Let Us Wait As Children Wait by Jon Stevens

Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait, is written by Jon Stevens.Jon is a 4th generation farmer with roots that go deep into northern Ohio soil.  After years selling large mailing machines up and down the west coast for European companies, he returned to his love of the land and the life it can give. Jon, together with his wife Elaine runs The Open Gate Farm on Camano Island. As well as that he’s heading out in faith to share his love of the land with those who need it most…children at risk and their caregivers through Growing Gardens for Life.

Waiting for a bite

Waiting for a bite

Waiting requires believing.  If we don’t believe, then there is nothing to wait for.  That coupling of belief and waiting is captured in the Bible when we are told, “Be still and know that I am God”.  If we don’t believe in God, then there is nothing to be still for, no knowledge and insight to wait for and we may as well return to our war games, greed, and political fantasies.

We have to be taught what to wait for, we have to be given a taste of the meal to come.  When a child comes into the kitchen to find out what’s for dinner, what will be filling their plate at the table tonight, we will often give them a taste.  And this is what God does for us in Advent.  We get little tastes of the feast of fellowship with Him which Christmas will carry to our table.

Just as we teach the children patience by giving only a taste and not the full meal, so God is teaching us patience by setting Himself down in our world of space and time and we must wait for Christmas to unwrap the full present of His presence with us.  Just as a child may seek more than a taste, may seek to satisfy their hunger now, we too will find that only a taste of what is to come may have us wanting more of God right now.  But on that day when our child within gets to open the present of a deeper relationship with all three sides of our triune God, when that day comes we actually get to sit and feast with our King, the meal has gained more meaning, has better flavor, will satisfy more fully, and will change our lives more for our having waited like a child.  And when we finally get to savor the flavor of God’s grace, we will be even better able to be His hands and feet in this hurting world.

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Lessons From a Nomadic Childhood by Lynne Baab

Today’s post in the series Let Us Wait As Children Wait is written by Lynne M Baab.  Lynne is the author of numerous books, including Sabbath Keeping, Friending  and  Joy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your Congregation. She is a Presbyterian minister who teaches pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Child on beach

My father was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and we moved 12 times in my first 15 years. Almost all the moves took place in the summer. We would arrive at our new home a week, a month or even two months before the school year started.

It was hard to find new friends in the summer. In the absence of friends to play with, the days and weeks and months of summer in a new place seemed endless. I knew I would make friends once school started. I knew there had to be girls like me somewhere in my neighborhood who would be willing to play with me. I knew I wouldn’t be lonely forever.

But it was hard to wait. I played with my brother. I visited the library and checked out stacks of books. In elementary school I played with dolls on my own, and in junior high school I swam at the pool by myself. And I waited.

Early in my life I learned the skills needed to make new friends. I had to. Those skills were essential to the gypsy life the U.S. military gave us. I learned quite young that if I didn’t want to be lonely, I had to force myself to reach out to others. And I learned that reaching out usually paid off. So as I waited each summer, I wasn’t afraid that I would be lonely for the whole next year. I wasn’t afraid that the loneliness would last forever.

But those long hot days often felt endless. As a fairly young child, I learned to feel the signs that summer was drawing to a close. Even when the August days were hot at noon, I could sense that the days were getting shorter and the nights cooler. When I felt those changes coming, I knew my loneliness would soon end.

Years later, when my children were elementary school students, and then young teenagers, I often found myself depressed in the summer. One summer day my younger son blurted out to me, “Of course summers are hard for you. You moved so many times as a child during summer, and you were so lonely when you got to the new places. Of course those memories influence your summers now.” I gaped at him, astonished at his wisdom as a twelve or thirteen year old.

But I don’t remember being depressed during those endless summer days of childhood. I remember being bored and frustrated. I remember getting tired of playing with my brother. I remember the need for endurance and inner strength for the waiting. I remember that I felt certain I would be able to make friends once school started.

The waiting I experienced most summers as a child sheds some light on the waiting we experience as we anticipate our final adoption as children of God and the redemption of our body and soul. We wait with a combination of certainty and frustration. In Christ, our future is secure. But the waiting is sometimes really, really difficult. Endurance and inner strength matter.

Each of us has to discover the places where we gain the resources that nurture endurance and inner strength. For me it’s mostly prayer: out loud intercessory prayer with my husband and others, prayers of thankfulness, and various forms of silent prayer such as examen, lectio divina and centering prayer. The Sabbath and the Psalms also play a big role in helping me find endurance and inner strength in Christ. Where do you draw near to God and find endurance and inner strength for the waiting? Go there often.

Reading and Listening Through Advent – What Others Suggest.

Advent candles

There are an incredible number of Advent books out there each year, so I thought that I would get a sense of what some of my friends are listening to so a couple of days ago I asked my Facebook friends what they recommend reading or listening to during Advent. Here are some suggestions that you might like to check out. Some of these are totally new to me and will make great resources for my own Christmas reading and listening. Enjoy!

Several people suggested the gospel stories particularly the book of Luke. I agree I try to read through these each Advent season. It beautifully anchors me in the biblical story.

Leonard Sweet and Don Pape like  Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas – John Blase

Cindy Fortune Spenser recommends The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

Sonja Naylor Andrews suggests “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” by Dr. Suess

Joy Larsen likes Lion and the Lamb by Brennan Manning.

Kevin Palau suggest Martin Luther’s Christmas Book compiled by Roland Bainton

Kurt Neilson suggests Bernard of Clairvaux’s homilies on the Song of Songs. – they can be downloaded from this site or purchased from Amazon.

Tamara West recommends Gertrud Mueller Nelson, in both To Dance With God ( family and parish observance of the church year) and Here All Dwell Free ( a Jungian-feminist analysis of classic fairy tales). You can also see a great recording with Gertrud on YouTube

My friend Paul Samuels has written a delightful children’s book Where is Christmas?

Jill Aylard Young is enjoying “Simply Wait, Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent” by Pamela Hawkins.

Chris Terry Nelson suggests Insurrection by Peter Rollins

Catherine Windsor recommends The Mitten by Jan Brett

David Bayne suggests  “Monastery Journey to Christmas” by D’Avila-Latourrette and “Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent” by Enuma Okoro

Jane Bishop Halteman likes anything by Jan Richardson (Night Visions) or Ann Weems (Journey to Bethlehem) This last link is to a pdf download.

Last but not least don’t forget to check out the MSA Advent resources Waiting for the Light and Return to Our Senses currently available as a preAdvent special.

For music most people suggested popular carols like O Come O Come Emmanuel and Silent Night but here are a couple you may not have come across.

Downe In Yon Forrest a collection of Christmas Carols from the Middle Ages recommended by Carolyn Frye

Ancient Path Christmas is one I was given last year and really enjoyed.

Kitt M KaagapayMo wrote this original filipino rendition  that is worth listening to.

 

 

A Celtic Advent – The Creative Breath by John Birch

Large candle

Large candle

The following liturgy was provided by John Birch, a Methodist Lay Preacher and worship leader living in Wales for around 20 years. He has become increasingly aware of the rich heritage handed down by the early Christian Saints who set up home in the wilder regions of this beautiful country. This Celtic style liturgy for the first Sunday of Advent reflects this.  Instead of the usual Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love, John uses the themes of breath, light and darkness, obedience and birth for the four themes. This liturgy is for the first Sunday of Advent. You can check out the other liturgies and resources here.

Responses are in bold print

Symbols: A large Candle and beneath it a bowl of water

The candle is lit

(A few moments of silence)

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’
‘… And the Spirit (the breath) of God was hovering over the waters.’

(John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:2)

Lord of the morning
of dawn chorus
rising sun
mist on water

Lord of the noontime
of chattering voices
laughter and fun
sparkling water
everyone

Lord of the evening
of quiet breeze
setting sun
gentle waters
day that’s done

 

O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth
You have set your glory above the heavens
And from the lips of children ordained praise
O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth

 

Creative God, breath of all life
Through whom all things
are created and sustained;
all sons and daughters
flocks and herds,
all birds of the air
and fish of the sea
You walked this earth
as child and Creator
You touched the soil
quenched your thirst
embraced this world
brought life and light
love and laughter
into dark and death-filled lives
Creative God, breath of all life
Through whom all things
are created and sustained
We bring to you our sacrifice
of a contrite and willing heart

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orders all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again and with us ever dwell

 
(A space for music to be played or sung – a Taizé chant would be most appropriate)

 
‘Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
‘They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.’

(Psalm 20:6-8)

 

(A moment of silence – During the silence, you may like to read and reflect on the words that have been read, gaze at the candle – or simply enjoy the peace and calm)

May this eternal truth be always on our hearts
That the God who breathed this world into being
Placed stars into the heavens
And designed a butterfly’s wing
Is the God who entrusted his life
to the care of ordinary people
became vulnerable that we might know
how strong is the power of Love
A mystery so deep it is impossible to grasp
A mystery so beautiful it is impossible to ignore

 

(Scripture reading – possibly the Gospel reading for the day)

 

(A space for a hymn or song to be sung/said)

(Intercessions – A circle prayer.
Imagine throwing a pebble into the centre of a pond, and the circles of ripples that move out from the centre.)

We pray firstly for those closest to us, our immediate family and closest friends – for their health, needs, joys and fears.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

We pray for our extended family and friends who we might not see each week – for their love and concern, for their wellbeing.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

As the ripples reach out toward the land we pray for those who we only have contact with annually or less – for a blessing this Advent-time
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Hear the prayers of our hearts

And as the ripples reach their furthest point we pray for this world and its people – for the needs of this week and the future.
(Silent prayer)
God of creation, God of Salvation
Who speaks to us through thunder and whisper
Who loves us as if there were but one of us to love
Hear the prayers of our hearts

 

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Jerome, c 342 – 420)

Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/Advent/Advent_Celtic_Christian_Celebration.htm#ixzz2DLSEmYtl
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

10 Ways to Help Kids Give Back At Christmas

Make Your Own Christmas Gifts

Advent and the Christmas season are racing towards us at warp speed and the hyper-consumerism that has already invaded our favourite stores is incredible. How do we refrain from responding with a frenzy of buying and more importantly, how do we stop our kids from being drawn into the “got to have this, and this and this” mentality? One possibility is helping kids to enjoy the blessing of giving rather than receiving. The list below is adapted from one that I found in Parent Map

1.Support Kids of the World: Helping your children understand that other kids don’t have the privileges they do and need their help can be an enjoyable experience. I love what VIVA, a UK based organization does in sponsoring Christmas parties in poor communities around the world. They are engaged in many ways to help keep children at risk safe and healthy. I have used their child friendly educational prayer resources for years. You may also like to consider organizations like Save the Children and Feed The Children.

2. Buy a livelihood for families. Gifts that provide a livelihood for those who struggle with hunger and poverty can be particularly meaningful as they empower children and make them realize we can all make a difference in this world. World ConcernWorld Vision and Heifer Project are just a few of the organizations that now provide opportunities for the giving of livestock – from chickens to cattle but as I mentioned in a previous post on Advent resources for Kids, this can sometimes be a little confusing as the chair of our Board found out when he tried to give 1/2 a goat to his parents for Christmas. His mother asked “What will I do with 1/2 a goat?” Tearfund UK has a program where you buy a gift voucher and then the recipient diecides what they will give. This might be more fun for some kids.

3. Donate a Bedtime story. This was a new one for me. Many families have few or no age-appropriate books in their home and kids miss out on the important literacy building ritual of bedtime stories. First Book is a non profit that works to distribute new books to low income families in schools in the U.S. and Canada.

4. Hold a Make Something Party. Some years ago Adbusters started a Buy Nothing Day campaign to counteract the Black Friday shopping frenzy of North American Culture. I prefer the Make Something Day idea which places a far more positive spin on the idea. You may in fact like to organize a party where your kids can help make gifts for underprivileged kids in your communities. There is something very special about a gift that has been handcrafted. I can guarantee that the recipient will hold onto it for years to come.

5. Make a Loan, help a family. This is a great suggestion for older kids that you not only want to encourage to give but who you also want to learn about investing and financial responsibility. KIVA and Hope International are two of the many Christian organization that facilitate micro-lending.

6.  Shed a Light on a Brighter Future. One Million LIghts is a non profit that aims to provide sustainable, usable lights to homes without electricity in developing countries through a buy one give one model. Buy solar-charged lanterns and you keep one and a family in need gets the other – a brilliant (pardon the pun) idea.

7. Give Hope for Tomorrow: Plant a Tree, Buy a Stove. In Plant with A Purpose’ alternative gift catalogue, a tree only costs $1 and a fule efficient stove is $30. I think that this type of gift can be a wonderful educational tool to help children understand the consequences of environmental degradation. Again the fact that we can actually do something to change the situation can be very empowering for young people.

8. Invite International Students Over for Christmas. There are lots of students from around the world that do not have anywhere to go for Christmas. Consider inviting them over on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Contact your local college or university to find out how to extend this invitation. We have done this for the last couple of years. It has become a real highlight of the Christmas season for us. In conjunction you may like to get your kids to read up on Christmas traditions from around the world. Christmas Around the World has a wonderful description of traditions from a variety of countries that you might like to discuss.  The Worldwide Gourmet has a wonderful array of recipes associated with the Advent and Christmas season in many different parts of the world.  Just reading through some of these had my mouth watering.

9. Go Fairtrade with all your purchases. There are a growing number of organizations that provide fair traded gift items. Ten Thousand Villages is one one that we have frequented for years. Another possibility is One World Futbol’s smart soccer ball requires no pumping and never goes flat. Each time you purchase one another is donated to a community in need. Or for those that live in the Seattle area take you kids on a tour of Theos Chocolates and end by purchasing gifts for all the family.

10. Protect the World’s Animals. There are many creative ways to help protect the world’s animals. You might like to adopt an animal at your local zoo or contribute to an animal shelter or participate in one of the World Wild Life’s projects. One of my standard Christmas gifts is National Wildlife Federation’s monthly magazines – Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr.  It is an award winning educational magazine that provides entertainment and instruction throughout the year.

I have probably said enough but if you want to check out some other ideas:

Momastery – Mastering the Mom  has a great suggestion.

And you might also like to check out my post from a couple of years ago

Celebrating Advent with Kids

More resources to come – this is obviously a huge area of interest.

Have We Lost Jesus at Christmas? by James Prescott.

Christmas is coming but have we lost Jesus?

Christmas is coming but have we lost Jesus?

The season of Christmas is fast approaching and the frenzy of activity leading up to our Christmas celebrations is growing but have we lost Jesus in the midst of this frenzy? This morning’s post in the series Jesus Is Coming What Do We expect?  comes from James Presscott. He has been blogging about Advent and other topics on his blog JamesPrescott.co.uk.  He is also a regular guest blogger on issues of discipleship in the digital realm at digi-disciple, run by the Big Bible Project, and is currently working on a book.

___________________________________________________________

Expectations. We all have them, whether we know it or not. This is the time of year where the consumer culture we live in drives them up more than any other time – what gifts we’d like to receive, expectations of seeing relatives or eating certain types of food.

Often the last thing people expect at Christmas is Jesus.

Consumerism has taken over the festive season to such an extent that it’s easy for the very reason we celebrate to get lost in all the mayhem – in many ways that simply a highlighting of what happens the other 364 days of the year. But as Christians we should never allow Jesus to get lost.

Should it really have come to that?

Have we played a part in allowing Jesus to get lost in Christmas?

Well as Christians we’re called to stand for Jesus on this earth, to be His representatives here. To stand up for the issues He cares about, to show why His way is the best way to live through our own example.

As I reflected on this issue of what we expect from Jesus this Christmas, the one thing that I simply couldn’t escape from was the idea that it’s not about what we expect from Jesus or our expectations of Him – it’s more what He expects from us.

You see I think what we often do with our expectations of Jesus is that we put our own idea of who Jesus is in the place of Jesus, and place there what we think we should expect from Jesus, what matters to us, our own ideas of what He would care about.

Often what we don’t do is take time to ask Jesus what we should expect from Him. Nor, more crucially, what He expects from us.

One habit I don’t practice enough is simply sitting, listening to God, being silent and allowing Him to speak, letting Him set the agenda. I think it’s something we’re all prone to, especially in a consumer, merit-based society which rewards achievement and success, and encourages us to like to be right, indeed to get our value from being right, being the cleverest or smartest – or in Christian terms, the most insightful, the most in touch with God, the one more right about what Jesus would do/say/think.

We live also in a culture of selfish entitlement. It’s all about us and what we deserve, what we should own or what we have the right to.

Rarely is there space to stop and listen – to think about the other, the lesser. To think about what we can give rather than what we receive.

There has been an amazing TV advert in the UK this advent, for John Lewis, one of the major department stores in the UK.

All through the advert we’re led to believe a little child is waiting expectantly, impatient for Christmas to see what gift he will receive, what he will get for Christmas. We see him waiting, looking at clocks, struggling to sleep, eating his dinner down quickly and getting to bed early, impatient for Christmas morning.

But on Christmas morning something unexpected happens. He gets up with a flash and the first thing he does isn’t run to open his stocking or presents under the tree. No.

Instead he grabs a poorly wrapped present from his cupboard and rushes to his parents room, waking them up, so that he can give them his gift.

It’s incredibly powerful and very moving – and totally counter-cultural.

Why? Well simply because all that frustration wasn’t about what he was going to receive.

It was about the gift he was waiting to give.

I have to say, when I watched that, and every time since, it has humbled me. Chokes me up a bit, I must confess. Because watching it I was reminded of how selfish I am, how I – and probably many of us – have lost the joy of simply giving a gift, and how often we instinctively think of what we are going to receive, what we are entitled to.

We always put ourselves first and the other second, so when we see an advert where it doesn’t happen, it takes us aback, it shocks us.

It can be the same with Jesus. If He doesn’t deliver what we expect Him to, what we’ve decided He should give us or do for us, then we are disappointed or annoyed with Him – because He hasn’t met our standard of what we think we should expect.

But to me this is totally counter to the way of Jesus.

If we are truly followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t be worried about how God is going to bless us, we should be instinctively, like that little boy in the advert, thinking of how we can be a blessing to others this Christmas.

How we can be a living embodiment of Christ to others.

How we can show people through our lifestyle, behaviour, choices and attitudes that the way of Jesus is the best way to live. Pondering not what Jesus can give us, but how we can share Him – His love, His grace, His mercy – with those around us.

When we think of expectations of Jesus, we need to be turning that around, and asking ourselves what He expects of us this Christmas.

Who is He calling us to be?

What is He calling us to do?

How can we draw attention away from ourselves and point it towards Him this Christmas?

How can we show and give others the real gift of Christmas – Christ Himself?

So instead of pondering what you expect of Jesus this Christmas, how about instead turning it around and asking what He expects of you.

How about we simply remember God’s gift of Christ which was given at Christmas, and seek simply to share that gift with others?

Let us find our joy and expectations met not in the receiving but the giving of a gift.

I think if we all did that, we might find that all our expectations are met.

 

Come Spirit Of Advent – A Prayer of Hope and Expectation by Sally Coleman

Performing for the Crowd

Performing for the Crowd - photo by Dave Perry

This morning’s post in the series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect comes from Sally Coleman. It was first posted on her blog Eternal Echoes as Come Spirit of Advent (A Prayer of Hope and Expectation).  This picture above, by Dave Perry inspired the poem.  He really caught Sally’s imagination by describing the crowd drawn by this performer and description of the way she moved!

Come Spirit

of Advent

awaken new hope

within us,

ignite

our hearts with

a fresh awareness

of your opportunities,

call us beyond

our comfort

seeking, nostalgic

notions,

and set us ablaze

with passion

for your purposes,

lead us in your dance

of possibilities,

and rekindle

our desires

to seek you,

to know you,

to share you,

to be freed by you…

Come Spirit

of Advent,

and capture our

imaginations

with unfolding visions

of your eternal story;

God with us,

always with us

ever with us!