Category Archives: The Advent Project

The 4th Sunday in Advent: Love

“All you need is love.” – John Lennon

The Nativity Story Pictures, Images and Photos

Love, in it’s most vibrant and real form meets us at Christmas in the stable. It  bursts into the world.  Ripping itself from a young woman’s body, that love comes for us in the form of a baby.  He brings us love.  He brings us hope.  He teaches us how to live.

…”Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

This week as we wait we must live in that love.  May our actions be love in motion for the world.  May the words we say speak love into the world.  May our hearts and minds be focused on what truly matters, that great gift and what he came to teach us.

With the Jingle bells and the toys…

“With the jingle bells and the toys and the TV shows and the noise, it’s easy to forget…”
Hannukah Blessings by the Barenaked Ladies

The noise around me right now is overwhelming.  Yesterday was spent at the mall where I was pushed and shoved by people who absolutely had to have whatever it  was I was in front of.  Spinach was thrown at my head in the grocery store on Thursday while I was attempting to help a woman who seemed frantic.  I’ve met people from Church who seem dragged down by the to do lists in their heads.   It doesn’t feel like Christmas is in the air.  It feels more like the end times.

I know what it’s like to worry that things won’t get done.  My shopping isn’t completed.  My Christmas Eve service is still not on paper {and I’m getting slightly panicked}.  There’s a potluck at Church tomorrow that I don’t have anything made for.  I’ve neglected writing.  I’ve neglected laundry.  It’s a very busy time of year.  It shouldn’t be this way.  We’ve forgotten what matters.  We’re pushing aside what counts.

This week while I was listening to my Christmas music, I happened upon my Barenaked Ladies for the Holidays album and was struck by the lyrics in the Hannukah Blessings song.   As they sung about how easy it is to forget Hannukah when surrounded by the busyness of Christmas, I realized how this also applies to us Christians as well.  When faced with the endless things we think must get done, activities and events we have to attend and the need to finish getting presents, we sometimes forget the baby Jesus.

The baby is coming.  In the midst of our frantic preparations, he will arrive.  Will we hear his cry?  Will we acknowledge him in the coming days?  Will we remember what Christmas is truly about?

The third Sunday in Advent.

This morning I am preaching about Mary’s response to Gabriel’s visit. I love unique Christmas Carols and this song performed by Sting captures the mood of the day perfectly for me.  If you’d like to read and reflect on the passage today you can find it here.  May you and your family experience the blessing of joy on this day and throughout the rest of the season.

Mary

Mary, a young girl touched by God’s love. Given the gift of his son. Chosen to love him, nurture him, comfort him and teach him. Chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Chosen to experience joy and sorrow, grace and heartbreak.

There is a lot to come in Mary’s life.  She we experience frustration as her two year old tests her patience.  She will frantically search for him when he disappears at 12 and is found at the temple.  She’ll sigh as his eyes roll at her through his teenage years.  When he becomes a man she will wonder when it will happen, when he’ll let the world know, and she’ll worry.  There’s a lot to come in Mary’s life.

Yet now we sit in Advent and see her as a young girl.  A young girl who doesn’t yet know what it means to mother, what it means to mother Jesus.  A girls whose dreams might have been of family and home, but not in this way.  Her hopes and dreams had not yet been fully crushed by the reality of her poor existence.  She does not yet realize the pressure that comes as the woman of the house, working from dawn until dusk to keep her family fed, clothed and nurtured.

She has no idea what lies ahead and I wonder if this is what it means to “Let the children alone,…{for} God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” {Matthew 19: 14} .  Jesus says we must be like little children.  Is this why Mary was chosen?

What if she were ten years older?  Would her reaction have been the same or would there be a healthy dose of skepticism.  Would she even see the Angel or hear his message?  Would she have been open to the opportunities ahead?

When Mary is asked she has not yet encountered difficulties or despair.  She is hidden in her family, protected by her parents and she knows little heartbreak or pain.  Given the choice, she moves boldly into an unexpected future, grateful for opportunities and trusting in God’s promise. She seems a bit naive.  She seems so sure.  She seems very much like a child.

We too have a promise. We are promised forgiveness and grace.  We are given the opportunity to choose.  We are blessed with the knowledge that God never gives up on us.

Yet even with these promises, even knowing that God never quits we so often do.  This season we should look to Mary for guidance.  When God leads us, we should go, trusting and sure.   New roads can be new beginnings.  Opportunities are found where we least expect them.  Risk is an absolute must.

Are we willing to follow? Are we willing to be like the little children, so trusting and sure?  Can we trust God enough to let go?  It’s time for us to find out.

A New Nativity.

Did you know that Yellow {Mr. Peanut M&M} and a Weeble were in fact at the birth of Jesus?  I didn’t either!  X. did though.  As I was tidying the living room this week I found these two camped out in front of the our little people nativity scene.  It was quite cute and rather touching.  X. wants everyone to be there, regardless of whether they ‘belong’ in the story or not.

That really is the Christmas story when you think about it. A group of people who don’t really ‘belong’ are invited to witness the birth of Jesus.  God claimed them and invited them to celebrate the birth of his son.  God claims us as well.   As we celebrate the one who brings us light, love and grace let’s remember that we all have a place at the manger, expected or not.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””
– John 8:12 {NIV}

Our Tree {Part One}

Yesterday we put up our upstairs tree.  It was hilarious as it was X’s first experience watching it happen.  Last year the trees miraculously appeared on their own and he thought it was incredible.  He clapped, shouted yay and generally just enjoyed the experience.  One of the things I like about this tree is that it’s our family tree.  There are all kinds of ornaments and decorations that don’t really match but have meaning.  It’s got multi-coloured lights and it’s marvelous.  Totally tacky and not at all designer but that’s what the basement tree is for.

There are all kinds of ornaments on the tree.  We have the nativity scene, hand carved and bought at a 10 000 villages sale bought while I was at seminary and only had a tiny 24$ foot high tree.

There’s this random Cartman ornament whose origins are unclear yet each time I pull it out of the box, I laugh at the absurd quality of it and it’s obvious difference from the other ornaments.

And then there’s this one.  Peace.  A part of a set of four given to me for buying a Christmas book many years ago.  I love how they shimmer on the tree.

These ornaments are a collection of memories and experiences from years past.  This year as I’m out and about I’m sure I will collect a few more and it will only serve to make it a more special, unique tree.  We will make new memories this year and find different ways to express the hope and joy of the season.  As we do, I will look to our tree and remember the years past, grateful for all we have done and all we have yet to do.

In Advent we wait…

In Advent we wait.
We wait for a baby who’ll grow into a man.
We wait for the messages he’ll teach,
for the hope he’ll provide,
for the peace he’ll offer.
In Advent we wait in hope, for the hope that only he can bring.

The 2011 Advent Project!

This year’s Advent Project is now live!  I’m quiet excited about it this year and I think you will be too.  You can do this year’s project on your own or with friends and family.  It’s fun, sugar-free and guaranteed to keep you thinking about Christ throughout the coming holiday season!  Everyday you’ll find something new to do (whether it be prayer, scripture reading, activities or giving).  You can find the project here:  The 2011 Advent Project.  I hope you join me as we journey to find the Christ Child!

It’s Christmas Eve

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:15-20, NIV)

Let’s go. It’s a simple phrase filled with promise. It speaks of action and commitment. It shows the shepherds need to seek out the one the angels spoke of. Let’s go.

Today is the end of our Advent journey. For the past 24 days we’ve journeyed together as families, as individuals, as Christ Followers, looking for something deeper. We were looking for the baby, longing to find meaning in the season. Our family has grown and changed as a result of this process. We’ve taken time for rest in the busyness around us.  We’ve played together, praised together and been thankful for all we’ve had. This month has been a wonderful celebration of our faith and our family.

Today we feel the call of the shepherds. We feel the urgency in their step as they race towards Jesus. We too want to race towards the newborn king. Tonight we will gather with others to celebrate our saviors birth. Tonight we will celebrate his life. Tonight we will rejoice in God’s grace.

Let’s go. Let’s get out there and meet the one we’ve been waiting for.

Late Night Musings

It’s 2:30 am.  I’m tired.  I want to be in bed.  I should be in bed.  I’m not.

I just finished comforting X. and I’m waiting to see if this time will be the charm, if this time he’ll actually go back to sleep.   We’ve cuddled, rocked and sat together for quite a while now.  I’m not sure what’s the problem but tonight he needed some love so I’m trying to be patient.   We’ve addressed all the usual issues and tonight it hasn’t helped.  All I can do is hold him.  I’m a little confused and tired.  I really would like to be asleep.  He seems to have different ideas.

As I sit here I marvel at how tidy we’ve made the birth of Christ. I don’t know if the silent nights we sing of this time of year are possible.  From the moment a child arrives they make their presence known.  I can’t imagine the night being anything but charged with energy, excitement, enthusiasm and perhaps little fear on Mary and Joseph’s part.  I would bet that Jesus would want to let the world know he had arrived.  I can almost see his little fists balled up tight as he cried his very first cry in his mother’s arms.

Tonight Mary seems more real to me somehow.  Mary is a Mom.  She’s not just that serene figure you see in Nativity sets. Mary’s a woman trying to raise a child in an uncertain world. Throw in the fact that Jesus is the son of God and you’ve got a complicated case on your hands.  As Jesus grows and becomes more aware of who he is, what happens to their relationship?  When her son questioned her, how would she react?  What would she say when he refused to do his chores?  Did she even realize what Jesus was capable of?

Tonight the whole story seems bigger somehow and Mary feels more real to me than ever before.  Jesus was born a baby and grew into a man.  Somehow along the way he became who he was with the help of his family and the love of a mother.  Jesus grew into a pretty amazing fellow, he must’ve had a pretty good Mom.