Tag Archives: Christmas

Work

Francis of Assisi

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

― St. Francis of Assisi

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O Come All Ye Faithful

significance_0014_O Come All Ye Faithful_intro

The narratives of the birth of Jesus recorded in the Scriptures are told through the adoration of the baby by ordinary individuals like the shepherds, the magi, and Simeon and Anna.  They all recognized the baby as the Messiah, the Savior of the World.  They worshiped Him acknowledging that He was the one present at creation, foretold by the prophets, the long awaited Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.  He was God come down from heaven where He was worshiped and adored by angels for eternity – to be a man.  He would walk the earth, give himself up to die, and provide the grace to save the whole world.  He would rise from the dead; ascend back to heaven from whence He came to be eternally adored by the angels and the saints of all time.

 

My grandfather and I sat on his front porch one mild December afternoon.  My Grandfather was a man of simple but great faith.  I asked him what his favorite Christmas carol was.  He rubbed his chin, as was his habit and said, “Oh, that’s easy.  I love the one that tells us to come and adore Him.”

 

My grandfather with his beautiful tenor voice and I sang “O, Come All Ye Faithful” together that afternoon.  It is one of my most treasured memories of him.

 

During Advent, the faithful Church is invited back to Bethlehem to revisit Christ’s first coming to the world.  We are invited to listen to the choir of angels that sang to the shepherds.  We are invited to travel with the Magi and follow the star.  We are invited into the stable to behold the King of Angels and simply adore Him.

 

Needless to say, my favorite Christmas carol is “O, Come All Ye Faithful.”  I love to think of my grandfather in heaven adoring Christ face to face and singing with the voices of all of heaven’s hosts in that beautiful hymn of praise.  And every year during the Christmas season, I still sing it with him as surely as I did that day on the porch.

 

Reflection – Spend some time in simple adoration of Christ.

 

Monica Boudreaux

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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

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Christmas Hope

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There is a wondrous poem found in many places on the Internet. Maybe you have seen it. It does a wondrous job of reminding us of that truth. It is titled, “Do You Still Have Hope?” I’m going to shorten it just a little bit, but hear its message:

If you can look at the sunset and smile, then you still have hope . . . If you can find beauty in the colors of a small flower . . . If you can find pleasure in the movement of a butterfly . . . If the smile of a child can still warm your heart, then you still have hope . . .

If you can see the good in other people . . . If the rain breaking on a roof top can still lull you to sleep, If the sight of a rainbow still makes you stop and stare in wonder . . . If the soft fur of a favored pet still feels pleasant under your fingertips, then you still have hope . . .

If you meet new people with a trace of excitement and optimism . . . If you give people the benefit of a doubt . . . If you still offer your hand in friendship to others that have touched your life, then you still have hope . . .

If receiving an unexpected card or letter still brings a pleasant surprise . . . If the suffering of others still fills you with pain and frustration . . . If you refuse to let a friendship die, or accept that it must end, then you still have hope . . .

If you look forward to a time or place of quiet and reflection . . .

If you still buy the ornaments, put up the Christmas tree or cook the turkey . . .

If you still watch love stories or want the endings to be happy, then you still have hope . . .

If you can look to the past and smile . . . If, when faced with the bad, when told everything is futile, you can still look up and end the conversation with the phrase . . . “yeah . . . BUT . . .” then you still have hope . . .

Hope is such a marvelous thing. It bends, it twists, it sometimes hides, but rarely does it break . . .  It sustains us when nothing else can . . . It gives us reason to continue and courage to move ahead, when we tell ourselves we’d rather give in . . . Hope puts a smile on our face when the heart cannot manage . . .  Hope puts our feet on the path when our eyes cannot see it . . .  Hope moves us to act when our souls are confused of the direction . . .

Hope is a wonderful thing, something to be cherished and nurtured, and something that will refresh us in return . . .  And it can be found in each of us, and it can bring light into the darkest of places . . . Never lose hope . . .

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Lost and Forgotten

The Lord is my Good Shepherd

12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Matthew 18:12-14

Jackie Turner posted a Craigslist ad asking to rent a Mom and Dad for Christmas. She was willing to pay $8 an hour just to have someone to talk to and be with for Christmas. Jackie is an honor student at William Jessup University who has come a long way from her broken and abusive background. The happy ending of this story is that Jackie got numerous responses and, with help of others, is planning a giant party for everyone who responded to her ad. What an encouraging turn of events!

The letters of the scripture passage are written in red because they are the words of Jesus. In a new movement called Red Letter Christianity, Christians seek to pay careful attention to the words of scripture that are spoken by Jesus and base their Christian walks on His direction. We would all do well to be become Red Letter Christians, especially at Christmas time.

Jesus instructs us to remember the lost sheep, but lost sheep like Jackie are often forgotten. Pray that God will give you wisdom to seek out the lost sheep of your neighborhood and community. Take the time to speak, to notice and to touch people around you with His love. It is truly the spirit of the season and the Christian life.

No one should be lost and forgotten at Christmas.

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Bones for Christmas

Morning Story and Dilbert

Sir, I don’t think I can do this. My family has a trip planned for Christmas.” Lily could hear her mom, Susan, urging the caller on the phone. “Are you sure you can’t wait just a couple more days? No? Fine, I will come and pick him up.”

Lily crept into the kitchen and found her mother with her head in her hands.

“What’s wrong, mom?” Lily asked.

“Sweetie, I need to go and save a stray dog from a farm. The farmer who found him is ready to take him to the pound. He says he can’t wait until after Christmas.”

“Oh no, we can’t let that happen. When are we going?” Lily loved helping her mom rescue animals.

“Well, it will mean canceling our trip to Grandma’s house-so are you sure about this?”

“You bet!” And with that Lily rushed up to her mom and squeezed her tight…

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Advent Virus

English: Maggie tired from watching her doggie...

You know I have the virys when I use this picture.

I picked this up through my fax machine(I know this confesses my age) a few years ago. Then is was given as anonymous. If you know who really wrote it, let me know. I took the liberty of adding a few symptoms of my own. Please feel free to share it.

Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
  • A sudden rush of generosity that is very costly.
  • A strong desire to be foolishly optimistic.

I get back to the Mystics and Monastics this week.

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Thomas Merton on Advent

English: An acolyte lighting Advent candles on...

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.

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The Tradition of the Advent Wreath

Advent wreath with one rose candle and three p...

Tradition, one of the four pillars of the Wesleyan quadrilateral along with scripture, reason and personal experience is perhaps never more important and meaningful than during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Tradition keeps us centered and balanced. It connects us to the past, to the Saints that have walked the journey before us and to the universal Church. Tradition celebrates John Wesley’s catholic spirit and gives meaning to the cherished elements of our worship services.

Treasured tradition of the Church and of the United Methodists is the Advent Wreath. It is rich with symbolism, keeps us focused on the centrality of Christ’s birth and is a ceremonial way to measure the time set aside for this special season filled with the spirit of expectation, anticipation, and longing. It helps us prepare our hearts and spirits to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to anticipate his second coming.

The wreath itself is circular to represent the eternal nature of God, which has no beginning or end. It is made of evergreens which represent the eternal life offered through Christ to the world. Four candles placed in the circle of the wreath are lit each Sunday in Advent. As the new candle is lit and the previously lit candles glow also, the accumulation of light shows us the growing expectation and joy in anticipation of the Christ Child’s birth and the lighting of the center Christ candle on Christmas Eve.

Three candles are traditionally purple, the color of royalty and recognition of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. One candle is pink, a mixture of purple and the purity of white as a symbol of joy. The Christ candle in the center of the wreath is the largest and is white, standing for the sinlessness of the Savior, the Light of the World.

VOn the first Sunday of Advent the purple candle representing the patriarchs is lit to focus our attention on the spirit of expectation of Christ’s coming. Another purple candle, often called the prophet’s candle is lit on the second Sunday in Advent to center our hearts on the hope in which the Jews waited for the Messiah and the hope of the Church as we wait for His second advent. On the third Sunday in Advent, the pink candle is lit and joins the first two candles as the church experiences the joy of the Messiah’s birth as proclaimed by the shepherds. On the last Sunday the Mary candle, the fourth candle, is lit to concentrate our devotion toward the purity of Christ’s birth and life, and the purity of the Church.

The center candle, the Christ candle, is lit with all the others on Christmas Eve to signify that the light of the world is come to be with us.

All the traditions of the Church and especially the tradition of the Advent wreath give us a way to wait, to remember, to hope, and to rejoice in the birth of the Savior.

Reflection – Focus on the meaning of Advent Christmas traditions and worship.

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Advent-A Coming

advent 2007

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 Messiah, 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.

Reflection – Reflect on ways that the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Advent season have been yours and how you can share with others.

Monica Boudreaux

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