Advent Synchroblog

Andvent candles

I have been asked by Brother Maynard to be a part of an Advent Synchroblog . I am delighted by this opportunity as Advent really is one of my favourite times of year. The idea comes out of Brother Maynard’s book That You Might Believe: Praying Advent with the Gospel of John I plan to blog either out of the scriptures from the gospel of John or from the weekly carols through advent. I will try to get my post up a little early before the beginning of each week because I never blog on Sundays.

I was delighted to see that the carol for this Sunday is O Come O Come Emmanuel which is one of my favourites.  It expresses all that we long for at the beginning of this season.  It also provides the background music for the Advent meditation video that I made last year.  So you might like to watch that again as a preview to the season.

Here are the other bloggers that will be participating in the synchroblog

The New Conspirators – a more complete profile

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We have just updated the conference website with a complete list of speakers & other interesting information.  I am excited because I think we are bringing together a broader array of innovators in the missional, emerging, monastic and mosaic streams than has been done at any previous conference.

Check it out 

To Pray Without Ceasing

As we move toward Advent I have been thinking a lot about what it means to pray without ceasing – a concept that I have always struggled with and at times felt guilty about.  For most of my Christian life I have thought of prayer as constant intercession, something that gets both exhausting and draining – and that kind of prayer is impossible to do “without ceasing”.

In recent years I have come to another understanding of prayer.  To pray without ceasing means to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts so that we can see the prayers that are already hidden deep within every act of life

  • The prayers of thankfulness for God’s provsion
  • the prayers of praise when we catch a glimpse of God in the beauty of creation
  • the prayers of confession when something strikes deep into our souls and reveals our hidden sins
  • prayers of lament when we do not understand the pain and anguish of our friends
  • prayers of intercession when we grieve over the horrors we read about in the newspaper

Every mundane act of life can be a revelation of our God if our ears are open to hear the whisper of the Spirit who is present in every part of life and in every moment of the day and if our eyes are open to see the wonder of a God who is behind us, before us and inside us.  What do we hear and see?

  • the whisper of a guiding father who leads and instructs us in the ways we should go
  • the whisper of a compassionate, caring mother whose heart aches for us in the midst of our pain
  • the whisper of a god who desires intimacy and closeness of a lover

This new understanding of prayer has also given me a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple.  To be a disciple means recognizing the presence of God in every moment and in every act of life and responding to that presence.  It is hard for us in this modern world driven by busyness and the drive for success to open our hearts to the possibility that we are not meant to be in control but that God is.  It is hard to wait and listen when we are addicted to action heroes who jump into the fray with guns blazing and it is hard to sit and lsten when we think we know the answers.

I am more and more convinced that our answers and God’s are very different from each other. My challenge this Advent season is to take the time to sit and listen and to discover God’s answers that are all around me.

Advent II Homecoming – Let Your Kingdom Come

Our Advent Seed Sampler will be out at the end of the week & our focus this year is on Advent II homecoming.  Part of what we look forward to during Advent is the return of Christ and the coming of God’s kingdom in its fullness – a time when everything will be made new, made whole and restored.  I love this song by Tracy Howe that really captures a sense of anticipation of what that new kingdom will look like.  Spend some time listening to the lyrics and contemplating the images of restoration and renewal for which we all long as we look forward to the coming of Christ.

Explorer sinks

Here is an amazing photo of the ship that struck an iceberg in the Antarctic yesterday.  Sure makes me glad I don’t live on a ship anymore.

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Making Movies, Making Shortbread

This has been quite a week with a high learning curve. When I started receiving requests for my Advent video a couple of weeks ago I was suddenly plunged into the legalities & intricacies of media production. Now I know all about sychronization licenses, ftp files & the difference between NTSC & PAL. I have made new friends in NZ, Britain Canada & the US as we have struggled together to work through my inadequacies. I appreciate everyone’s patience with me and am very grateful to the friends that have allowed me to pester them as I slowly moved forward. It has been a fun journey (yes I do enjoy all this tech stuff).

Now the week is over & I am indulging myself with one of those fun things that always make me feel Christmas is coming – I have just made my first batch of Scottish shortbread using the recipe passed down from my Scottish grandmother. Now she would probably not have made shortbread until New Year but being a little impatient I just could not wait that long & I know that my friends who only come visiting at this time of year, would not wait either.

Memories and traditions are both very important at this time of year & this is one that though not explicitly “spiritual” is one rhythm of life that always gives me a wonderful sense of connectedness – to God and particularly to those who have gone before me. It also provides a very special connection as to my mother who made shortbread every Christmas throughout my childhood & who is now half a world away in Australia.

Maintaining our spirituality is not just about reading the bible & praying it is also about rhythms like this that provide important anchors for our lives. What traditions do that for you at this time of year?

A Short and Easy Method of Prayer

I have just finished reading A Short and Easy Method of Prayer, first written by Madame Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon.  Madame Guyon was imprisoned for 7 years because her prayer style unsettled the established church of the time.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book which has been a wonderful preparation for the season of Advent.

She starts by reminding us that “Prayer is the application of the heart to God, and the internal exercise of love.”  and ends with the admonition “O ye blind and foolish men, who pride yourselves on science, wisdom, wit and power; how well do you verify what God hath said, ‘His Secrets are hidden from the great and wise , and revealed unto The Little Ones- The Babes!”  The premise of the book is that  “all ought to practice prayer.”  and she gives some wonderful advice on how to accomplish that even if you are uneducated or illiterate.  That may not sound radical to us but in a day and age in which it was usually considered to be the place of the clergy rather than the common person to pray, her advice was quite radical.

She has lots of good advice on meditative prayer that has definitely stood the test of time.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a reflective start tot the Advent season.

Thanksgiving is here

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US, and most of us are getting ready to overindulge ourselves.  I did not grow up with Thanksgiving (your right Australians don’t have a time to celebrate what they are grateful for).  This is one holiday that I have embraced with enthusiasm however, not because I eat too much but because it does make me pause and think about the many blessings in my life.

I have just been up up our tower basking in the sun that streams into our prayer room on a beautiful cold crisp winter’s morning like we are experiencing in Seattle.  I have so much to be grateful for – a beautiful home, a husband that I love dearly, good friends and a community I love being a part of, a job that I enjoy, a prolific garden & the opportunity to share the love of God with people all over the world are but a few that come to mind.   But as I look back over the year I realize that I am also grateful for some of the struggling times I have gone through which have drawn me closer to God & strengthened my faith.  I have grieved with friends who have lost loved ones and struggled with others who are debilitated by chronic illnesses.  I am particularly grateful for those who have challenged me to look beyond myself to the needs of our broken world.  I am very grateful for all those I know who struggle against injustice, poverty, illness and sin and seek to bing glimpses of God’s love into dark places.

What are you most grateful for this year?

Overwhelmed by Advent Response

I am amazed by the how many people have viewed my advent video in the last couple of days. It is obvious that many of use are craving resources to help us live more intentionally into the events that are at the centre of our faith. so I thought I would try to keep the resources flowing & hope that you will also check out our upcoming Seed Sampler specifically on Advent that will be available at the end of next week.

Here is another liturgy that I wrote a couple of years ago to help me focus during Advent.

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Christ we sit in darkness but you are our light
We long for your coming into our hearts, into our lives and into our world
You are the One for whom all the peoples of the earth wait
God our world has been shaken by tsunami and earthquake and storm
Our security has been shaken by bombings and wars and economic uncertainty
We wait in anticipation expecting God’s light to penetrate our darkness and radiate within us
In the midst of our doubts and our insecurities we are reminded that you are never shaken
Your faithfulness reaches to the heavens, your righteousness to the depths of the seas anchoring our souls
We watch and wait expecting new light to shine as the season of joy approaches
You are our rock and our refuge an ever present help in times of trouble
Come down, come in, walk with us so that we trust in you and not be shaken
We wait in hope attentive to all the signs of Christ’s coming

(Silence)

God in this Advent season prepare us for the coming of Christ
God cleanse our hearts,
Renew our vision,
Transform our lives
Christ fill our hearts with love,
Inspire our vision with truth,
Grant us new life,
Spirit make our hearts willing,
Give us vision to serve,
Make our lives one with yours.

SCRIPTURE READINGS

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord come and let your light shine into the lives of all who live in darkness and in places of strife
Come and walk with us in the midst of our troubles and our weaknesses
Come into our hearts Redeemer of our lives and let your light radiate within us
Lord come to all those who live with violence or are imprisoned by bars or fears or doubts
Come and share your peace and bring freedom in the midst of all that does violence to our lives and our world
Come amongst us Prince of Peace and fulfill your covenant of love
Lord come to all who live in a barren wasteland because they are hungry in body or in spirit
Come and share your lavish abundance in the midst of a world that feels there is never enough to be generous
Come down Saviour of the world and dwell in our midst
Lord come to all who celebrate the advent of your coming into their lives and families
Come and fill us with your joy and gratitude as we await your coming again
Come to be with us Lord of Lords and fill us with the joy of your life within us

O Christ we long for your coming. Hasten the day when your followers will come from every tribe and culture and nation to sit at table in your kingdom. Hasten the day when your kingdom will come in all its glory and suffering and sickness and oppression and death will be overcome forever. Hasten the day when we will be resurrected as a great multicultural family to live in peace, harmony, joy and love together.

Come down God of love,
Come in Christ of peace,
Come amongst us Spirit of joy
Fill us with your presence
Amen

Advent – The Beginning of the Church Year.

I received an email the other day from someone who had never heard of Advent so I thought that it would be a good idea to give some explanation for those who have never encountered the church liturgical calendar before.

For most Western churches the Christian calendar begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas, with the season of Advent.  Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” A this season we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in his first Advent 2000 years ago, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his second Advent.   This is meant to be not only a season of refreshment and renewal but also of reflection and refocusing, as we anticipate the birth of the one who brings life and meaning to all we are and do.  We all await the coming of Christ in quiet expectation.  We don’t just await his coming to us as a baby, we also remember his coming as a Savior to any who will receive him, and await in breathless anticipation his coming again at the end of time when God will make all things new. 

 In the Northern hemisphere Advent begins at the darkest time of the year.  As the short days of winter quietly steal upon us God’s creation slows down and seems to sleep.  Under its covering of leaves or snow it rests and waits for the coming of spring and the growth of a new year.  This is the season when plants put down deep roots that anchor them and provide nourishment through the droughts and storms of the coming year

Advent is meant to be a time for us too to slow down, to watch, reflect and refocus our faith.  Like the plants in our gardens we too need to put down deep roots that can anchor our souls through the droughts and storms of the coming year. 

 For people of Christian faith this should be a time to draw aside from the hectic rhythm of our world to wait and prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ our Saviour and Redeemer.  Unfortunately it is not easy to set aside time when everything around us is gearing up for the busiest and most commercialized season of the year.  This needs to be a very deliberate action.  Unless we intentionally clear our calendars for a day to reflect on our faith the rhythm of the secular world around us very quickly takes over.

If you are interested in exploring all the seasons of the church year check out The Voice.  It has some of the best resources I have come across to explain the seasons.