Another Advent

There’s not much been going on over here this week… we are all waiting for Covid-19 to be over and life to get back to some semblance of “normal”. And yet, all this waiting reminded me of advent and the whole idea of anticipation. So, this week you get a throwback to post published a while ago on Advent and the idea of waiting. Enjoy.

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, to think and ponder, and to 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 everyday!  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 culminate 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 reflection, 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.  

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?

Want to learn more about Advent?  Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas on DIY calendars, symbols, studies and more!

Prison Break

I’m afraid this post is going to be heavy. Want to know what I have been musing about this week? Prison. Yeah. Lockdown. Behind bars. Chained up and the key thrown away. I’m not sure why this strange idea has been mulling around in my brain — but there ya have it. Perhaps because our city is back in lockdown again. Perhaps because our dog is struggling to be crated. Perhaps vegan promotional videos keep popping up on my feeds about animal torture. Perhaps because I’ve been looking at Daniel passages. Whatever the reason, prison has been on my mind.

Lock down.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2015–2016 there were a total of 40,147 adult offenders incarcerated in Canadian federal and provincial prisons on an average day for an incarceration rate of 139 per 100,000 population.[1] That’s a large number of people behind bars. Plus the folks under age, on house arrest, and serving their “time” in some other capacity. I don’t know about you, but it makes me sad. And question. Why? How? Did they all have a fair trial? Where were their mothers? How did life take such a wrong turn?I’m really not politically minded enough to delve into the justice system and all the ins and outs of how incarceration works… or if it works. Yet, it strikes me how sin natured the world is … and how violent or corrupt we can be when left to our own devices.

We’ve watched a few documentaries recently on ways people are gathering evidence about the African slave trade and links to the slave ships that have sunk to the bottom of the ocean… leaving their precious cargo to their unfortunate fates. I wonder how God feels when He sees what we do to each other. He was there when Nero orchestrated feeding the early Christians to the lions for sport. He was there when the slave ships were packed so tight there was inches between humans. He was there with Noah when the world was so bad He felt the need to start over and wipe the slate clean. And He’s here now in the middle of a virus that is killing people around the world. Now, I am not naive enough to think that our world is more “civilized” than in Noah’s day. We haven’t changed all that much. Human trafficking, kidnap, torture. It’s still out there. It may be buried behind closed doors or under the veil of the dollar amounts or hidden in cyberspace, but it’s there. And I am sure it still makes Heaven sad.

Photo by Szabu00f3 Viktor on Pexels.com

Now we can debate about free will, justice, judges and inequities, but opinions run high and frankly, I’m not equipped with enough knowledge to engage in those debates. Nonetheless, I am disappointed when the North American church claims persecution when our “rights” are infringed upon. I’m pretty sure we have no idea what real persecution is. Yes, my beliefs will be challenged, the Bible says so. Yes, I should be prepared to give an account for my faith. Yes, I should research and be aware of government rules and systems that go against my fundamental thinking and belief system. Yes, I should be willing to take a stand. Yet I am called to know my place in society and under the authority of my leaders who were placed there under God’s will. The devil is much more subtle in his ways here, and it is certainly no cause for complacency. But, for the moment, I can share in peace and relative comfort, compared to other believers in other parts of the world.

It’s been a heavy journey through this post. I’m not usually one for such topics, but sometimes you have to be in the darkness to see the light. And I’m sure many a survivor will attest to the fact that God is faithful… and fully just. Holiness is not always a bed of roses. Holiness and being “set apart” often comes with consequences. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are in the midst of the darkness because of their faith, today. Others who are lost in a system of hurt and wrong doings. God is good. And one day (soon!) our faith shall be made sight. Be blessed, my friends!

The Air I Breathe

Let me share with you a giggle that occurred this week. As we attended our church service on Sunday morning, complete with face masks and all the Covid protocols, our worship leader lead us through This is the Air I Breathe. If you are not familiar with the worship song, it starts like this: This is the air I breathe… and goes on to refer to our need for the Holy Spirit to be the living part of our daily lives. Which is all good. The giggle comes as I was sitting with the words mulling in my brain, breathing, my breath filtered up through my mask and totally clouded my glasses! To the point where I could no longer see the screen where the words were being projected. It struck me in a practical way how real air is. This really was the air I was breathing… right there in my face! We take breathing for granted. It’s only when our oxygen is restricted or otherwise hindered that we become acutely aware of how much it is needed.

I am pretty sure many of you are feeling the restrictions of face masks and shields, and understand what I am getting at here. Perhaps you feel it is an inconvenience. You feel “restricted” and desperate for real air. Living and fresh and clear. On one hand we say we are are suffering at personal levels. But if we see the other side of the coin, the earth is benefitting as a whole. I was listening to a science podcast that was outlining one of the benefits to this worldwide pandemic was that air pollution seems to be on the decrease. Less travel and fewer cars makes for clearer roads. Apparently, neighbouring villages can now see the distant himalayan mountains for the first time in 30 years!

The air around us contains only about 21% oxygen. It’s only a small portion of what we personally need. Nitrogen and other gases make up the rest … not to mention the other particles like dust, mold, water and who knows what. Isn’t it amazing that our bodies can filter through all that stuff to get us what we need… without us even trying.

John 3:8(NASB) says:

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Our new lives in Christ cannot be seen or felt. Much like that of the work in our lives by the Holy Spirit. There is evidence of change… movement, a noticeable difference to the norm. We can’t pinpoint it, nor contain it… but it certainly is there! Like the air we breathe, we take it for granted, and are only reminded of His work when the evidence abounds. Or your mask causes you to get all fogged up. Both trials and joy-filled moments can present fresh air for our spiritual lives. Those moments force us to take notice of the simple things we often don’t “see”. So, my friends, if you are feeling desperate for the Spirit’s work to be evident, you might just have to take a good look around. It’s there. In the fogged up glass amongst the pollution and the stuff of this world. And we are desperate for it, every day.