I Can Hardly Wait for Christmas But I’ll Try – An Advent Reflection by John Leech

Today’s Advent reflection is written by John Leech. John is the rector at St Albans Episcopal Church in Edmonds Washington and a good friend.


I can hardly wait for it, for all it means to me: festivities, family, friends, now and remembered, here and far away. I want Christmas morning to arrive. But – it is not here yet; I am still waiting, waiting for more than Christmas presents can provide, more than wassail or caroling.
I am eager in anticipation for something greater than these – deliverance (and not just from holiday sales and canned Santa songs). Deliverance into the new kingdom Jesus comes to begin – the new order of the ages John told us was just around the corner.
I want to hear the story of our savior. The one of whom the prophets sang. The one “Messiah” is all about – wonderful, counselor, almighty God, prince of peace – though I know this is only Part One and we will not get to the end of the story until after Holy Week, after Easter, after Ascension, after Pentecost…
I can hardly wait for the celebrations, the holly, the ivy, (the mistletoe), the wassail, the carols, and the candlelight. I want to walk up the path to church between luminaria and into the hall for song and into the sanctuary for communion and into the stillness of night, stars, hidden or shining, waiting above, signaling…
I would like to see the world released from darkness. I would like to see the dawning of the light. And so I can hardly wait to see the beginning of his promised peace.
Still I eagerly await the coming of the King born at Christmas – because with joyful anticipation I prepare my heart. There is certainly room, if I let him in. And so—
I can hardly wait for Christmas … but I’ll try.

Why Being a Child is Admitting We Don’t Know it All An Advent Reflection by james Prescott.

Admitting you don't know everything

Today’s Advent reflection is written by JamesPrescott.co.uk James is a writer & creative from Sutton, near London in the UK. He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk where he explores how we find divine hope in the messy journey of life. He also guest posts on several different blogs. James loves to write, encourage people, read, tweet and watch movies. 


I’m guessing many of you have heard the phrase ‘children of God’. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard about how we need to come to Jesus ‘like children’. It’s a topic casually discussed quite often.

But what does it mean?

First, it means innocence and vulnerability. Children are innocent. They are vulnerable. Completely dependent in many ways on their parents. They have no choice but to trust them.

But there is more to it than this.

When Jesus talks about us coming to Him as children, He is talking about our thought life too.

When I look back at my childhood now, I see how naive I was. I thought I had all the answers. I thought myself smart, clever. Many of us do when we’re young. In time, we all realise how little we knew. How foolish we were.

Many of us have this childish attitude toward our relationship with God.

We think we have all the answers. We think we’re keeping with all the rules. We try to control our view of God, in order to feel safe.

But God doesn’t want us to come to Him childishly. He wants us to come as children.

Coming to God as children isn’t just about innocence and vulnerability.

It’s about realising how little we know. Understanding no one can know God completely. Coming to terms with the fact there will always be a mysterious, unknown and uncontrollable dimension to our relationship with God.

And this is where our relationship with Him must begin.

First, accept God is mysterious, unknown and uncontrollable. Once we have done this, we have no option but to trust Him. To hold on to what we do know, without knowing it all.

This is true faith. This is coming to Jesus like a child.

A child-like faith comes to Jesus accepting the mystery, trusting what we do not fully know. And choosing to follow Him anyway. Choosing to listen, to learn and grow into who He made us to be.

Maybe this is what fearing God truly is. To accept the mystery, and to choose to follow God anyway. Once we accept our lack in comparison to God, we can become truly wise.

And true wisdom is to recognise we know nothing in comparison to God.

So as we go through Advent, let us surrender all we know. All we have experienced. Everything we think we understand about God.

Instead, let us begin again.

Let us come to Jesus as children.

Vulnerable. Innocent.

And aware our knowledge and experience is foolishness before God.

May we be ready and willing to learn from our creator.

Allowing God to shape us. To mould us into the people we were created to be.




Waiting When There is No Hope An Advent Reflection by Christine Sine

The Visitation by James B Janknegt www.BCArtFarm.org

The Visitation by James B Janknegt http://www.BCArtFarm.org

Each year my good friend Mark Pierson sends me a copy of his Advent reflections written for the spiritual nurture of World Vision NZ staff. This year he chose the art of James Janknegt whose powerful contemporary images of the Christmas story formed a wonderful focus for my own visio divina meditations each week. This is a prayer tool I discovered while researching my book Return to Our Senses. I find it to be particularly helpful at this season.

Most of my meditations around my Advent theme, Let Us Wait As Children Wait, have revolved around joy, promise, hope, expectation. However, as I contemplated The Visitation I was struck by this fresh image of children waiting that I had not really considered before, the two unborn infants waiting in the loving embrace of the womb, waiting in darkness, waiting in uncertainty, waiting to change the world.

Their waiting must have been filled with a great deal of background anxiety, however. One would be born to an unmarried mother who could easily have been rejected and outcast by her family. The other would be born to a woman past her childbearing age, a wait in seclusion, perhaps because of her embarrassment at this unexpected blessing. Both of them waiting to be born into a turbulent and violent world that would eventually kill them both.

In Janknegt’s painting, the potential of Jesus and John waiting in the womb is obvious – one will become a king, the other a messenger. How many children born today wait for a future in which they will never fulfill their full potential I wondered? For how many is their time in the womb a waiting for an uncertain and vulnerable future?  Perhaps their mothers are drug addicts or refugees born into a world that wants to keep them out of sight. Maybe their families live on the edge of starvation and they are waiting to be born only to die before their first birthday. Some wait for a life of abuse and abandonment, others for a life of suffering and pain.

The waiting of the unborn should be a joy filled season of hope and expectation, that is what we most like to focus on at this season. How I wonder, can I make that hope and promise made possible through the child whose birth we await, become a reality for some of those vulnerable ones at the margins for whom waiting holds so little hope.


Shhhh…Here He Comes an Advent Reflection by Margaret Magi Trotman

Today’s post is written by Magi Trotman. Magi describes herself as a child of God first, an artist and writer married to a former Marine, with whom she shares a farm in NE Florida. They have several 4 legged, feathered, shelled and scaled babies. Off the farm are their grown children and not so grown grand boys and girls who they find extremely awesome.  The farm is a work in progress with crops of Lavender, veggies, weeds and ants.  Magi enjoys photography, reading, writing hand written letters, making her own cards. She and her husband are pretty crafty, making anything out of anything that is or isn’t nailed down. Life is good because God gave it to us and us to each other.

Magi Trotman Creche

Magi Trotman Creche

Shhhh… here he comes! Or shhhh! He’s coming!

What if it was a surprise party and everyone in the whole WORLD was invited?!  Don’t “shush” the party goers…Lead them to the mountain tops the roof tops the tree tops and SHOUT for joy “HERE HE COMES!!” Like the song says… “Go tell it on the mountains…and everywhere!” (One of my personal favourite Christmas songs)

Let us stop for a moment and put on the hats of our childhood. Forget the meetings and noise, the responsibilities and logic. When life wasn’t looked upon as a science but was really just happy approximates? Let us look at the world through new old eyes.  Remember?  How we watched the process with wonder? When “are we there yet?” meant how much time to I have left to dream  in the scenery passing by?  The magic of anticipation with joyous eyes and knowing smile when cookies glowed under the burner inside the oven rose then settled like a deflating bed of sweet bubbling goodness.  Even if you were a child on a farm, or helped in a garden, you knew…  that waiting was all the best part of getting to the goal.  Watching eggs hatch, a goat born or a crop grow; it’s all in Gods good time when we are all born.  Our Father would tell us to wait and be still, we would answer merely “Okay” and sit in stillness and wonder was God worked his miracles right before our eyes.

Look now through your eyes as a child at how the easy faith in just knowing creates a peace our hearts that Christmas was meant to bring.  I remember the joy of the lights of Christmas, the gifts of course but there was another feeling I always had. I, even as a child would become emotional and silent, almost overwhelmed with the presence that surrounded me. I liked Santa and the pretty papers and especially the songs, but I knew also, inherently, this Gift to mankind in the form of a baby human-

I was allowed to uncover the baby’s statue in the crèche on Christmas morning and did so with such care, as if not to awaken him.  This child, asleep after such a long journey here, so long ago, has never left, even now.  This child, who knew where his life would lead him, where his Father would lead him.  This child, born to us, simply. Waited for his time of completion and perfection… as do we.

Simple Faith – An Advent Reflection by Paula Mitchell

Today’s Advent reflection is written by Paula Mitchell. Paula is a Spiritual Director, retreat facilitator, writer, wife, and mother of four grown sons.  She is the founder and program director of Doorways Ministries, providing days of prayer, Ignatian retreats, and a 9 month program based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius as ways of deepening our lives with Christ. She is also the city coordinator for the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a Jesuit organization dedicated to offering spiritual retreats inspired by Ignatian Spirituality to people experiencing homelessness.


Giotto Scrovegni – Birth of Jesus via Wikimedia and used under CC license

Jesus, life of the world, Word of the Father, the one who holds all things together,

creator and sustainer of all life, your life and mine, now and forever.

Became one of us, small, needy, dependent, a helpless babe.  A child.

Holding nothing, grasping nothing but his mother’s hand and heart.

He the King of Glory, Christ the King, Savior of the World, came as a child.  “For a child is born to us,
 a son is given to us.
  The government will rest on his shoulders.
  And he will be called:
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus tells his followers, and you and I, that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.  I wonder what he means?  What is it about being childlike that allows us to enter into the mystery of God’s kingdom?  Could it be we need the eyes, ears and faith of a child to see all of life with wonder, to live with the mystery of what is, and what isn’t, to know we are loved and cared for even when we are small, needy, dependent and vulnerable?

Jesus told his disciples, “The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing.”   As followers of Jesus, we too, are invited to live as he did, waiting with childlike hope and anticipation, as we eagerly watch for signs of God’s presence in our world.   We’re called to live with childlike faith and joy as we receive all of life as streams of gifts, given to us, for us, for the life of the world, if only we have eyes to see, child eyes, seeing all of life with wonder and gratitude, proof of our Father’s love and care.

The path is narrow, this life of following Jesus, it’s hard to see where we are going, we frequently lose sight of Jesus, and it often feels as if we’ve lost our way.  When this happens, we are invited to simply wait, trusting his ability to lead, more than our ability to follow.  For we’ve been told a little child, the Christ child, shall lead us, lead us into a life of deeper intimacy with our heavenly Father.  Lead us to experience his deep and constant love and care for us in spite of our mistakes, our need to be important, to prove ourselves and earn his love.  To let go of trying to earn his love; so we can begin to believe the good news that we are already loved, not for what we do but for who we are, whose we are.

We’re invited to let life be simple, believing we have enough, are enough, just as we are.  Bid to relax into Jesus’ arms and let ourselves be cared for instead of being “careful”.  To live life simply being who we are, knowing whose we are.  And if we aren’t sure who we are, as most of us aren’t, to allow ourselves the freedom to discover our true selves in Christ knowing the spaciousness of infinite possibility and surprise.

A child

Childlike faith

Simply living, living simply

Free to be who we are and whose we are

Free to make mistakes

To try new things

To simply show up and watch to see what Jesus is doing this day, every day,

in us and in our world.

To not have to lead the way or save the world.

That’s his job not ours.

Our job is to simply show up-

with all that we are and all that we have

our lives and hearts given to Jesus

the life of the world

for the sake of the world.

To give our love

nothing held back

not playing it safe in case things don’t work out so well

or as we think they should.

That’s what Jesus did isn’t it?

He became small, simple, a child.

And lived a life of radical, simple faith and trust.

Dependent each day on his Father’s love and care

totally abandoned to his Father’s will.

Can we who bear his likeness, who are called to bear the life and light of Jesus into our world, live any differently?  Each day we are invited to wait in eager anticipation, as Mary did, beckoned beyond where we are to a life of radical availability so the life of Jesus may be born anew, embodied, in our hearts and lives and world.  Bid to abandon the state of constant anxiety and worry about doing things right (as if we really could get it right anyway)–to simply let go and let ourselves be cared for like a child.  And so discover Jesus has already got it right, made us right.  That’s his job not ours.

I hope and pray that, you, too, will discover your belovedness as you embrace a life of childlike faith and trust.  As you take the downward journey of letting go of trying to control your life in order to receive the life you’ve been given, accepting Jesus’ invitation to live a life of a childlike faith, full of wonder, mystery, and joy.  Created in love.  Invited to simply share love and grace with reckless abandon with everyone everywhere.

Always Winter and Never Christmas An Advent Reflection by Travis Mamone

Always winter but never Christmas

Always winter but never Christmas

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Waitis written by Travis Mamone. Travis is an author, a blogger, and an all around wayfaring stranger. He is the author of the e-books “In Praise of the Doubting Thomas,” and “O Come Emmanuel.” He has written for such publications as Provoketive Magazine, Relevant Magazine, The Upper Room, and Burnside Writers Collective. His work appears in the books “Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression” (Civitas Press, 2011), and “Finding Church” (Civitas Press, 2012). He has also contributed to the Something Beautiful podcast. He lives in Easton, MD and blogs at www.travismamone.net


Around this time every year, I feel strangely melancholy. Like Charlie Brown, I know I should be happy; Christmas is coming, remember? While I am glad I can finally listen to A Very Special Christmas Vol. 1 over and over again, I still have this underlying feeling of gloom.

Maybe it’s the weather. After all, it is that time again to put away the flip-flops and t-shirts, and break out the heavy coats and sweaters. Plus, the days are getting shorter, so when I get off work it looks like the middle of night outside.

But I think it’s something much deeper than that.

Call me a party pooper, but I can’t help but think about all the people that won’t have themselves a merry little Christmas. I think of the homeless man trying to keep warm, the little girl wondering why her poverty-stricken parents say they’re not going to have a Christmas this year, and the lonely man who is thinking about ending his own life. I also think about my own life and all of the mistakes I’ve made during the past year, and all of the unresolved issues that are waiting for me in the new year. Maybe I am the Charlie Browniest of all the Charlie Browns in the world after all.

It’s no wonder that one of my favorite Christmas songs is “Sister Winter” by Sufjan Stevens, one of the saddest Christmas songs ever. Most Christmas songs are about simply having a wonderful Christmastime. However, if you struggle with mental illness like I do, you know that the dark and cold winter can make you sad. Instead of thinking about all the good times you’re going to have with your loved ones, you can’t help but cry from all the pain you’ve experienced in the past year. December doesn’t just mean Christmas and New Year’s Eve; it also means having one last good cry before the year ends. And I think this song sums it up perfectly:

Oh my friends I’ve
Begun to worry right
Where I should be grateful
I should be satisfied

Oh my heart I
Would clap and dance in place
With my friends I have so
Much pleasure to embrace

But my heart is
Returned to sister winter
But my heart is
As cold as ice[1]

Or maybe it’s all just part of the Advent season.

As we light the Advent wreath and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we think about how this world, this life, isn’t how God originally intended it to be. We think about the Second Advent, when all will be made new again, by meditating on the First. We pray for God to give us grace “that we may cast away works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light”[2] as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.

Advent reminds me of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where it was “always winter and never Christmas”[3] in Narnia before Aslan came. I know it sounds like the title of a bad emo song, but once you think about it, this world does seem like it’s in a state of always winter and never Christmas. We see so much darkness every time we watch the news:  war, poverty, crime, corruption, hatred, etc. It seems like we’ll never see the light; we only catch a few glimpses of the occasional flicker.

So maybe all of this melancholy is just my spirit groaning with creation to see the world restored (Romans 8:22-23). Maybe on a deeper level, I know that this isn’t the best we can do. Maybe the reason why I haven’t given up yet is because I know, deep within my heart, that another world is possible.

And one day we will see another world. One day Christmas will come, and then the snow will melt away. One day will see, as Brian McLaren writes it, “the beginning of a new spiritual-historical age or era.”[4]

But first, we must wait. It only when we experience Advent—the season of waiting and preparation—that we can experience Christmas.

[1] Sufjan Stevens, Sister Winter, 2006 by Asthmatic Kitty Records, mp3.

[2] The Book of Common Prayer (Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979), 159.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1950), 19.

[4] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 197.

Everything Will Happen, Just Slow Down and Wait an Advent Reflection by Bonnie Harr

Brian's Note 3

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait, is written by Bonnie D. Harr. Bonnie is a singer, poet, psalm-writer and artist, clothed in the vocational garments of a clinical nurse specialist and Christian psychotherapist. She is known for her work in creating healing spaces and possibility places within the context of brokenness, or for those challenged in life by disease, relational struggles, spiritual complexities and unanswered questions. Bonnie  lives with her husband near Pittsburgh, PA.


Brian's Note 1

At a time just before Christmas when we were rushing around preparing for the larger family to gather for all the December birthdays — his included — my only son, approaching his birthday, clutched my hand and said, “Slow down Mommy, you’re going too fast to be my best friend today!  Everything will happen, just slow down, and wait with me.”  His words literally stopped me in my tracks!  Sensing a larger than life moment, I asked him then, “What will we do if I slow down?”  His answer was simple and profound.  “We’ll light candles and drink our sparkling apple cider out of your special glasses and wait.”

I was in the middle of cleaning out the hall closet to prepare for the arrival of guests who would need a place to hang their coats.  I looked at the blue-eyed towhead before me and knew there was nothing in this world more important than lighting candles and drinking sparkling cider from my good crystal glasses with this child.  A deeper glance told me that the years were passing all too swiftly, and that someday soon I might long to have a candlelight chat with a grown son who might not want to have one with me.  I turned out the light in the hallway, and the light in my heart simultaneously affirmed that I was making a right choice.

I got two champagne flutes down — my very best — and the bottle of sparkling cider I had been saving for the celebrations. I sent my child to the drawer where candles are kept, asking him to select his favorite two.  He reminded me we needed four of them and a fat one for the middle.  “It’s mine and Dad’s birthday coming up,” he said, “but Jesus’ birthday is the big one.  I want to light His candles!”  And so, four unmatched candles and a fat one, found their way onto our dining room table, as my child sorta-kinda reminded me that three of the candles should be alike, and one different, but we didn’t have three alike!

Brian's Note 2

As our small ritual advanced, the boy decided we needed a sparkling dish, too — something to put a “wee-snack” on.  I invited  him to make the selection, and we ended up with peanuts on the dish between us.  In the soft golden light of it all, he decided something was still missing.  I waited, watching the wheels spin in his mind.  “We need a special doily, maybe one of Gran’s to put under everything.”  I knew this meant digging through the cedar chest to find one of many treasures my mother has crocheted over the years, but off we went together to find the doily.  He chose my favorite of them all, and we came back to the table to undo what we had previously done and place the doily beneath everything.  It was time to light the candles.

“Will you teach me how to light them?”, he asked.  We had a rather firm rule about matches in our home, and we had promised that a time would come when we would teach him to use them correctly. I knew the time had come. It took a while. In fact, it took a long while. I taught; he practiced.  The match did not light. I taught; he practiced.  He was afraid he would burn his fingers — and so was I; I worked hard to not feed his fears.  I taught; he practiced.  He decided something was wrong with the matches, so I struck and lit one!  “WAIT!!!” he shouted. He tried again, to no avail.  Finally, a match ignited. The priceless look on his face, the glow in his eyes, was worth the wait!  He carefully lit one candle, blew out the match and looked at me.  I wasn’t sure what was rolling through his little mind, so I waited.  “Only one candle before Daddy’s birthday on the first of December.  That’s how I remember it.  We have to wait to light the other ones, and we have to slow down and do it right.”

In that moment, I realized that what I had hunched before about three matching candles and a different one, was right. With fanfare created in his own way, my little son was talking about Advent.

As we shared our cider and peanuts that evening, I let him lead the conversational way.  We talked about many things — why we cry when we’re happy and when we’re sad; that peanuts and “even raisins” might taste better from a crystal bowl; why it was okay and yet sad “once in a while” to be an only child; why he was afraid some nights to go to sleep — “it was that movie three years ago on the kids channel” — hmmm…; my pigeon walk — “You do walk funny, Mom, but I think it’s in style now”; and then we got to his point of that particular evening.

“Mommy, sometimes I feel bad because all my friends have really dark hair, and I have this color.  I’m so different.”  I felt it all.  I left my chair to kneel at eye level with him, as I noted the candlelight beaming in his glistening eyes and the golden fire-sheen dancing through his equally golden head of hair.  “I’m so sorry you are hurting,” I whispered.  I waited watching him struggle with intense feelings. “My sweetness, you are different, and you are special — so very special to God and to Daddy and me.  A lot of people have hair like mommy’s, but yours is like the sunshine or the moonbeams.  Yours is how mommy imagines the angels’ hair to be.  It is so beautiful to me.”  He started nodding his head. I continued as he looked right at me with what he calls “almost tears”. “Remember that sometimes being different is very special to someone, or for someone.  When I come to pick you up at school, I can always find your head bouncing among all the others because your hair picks up a different light!  That is so special for me!”

It was his turn to jump off his chair and throw tight arms around my neck. “I love you, Mommy,” he shuddered through his almost tears. He immediately turned around and blew out the candle, went to the wall switch and turned on the lights. “I have to write something”, he said. What he wrote was worth waiting for, keeping and treasuring to this day.  The next day, he followed it up with a post-it note on the refrigerator door, right near the handle.  That note was worth returning to after I dropped him off at school.

You see, everything will happen if we just slow down and wait.  Advent, like my child that day, invites us to do just that.  Our God has written his love note  in a sparkling eyed babe who lights flames of adoration, each time we wait anew, for His return to us again. Let us, then, slow down and wait.                                                                    bharr  © 11/21/12

Jesus Is Returning…Today by Jeremy Myers

Today’s post in our series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect  is from author and blogger  Jeremy Myers. It was first posted on his blog Till He Comes as Jesus Is returning Today. This is the last post in the series. I hope that you have enjoyed our journey through Advent. God bless and have a wonderful Christmas celebration.


Jesus is returning

Jesus is returning

No, I’m not pulling a “Harold Camping.” Though I do believe that Jesus will return to earth literally and physically at some time in the future, I am NOT saying that today is the day.

But I am saying that Jesus is returning today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And every day from now until He actually returns.

Confused yet? I am saying that Jesus returns daily until He actually returns.

The Daily Return of Jesus?

I think that as Christians we have often taught and thought about what Scripture says concerning the future return of Jesus Christ, while ignoring and neglecting what Scripture says concerning the present and daily return of Jesus Christ. If you didn’t know that such an idea is taught in Scripture, then you have proved my point. Most people don’t know it, which is why most people don’t live for it.

Yet the idea of the daily return of Jesus Christ is quite prevalent in Scripture. Jesus talked about it in Acts 1 before He ascended into heaven. Paul talks about in several of His letters as does Peter, James, and John.

Loving and serving others like JesusDuring His three years of earthly ministry, Jesus served others by healing the sick, providing for the poor, loving the outcast, teaching the masses, feeding the hungry, delivering the captives, eating with sinners, partying with prostitutes, and in general, showing people what it looks like for God to be ruling and reigning on earth.

And then, after Jesus died and rose again from the dead, He basically told His followers:

You are my witnesses, my ambassadors to the world. The things you have heard my say? You now say similar things to the world. The things you have seen me do? You now do similar things, or even greater things. The people you have seen me hang out with? You now hang out with them.

As you say these things, and do these things, and hang out with these people, know that I am there with you, in you and through you, saying these things and doing these things and loving these people all over again.

If I stay, I am only one person. But if I go, I can send my Spirit into each one of you, so that I can multiply myself in each one of you, and in you, be the voice of God, the touch of God, and the love of God to all people.

Many people today are hoping for change. Hoping for corruption to end. Hoping for greed to cease. Hoping for equality, mercy, freedom, and justice. And a large segment of people who hope for these things believe that such things will not happen until Jesus Christ returns.

Such a view is right, but it is also wrong.

It is true that such things will not be universally practiced upon the earth until Jesus Christ physically returns to rule and reign over the entire earth. But this does not mean that we, as representatives of Jesus on earth, cannot begin to practice equality, mercy, freedom, and justice right now.

We must not wait for governments to enact the change, or presidents and congressman to make laws about it, or bank presidents and company CEOs to suddenly change course. If we wait for that, we will truly be waiting until return of Christ. No, we must get out there and put into practice NOW the things we long for, wait for, look for, and hope for.

We must be Jesus to the world.

You and I are Jesus to the World

The return of Jesus is in our service to others.We are Jesus Christ to the world, the Body of Christ that is physically present on earth, being the hands and feet and voice of Jesus to a world that without light and without hope.

So this Christmas season, as we remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, and as we look forward to His Second Coming, also remember to look for ways on how Jesus Christ can return today, in and through you, to someone who needs His touch and His voice in their lives today.

Until the day Jesus returns, He returns today in you.

Remember Our Story by Ellen Haroutunian

Ray Dirks CMU chapel painting

chapel painting at CMU Winnipeg by Ray Dirks

This morning’s post in the series: Jesus Is Coming What Do We Expect comes from Ellen Haroutunian. It was first published on her blog as Advent 2011 Synchroblog: Remember Our Story. I feel that as we move closer to Christmas and start to feel more and more overwhelmed by the frenzied hype that beckons us to consume, consume, consume there is even more need to draw aside, reflect and remind ourselves of the story that is meant to be celebrated at this season.


Our world is unraveling. We are seeing the deterioration of civil society in many ways. The Thanksgiving holiday week alone has been an embarrassment of aggressive consumerism with shoppers resorting to pepper spray and robbing each other at gunpoint. Black Friday is extending back into Thursday, threatening to diminish the one day we have set aside to pause our frantic lives and give thanks that some of us actually have money to spend. And that’s just the news on the small scale.

I just had a long conversation with a friend over the meaning of Christmas. It began around her assertion that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. When you look at Walmart at midnight on Thanksgiving, you can see that that has become very true. But the conversation was more about how many choose to celebrate Christmas either in a secular fashion or with more ancient ties to the pagan rituals that were the inspiration for the choice of December for this observance. I agreed, the holiday was birthed from engagement with other traditions and has taken on many more dimensions, much of which have nothing to do with the remembering of Jesus and the Christian story. I also agreed with her that people should be allowed to celebrate how they wish without harassment. In her insistence that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus, I assume she wanted to show support for the millions who celebrate Christmas in various ways but have no Christian affiliation.

Even so, it’s important to remember that the shaping of the Christmas celebration (long before secular commercialization) was intentional and beautiful. Early Christians brought their story to the celebrations that they had already been observing such as pagan solstice rituals, or more likely, the Roman solar celebration. Since the beginning of time people had observed that light returns to the world as the world revolves around the sun, renewing and enlivening as it comes. The Christian story, the gospel story, is about the Light coming into the world, bringing life and healing to hurting souls. What was already observed and celebrated in rhythm with creation was then seen to hold a deeper meaning in the minds of these early Christians. As a result, the season of waiting (Advent) and the celebration of the Incarnation of God, Emmanuel, was born. Eventually, the season became known as the Feast of the Nativity or Christ’s Mass. So on the level of tradition and history, the evolution of Christmas as a holiday (holy day) is indeed about Jesus. The whole point of the discussion was that there’s no need to diminish Christian tradition to make room for other traditions, just as there’s no need to diminish other traditions to make space for the Christian.

But that discussion isn’t the true issue. I understand that there is a lot of anger towards Christians who have been offering judgment instead of the Good News. I understand that people would then choose to diminish the Christian Story as a result. That’s what people do. That’s why the world is hurting. We all diminish and deny the traditions, beliefs, needs and feelings of the other in order to make space for ourselves. However, in doing so, any empathy for the other is also lost. Lack of empathy for the other is the human heart in its most desolate state. The particular case above was about diminishing Christianity. But the way of thinking that essentially diminishes or eliminates the other, any other, has become the norm worldwide as each of our hearts shrink and pull back into self-protective bunkers. This is what our broken and hard-hearted system of justice does.

So, we live in a world in which empathy is a rare gemMore than ever, this has become a world of every man or woman for themselves, whether it be about grabbing the last waffle maker at Walmart or blocking job creating bills because you don’t like the politics of the party in power, or insisting that every conservative Christian is hate-filled and every liberal one is immoral, or that every Muslim is a terrorist. We no longer seek to listen, to know, to honor and respect each other. We no longer see the Image in one another. The idea of being our brothers’ keeper has become laughable, even amongst Jesus followers. We cannot compromise and work together because whatever the other represents is simply too offensive, too threatening, too inconvenient, too irrelevant to our personal lives. In this sense, we indeed have truly lost Jesus.

We do not need to create a “let’s take Christmas back” mentality. That is not what this post is about and it’s only another way to diminish those with whom we disagree. We do acknowledge that millions of people who are not Christians celebrate “Christmas” in various ways around the world and can remain unthreatened by that. However, the most important thing we can do is to reflect to the world the Light that has come to us. The incarnation of God-as-human is an act of ultimate empathy. God, who is Wholly Other became the other in order to love fully and to reconcile, to heal, to save. This is what love does! Love enters the story of the other. This world that has become more cold and hard and cynical than ever is desperate for a love that enters in.

Remember the Story. May we remember and act accordingly and thus bring true empathy back into the world, whether it’s at Walmart or in congress or towards Wall Street protestors or in trying to be politically correct (or not).  The world says, “Your needs and pain don’t matter to me” as it steps on the heads of the weaker brother to move upward towards bigger and better. Jesus calls us back down to our senses, back down to being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, back down to a life of love. And when we listen to his Story, we find that he has shown us how.

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. John 1:9 RSV

Definitions of Empathy:

1. The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it (perhaps incarnates it? – my addition)

2. The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #1 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Have you got the Christmas tree up yet?

Have you got the Christmas tree up yet?

Today’s posts come from Melanie Clark Pullen. I decided to break her reflection into two parts because it so rich with imagery and thoughts about the second coming of Christ. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow morning. Or if you can’t wait visit the original post on her blog Parousia; Perchance to Dream .


14 days till Christmas.

What are we waiting for?

Have you done your Christmas shopping?

Are you prepared? Have you the Christmas tree up? The turkey pre-ordered? Have you checked the Christmas tree lights to check what bulbs aren’t working?

Are you having palpitations at the very thought of everything you have to do before December the 25th? I have recurring nightmares of it being ten to midnight on Christmas eve and realising that I’ve forgotten to get one of my family a Christmas present.

Christmas is such a stressful time. We’re cajoled into being jolly and merry and spending time with family many of us spend the rest of the year avoiding. We’re lured into buying more stuff for people who don’t need it. If I’m given one more box of bath salts or hand cream… I mean, just what are you trying to tell me? Then there’s the wrapping and packaging that, no matter how carefully it is put together gets ripped off in a matter of seconds and, at best, gets recycled and at worse goes into land fill!

Then there’s the guilt. All the charities come out with their demands that we don’t forget the homeless, the hungry, the neglected donkeys at this special time of year. There is so much need. We can’t possibly be expected to donate money to every worthy cause.

And the travelling. Who’s travelling to visit family or friends this Christmas? Last year, the snow nearly scuppered our trip north to spend Christmas with my father in law. I was stressed the whole week leading up to the drive. And there was the worry about traffic, driving on slippery roads with two small children in the back.

Christmas. Who needs it?

Every year I make a vain attempt to focus on the reason for the season but inevitably I get sucked into the vortex which is the commercial secular holiday that Christmas has become and it sometimes feels like I’m waiting for the whole darn thing to be over!

What are we waiting for?

Christmas – When the God who breathed stars into existence entered into our broken and blistered world as a vulnerable new born baby.

Christmas – When the Creator became the created.

Christmas – the Incarnation – two worlds colliding in spectacular simplicity and heartfelt humility.

But that’s Christmas.

Sunday was the third Sunday of Advent. This season is the beginning of the liturgical year when as followers of the Risen Christ we turn our attention not only to the first incarnation of God but the second coming.

If I’m honest, until recently when anyone mentioned the Second Coming my thoughts would go to a horrible movie from the 70s called A Thief in the Night, or the Left Behind series of books which imagine a dramatic rapture of Christians out of the world which is left behind to endure a horrific time of tribulation. When we think of the Second Coming, we might think of Armageddon, the End Times, a final Judgement. All in all, it’s something we don’t think about very often, much less talk about in polite society. I bet, I’m already making some people squirm.

Certainly much of this imagery is drawn from the prophecy attributed to Jesus in Mark’s gospel:

The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth and the ends of the heavens.
Mark 13:26,27

The early Christians expected Jesus’ return within their life time. The first disciples had witnessed the resurrected Christ and taught his return to make all things new was immanent. So apostles like Paul urged the believers to be always ready for when the Lord would be ‘revealed’ – as we see in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

The piece in Mark has been suggested to have been a reference to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 when many would have seen it as the end of the world. And in the centuries since there have been predictions of Armageddon when it’s felt that things can not get much worse and things inevitably must end. This year there was a very public predicition that the world would end in May by American pastor Harold Camping. When it didn’t, he recalculated for October. He has since retired from ministry, disappointed and disillusioned, albeit admitting that God is sovereign and that he has been humbled by his experience.

Outside of our own faith there’s a belief that the year 2012 has a strong spiritual significance and that, if not the end of the world, it marks the beginning of a new consciousness.