The Fourth Week of Advent

December 20, 2009 by Camille  
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Light Takes on Flesh — The Fourth Sunday of Advent
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God of All Mercies — The Fourth Monday of Advent
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Jesus’ Forgiveness — The Fourth Tuesday of Advent
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Shepherd of Our Souls — The Fourth Wednesday of Advent
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The Baby in Bethlehem — Christmas Eve
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The Lion Who is a Lamb — Christmas Day
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The Third Week of Advent

December 13, 2009 by Camille  
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God Incarnate — The Third Sunday of Advent
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Poor for Our Sake — The Third Monday of Advent
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Branch of the Lord — The Third Tuesday of Advent
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The One we Seek — The Third Wednesday of Advent
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Jesus the Living Water — The Third Thursday of Advent
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Rivers of Living Water — The Third Friday of Advent
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Making All Things New — The Third Saturday of Advent
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The Second Week of Advent

December 6, 2009 by Camille  
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A Virgin With Child — Second Sunday of Advent
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Immanuel, God With Us — Second Monday of Advent
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Good News! — Second Tuesday of Advent
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Jesus the Burden-Lifter — Second Wednesday of Advent
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Jesus the Shepherd — The Second Thursday of Advent
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  • Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho

Jesus the Healer — The Second Friday of Advent
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A Redeemer for His People — The Second Saturday of Advent
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He Shows Up!

December 5, 2009 by kristen  
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Advent, of course, means coming. It is good and right that we have a time to remember the longing for Christ’s incarnation, remember that we are longing for his second coming when he will put the world to rights. One thing that struck me this week in a new way is how much Christ’s coming is not just a past and future event, but something that is happening continually.

When a friend drops everything to be with me when I need a friend, Christ is near. When our hearts break with those in sorrow, when we fight for the oppressed, Christ shows up. When we gather at his table, Jesus comes and meets us there. He has come and is coming again, but He IS risen. And that has present implications.

I am still longing for the new heavens and the new earth, for all things to be made new. But I am comforted as I see the ways that he is near, even now.

Reposted from This Classical Life.

Deliver us!

December 4, 2009 by Beth  
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704px-Georges_de_La_Tour_020In this funny moment in which my life has become nothing but Advent, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between joyous expectation and our sometimes desperate longing for deliverance. I’m in the midst of finishing another semester of classes, dragging my very pregnant self through my days, and joining with church and family in the season of Advent which prepares us Christians for the coming of Christ.

My students are growing weary with writing, presenting, and test preparation. Yet, I try to remind them (and myself!) of the good privilege they’re receiving in all this education. Their deliverance is coming final exam week.

I haven’t been walking without waddling for some time now. This kid is repeatedly bruising one of my ribs, and sleep is growing elusive. Yet, this is my fourth baby, and I do know that deliverance, in the very specific form of delivery, is coming. So I pray for the grace to treasure up these last few days of kicks and the ability to watch television without being coated with spit up.

Then there’s the liturgical season: my sweet kids have developed a new litany of their own, repeating “I want that,” in the face of television commercials and catalogues that slip through the mail to them before I can stash them in the recycling. My nesting has mostly taken the form of buying and wrapping gifts early, lest my kids be left without Christmas bounty while I’m in the hospital. And yet, the joyous expectation of Advent is still there in the middle of “I want that” and to-do lists. We light our candles in the evening and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Ransom captive Israel! Though my oldest is only eight, I’m caught by years of memories of her singing the hymn with candlelight reflected in her eyes. And I’m caught by the beauty of the additions of her brother’s and then her sister’s eyes to that candlelit table and by the expectation of another pair of eyes watching the candles next December. Deliverance is coming with the baby in the manger, and it’s ok that said deliverance will include the joy of peeling back gift wrap.

The ransom of captive Israel is, of course, accomplished only because Mary was delivered of the baby Jesus. Joy and release, pain and promise, are knit together. Delivering babies, it turns out, works best when I stop fighting. So, I’m praying in this Advent for the grace to let go of all kinds of things. I know it’s controversial, but I’m ready to let go of what seems to me to be an increasingly false dichotomy between penitence and joy. If we don’t sing only Advent hymns this season, I’ll try to let the Christmas carols prepare me for Christ’s coming as well. If the tree is already up and the lights are already sparkling, I’ll try to view it, not as a violation of the season of penance, but as the unstoppable breaking in of the joy that is coming. Letting go has never been particularly easy for me, but it’s one of the chief spiritual lessons that God has used motherhood to bring into my life. I’m letting go of other things as well. The legal bondage of perfectionism. My stubborn refusal to accept that, for whatever reason, having the coats hung up instead of tossed into the hall is important to my husband. The need to figure out how to perfectly parent those kids of mine or to ban all suspect toys and suspect joy from our household. Penitence and joy, expectation and deliverance are knit together.

As an Advent-Christmas treat, we’re going to a concert of Andrew Peterson’s fabulous advent album, Behold the Lamb. The lyrics march us through the whole story of what God has done for us through the centuries, of joy and deliverance. Peterson connects our need for deliverance, our need for penance, with the joy of Christmas, and his lyrics plead with God to “gather us beneath your wings tonight.”

So, deliver me, Emmanuel.
Of grading.
Of this rib-kicking blessing of a kid.
Of the kind of waiting and expectation that precludes joy.
And, most of all, from the tyranny of sin and the terror of death.
Deliver us.

The Curmudgeon v. The Candle (of Hope)

December 3, 2009 by Camille  
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But when you hear and accept this it is not your power, but God’s grace, that renders the Gospel fruitful in you, so that you believe that you and your works are nothing. For you see how few there are who accept it, so that Christ weeps over Jerusalem and, as now the Papists are doing, not only refuse it, but condemn such doctrine, for they will not have all their works to be sin, they desire to lay the first stone and rage and fume against the Gospel.

Luther’s First Sunday of Advent Sermon

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I wish you could see what I see sitting here. In my reading nook. Next to me a sweet schnauzer warms my legs. In the next room, a gentle husband snoozes. Upstairs the sleepy preschooler has conked out for his Sunday afternoon coma, and the silly kindergartner tries his best to keep quiet in his own room. But I hear the leaping off the bed and the happy dancing directly above me.

I see our Christmas tree. Lit. A miracle in itself since just last night the sentimentally appointed pinester was dark due to a malfunction somewhere in its dozen strands of light. From my point of view, the Hubby divined the exact problem (blown light fuse) and fixed it effortlessly. Yesterday’s dead car battery, however, needed Geico’s help. And the vintage Lionel that usually circles the tree couldn’t be fixed without parts, so it waits for us next year. We were electrical Schleprocks yesterday.

But between me and the tree, I see, for the first time in our home, a single advent candle burning brightly. The Candle of Hope. I cobbled together a wreath of velvet leaves I made for Elise’s birth nine years ago and some wool leaves I cut from my old felted sweater. An evergreen of a different sort. All leaves intended for another purpose, resurrected for celebration.

We sang Christmas songs this morning at church. Imagine that — singing Christmas songs during the Christmas season. If you’ve never been a independent, fundamental Baptist, you have no idea what a gift that is. You see, Advent is a big no-no. And you don’t sing Christmas songs until the week of Christmas. Or maybe the two weeks before. And even then, the truly spiritual sing them almost grudgingly. Because Christmas is Catholic (i.e. pagan) and extending the Christmas season is commercial, we really should just ignore it altogether. The pious do!

I can’t even tell you how many Christians I know who refuse to celebrate the holiday at all. I think, in fact, Charles Dickens wrote a novel about just such a person.

But deep down, we want to anticipate and celebrate. We want an old ritual that connects us all to a Story grander than just our own. We want to sing!

Last night, we watched an old Ken Burns special on the Shakers – the mostly 19th-century agrarian sect which took in orphans and made the most simplistically elegant furniture imaginable. Burns’ hagiography brushed past all their ideological problems — that Mother Ann taught that Original Sin was sexual intercourse (and so they were celibate) and that God was both male and female with Jesus being the male manifestation and Mother Ann being the final female manifestation and Christ’s Bride. And, of course, that they must discipline their evil Body in order to let the wholly good Spirit reign.

Instead Burns highlighted their seemingly beautiful straining, struggling, and striving toward perfection. And in 1840 it looked like they had made it. They were booming. They were taking in the poor and homeless. Their industry and craftsmanship was admired and profitable. Their ethic, however, was tailored to a 19th-century agrarianism and could not survive life in the industrialized 20th century. And now in the 21st century, there are only three living Shakers left.

Sound familiar? It’s eerily familiar to me. Scarily familiar. In grad school, I read all about the Shakers and all the utopian sects born out of the Second Great Awakening (most of whom came from the Burned-Over District). And I empathize with all of them. I understand the appeal of perfection — that if I make my work (mothering, knitting, or homemaking) pristine enough and sincere enough, I’ll build an American ziggurat to God. I understand the appeal of the bifurcated thinking — that the industrialized world is evil and that my industrious domesticity is righteous. I understand the appeal of defining sin as out there instead of in here – that my containing evil makes my perfection attainable. I understand the appeal of being peculiar — that doing the hard thing and the unexpected thing will woo people to me/us/God. Whether the hard thing is celibacy or modesty or Scroogery.

What a different Story I heard this morning! That God comes to me and I don’t work my way toward Him. That His love is greater than my sin. That doing good comes because Jesus has made us good. That the first Advent guarantees the second. That Jesus is King. Now!

There’s no room for the curmudgeon in that Story!

The kindergartner has just been freed from his quietness. Daddy bounded down the stairs carrying him piggyback. And the preschooler followed with a big case of bed head. We all have the evening to rest together (and fix the lights on the tree again because another fuse just blew). Three years ago on this day we would have already been headed to a church service or a rehearsal or some such duty. Straining, struggling, and striving toward some illusion of perfection.

I laugh at the irony. Our reactionary anti-Catholic shunning of all things Advent has still duplicated the identical medieval religious feudalism. And our dispensationalist adventism won’t touch an extended celebration of the first Advent.

But I’ll light my Candle of Irony on another day. Today is the Candle of Hope.

This is what is meant by “Thy king cometh.” You do not seek him, but he seeks you. You do not find him, he finds you. For the preachers come from him, not from you; their sermons come from him, not from you; your faith comes from him, not from you; everything that faith works in you comes from him, not from you; and where he does not come, you remain outside; and where there is no Gospel there is no God, but only sin and damnation, free will may do, suffer, work and live as it may and can. Therefore you should not ask, where to begin to be godly; there is no beginning, except where the king enters and is proclaimed.

Reposted from A Time To Laugh.