Tag Archives: Advent

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers

It seems very fitting that Christmas Eve should be on a Sunday, when we gather for worship, wherever that is. A morning to set our hearts right in a posture of worship and thankfulness is a good way to ease into the gift giving and receiving activities before us, whether we gather tonight or tomorrow with family and friends.

As I prepared my head and my heart this morning for church I found Handel’s Messiah on Youtube and through the miracle of livestreaming from my tablet, was able to listen on my Bluetooth speaker while I put on makeup in the bathroom.

Yay, technology.

There are 4 sections in the Messiah oratorio based on scores and scores of Biblical passages. The tenor was heading into a familiar part, “And the glory of, the glory of the Lord, shall be he he he he he he reveal-ed.” He carried out the trills and notes as the music called for and I just shook my head as I listened.

What men and women can do with their voices.

The Messiah’s most recognizable musical passage is, of course, the Hallelujah Chorus. There’s a Messiah Sing-along near our house every year at Christmas time and I’m bound and determined to participate one of these years, just to join in the fun of that chorus. The thought of standing next to other vocalists of all abilities and stripes while we attempt to do justice to the music has always appealed to me.

Of course, we can never do justice to that great music here on Earth, altho’ we may try. It is said Handel saw Heaven itself opened up while he was composing each part. I’d like to ask him about that some day….

My favorite actually-singable Christmas songs change from year to year; sometimes it’s James Taylor’s Christmas or Jewel or Pentatonix or the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree jazz quartet. Then I listen to Josh Groban’s ‘Noel’ or Andrea Boccelli singing with the Muppets and think, “That’s my favorite.” But I forget the classic Peter, Paul and Mary PBS Special recording and there I am humming along with a smile on my face.

They’re all beautiful and inspiring pieces of music, but nowhere near the Messiah. And while I aspire to be able to sing along with Handel (maybe in Heaven?) I am grateful for the more down-to-earth folks that allow me to join them via the magic of recorded sound.

I hope your hearts and homes are full of song and sound this special time of year, dear friends. May I say I appreciate you reading along this year and appreciate your kind words always in this place? I appreciate you more than you know.

Merry Christmas!~

20161204_120557.jpg

love,

Jody

 

Christmas: Mystery, Miracle or Magic?

“Did not a great grey servant

Of all my sires and me,

Build this pavilion of the pines,

And herd the fowls and fill the vines,

And labour and pass and leave no signs

Save mercy and mystery?”

                                                –G.K. Chesterton, from the Ballad of the White Horse, Book IV

The holiday weeks are often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year; God knows we also W O R K to make it the most wonderful time of the year.  Unspoken pressures and unrealistic expectations—whether from others outside or inside ourselves—can back us into a corner and leave us, if not defeated, a little discouraged.

We want magic to last forever, especially during the Christmas season.

Whether you’re a grandparent, an auntie or uncle or mom and dad, everyone does their best to manage the tricky equation. There’s the balance of dealing with the pressure to provide nonstop happiness with that elusive, endless magic we’re sure is just around the corner. All the while we try to hold to the heart of Christmas—remembering Jesus.  Most often though, all that fun, excitement and magic-making leaves us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed while the joy and peace we crave are lost.

What we really want at Christmas is a way to remember what matters, and maybe a new attitude about it all. (Lord knows, changing my head AND my heart is no small miracle.)  So, how do we manage the magic? If it doesn’t last through Christmas, how do we hold on to the wonder?

Two ways: We enter into God’s mystery by mining His word and leaning into the miracles in our own hearts.

In this season of Advent, we’re encouraged to light our wintry way with God’s Word.

Reading on the first Sunday of Advent, there’s the explosive promise of Hope in Isaiah 64 to wait for our coming Savior,
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,  so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.”

The Advent readings for the month continue.

Second Sunday’s Prepare rings out in Isaiah 40, the Third Sunday’s Rejoice pours forth in Luke 1 as we read of Mary singing and rejoicing in Christ’s birth. And on the fourth Sunday we light the final candle to celebrate Love, God’s gift to us in the form of Jesus.

These passages contain much to meditate on; guided by the Scripture we are provided a place to pause over the mystery of God made flesh.

The reality of God’s word is as long-lasting as eternity. There is nothing temporary about it.

Another sure thing that will never fade? The personal miracles God has done in our lives. Whether it’s a change in our thinking or our attitudes, a new way of relating, a bigger heart for giving (and forgiving), those are all Godmade gifts that last when we receive His work in our hearts.

Christmastime contains the opportunity for mystery, miracles and magic.

But magic like the flicker of a firefly’s light is momentary. I want memories of a forever light that has not only come into the world, but will never fade away.

The mystery and miracle of Christmas.

*****

This post is taken from a message I gave at Lake Tapps Christian Center in Bonney Lake, WA, sharing about my book “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas”

P_20181114_114840-3663114983-1542741044454.jpg

 

You can order signed copies of LTSW for $10 by clicking HERE with your request and I’ll be in touch.


 

Living the Season Well Goes Viral {sorta}

Dear friends,

I have been so grateful for the response to my book Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas.** It’s a little bit amazing to me and exciting as well. All the readers that are finding the message about slowing down and simplifying Christmas have a way to more peace and joy this year and that makes me happy.

Getting free of the “shoulds” always helps.

A slow, small start to Christmas begins with Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which was December 3rd. It’s not too late to mark the days by slowing down your Sundays and your celebrations.

While you’re preparing your hearts, your heads and your homes here are the places I’ve had a chance to talk about Living the Season Well–and every one of them goes live the same day–December 5th.  When it snows, it pours, eh?

Little bits of joy in different places–read and listen at your leisure.

Merry Christmastide, friends.

**$4.99 for the Kindle this week on Amazon. Yay!

aliis-sinisalu-70580.jpg

God With Us, Always

I realize it’s still a few days before Halloween, but unless you’ve been under a rock (or in North Dakota somewhere) you know the Christmas parade has started in stores all across the land. (My apologies to anyone in either of the Dakotas).

Yes, the holidays are fast on the heels of All Hallow’s Eve and we’ll be reminded once again – I hope! – that God is with us. I guess we can blame capitalism and commercialism, but Christmas seems to come sooner every year, doesn’t it?

No doubt due to Seattle’s drizzly weather (and the Costco displays), I started humming this Christmas song* the other day and realized that “Emmanuel, God With Us” are words I can sing year ‘round.

Because God is always with us. And has been with us from the beginning.

– – – – –

Our Home Group has been walking slowly through the book of Joshua, a portion of God’s Word I love greatly for the message of salvation in its pages. God with us, right there in the Old Testament, in the unlikely guise of Rahab, the harlot. Fast forward, or read forward, and the New Testament records Rahab’s unlikely inclusion in the lineage of Christ, revealing the scarlet thread that ran, not only from her window, but all through history to Christ’s birth and ultimately his death.

I love how God’s story is throughout the pages of the Bible, salvation from beginning to end, God with us for all time.

– – – – –

My new book Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas talks about the story of Christmas, not as a single day, but a season. I write about the days including Advent (on December 3rd this year) all the way to Epiphany on January 6th—the observance of the “showing forth” or manifestation of God to the world—and how we can spread out the joy of Christmas over weeks, not days.

I think the real message of Christmas is not that Jesus came, but what we’re going to do with what we know about His coming.

He was manifested to the world—God with us—so we can show others who He is. All year long, wherever we go.

Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas can show you how. You can purchase it on Amazon or from Barnes and Noble. Thank you~

front book cover

*We Have a Saviour, Hillsong United Christmas

A Circle of Seasons–Book Review

Halloween has come and gone, the elections are settled. Now it’s begun–the Holiday Season is officially upon us.

How do I know?  Because Advent officially starts on November 25th this year.

I had never before paid attention to the idea of Advent until I met Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

Kimberlee is a lovely Christian author and speaker who also happens to live in Seattle–a rare and blessed thing. We connected online and set a time to meet a few weeks back.  When we got together (in between playing on the floor with her children and drinking tea) she shared her book with me– The Circle of Season Meeting God in the Church Year.
The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year

I’ve been chewing on little morsels of its pages ever since.

Preparing for or even thinking about Advent is an all-new process for me.  You see, I don’t do Advent. Although the liturgies of the church calendar have not been part of my worship tradition, I’ve participated in the observances in other churches and have been very moved by them. This new way of marking time makes so much sense, for “all time is sacred because God is present in it.” (from the Introduction, p.13).

             “ As with much of Christianity,
the church year can be radically countercultural,
a much-needed light showing a better way to live. 
In a culture that is too often hurried and distracted,
the church year helps us pay attention
because it draws our focus continually back to Christ.” (p. 16)

In light of focusing continually on Christ I am finishing Chapter One–Advent, A Season of Waiting. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas–this year it is November 25th. (To remind us once more).

Advent is a slow build of anticipation to the celebration of Christ’s birth.  As the outside seasons slowly turn rather than ‘click’ from Summer to Fall with the snap of a finger, so this time of pondering helps us prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.

I’m learning the days are not just numbers to check off on a calendar.  They can be filled with rich meaning and purpose. Each Sunday focuses on a word–Wait, Prepare, Rejoice and Love. These are observed by lighting a candle, either pink (joy), purple (the color of repentance) or blue (hope).

P_20181224_120454

The Sunday words of Advent:

  • In Hebrew, the word for ‘WAIT’ is also the word for hope. We are hoping while we wait.
  • To ‘PREPARE’ is to be mindful of–pay attention to, be on guard
  • When we ‘REJOICE’ we can be ‘joyfully aware of the presence of God in our lives’
  • When we remember the fourth Sunday, ‘LOVE’, we are ‘gathered around a promise’ (Henri Nouwen)

From the first chapter alone I can tell I want to read more as Kimberlee has already provided morsel after morsel of rich food for thought. Whether you are new to the church year traditions as I am, or have practiced them forever, you’ll perhaps find a thought shared in a new way or an idea you’d never considered.

Kimberlee also provides some practical ideas at the end of each chapter, giving suggestions of things you might do in your own home that involve young children. How to incorporate the Advent candle lighting into your family’s time is shared in a precious way. These are precious reminders of how to teach the next generation, too, these treasures of the season, in one circle after another.

One thought from Kimberlee,

“The coming of Christ into our midst requires that we rethink our desires and that we learn to hold them lightly, allowing the desire of God to supplant –or increase–our own desires.” (p. 21). 

Increasing my desire for God is one I hold dearly, the particular reason why this #cluelessEvangelical is looking forward to learning more about the Church Year liturgies and traditions. Circle of Seasons is the perfect primer for that~I hope you’ll find it as well.

*header image by Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash