It is hard to believe that Advent is upon us. The name Advent is derived from the Latin term Adventus meaning “coming”. The season of Advent in the church is intended to help the believer become filled with expectancy as we wait for the coming of Christ. As a believer we are called to use this time to rekindle our faith in the promises that arrive at Christmas and to prepare for the coming of Christ.
I’m sure that you’re expecting the usual, “turn from the secular Christmas,” Advent reflection. I have challenged myself this year to try and have a more peaceable understanding of modern Christmas traditions and even try to have a better relationship with Santa. This isn’t because I am willing to surrender to the cultural pressures, but instead I thought this year I would see if I could bring more meaning to our traditions. Continue reading →
This past week has been a hard one for our country and the world. While violence is ever present in our lives and we see daily reminders of how shockingly horrible we can treat each other, the events of Friday in Newtown shone a spotlight on just how deep our sin has cut us. In the aftermath of these tragic killings and many like it, there is always an over abundance of talking heads who seek to use the death of others to advance their positions. “Gun control” advocates come on and talk about how new laws would may have prevented this event. “Gun rights” advocates are on the other side of the split screen talking about how if the teachers had guns they could have stopped the gunman.
I agree that in the midst of this tragedy there is a calling to have deep conversations about guns, violence and the mental health system. Some of my colleagues have chosen this time as that time. Roy Howard, Pastor of St. Marks Presbyterian in North Bethesda, Maryland for one, made an impassioned response and a call to action against violence and calling for more Gun Control. Please email me and I can pass along his Facebook post of what he said to his congregation. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, has chosen to use this situation to draw attention to his beliefs about abortion and homosexuality. For many Pastors, their judgment led them to use this event as a springboard for what they hope will be meaningful discussions about deep issues.
I had more than one parishioner say to me prior to Sunday’s service, “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes today.” Continue reading →
Practice what you preach is one of those sayings that is easy to throw around, unless you’re a preacher. As one who consistently is called to stand before the assembled congregation and proclaim God’s Word, it can be a daunting task. Not only does it mean that I have to make sure that I am being true to the sacred Biblical text, but I also must ensure that I am a creditable witness to the text. This isn’t always easy. The news has many accounts of preachers who subscribe to “the do as I say not as I do” school of thought.
I remember when I was a Chaplain Candidate with the Navy and I was taught this very important lesson. Each summer I would spend time with sailors onboard a ship or other installation. The first summer I was stationed aboard the USS Anzio. The Anzio is a guided missile cruiser. For those of you not versed in Naval architecture, a cruiser is not a large ship. At only 567 feet long and 55 feet wide, this means that the crew live in close quarters. A crew of 367 people share every space and find themselves in almost constant contact with others. This context helped to heighten my awareness of just how important it is to be of a consistent character and to ensure that I am practicing as well as preaching. You can’t be a fake with people when you share a bathroom. Continue reading →
The Following The Star Devotional is a daily online devotional with readings and soft music to help each day of Advent hold a special spiritaul meaning. Click the logo to be take to the page. (The Following The Star devotional doesn’t start until December 2nd, the first day of Advent.)
Once again our liturgical year has come full circle as we enter another Advent. It almost seems unreal that it was a year ago that we were preparing for the coming of the New Born King with our readings, studies and songs. Yet here we are, ready to embark once again on a journey to the manger. The prophet Isaiah has some very profound words to describe what we should be doing during Advent.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Continue reading →
Today, invite you to reflect on the reality of what we are anticipating this week as our Advent journey winds it’s way to the manger.
Here is how Paul speaks to the Romans about reality of expectation and the pain that gives way to joy:
“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”
Today as I was allowing frustration over simple and perhaps even trivial things get to me it hit me. I need to reorient my vision. It is so easy to become concerned with the minutia of life. Perhaps this is a good sign. If I can look at the small stuff perhaps that means there are not MAJOR issues that need to be dealt with. On the other hand, sometimes it is easy to turn to the little things and ignore the larger issues. Thankfully, I don’t think I have buried my head in the sand. I’m amazed at how this year Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas are truly coming together early and I have a wonderful staff and a congregation that is taking leadership to thank for that.
Then I must just need to commend God’s view of life and the world to myself and I hope you well. Lo and behold, I turned to the Pocket Prayer Book that I first introduced you to on Monday. Here is a prayer I found:
A Prayer for Spiritual Sight
Spirit of Jesus, make thyself real to us today. W e cannot see thee with these eyes of flesh, nor hear Thee with these ears. But there are other eyes and other ears. Even as Thou didst come again to Thy waiting disciples at Pentecost, so come to us. Our hearts need Thee. Our minds need Thee. Every part of our being needs Thee, O Spirit Divine, live with us today. Amen.
Each year as we begin our holiday decorating something strange happens at our house. Low and behold, all of the baby Jesuses disappear. Like some sort of creepy psychopath I sequester the little babies in an undisclosed location. Believe it or not this tradition is not spawned from my inner “Dexter” but is instead born out of a theological conviction.
I use the absence of the Baby Jesus from the Nativity scene as a reminder of the fact that until Christmas day we are in a time of Advent. It can be difficult in our society to truly have a heart of waiting and expectancy. While we are in Advent our mindset should be in a place of desiring Jesus to come into the world. Continue reading →
Christmas affords us with one of the most opportune times for Evangelism. Advent and Christmas, even in a church that is in maintenance or decline, is often the most dynamic time in the church’s life. Think for a moment about all that goes into the Advent and Christmas season. It has so much to offer to members of a congregation and the larger community.
Each year choirs throughout the world prepare special music for the season. Our Children’s, Bell and Sanctuary choirs all work very hard to prepare rousing musical offerings. Not only do they work hard on these offerings, but normally they are pieces of music that even a non-believer has had some experience with. This provides a welcome opening for guests to feel more comfortable. Our cantata will be held on December 19th during our 11:00 a.m. service. It promises to be a great time of music and the Word which incorporates many familiar tunes. We also hold special events during Advent and Christmas time. Our congregation will be holding a Movie Night and Carol Sing-A-Long, aimed at connecting with our Preschool families ,as well as the other families that live in the surrounding area.