Christmas Eve morning, the last day of Advent – Peace and Silent by Lewis Pearson

This is the last day of Advent and our post this morning is a beautiful couple of poems by Lewis Pearson, the Parish Community Worker for St James’ Church in Dorset near the South Coast of England. He lives with my wife Jo and son Matthew. They have just moved here and are seeking to explore new forms of church within the village of Alderholt.

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During the advent period we often think about, sing about or receive cards with platitudes about Peace, about Silent Nights. I recently was thinking about this and how actually at this time of year these are often the things furthest from our thinking. I then wrote a couple of poems around these themes.

Peace

Peace gives that sense of release,

From all those I’m trying to appease.

Too often so long to Shalom,

But found again in the words of a song.

 

Searching for wholeness in the wilderness,

Can sometimes feel pointless.

But the whole point, is the less of me point,

The more of you point,

Flowing from the tip of my ball point.

 

So I’ll meet you again in that place I can be,

The who that you made me,

Not the person I try to be,

Or the one that others see.

 

So help others to see and for me to be,

The same as you see,

So I can truly be me.

 

Silent

A not so silent night is usual for me,

Books and podcast drown out the noise,

That internal noise, the things on my mind,

The things in my soul.

 

Approaching silence, scary, intimidating,

Seemingly boring, unproductive, the last thing

I want to do.

 

Yet once there, I find peace, the solitude speaks,

Yes the mind wanders but the God that I seek

Keeps drawing me back as I wait for Him to speak.

 

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J.R. Woodward – Welcoming the Other In Light of Our Hope

Today’s post comes from JR Woodward,  the co-founder of  Kairos Los Angeles, a network of churches in the LA area.  He also co-founded the Ecclesia Network – a relational network of missional churches – and the Solis Foundation – which gives grants to help start small businesses among the poorest of the poor in Lodwar, Kenya.  He’s finishing his Masters of Art in Global Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary this year.  He compiled and contributed to the book ViralHope and is in process of finishing his next book on the five equippers, title forthcoming.  He loves to surf, watch films, engage in the art of photography, and have a glass of wine with old and new friends.  You can learn more about him here. You will find him blogging here and tweeting here.

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Welcoming the Other in Light of Our Hope
One of the practices that I am engaging in to draw near to God in the season of advent is being a person who welcomes the other into my life, in light of our ultimate hope. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

When you think of the God of Hope, what would you say is our ultimate hope as the people of God?

The ultimate hope that is described by Paul earlier in Romans and that he alludes here is the hope in the triune’s God’s ability to bring about the new creation – the redemption of our bodies and the redemption of the world. Instead of a world where creation is being polluted and destroyed because we act as though the resources we consume are infinite and the wastes we deposit are invisible, the creation, which is groaning to be release from the curse, will be released and brought back to its original beauty. Instead of a world where over 30,000 die daily of starvation or preventable diseases it would be a place of abundance for all, because there would be a new relational economy that measures success in terms of gross national affection and global community.  Instead of a place where countries send the young men and women to war, to fight others made in the image of God, and spend billions a day to secure resources so that some can live extravagantly while others go without, it will be a world where nations “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” it will be a place, as the prophet Isaiah says, where “nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  No more fighting, no more hatred.

Being People of Welcome
One picture of the future we have is that people from every tongue, tribe and nation will be living together with God at the center.  In anticipation of that hope, I seek to welcome people into my life that are different than me.  I often bring one of my international friends with me when I go back home and visit my family, so that I might grow closer to them and they might get a taste of how a typical American family celebrates Christmas.  It is sad to me how many people visiting the states don’t ever get invited into our lives.  Paul encourages us to be welcomers when he says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.”

We see this whole idea of welcoming in the Godhead, the very first community, where the spirit gives light to all people and where Christ gives his life for a world which is living in contradiction to the Father, and this giving of his life draws all those who believe in him, into the eternal kind of life.

We become welcomer’s when we remember the actions of the Father, Son and Spirit.  The open arms of the Father receiving the prodigal, the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross dying for the godless, and the spirit working in the hearts of God’s people, to accept those that at one time they had a hard time accepting.

This idea of having an inclusive community where anybody could be involved was a tough thing for the disciples to get.  In fact, it took some of them quite a long time before they ever really got it.

An old Jewish joke tells the story of Judgment Day at the end of history.  God summons all the people who have ever lived.  “Here’s what we are going to do,” he explains.  “Gabriel will read out the Ten Commandments, one by one.  As he does, those who have broken them will have to depart into everlasting darkness.”  Commandment number one is read out and a number of people are led off.  The same thing happens with each of the commandments until, having read eight of the ten, only a small crowd remains.  God looks up to see this handful of stern, smug, grim-faced, self-righteous, joyless miseries staring back at him.  He pauses and contemplates the prospect of spending eternity with this lot.  “All right!” he shouts, “Everybody can come back; I’ve changed my mind.”

During the season of Advent, I love to practice hospitality by welcoming the other in light of our hope.

Tom Smith – An Advent Reflection – God is a Jumping God

Today’s post comes from Tom Smith.  Tom loves life and enjoys exploring as much of it as he can. He is sharing life with Lollie, Tayla and Liam as well as friends and family. He is passionate about the kingdom and how it takes expression in South Africa. He works with Oasis in South Africa (www.oasisza.org).

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Every morning I have the sacred privilege of taking my children to preschool.  The conversations in the car are varied – depending on our collective mood.  A few days ago we drove to school and Tayla said, “Dad today my heart is full of joy”.  I asked her why and she replied, “Because it is going to be a good day.”

One of their favourite activities in the car is to have the windows down so that the wind can blow through their hair.  They also love it when our two dogs join us for the ride.  Mocha usually sits in the front with me.  She sits upright and looks like a human in the passenger’s seat.  Lillo, like Liam and Tala, loves to position her head for optimal wind absorption.  Her ears flap next to her head as if they are clapping hands.

When the kids and the dogs are in the car we are quite the spectacle and it is fun to see the reaction of fellow motorists, they usually smile. On the way to school we usually pray and the kids have developed a prayer that goes like this (in Afrikaans it rhymes),

God thanks for this great day, wherein we can play and laugh”.

“Here, dankie vir hierdie dag waarin ons kan speel en lag”.

Because of the immense crime problem in South Africa the preschool they attend has a camera at the gate so that the teachers can monitor who is seeking access. This camera has a dual purpose. Not only does it serve as a security measure, it also brings the kids lots of fun.

Over the years the camera has been used as a tool for saying goodbye. The children ask their parents to wave at them. Not so for Liam and Tayla. A wave is not good enough. Over the last few months their instructions on how the wave should be performed have become more ostentatious.

This morning I had to jump from a squatting position and spin in the air as well as use my arms in a chopping motion (per Liam’s request, he calls it “the shark”). The kids show me what to do and then I open and close the gate and stand in the road facing the camera. Then I will do the “moves”, that is what the kids call it.

Last week a pedestrian walked by and watched me do the moves.  She burst out in laughter. To her I was just a weirdo doing “moves” to no one in particular. Over the last few weeks this routine has become very special to me.  Every morning this liturgy reminds me of the love of Our Father.

The Bible gives us multiple pictures of the Father. The one I am reminded of every morning is painted by Zephaniah 3:17,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. ” (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

When I am done with the “moves” in front of the camera I hear a gentle whisper from the Father saying, “Tom I also do moves for you”.

These moves are filled with the soothing (quieting) rhythms of rejoicing, gladness and love.  It is also full of energetic moves of exultation and loud singing and also contains the saving moves of might and salvation.

During this Advent I am thinking about the jumping God in front of the camera.

I am reminded that the One whose “coming(s)” we celebrate is above all a jumping God, full of love and ready to make moves. Soothing, energetic and saving moves.

 

 

Ryan Harrison – God Is Near Draw Close

Today’s post comes from Ryan Harrison.  Ryan lives in Denver, Colorado. Her days are filled with teaching, writing, and hopefully, especially in this season, spending time in God’s presence.

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Everything I’ve done as this year draws to an end, I’ve done in preparation for a slow, peaceful advent season. It hasn’t worked. I am distracted. My distractions are the brick and mortar kind— the kind that often have human faces (and so, human needs) attached to them. It is an avalanche of to-do lists, holiday parties, meetings, last-minute errands and urgent-need-your-attention-immediately situations that hasn’t stopped. And so, neither have I.

 

In past years, I would have been disappointed that my distractions kept me from experiencing this season—a time when I’m usually intentional about slowing down and experiencing God. This year, it’s a different story. This year, I am decidedly attached to my distractions; they are safe and familiar. They dull the lacking, the missing, the emptiness that has rooted itself deep into my heart. They mask my world-weariness and my short-comings, my inability to love well.

They keep me far from God.

Accepting that God is near today, in this season of expectant waiting, would demand something of me that I lack the capacity to give.

It would demand that I put away the distractions, that I step into God’s presence and that I begin to hope. To hope that a different world is possible, that my work isn’t in vain, that I won’t always feel the lacking, the missing, the emptiness. To hope above all else that God’s promise of redemption and restoration will continue to trickle down to me, until I see its fullness.

So, today, I’ll lay down my distractions and I’ll refocus on the One whose name is hope. I’ll bundle up and walk in the quiet dawn, too early for distractions, while the cold chaps my face and reminds me of my pain. But the light will come, it will warm my face, and it will remind me to stop, to breathe, to pray.

 

 

 

 

Tim Morey – Living Between the Times

We are now into the last week of Advent and moving rapidly towards the birth of Christ.  Today’s post comes from Tim Morey.  Tim is the founding and lead pastor of Life Covenant Church in Torrance, CA, the author of Embodying Our Faith(IVP), the husband of Samantha and the father of two little beauties, Abby and Hannah.  He blogs athttp://embodyingourfaith.com.

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I remember my confusion the first time I realized that at places in the Gospels Jesus talks about the kingdom of God as having already arrived, and in other places he speaks of the kingdom as yet to come.  What gives, I thought.  Is the kingdom here now or is it coming later?

The answer to this puzzler, I came to learn, is “yes.”  In Jesus’ birth, the kingdom has broken into human history in a new and significant way.  Yet the kingdom has not yet arrived in all its fullness, and won’t be fully realized until Jesus returns.  As theologians sometimes put it, the kingdom is both already and not yet.  Or to paraphrase N. T. Wright, it’s as if God has taken a page from the end of history and put it in the middle of the story.  The glorious future that awaits us has begun now, and Jesus invites us to participate in the present reality of his kingdom.

Advent places us squarely in the middle of this reality.  In this season we reflect on the first coming of Jesus – his virgin birth, God incarnate, the miracle of God Near Us.  And at the same time we are reminded that the King will return in glory!

So Advent reminds us that we live between these two events, the first and second Advent of Christ.  We live between the times, in the already and not yet of God’s kingdom.  So how do we, as followers of Jesus, live out this reality?  What does it look like to be faithful to living as Advent people?  Three suggestions.

First, we call on Jesus to help us live as whole people.  God is restoring the world to the way it should be, and that includes restoring you and I to the way we should be.  God’s ultimate purpose for us is to fashion us into the likeness of Christ – to bring healing to the places in us that are broken, to bring holiness to places that are sinful, to nurse to health the places that are wounded, to integrate us where we are fragmented.  Advent reminds us that Jesus is making us whole, and invites us to lean into that work.

Second, we call on Jesus to help us live missionally.  We pray with Jesus, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To pray this is to also ask the question, God how might you use me in answering this prayer?  How does my presence (and your presence in me) in my home, my school, my workplace, my church, my city – contribute to this world looking a bit more like heaven?  We are reminded in Advent that God’s chosen vehicle to bring about the reality of his kingdom is you and I, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Are we living missionally?

Third, we call on Jesus to help us live expectantly.  Christians are people of hope.  No matter what today brings, a Tomorrow is coming when the King will return.  Justice will come.  Mercy will rule.  Righteousness will reign.  Peace will prevail.  Tears will be wiped away, people separated by sin or by death will be reunited, “night” and all it implies will be gone, the sun itself will be superfluous in the overwhelming light that is Jesus.  This year’s Advent may find you in a place of joy or a place of struggle, but it reminds us all that Jesus will come again, that the baby in a manger is also the King of the universe, and that ultimately everything in this world will be as it should be.  Come Lord Jesus . . .

 

 

Jesus Is Near How Do We Draw Close – Posts for the 3rd Week of Advent

It is the beginning of the fourth week of Advent and many of us have shifted our focus from Advent to Christmas. Tomorrow I will publish Christmas prayers for the coming week or you may like to check out this prayer from last year.  However those who are still focused on this time of waiting and anticipation may be interested in these reflections from the third week of Advent.

Third Sunday of Advent – Advent Prayers by Christine SIne

Third Monday of Advent – John Van de Laar – The miracle of the mundane

Dave Perry – Barbed and Barbarous

Third Tuesday of Advent – Ryan Marsh – Pain killers and Hope Killers

Idelette McVicker- Joy in the glorious, the ordinary, and the dry

Third Wednesday of Advent –  Ed Cyzewski – The Search for a Meaningful Christmas, Moving Beyond Guilt and Sentiment 

Jude Tiersma Watson – Christmas Joy Voices from the Fuller Community

Third Thursday of Advent – Michelle Wade – Love Joy Peace and Hope

– Jamie Arpin Ricci – An Advent Reflection

Third Friday of Advent – Julie Clawson – Finding Jesus

Third Saturday of Advent – Tracy Dickerson – Along the Way

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Reflection on the Last Week of Advent – Christine Sine

And for those of you who have missed the first couple of weeks of reflections

Posts from the second week of Advent

Second Sunday of Advent: Immanuel God is With Us – Chester Cathedral

O Come O Come Emmanuel – Reflection by John Leech

Second Monday of Advent: Jesus Is Near – by Paula Mitchell

Pat Boone Reads Little Star by Anthony DeStefano

Second Tuesday of Advent: Waiting by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Shawn Small – The Stone Child

Second Wednesday of Advent: Kristin Tennant – And I Thought My Sofa Was Advent Headquarters

Thomas Grosh – An Advent-ture

Second Thursday of Advent: Liz Dyer – The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere

Thomas Turner – Let the Season Work on Your Hearts

Second Friday of Advent:  James Prescott – Know The Reality

Tom Sine – Who Is This Jesus That is Close and What is the Kingdom that He Brings

Second Saturday of Advent: Barb Buckham – The Flashmob Advent

And for those that missed last week’s posts

Posts from the First Week of Advent

Sunday: William Kurelek Nativity

Monday: Stan Thornburg – Advent in the Manner of Friends

Monday: Live in Expectation – Tara Malouf

Tuesday: Steve Wickham – Approaching Vanishing Point of Drawing Near

Wednesday: Advent by Phil Cunningham

Thursday: Dave Bayne – Attentive to God’s nearness

Thursday: Jeff Borden – Preparing for Jesus through Remembering, Longing and Preparing

Friday: Kathy Escobar – Making Room for the Unexpected

Friday: Melanie Clark Pullen – Jesus Is Near How Do We Draw Close

Saturday: The End of the First Week of Advent and I Need to Draw Close – Christine Sine


 





Last Week of Advent

The last Sunday of Advent and as this Advent season draws to a close I find my spirit aching with a deep longing for the coming birth of the Messiah and the world’s rebirth into a Messiah healed world in which the abundance and wholeness of shalom flourishes in all its dimensions.  We have just been to see a performance of Handel’s Messiah which always fills me with both longing and anticipation.

Here in Australia there seems to be much to make my heart ache with that deep longing for a world made new by the healing power of Christ.  After years of devastating drought many farmers were looking forward this year to an abundant harvest only to see it swept away in the flood waters that have inundated vast areas of the country in the last few weeks.  Almost ripe heads of wheat are rotting in the mud.  And on Christmas Island we have watched tragedy unfold as a boat full of refugees was dashed to pieces on the rocks within miles of their hoped for place of asylum.  How many others I wonder never even made it this close to their hoped for refuge and perished in the seas between Indonesia and Australia without anyone knowing?  On a more personal level I ache as I walk with my mother, now 87, still vital and alert but stooped and unsteady on her feet.

During this Advent season I have felt a deep ache and longing in my heart.  Not just a longing for the birth of the child Jesus who would turn the world upside down but a deep longing, an ache within my heart for the rebirth of God’s Messiah healed world in which all will be made new and all of us will be transformed into the children that God intends us to be.  I long for that world in which justice will reign and death and disease and oppression will be no more.  I long for God’s world in which compassion and love and mercy will blossom.