Tag Archives: Advent

Choices

Choices – they seem unending, especially at Christmas.  The Scriptures can be our guide as we observe the way God chooses and the way he challenged others to choose.  From the very beginning when Adam and Eve chose their own way over God’s provision, each person who has ever lived has faced that decision.

Martha, out of self-righteous frustration, reprimanded Jesus because he would not condemn her sister, Mary, for not helping her with chores.  Jesus simply tried to help her understand that Mary, in choosing to simply sit in His Presence and internalize his every word ,had indeed chosen “the good part.”  Mary chose the part that never goes away, never gets old – the part that is eternal.

The rich young man expected a quick, easy answer from Jesus.  He needed to know how to inherit eternal life.  He could not imagine that inheriting eternal life could be any more challenging than inheriting his father’s wealth.  But Jesus told him he would have to make a choice between what the world could give and what God could give.  The rich young man chose the part that goes away – the part that is temporary.

The Christmas narratives portray God’s nature by the choices He made.

  • God chose a teenage peasant girl, not a daughter of a ruling Pharisee.
  • God chose a carpenter, not a king.
  • God chose Nazareth, not Jerusalem.
  • God chose a stable, not a palace.
  • God chose a feeding trough, not an ornate cradle.
  • God chose shepherds, not rabbis.
  • God chose to show his star to Gentiles, not Jewish royalty.
  • God chose poverty, not wealth.
  • God chose humility, not position.
  • God chose service, not recognition
  • God chose earth, not heaven.

This Advent, this season of endless options, is a perfect time to evaluate our decisions, to align our choices with the eternal and holy and divine.  Jesus told us that a good person with a heart full of good treasure makes good choices, lives a good life, recognizes holiness, and lives in the Kingdom of God.  He told us that choices reveal our souls, our decisions come from what dominates our hearts, and our lives mirror the Master that controls them.


A Prayer About Choices

O God, you know that today-or very soon-I must make a decision which is going to affect my whole life.

Help me to choose rightly-and to choose the right way.

Grant me your guidance, and with it grant me the humble obedience to accept it.

Help me not necessarily to choose what I want to do, but what you want me to do.

Grant that I may not be swayed solely by fear or by hope of gain, by selfish love of ease or comfort or by personal ambition, by the desire to escape or by longing for prestige.

Help me today in humble obedience to say to you, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” and then await your guidance, and accept your leading.

Hear this prayer of mine and send an answer so clear that I cannot mistake it.

This I ask for your love’s sake!

Amen

William Barclay

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Journey

Advent–a coming

Advent comes from the Latin meaning “a coming” or “arrival”. The season begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent begins our new church year as Christ comes to us again with the peace and joy needed to take us through another year.

During the season of Advent, the church celebrates two comings of Christ. First, we remember his incarnation, the coming of the Image result for advent candlesMessiah, the world’s Savior. Second, we look forward to the second and final coming as reigning Lord and Judge. We thank him for His first Advent, prepare for his Second Advent, and celebrate His Presence through the Holy Spirit. It is a unique time when the past, the present, and the future realities of God are combined.

Advent gives voice to the joy and hope that the Christ Child brought to the earth and the expectation of the total restoration of God’s Kingdom when He comes again. The church looks forward to the completion of our salvation and the end of the world’s suffering when Christ comes again. The season forces spirituality into an increasingly secular Christmas and enriches our relationship to God, to each other, and those who have come before us.

The earliest recorded observances of Advent are from the fourth century. Monks set aside approximately six weeks before Christ’s Mass as a time of penitence and devotion and fasting. Advent became a time when new Christians prepared for baptism. For more than a thousand years, the church has set aside a four week period to recover Christmas as a holy time of expectation and preparation.

Today in the midst of so much despair Advent offers HOPE – the hope of the church, the hope of the restoration of creation to completeness upon Christ’s return, the hope of the salvation Christ brings. In the midst of so much war and death, Advent offers PEACE – the peace beyond our understanding, the peace that is more than the absence of conflict, the peace of Christ. In the midst of so much prejudice and hate, Advent offers LOVE – the perfect love of God, a way to love one another, the yearning to love His church. In the midst of so much sadness and loneliness, Advent offers JOY – the joy of salvation, the joy of new life, the joy of heaven

2 Comments

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

Living in Hope

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of "...

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of “Where Love is, God is” by Leo Tolstoy 

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

The Christian lives in the Hope. We look to tomorrow with confidence, even absurd confidence. As the White Queen told Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” There is an exuberance in the Christian Life, an exaltation which passes logic. Why? Because we belong to Christ.

Listen to Leo Tolstoy:

· I believe in God, who is for me spirit, love, the principle of all things.

· I believe that God is in me, as I am in Him.

· I believe that the true welfare of man consists in fulfilling the will of God.

· I believe that from the fulfillment of the will of God there can follow nothing but that which is good for me and for all men.

· I believe that the will of God is that every man should love his fellow men, and should act toward others as he desires that they should act toward him.

· I believe that the reason of life is for each of us simply to grow in love.

· I believe that this growth in love will contribute more than any other force to establish the Kingdom of God on earth

Lord help each of us to be people of belief. In belief we can find meaning and purpose which inspire us to be people who can make a difference. Let us use our belief for the betterment all we touch. Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Faith, Hope

Advent Candles

The lighting of the four candles during winter may well go back to the ancient fire wheel, lighted in the darkest time of year to lure the sun back and ensure another spring.

advent_wreathEach candle has a specific meaning associated with different aspects of the Advent story. The first one almost always symbolizes expectant hope and is sometimes associated with prophecy. The others are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season, such as Peace, Love, Joy. The third is generally symbolic of Joy at the imminence of the coming of Christ. A fifth, white or gold, candle — called a “Christ Candle” — is often lit in the center on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day to signify Christ’s birth.

The color scheme and order of symbolic associations for the candles is largely arbitrary but several traditions have adopted them for the meaning they carry. For Catholics and Protestants alike, the color of the first, second and fourth candles are purple .but the third is rose-colored, to joyfully represent a Sunday with a less somber liturgy.

A common way of marking the days of Advent, particularly among children, is an Advent Calendar, traditionally made of wood but today usually made of cardboard. Typically, there is a tab that can be unsealed and raised for each day of Advent. Something is hidden behind each tab, such as a devotional reading, a religious messages, a seasonal picture, a piece of candy, or a small item such as a toy or charm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent

Thoughts on Advent

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen.

It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendencey to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw. There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…

In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…We may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is a celebration of this hope.

IMG_0004-0.JPG

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent

The Church Has What We Want

Back in the 1700’s song writer Charles Wesley, his brother, John Wesley, and Richard Pilmore, were holding an outdoor service, when a mob attacked them pelting them with stones. They were compelled to flee for their lives. They found shelter behind a hedge. When night came they found their way to a deserted spring-house, where they struck a light with a flint-stone, washed their faces in the clear, cold water, brushed the dirt from their clothes, and felt at least a moment’s security from the missiles which had pelted them. Charles Wesley had with him a piece of lead hammered out into a pencil. He pulled it from his pocket, and composed this hymn: “Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly; While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high!

Wesley was thankful to God for the shelter he had found in the spring-house. And he wrote of a place of shelter open to all in Christ. People still need a shelter from life’s storms. People still need a place of quiet refuge. People still need a place where they can connect with one another and with God. The church has what we want.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Living

My Treasure

I have a little rock, smaller than the palm of my hand and shaped like a perfect heart. On a summer day while taking a walk with my grandfather, he noticed it on the ground and gave it to me. That was almost fifty years ago, and after moving sixteen times and a lot of life, I still have that little rock. It is one of my greatest treasures.

Heart shaped rockJesus spoke of treasure. He had been telling his followers that the things we worry about – the material things like clothes and food, where we live and how much is in our “storehouses” – have already been provided by the Father. He encouraged them to look at the beauty of the lilies of the field and the helpless birds fed by their Creator. No greater provision could have been made for them.

Your treasure becomes what drives you. Your treasure determines how you spend your time and money and energy. Your treasure dominates your thoughts and consumes your passion. Your treasure defines your soul.
Jesus had just told the parable of the rich fool. This man had planned and hoarded and saved. He had become the rich owner of many storehouses and was proud of his hard work and accumulated abundance. One night – he died. He had a great wealth of the world’s temporary treasure all put away in a “safe” place, and a poverty of eternal treasure stored away in heaven.

I have been trying to remember last year’s Christmas gifts – those I received and those I gave. I remember being tired while shopping. I remember trying to find some bargains to save money. I remember making sure everyone got the same amount spent on them and trying to find just the right little treasure for each person. I remember opening presents after church on Christmas Eve. I cannot remember what those gifts were. How illusive the world’s treasure is!

Jesus has told us to make sure our treasure is in heaven, to make sure that what is important is eternal, to make sure that what is precious to us is of God. Christ has told us that what we cherish must be spiritual, must last past the few years of our lives, and must live on in the souls of those we have served. Our spiritual footprints should help others who journey behind us to find the way to Christ. Then our treasure is forever safely kept by God.

There is an old Creole proverb that says, “Tell me who you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Jesus said your heart, all of who you are determines what you treasure. Jesus warns us, we cannot serve two masters. We will choose to give our hearts to the world’s temporary treasure or God’s eternal treasure.
While you ponder and wait this Advent be honest about who you love and what you love. Take the time of this season to store up that eternal treasure, that real treasure so rare and precious it cannot be bought. It can be found in unexpected places and unexpected people as we serve in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “your heart and your treasure will be in the same place.”

Reflection – What does my heart truly treasure?
Monica Boudreaux

2 Comments

Filed under Devotional, Devotional reading

Juan’s Story

Juan was a tiny eight-year-old boy in a little Mexican town quite untouched by any other influences.  In its simpleness and poverty, time had stood still for 100 years.  Juan was one of the town’s orphans.  He had lived on the streets as long as he could remember and had no memory of how he came to be there.  The church with the convent next door was where he could be found more often than not.  The nuns saw to his basic needs as best they could.  They shared meager rations of food with him and left the door of the church unlocked on cold nights.

Thseason of Advent was Juan’s favorite time of year, because the church was so magnificent with its candles and crèche on the altar.  Inside those four walls, he felt embraced by light and warmth and security, but he also felt the mystery of God’s presence, which gave him a sense of the only love and peace he knew.

On Christmas Eve, one of the sisters invited

English: A Cuzco native participates in a live...

him to join the other children of the town in the traditional processional as they brought gifts to thChrist Child.  Juan’s joy at being included was soon replaced by sadness at the realization that he had nothing to bring as a traditional gift to present the baby.  All day he thought and prayed and not long before the service was to begin, he found a piece of paper and made his gift.

The processional began.  The infant Jesus was laid in the manger on the altar and the children presented their gifts of fruit, flowers, and sweets.  Last of all Juan walked up to the Nativity and laid in the manger the piece of paper he had found and fashioned into a paper doll.

The next day a kindly nun asked Juan about his gift.  This was his story:  “Sister there are many nights that I am cold and alone.  I had no gift to bring to Christ, so I made myself from a piece of paper and thought I would just lie next to the Baby to keep Him warm.”

The old nun with tears in her eyes said, “Juan, you truly gave to Christ the best of all gifts.  You gave him yourself, all that you are.  You gave Him your heart.”

Christmas is a time for gifts.  I do not believe that God who created all things is impressed with any grand gift we could give Him, but I know God is overjoyed when we offer Him our hearts.

Reflection – What must I do to truly give God my heart, all of who I am?

Monica Boudreaux

2 Comments

Filed under Christmas

Waiting

Icon of the Presentation

Isaiah 40: 28-31

God seems to bless those who wait. Waiting is a timeless discipline with eternal rewards. The scripture has many stories of those who waited and learned.

Noah waited for years as he built a boat on dry land and learned the lesson of deliverance. Jonah waited three days in the belly of the fish and learned the lesson of obedience. The prophets waited for centuries to see the Messiah and learned the lesson of faith. Joseph waited in prison and learned the lesson of forgiveness. Zacharias waited to speak and learned the lesson of humility. Anna and Simeon waited a lifetime to see the Savior and learned the lesson of perseverance.

Waiting during the season of Advent can serve as a discipline to teach us many spiritual truths. While waiting we can develop patience and true obedience. We can glimpse the hugeness of God’s love and grace and learn to recognize holiness when we encounter it. Waiting nurtures our compassion and opens our eyes to see others in need. It opens our hearts to service and fosters a freedom to give and encourage others. As we pause and wait for God, we have time to assess our priorities, discover happiness where we are and develop an appreciation for what we have.

Advent is a time to deal with our fears, our anger, our disappointments, and learn to both give and receive forgiveness. It is a time to internalize the cleansing joy of repentance and to know the peace of taking last place. While we wait, we can use the unknown time to realize that living with mystery builds faith, and suffering and sacrifice reveal God to us. While waiting we acquire a dependence on God, we gain hope, and we become sure that while we wait we are never alone.

During Advent, the Church waits to celebrate the first Advent of God into the world and waits for completeness and perfection at the Second Advent. In the waiting, we find our peace.

Reflection – What have you learned from God during those waiting times of your life?
Monica Boudreaux

2 Comments

Filed under Advent

Expectations

Rembrandt Simeon houdt Jesus vast

Rembrandt Simeon 

Luke 2: 22-35

The season of Advent gives us many opportunities to develop spiritual disciplines that become part of our faith journey all year long. As we look forward to the celebration of the birth of Christ and anticipate his Second Coming we find that being faithful in times when the road ahead is unclear builds our dependence on God’s grace.

We can learn from Simeon about keeping faith. The Scripture tells us that he was a just and devout man in Jerusalem who had been promised by God that before he died he would see the Christ. As Mary and Joseph were taking the infant Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Lord and make a sacrifice, the Spirit led Simeon to the Temple, also. When he saw the baby he immediately recognized Him as the Messiah, blessed Him, and made a prophecy about His mission. Then Simeon spoke to God and told him he was ready to depart this world in peace because his promise had been fulfilled, his longing had been satisfied, and his waiting had been rewarded. After a life time of expectation the reality of the Messiah had been confirmed to Simeon. His life’s goal of actually seeing the Christ had been accomplished.

Simon had spent those long years of faithful anticipation as an opportunity to know God more intimately and to practice his devotion more fully. Some lessons can only be learned in a time of spiritual darkness or uncertainty, so God gives us the blessing of this time to realize the rewards of faithfulness. He gives us a sure hope that binds us to the assurance of holy promises. He frees us from the limitations of the measure of earth’s time or human standards of success or achievement.

When Simeon did see the Lord, he knew Him at once because his years of waiting had given him a clear understanding of God’s revelation. When finally realized, our expectation brings the joy and affirmation that God’s promises are real. A transcendence of head knowledge engages the heart and soul – that eternal part of us that is made in the image of God. We find that God’s promises are a certainty not a possibility. We can be sure of the outcome, not doubtful of the end.

Advent is a time of spiritual expectation and longing, a time of confirmed promises, a time of unashamed hope of Christ’s Second Coming. Advent is the celebration of the realization of God’s promise to Simeon and to us – Christ has come and Christ will come again.

Reflection – What spiritual lessons would you like to learn this Advent?
Monica Boudreaux

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional