Encouragement from my favorite time of year

Advent – right now – is my absolute favorite time of year! If you’re curious about Advent, you can read more about its meaning and how we celebrate here. I also love the list of Advent info and resources compiled at Sacred Ordinary Days. For those who celebrate, I’d love to hear what your family does in the comments! Like my friend Charity, who created an Advent activities calendar for her family (she includes a free download!).

Encouragement from my favorite time of year | Colibri Homestead

As a family, we are reading through Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift for the 25 days leading up to Christmas. The message of hope, the message of Advent, contained in its pages is just what our hearts are needing. These simple and deep words from yesterday’s reading, the reading for December 3, were so beautiful I wanted to share an excerpt with you.

Talking about Adam and Eve in the garden:

“An enemy of God, Satan is like a wily snake that slithers in at the corner of everything and entangles around you. If he can trip you with a lie so you fall away from closeness with God, he can snatch your happiness, steal God’s glory, swipe away your love for God, and leave you robbed.

So that snake sneaked up to Eve, wrapped his own lie tight around her, and hissed his poison right into her heart: ‘God doesn’t really love you. God doesn’t really give you good-enough things. God doesn’t really give the gift of love all the time.

Eve fell for it.”

How am I falling for it? How are you? Are you feeling what Ann writes is the “painful loneliness we call the Fall”? “When you trip, you can fall off the path and end up lost in the long grass.” Don’t we all feel a bit lost at times? Or sometimes a lot lost?

And here’s the promise of Advent, the promise of the Bible, the promise for you & for me right here and right now:

“When we’ve fallen, and when we’re lost, God comes with one question. Not the question ‘Why did you do that?’ Not the question ‘What did you do wrong?’ The very first God-question of the Old Testament, of the whole Bible, is a love question howling out of God’s heart: ‘Where are you?’

God’s love never stops looking for you, trying to find you and gently draw you back close to him.

…Your God looks for you when you’re lost. Your God calls out for you when you’re ashamed and broken and hurting. God doesn’t run down the rebel. God doesn’t strike down the sinner. God doesn’t flog the failure.

Whenever you fall, whenever you fall short, whenever you sin, your God whispers to you with a love that wraps around you like a gentle arm: ‘Wherever you are, I will always come find you. Whatever you’ve done, I will always keep looking until My eyes see you, till My hands of healing reach you, till I can hold you close again to My heart.’

… And what was the very first question of the New Testament of the Bible? The very first question of the New Testament of the Bible was that of wise men asking everyone after Jesus’ birth: ‘Where is He?’

Really wise men and women never stop looking for God. And because your really wise God is love, He never stops looking for you.”

Can you feel Him looking for you? The Advent season invites us to look for Him. And it’s not to late to join in!

May God infuse fresh hope in your life and in your heart and in our world this Advent season! May we feel His love meeting us in all of the places we fall and fall short. May we remember, above all:

“No matter what the day holds, no matter how the season of your life unfolds, God holds you and enfolds you.”

Mmmm. Just sit with that for a bit and let God’s love wash over  you. You are loved!

Happy Advent!

(And thank you to Ann for your words!)

4th Sunday of Advent: PEACE

We celebrate each Sunday of Advent by lighting a candle, reading and reflecting on some of the church calendar readings for the day, and ending with the contemporary collect, or brief prayer, from The Book of Common Prayer.

Here’s what we’ll be reading around the dinner table tonight, as we light our fourth candle.

4th Sunday of Advent: PEACE I Colibri Homestead

The 4th Sunday of Advent is about PEACE.

Today’s readings “remind us that the mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the openness to do God’s will, and the willingness to respond to God’s call.  (They) suggest that we should not celebrate Christmas as just an occasion for nice feelings.  Instead, commemorating Jesus’ birth should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect obedience to His will, and thus to become true disciples.” (source)

Hebrews 10:5-10 reads,

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

In this reading from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews,” Jesus is said to have quoted Psalm 40 which explains his mission: “to do his Father’s will” in the world.  Paul explains that the meaning of the Incarnation is summarized in the words, “Behold, I come to do your will.”  More than anything else, it’s Jesus’ determination to discover God’s will and carry it out that actually saves us.  For Jesus, true faith is doing God’s will, carrying out God’s commands in our everyday lives.  Unfortunately, however, it is often not God’s will that we seek.  Instead, we make idols of our jobs, our spouses, our children, our wealth and our bodies.” (source) This season is a reminder for us that as we wait, God wants us to be about the doing of His will; This too should be our life’s mission. As this Advent season comes to a close, let’s be mindful and faithful to align our lives more fully with the will of our Prince of Peace.

Luke 1:39-45 reads,

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary listened to God’s word, believed in the Lord, and responded in faith. So should our response be when we hear His words for us and our lives. “What is expected of us during this Christmas week is the readiness to say “Yes!” to the Father, “Yes!” to Jesus, “Yes!” to all that we will experience in the coming year and “Yes!” to every call that God makes and will make of us.” (source) Mary listened and followed, Christ listened and followed, and Christ asks us to similarly listen and follow as we wait for His return.

Prayer:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Advent: JOY

We celebrate each Sunday of Advent by lighting a candle, reading and reflecting on some of the church calendar readings for the day, and ending with the contemporary collect, or brief prayer, from The Book of Common Prayer.

Here’s what we’ll be reading around the dinner table tonight, as we light our third candle.

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The 3rd Sunday of Advent is about JOY. “It is a reminder that the Advent season is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.” (source)

Philippians 4:4-7 reads,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We are reminded during this Advent season of waiting that we are to be a people characterized by joy (not worry!), which leads to kindliness. “(Paul) reminds the Philippians and us that the Lord Jesus is the motive and guarantee of our joy, which is to be shared with everyone in the form of kindness… Paul reminds us, too, that God’s presence in our world not only gives us a reason to rejoice, it also gives us a reason to relate kindly to those around us.” (source)

Luke 3:10-18 reads,

What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

Don’t we all wonder what we should do and be about in this season of waiting?  People did then as the waited for the coming of the Messiah, and we have similar questions as we await Christ’s return.

“John’s central message (was) repentance leading to renewal of life. John preached fervently, urging his listeners to make preparations for the coming of the Messiah.  Even though John’s preaching was characterized by scathing criticism, his call for reform is still described by Luke as “the good news,” because the arrival of the Messiah will initiate a new reign of forgiveness, healing and salvation.  The repentance which John preached called for a change in behavior and not just regret for the past… It requires “good fruits as evidence of our repentance” (see Luke 3:8). That’s why John told the crowds, soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, honesty and social justice.  John demanded that men should share their goods with one another, emphasizing the principle of social justice that God will never absolve the man who is content to have too much while others have too little.  John also insisted that a man should not leave his job to work out his own salvation.  Instead, he should do his job as it should be done.  He called people to fidelity in the very circumstances of their lives.  Let the tax-collector be a good tax-collector and let the soldier be a good soldier.  In other words, it was a man’s duty to serve God where God had set him.  “Bloom where you are planted,” St. Francis De Sales used to say.  We are expected to become transformational agents where we are.” (source)

So, “What should we do in preparation for Christmas?  This is the same question the Jews asked John.  His answer, to them and to us, is the same:   repent and reform your lives, and prayerfully wait for the Messiah.” (source)

Prayer:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.