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.

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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.

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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

Ad Vent {a #poem}

Glossy pages proclaim paltry purchases
as life savers for my overrun soul.
I’m run over as they bellow,
beckoning, “buy me! buy me!”

I cannot partake of one more
iota of input–
how can quiet paper
carry so much loud weight
and end up selling me nothing?
This war of words promises joy and happiness
are but a wallet-full away. Enough greenbacks
and I’d have a temporary ticket to  here-on-earth
wealth yet penniless and empty still.

Bare bodies bear needless gifts,
overbearing bling shimmering their
iridescent faux shine.

There is no gleam, no honest light
shining save that announced by the
staggering Star far, far away
heralding His arrival, harking us home.
No neon needed to find the path to peace,
but simply waiting and watching
in the daily, dull, down-to-earth
where our cravings meet the cross
at 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).

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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