Sunday, November 28, 2010

Along the Way~An Advent Reflection

No doubt you’ve heard the euphemism before: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” My kids used to roll their eyeballs every summer as I would repeat that line as we set off for our annual weeklong get-away at the seashore. Only an hour-and-a-half away by car, the Delaware seashore called to us. The kids couldn’t wait to get to the beach, but I knew a secret that they did not: the vacation began the moment we locked our seatbelts into place…and I was determined to make it so. In the twenty-something years between my growing up and theirs, something had occurred: a super highway had been built that could get you from one end of the state to the other in less than two hours. Gone was the unnecessary and inconvenient meandering trip through the back roads and marshes of Delaware. But as a child, I never considered those rides through the cornfields, saltwater marshes and small towns to be an annoyance or a hindrance. They were part of the journey, part of the scenery… I knew every small town, fruit stand, ramshackle farm and cornfield. I delighted in playing the “alphabet game,” couldn’t wait to stop at the bird sanctuary to see nesting Blue Herons, and savored every moment at the rest stop that had tables at which we enjoyed a languid pre-beach picnic. The sights I saw along the way were sentinels pointing me in the direction of my destination, but they also enhanced the journey. Truth be told, they were some of the most memorable parts of the whole expedition…they in fact, were an inseparable part of the whole vacation. And so, every summer, I would subject my children to this longer, ‘unnecessary’, and ‘inconvenient’ car ride. And every summer-what fun and joy we would encounter along the way!

Just as I learned on those summer vacations…drawing close to a destination always involves the process of getting there. So it is during the Advent Season, as we attempt to draw close to Jesus…the joy can be found in the ‘getting there.’

Awhile back, I received a “tweet” from Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church) that said:

“Study the STOPS of Jesus, not just his steps-the interruptions he allowed. Every healing was an interruption! R U flexible?”

Those one-hundred and forty (or less) characters prompted me to think again about a phrase in scripture that I love…If you look at the life of Jesus as depicted in the gospels, an often overlooked phrase crops up fairly frequently: “along the way.” The Gospels are full of occasions in which Jesus and his followers stop “on their way” to their “intended goal” to do important life-affirming things.

We see an incredible example of this in Mark 5 where “on the way” to heal a dying girl, Jesus first heals the Geresene demoniac (of “we are Legion for we are many” fame), and then he also heals a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. In fact, by the time he gets to his “destination,” the ill girl has died. Undaunted, Jesus resurrects her. This story reminds us in a profound way that the ‘bus-stops’ and fellow sojourners that we meet along the way of life are as important as the destination. Through them, we learn the importance of being flexible enough to give these encounters the full attention they deserve. Finally, we see that everything always tends to pan out in the end, even if at first blush it appears that we have arrived “too late” to our destination.

With this in mind, as we wind our way through the Advent Season, may we make a special effort to be attuned to the ministrations of the Holy Spirit, and be ever alert for “divine appointments” as we seek to draw closer to Jesus. It is my prayer that we keep in mind that the re-discovering of the Christ-child is our ultimate goal…but may we also be ever aware to the possibilities of finding Him in our interactions with the sojourners whom we encounter “along the way.”

First Sunday of Advent~ An Easy-to-do-at-Home-Liturgy (Video and Text)

First Candle: The Prophesy Candle (purple)~
Symbolizes hope and expectation.

We await all that the prophets promised would come to pass…

As our nights grow longer and our days grow short,
we look on these earthly signs-
light, and green branches-
and we remember God’s promise to our world~

Christ, Our Light and Our Hope, will come.

Hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah:

The people that walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
On those who lived in a land as dark as death,
A light has dawned.
You have increased their joy
and given them gladness;
They rejoice in your presence
as those who rejoice at harvest.
Isaiah 9:1-2

Oh God~
Rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son!
Shine your blessings upon us.
May Christ shine on us and brighten our way by guiding us in His truth.

Voice 1: Today we celebrate the first week of advent. We remember the hope we have in Jesus.

Voice 2: The prophets of Israel all spoke of the coming of The Christ…of how a Savior would be born…that He would be a King from the line of David. They spoke of how he would rule the world wisely and bless all nations.

Voice 3: As the followers of Jesus, we await His return. We light this candle to remember that as he came to us humbly in a manger at Bethlehem and gave light to the world, so He is coming again in power to deliver His people.

Voice 4: We light this candle to remind us to be alert and to watch for His return.

~Light the Candle~

Lord, thank you for coming!
As we wait for you…
as we celebrate this Holy Season-
Let us not lose our focus.
Help us to keep our eyes on You.
Help us to see You.

O Come, O Come- Emmanuel!

~Blow Out Candle~

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What is Advent?~ A Video Tutorial

Adventitious Thoughts~ What is Advent?

You don't have to limit your understanding of Advent to a chocolate calendar, and you don't have to be 'put off' by traditions and practices that you didn't grow up learning. Whether you’re a novice or an ‘old hand’ at Celebrating Advent-Advent is for anyone who is interested in cultivating an awareness of the importance of developing a Spirituality of Waiting...Our relationship with God is hallmarked by phases of waiting- we waited for Jesus to come to Bethlehem...We wait for Him to come to us personally each day...And We wait for Him to return again to the Earth in Glory!

What is Advent?

It is the tradition of observing the four weeks preceding Christmas which was started by Christians in the Middle Ages.

The word “advent’ means…“Coming”…“Arrival”…

The Focus of the advent season is the Coming of the Christ-child…The Fulfillment of God’s promise….

The Spirit of Advent is that of …Expectation…Anticipation…Preparation…Longing…And Hope…

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas which is nearest to November 30th

Advent ends on December 24th.

An Advent Wreath is usually a circular wreath that is made with evergreens and has five candles~ four around the wreath and one in the center. The circle of the wreath reminds of us God himself…His eternality…His unending mercy…He is the Alpha and the Omega…the beginning and the end…In Him is life everlasting…

The green of the wreath speaks of the hope we have in everlasting life… of renewal…of newness…His mercies are new every morning!

The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His Son.The four outer candles and the four weeks of advent represent the period of waiting between the prophets Malachi and the birth of Jesus.There are five candles…each lit on successive Sundays.There are three purple or blue candles which symbolize hope, royalty and penance.One pink or rose colored candle represents Joy…
The large white candle which is in the center is the Jesus candle- it represents Hope fulfilled…The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into our darkness.We are reminded that we have been called out of darkness into His Marvelous Light…

Prayer Before Advent: Father, today as we begin our time of preparation for the celebration of the birthday of Your Son, we ask that you prepare our hearts to receive Him. May the darkness…fear…shame…hopelessness…and sin that block us from truly knowing and worshipping You recede and the shadows fade away as His light shines in our lives…Amen.

The focus of the advent season is the Coming of the Christ-child…The fulfillment of God’s promise….

But…there is a double focus…

Past & Future…Christ has come…Though He is present in the world today through his Holy Spirit…Yet we wait for him to Come Again…

Even so, Lord Jesus~ Come!