A Christmas Promise

Joy to the world our Saviour comes
Not in power, not in might
But in the tenderness of love
He comes as the promise of life
Hidden in a mother’s womb
Sing aloud and dance with the angels
God has sent his son to save the world
Love and faithfulness meet together
Righteousness and peace kiss each other
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth
Shout halleluias of praise, inheritors of Christ’s light
God’s righteousness looks down from heaven
The Lord will indeed give what is good
And bring wholeness and abundance to all people

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The Right to Become Children of God

He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten (From John 1: 11- 13 The Message)

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace. (Isaiah 61: 1-2 The Message)

As I read through these words this morning I started to think about what it means to be God-begotten and to be able to become our “true child of God selves”. It seemed appropriate to link this to the message of Christmas and what it meant for Jesus to “heal the broken hearted”. I was reminded of friends of ours who several years ago wanted to adopt a native American child. The set up the adoption and then discovered that the child had four siblings who were also up for adoption – older children that would probably be split up and spend their lives moving from foster home to foster home because everyone wants to adopt babies. My compassionate friends did not want to split up the family and decided to adopt all the children in spite of the fact that they knew it would not be easy on them and their three biological children. The adopted children had been abused and mistreated. Both parents were alcoholics, their mother a drug addict. They were all deeply disturbed and scarred by these experiences.

I was overwhelmed this morning as I thought of the actions of my generous friends and how like God’s embracing of us as children they have been. God generously reaches out to all of us who are scarred and disfigured by sin – our own, our family’s and our society’s – yet God reaches out in compassion and draws us all into his family, even though our inclusion in his family may not make things easy for the rest of God’s family. And of course the one who paid the greatest toll was his own son Jesus.

I have certainly been very conscious of God’s generous compassion in my own life. I too come from a deeply scarred and dysfunctional family in which there was much physical abuse. When I became a Christian as a teenager I felt that God opened wide his arms and welcomed me into his family. However the scars I carried did not suddenly dissolve. God has worked through many others in his family to transform my life.

This surely is the good news of the gospel and the wonder of the message that we celebrate at this season. God’s children are not nice children that have been brought up in perfect homes. we are more like foster children who have been abused and abandoned by our own families and societies.

We are all scarred and disfigured in some way by our upbringing or by our interactions with the world around us. Yet God reaches out in deep compassion and love to draw us into an environment in which we can be healed, made whole and able to enter into the joy of God’s wonderful kingdom.

My fellow bloggers

Brother Maynard

Lainie Petersen

Peggy Brown

Sonja

Adam Copeland

John the Shepherd

Rob Robinson

Christine Sine

Lori Bjerkander

Glenn Jordan

Julie Clawson

Cindy Bryan

Robin Dugall

Lyn Hallewell

J. Michael Matkin

Kingdom Grace

Matt Stone

Milton Brasher-Cunningham

God moved into the Neighbourhood

I love the translation of John 1: 14 in The Message: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.” Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have Jesus living down the street? And imagine if we heard that he was moving into the neighbourhood but we did not know where he would live or even what he looked like. I wonder how it would change the way we treat our neighbours. Every time someone new moved in we would eagerly knock on their door with a welcome package. We take time to sit down and talk to them, listening carefully to everything they had to say wondering “Is this the One? Is this Jesus in disguise?”

I was thinking about this yesterday as I talked to a local pastor about how to help get his congregation out of the pews and into the neighbourhood. We talked a lot about the idea that God is already present in every person he has created. Early Christians believed that they were privileged to live in a non Christian world because they believed that it was through their interactions with those outside the faith that they learned more about God.

Maybe Jesus has already moved into all our neighbourhoods and we just need to recognize him. He is present in the lonely person who lives 2 houses away and in the overwhelmed mother trying to juggle job, kids and home. He is also present in the homeless person who sits at the end of the street begging for money. Part of what we all need to do during this Advent season is take time to look and to listen for the presence of God in those around us and learn to respond in a way that welcomes Christ into our midst.

My fellow bloggers

Brother Maynard

Lainie Petersen

Peggy Brown

Sonja

Adam Copeland

John the Shepherd

Rob Robinson

Christine Sine

Lori Bjerkander

Glenn Jordan

Julie Clawson

Cindy Bryan

Robin Dugall

Lyn Hallewell

J. Michael Matkin

Kingdom Grace

Matt Stone

Milton Brasher-Cunningham

A Witness Will Go Before You

Tom & I have been reading the daily scriptures from the Book of Common Prayer and I must confess that I have been feeling a little depressed as I have read about the judgment of God in Amos & Haggai so the scriptures that we are focusing on in this Johannine synchroblog have been quite encouraging. However as read this morning about John who “came as a witness to the light” I started to think about what this really meant.

John’s message after all was a message that focused on sin and the need for repentance just as the daily Advent scriptures I have been reading do. John 1: 23 reads “I am a voice calling in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” The season of Advent is not just a time to look forward to the love, joy, peace and hope of God’s shalom kingdom, it is also a time to examine our hearts and to listen to the voice of those who still today cry out in the wilderness asking us to repent of our self centred lives. This is not just so that we can get a warm fuzzy feeling of forgiveness but so that we can actually change our behaviour to focus more on the coming of Christ and the inbreaking of God’s kingdom of shalom and wholeness.
Like me you probably want to skip over the hard parts of the Advent message and focus only on the love and the joy. But to enter fully into the love and the joy of Christ’s coming we must also enter fully into the pain and suffering of our world, recognize where our actions have contributed, repent and make some changes.

It is not always easy to recognize how our actions impact the poverty of children in Africa, or the horrors faced by those whose countries are at war, but they can. Who would have thought that buying a diamond could be financing a war in Africa but it might. Buying fair traded coffee and tea (and other food items if they are available in your area) may all help to provide a fair wage for people at the margins. Checking into where our money is invested and working with socially responsible investment groups is another challenge but one that we really need to take seriously if we truly want to be witnesses as John was to the One who will one day bring wholeness, abundance and shalom to all our suffering neighbours near and far.

I really identified with the thoughts of my fellow blogger on circular thoughts the kingdom must be pursued. We must chase after it. We must run hard and fast. We are called to be shalom makers and that means to run hard and fast, being willing to be voices of witness just like John was – going against the status quo, speaking out where no one else is, raising a voice for those who are oppressed and marginalized. And by our efforts we too may forge a highway on which the king of kings can come into our world.

My fellow bloggers

Brother Maynard

Lainie Petersen

Peggy Brown

Sonja

Adam Copeland

John the Shepherd

Rob Robinson

Christine Sine

Lori Bjerkander

Glenn Jordan

Julie Clawson

Cindy Bryan

Robin Dugall

Lyn Hallewell

J. Michael Matkin

Kingdom Grace

Matt Stone

Milton Brasher-Cunningham

The Light Shines in the Darkness

prayers-david-young.jpg“In him was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4,5). As I read these words this morning I could not help but remember my first trip to Norway when I flew from New Zealand at the beginning of December. Suddenly I was plunged into darkness and found myself struggling with nights that crashed in on me a little after 2 pm in the afternoon. Then I became aware of the lights – they festooned the trees, and lit up candelabras in the windows. They hung as icicles around the eaves and lit up ice sculptures in the front yard. Most breathtaking of all they shone in stars that hung over rooftops and crowned the light enshrouded trees.

Growing up in the southern hemisphere where Christmas falls in the middle of summer with its long sunlit evenings, Christmas lights held little meaning for me except as pretty decorations. Until that visit to Norway, I had never fully appreciated the impact of light in a darkened world but to my light light starved eyes those Christmas lights were lifesaving and my soul feasted on their brilliant display.

For people in Jesus day the imagery of light in darkness must have been even more profound. In today’s world few of us understand what it would be like to see a light shining in a completely dark landscape. Even when we are miles from the city, the horizon is often lit by the glow of a myriad of street lights. We have even less understanding of the fear that must have gripped people’s hearts when their fire went out and there was no dry tinder around to start a new one. Imagine what they would have given for an electric light that could not be snuffed out by a gust of wind or a deluge of rain.

In Jesus’ day, it was not just imaginary monsters that lurked in the darkness – lions, bears, and predators of all kinds could be drawn to the vulnerable humans who lacked light. So for the people who read John’s words the imagery of light in the darkness was truly imagery of life in the midst of danger and death. The promise of Christ’s coming brought with it the assurance of safety and security in the midst of the terrors of the world in which they lived.

I long to see Christ’s light shine as brilliantly in our world today as these words promise. Yesterday my world was shaken by the shootings at the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) base just outside Denver in Colorado. I spent 12 years of my life in YWAM and still have many good friends in the the mission, some of whom work with YWAM Colorado. I am grateful that none of my friends were injured in this horrible event but I am devastated by the senseless killing of these young people. I am also devastated by the loss of thousands of young children that die every day as a result of hunger and disease. And I am devastated by the horrors of AIDS and the atrocities of sex trafficking and war. Even though we may not be as impacted by the imagery of light in the midst of darkness as people were two thousand years ago, we should still be profoundly impacted by the wonder of Christ’s light shining in our darkness and we should be reassured by the promise and the hope that it brings.

May the light of Christ truly shine in our dark and troubled world.

his is an Advent Posts for the Johannine Advent Blog project hosted by Brother Maynard. Participating bloggers are:

 

Advent – Hoping for the Promises of God

It is almost the end of the first week of Advent and I am struggling to focus on the hope of God. This has not been an easy week. Monday our basement flooded and we spent the day helping our Mustard Seed House companions Anneke & Peter try to dry out their basement. In many ways we were fortunate. Just a few blocks away an apartment building was flooded to the ceiling and of course at Chehalis, halfway between Seattle and Portland the freeway and adjacent settlements were covered by 10 feet of water destroying peoples’ livelihoods and their hopes for the future. Then I read about the shooting in the mall in Omaha and the families whose hope has been destroyed by the death of loved ones.

At the same time I have spent hours on the phone to my brother and mother in Australia trying to help make decisions about my elderly father who is slowly slipping into dementia. There is no hope that his condition will improve. There are other continuing struggles in our lives that make me feel at times that my world is unravelling and my life fragmenting.

Where do I find hope and how can I talk about hope in the midst of the struggles of life? Then I read the scriptures Brother Maynard asked us to focus on and I was reminded that there is only one place in which hope lies – in the promises of a God who made all things and who redeems all things.

Is 54:10 in particular leapt out at me with the reassurance and hope that I had been grasping for this week. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.”

My hope rests not in the circumstances around me, but in the promise of God’s covenant of peace, or more correctly the promise of shalom with its connotations of wholeness, completeness and restoration of all that God has created. My hope during this season rests in the promised coming of the Prince of Peace through whom all things will be restored, and made whole again. I live in hope and expectation of that new world coming in which people’s lives will no longer be devastated by flood, or famine or war, a new world in which peple will not reach out to destroy but to give life.

I live in anticipation of the coming of the Prince of Peace, who made and who is already at work reshaping, remolding and renewing us to become the people that we were intended to be – a people who love God deeply and who care for each other with the same great love that god has shown towards us.

May we all live this season in the hope of God’s shalom world.

This is an Advent Posts for the Johannine Advent Blog project hosted by Brother Maynard. Participating bloggers are:

 

Advent Traditions

On Saturday we set up our Advent wreath on the dinning room table. It is something we do every every year at this season.

Four bright red candles nestle in a bed of greenery around a central white candle. At breakfast each morning we light the appropriate candles, symbolic of the fact that Christ is our light in the darkness of the world. During the first week of Advent only one candle is lit. Then a fresh candle is lit each week until on Christmas Day all the candles are set alight to welcome Christ. Their brightness shines over our breakfast table throughout the twelve days of Christmas. As the candles burn brightly, we read the daily scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary, focusing on our anticipation of the coming of Christmas and our celebration of Christ’s birth.

At this busy season of the year this short ritual helps me refocus my energy beyond the consumer culture to my faith. It brings tremendous refreshment and renewal to my spirit. In fact I now like to do most of my Christmas shopping before the beginning of Advent so that it does not interfere with my time of reflection and renewal.

Advent Liturgy

O Emmanuel we wait for your light,
In hope all the peoples of the earth wait,

(Silence)

 

We watch and wait, expecting new light to shine as the season of joy approaches
We wait in anticipation for God’s light to penetrate the darkness and radiate within us
We watch and wait and prepare our hearts for the promised coming of Emmanuel – God with us, God for us, God in us
We wait with repentant hearts to prepare the way of the Lord
We watch and wait for the coming of the One who broke down the barriers separating us from God, from each other and from God’s creation
We wait in hope for our Redeemer, to bring God’s love into our broken world
We watch and wait to be transformed by God’s holiness so that we might serve in God’s kingdom as bearers of light and guide others to the Light
We wait expectantly for God’s Saviour to come and dwell in our midst
We await and celebrate the coming of God’s Kingdom with its promise of shalom, of wholeness, of reconciliation and abundance for all.
We wait for the fulfillment of God’s covenant, for God’s Kingdom to come in its fullness
Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day and will become God’s people
And the glory of God’s Kingdom will be revealed and all people will see it together
We wait expectantly attentive to all the signs of Christ’s coming.

Into our world of darkness, into our places of strife
Into our troubles and weaknesses, Come, Lord
Come down, come in, come among us and awaken us to your presence
Come to lead the captives from their prisons, and the oppressed into freedom
Come to bring peace in the midst of war, Come Lord

Come down, come in, come among us and awaken us to your presence
Come to provide abundance in the midst of hunger, and life in the barren desert
Come to offer comfort in the presence of mourning, Come Lord

Come down, come in, come among us and awaken us to your presence

Come to those who are in need, and to those who are sick,
Come to those who are in despair, Come, Lord
Come down, come in, come among us and awaken us to your presence
Into our joys and celebrations, into our homes and loved ones
Into our work and our achievements, Come, Lord
Come down, come in, come among us and awaken us to your presence

 

Read daily scriptures from Revised Common Lectionary

After each scripture say together:

We wait in anticipation and hope for your coming O Christ

Light a candle as a reminder of those you pray for who need to see the presence of Christ more fully realized in their lives

Lord may we be attentive to all the signs of your coming
May we bring glimpses of peace in a world at war
And the offer of freedom for those who are oppressed.
May we see generous giving in the midst of hunger
And plant splashes of green in a sea of pollution.
May we be bringers of healing to those who are sick
And offer hope to those who are in despair.

O Christ we long for your coming. Hasten that day when those who seek you in every nation will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south and sit at table in Your Kingdom. Hasten the day when your Kingdom will come in all its glory and suffering and pain and sickness and oppression and death will be overcome forever. Hasten the day when we will be resurrected as a great multicultural family and live in peace, harmony, joy and love together in your kingdom.

Calm us to wait for the gift of Christ;
Cleanse us to prepare the way for Christ;
Teach us to contemplate the wonder of Christ;
Touch us to know the presence of Christ;
Anoint us to bear the life of Christ

AMEN

This is an Advent Posts for the Johannine Advent Blog project hosted by Brother Maynard. Participating bloggers are:

 


 

 

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