans
come lately”. We did not grow up in with
a liturgical tradition, but in the last few years we have embraced the custom
of the Advent wreath with great enthusiasm. Each morning during the Advent season we take a few minutes before
breakfast to light the appropriate candles and read the scriptures for the day
from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It is a wonderful way to center our lives on the real celebration – the
coming of Emmanuel – God with us, God in us, God for us. We also like to enter into the celebration
aspects of the season, however – not trying to out party the partygoers but
rather to focus our joy and celebration on the true meaning of the season. Each
year we hold an annual Advent party that highlights our anticipation of the
return of Christ and the coming of God’s Kingdom in all its fullness when all
things will be made new.

Before the
Christmas season gets started you may like to take some time to really prepare
this year. Develop some short rituals
for you and your family to use throughout the year that enable you to enter
into the joy of Christ’s birth and the wonder of God coming into our world to
dwell among us without the overwhelming pressures of consumerism

[1] Martha
Beck, “Creating Special moments that enhance and enrich your life” Real
Simple April 2000, p192