Advent — Take 3

For this week, I thought I would do a little throwback to pre-Covid; to an earlier, simpler time before pandemics, mask-wearing and mass vaccinations. This post was originally posted in November 2018. Apparently, it was so good, I reposted it again in December of 2020. So, you’ll forgive me if I indulge you again in my great literary skills. As we enter this year’s advent season, the principles still stand. Maybe the thought of “preparation” and “waiting” is even more prevalent for us today. I’ve added some thought-provoking questions I found from a devotional of Will Graham on the topic of Mary. Y’all know I love Mary’s character. As always, I love to hear from you. How about telling me about your advent season? Be blessed this week, my friends!

image by Kelly Sikkema (unsplash)

I hate waiting.  I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school.  I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening.  I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).

So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen.  I don’t think many of us are good at waiting.  Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?!  The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween!  The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting!  They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting!  Order now!  Direct ship!  Buy online!  Available 24 hours, seven days a week!  

Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth.  Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, think and ponder, and hope for the future.  It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.  The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th.  Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats every day!  Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of Advent at our church.  It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice.   It is something I have come to cherish as an adult.  It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”.  It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait.  To anticipate.  To revel in the beauty of hope.

Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism:  it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity.  Our Christ is timeless.  He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger.  Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle.  Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent and culminates with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve.  This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.  

The first candle is purple.  It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby.  The second purple candle represents love and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle.  So much love happened in that lowly stable… I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face.   Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby?  Yup, love for sure.  The next candle is pink… and represents joy.   It is the shepherd’s candle.  It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born!  The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful.   This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflect, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us.  The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.  

The following is taken from Will Graham’s book, In the Presence of the King.

“And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.’” —Luke 1:46-49, NKJV

After her initial response {of fear}, Mary embraces her calling as the earthly mother of Jesus. In what is called “The Song of Mary” (Luke 1:46-55), we see a young woman who considers herself blessed, who rejoices!

Of course, the story doesn’t end there, and things don’t get any easier. Mary, at the end of her pregnancy, must endure the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, at the end of which she delivers the Christ child in a manger.

As you enter this Advent season, maybe this year hasn’t gone how you planned. Maybe you expected your life to be much different than it is. Perhaps you’re even mad at God and blame Him for your circumstances. In what ways has the past year been a struggle? How have you seen God work through your situation? Are you able to worship Jesus amid the challenges?

So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting.  Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming.  Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you.  May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together.   Take time to rejoice in waiting.  Oh… it shall be no easy task!  Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?

Reduce Reuse Refurbish and Repent

Don’t you love the way your computer seems to “know” what you’ve been researching? You search up one little thing and you are bombarded with ads for that thing for the next two weeks. Or you happen to “like” a video or post, and your inbox is over run with similar posts and opposing views from like people…even those folks you haven’t heard from in awhile. Isn’t technology wonderful? Algorythms and secret formulas that lock you in to keep you engaged… Hopefully, mittonmusings.com is on your radar and we get the repeat customers!

“Flip”

Blatant plugs aside, my feeds have been filled with “furniture flips” lately. Or thrift finds that people refurbish and renew. Then these folks go on to make a financially significant side hustle… making thousands of dollars in seemingly quick and easy revenue. I don’t know if “flipping” is as easy as they make it out to be on television … but there it is, tempting me to try. I love to thrift, but I don’t have that knack that some people seem to have. They easily see the beauty and potential in long forgotten objects. I want to, though. I love to see things made “anew”. Plus, I don’t like to see things simply tossed in the trash because they are no longer “fashionable”. Hence the hoard of craft supplies in my basement. I’ll use them someday. I will. And they will be beautiful….

I got thinking aobut that little prefix: “re”. Reuse, recycle, refurbish, renew… and repent. According to dictionary.com, that little prefix is defined as:

a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion:regenerate; refurbish; retype; retrace; revert.

Which makes sense when we are talking about redo or refurbish. We can even “recycle” lots of things over and over again. But does “repent” have the same prefix? Maybe not. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s decide for the moment that it does. Or maybe it revolves around the second half of the definition and one must move back before moving forward. That sounds a lot like how I repent. Or maybe how we should repent. We do something we shouldn’t and for a second, we need to step back and take ownership. They say that we have to “name it and claim it” in order to change our behaviours for good. In order to move on with clean slates.

It’s like that piece of furniture or house we want to renovate. Sometimes you have to strip off the old paint and pull off the wallpaper to really get to what’s underneath. Only then can you start afresh and move forward. Do you see it? I used to have to remind my kids about this. “Saying Sorry” means very little unless you actually change your behaviour. True, sometimes the “saying sorry” is the first step in stripping off the old, but true change only occurs when you keep going forward.

Then there is the “again and again” factor. Ever fall into the trap of “here you go, God – I’m done with this or that”, but then we take it back again and recoil into our same worries, sins and destructive behaviours. It’s tough. I graciously acknowledge that this is the hardest part of our faith journeys. The one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, day to day journey that leads us heavenward. But….

But. The reason I love “flipping” videos so much is the before and after. The “new” from the old is sometimes so different, the transformation is breath taking. And so it is with us, my friends. As we become new creatures in Christ, the old is (sometimes slowly) stripped away, revealing the true beauty that we were designed and destined to become. Here’s to one more step forward… and a little “re” now and then.

Seasons of Change

Perhaps there isn’t enough snow on the ground to be discussing changes in season. Perhaps I’ve jumped the gun in talking about something that hasn’t yet happened. Especially since the weather was so warm today. Still, for some reason, this is what’s been on my mind. And I’d like to think that what I share here is beyond me and serves its purpose on a bigger scale, so I am going with it. Perhaps it’s a mood swing and I’m just self-talking at this point… dragging you all down with me. Maybe it’s the surroundings. The walls are closing in. There is a tree just outside my front window that is totally void of leaves already. A blank canvas preparing for a dark winter. Last week we chatted about the harvest and the busyness of that time… and the joys that went along with reaping. And then comes winter. In Canada, we are blessed (or cursed?) to enjoy four, very distinct seasons. We understand (and are often teased about) our endless winters. Still, how can one appreciate the warmth of summer if you haven’t felt the bitter cold of winter?

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

I’m sure many of you have heard of this thing called SAD that people often suffer from during the onslaught of winter. SAD or “Seasonal Affective Disorder” causes about 14% of the general population to feel slightly depressed, isolated, fatigued during a seasonal change. The symptoms can be more serious, but most of us feel those “winter blues” when we are tucked up inside. I suspect with COVID the feelings of isolation and fatigue have been compounded in recent months. I’ve felt it too. Sadness (and I’m talking about the emotion here) is a God-given feeling. We don’t want to think of it that way — I mean, why would God want us to feel sad? And yet, Jesus himself wept for others, felt lonely and discouraged. It’s like experiencing the summer without the winter again. We must go through the seasons of life to truly appreciate “the other side”. Do you agree with me, here? Or maybe it’s just me and the mood I’ve been in this weekend. Maybe ya’ll are experiencing a joyous season right now and you are regretting diving into this post. Sorry if I’ve brought you down.

Are you ready to face it? Photo by kristen leigh on Unsplash

Okay, maybe I’m not sorry for leading you down this lonely path. The Bible talks a lot about seasons. Metaphors for not only in sharing the gospel but for spiritual growth. I’m sure many of you will quote Ecclesiastes back to me at this juncture in our discussion… for there is a “time for everything” and a “time for every season under the sun”. And you would be right. You know I love a good learning curve in this journey of life… and I truly think God gives us one every now and then to keep us moving forward. Growth only happens when seasons change. The “dead” of winter is the waiting period where everything slows down before the big growth spurt of spring. That tree outside my window seems bleak right now, but it’s working on the energy it will need to burst forth with blossoms come April. I’ve been around the moon enough to know this. You have to.

I heard a quote that made me think a bit. I don’t know who said it, but it’s pretty deep:

“Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He’s trying to change your heart.”

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Part of me doesn’t like it. I’m stubborn and don’t want to have my heart changed. I don’t like to think about what could be. Unless it’s good for me. Or easy for me. But. Seasons change. Winter will soon be here and there is not much I can do about it but drag out the heavy boots and coats and embrace the wind. Face the ice and snow head-on and dream of warmer days to come. Will you join me and strap on the winter tires as we trek down the road together? Until next week, my friends!