Advent I – Waiting in Hope

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In church Sunday morning the children were asked what they saw that was different in the sanctuary. One youngster immediately pointed to a banner on the chancel wall: “Hope”. Another acknowledged the Advent wreath with its candles. Hope was our focus on the first Sunday of Advent. As the first of the candles was lit, we read the liturgy…

We wait.
We wait in hope.
We wait for God to be revealed.
We wait for God to tear open the heavens and come down.

 

“We wait in hope for God to be revealed … for God to come down.”

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HOPE in a changing world

This has been the first week of Advent 2015. We begin again to HOPE.

The prophet Isaiah said Jesus would be the hope of the nations, but in our changing world today we sometimes wonder at the reliability of that promise.

The late Christian writer Henri Nouwen emphasized that hope is faith in something beyond our control. While the world around us trembles with insecurity, we crave the kind of assurance that hope can bring. Advent is a time of inner expectation.

I went into this week thinking a lot about the message given last Sunday by the minister of our church, the Rev. Dr. Gerard Booy. Wanting to hear it again, I turned to our church website where there is a page with links to his sermons. It’s a message so very worth sharing. I could provide a direct link for you, but to make it easy I’m embedding the video right here.🙂

His message was based on Jeremiah 33:1-26. If you’d like to read that passage first, you’ll find it here, but you can also follow it at the beginning of the video.

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Hope is deeper than optimism. As we make our way through this Advent season let’s move forward with the confident expectation that HOPE will lead us forward into the PEACE, JOY and LOVE that is coming.

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Evening Reflection

The evening slips silently into nightfall. Away from the brash city lights, we are cloaked in total darkness until the moon peeks over the hill and scatters ripples of light across the water.

Our summer sanctuary, this — a place of solitude, a place for reflection.

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EVENING

The sun leaves auburn shadows 
There’s purple clouds in sight 
The evening fades down the skyline 
We lose the golden light. 

Purple paints down the horizon
The sun, not putting up a fight
The evening’s gone and this day is done
And now it’s time for night.

[Daniel Thorne]

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“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.”

[Psalm 65:8, NIV]

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What Kind of a Welcome?

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Many years ago we repainted our front door. Finding the right colour was challenging. I was on a ‘green kick’, as anyone who has been inside the house can attest, but green with the bluish-gray trim didn’t seem quite right. Plus, green is considered a cool colour, and I wanted something warm and welcoming. I didn’t think red would be an option with the salmon tinge of the bricks. I even considered black, which would have looked fine but definitely wouldn’t have been welcoming. The door remained its original sickly off-white during the months of my indecision.

In desperation I finally decided “it’s just paint”, and tried a red. I was surprised at how much I liked it, and I have never been tempted to change it to any other colour. Last June, while attending a garden tour at writer-friend, Katherine Wagner’s home, I discovered she also has a red door and her home is clad in brick almost identical to ours. Her home seems very welcoming to me, and seeing that front door validated my own colour choice.

How we welcome people into our homes says a lot about us and about the hospitality that we plan to extend to visitors. People don’t generally approach a home where they expect to encounter hostility. Of course, painting a front door red isn’t going to change what a visitor will find inside. That’s up to us.

Sunday will be the first day of Winter — the shortest, darkest day of the year — and the beginning of Christmas week. We come face to face with Advent IV, where the focus is on Love. I’ve been thinking about how the world is waiting. We say we’re waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ, but the nature of the world into which God sent His Son isn’t very loving or welcoming.

With 185 villagers kidnapped and 35 killed in northeastern Nigeria, 132 schoolchildren killed by Taliban insurgents in Pakistan, an economic crisis happening in Russia, eight children dead in Australia, the Sony cyber-hacking giving rise to discussions of cyber-war with North Korea — no, I’d say it isn’t a very loving world at all.

We are devastated by the terror, cruelty, pain and poverty of the world, and frustrated because our cries of protest aren’t heard by the perpetrators of hatred. While a few people are able to physically or financially make a significant difference to victims, others are consumed by helplessness.

Then I hear of the $3800 raised by kind-hearted people to pay for prosthetic legs for a dog who lost his back legs when they were frozen to the ground; and others who came forward to help replace the belongings of a family whose house was demolished in a mud slide.

Money is donated to relief agencies, food is given to food banks, people volunteer to cook and feed the hungry — seemingly small and insignificant gestures from a global perspective, but life-changing to individuals in need.

We may not be able to change the entire world, but we can make a difference. As we prepare to welcome the Christ back into our hearts and homes this week, I hope He will approve of our love and how we are demonstrating it.

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Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say,
‘Master, what are you talking about?
When did we ever see you hungry and feed you,
thirsty and give you a drink?
And when did we ever see you sick
or in prison and come to you?’
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth:
Whenever you did one of these things
to someone overlooked or ignored,
that was me—you did it to me.’

[Matthew 25:37-40, MSG]

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When the power goes out…

Let there be light; and there was light!

[Genesis 1:3]

Let There Be Light

Regular visitors here will have discovered the absence of Friday’s post. That was just one of the by-products of a windstorm that caused a thirty-hour power outage affecting our area.

Our daily habits require adequate light for reading, use of our computers, the Internet and television, garage doors that open and close with the push of a button, and abundant water that allows (among other things), flushing toilets and showering.

Because we live rurally, we’re on a well. Without power to operate its pump or to keep the pressure up in the water storage tank, we don’t have water, so we had to rely on a five-gallon jug from our emergency supplies. Fortunately we had a wood-burning fireplace for heat in the main living area, and coal oil lamps to offer a meagre bit of light in the evenings. We ran the generator periodically to keep food in the fridge and freezer cold, and we prepared meals (and coffee!) on a propane Coleman camp stove set up in the garage.

It’s easy to take the conveniences of daily life for granted, and to be annoyed when they’re suddenly snatched from us. We’re spoiled. When we have to resort to living like pioneers, we think we’ve been stripped of some of our rights.

Instead of grumbling, I wrapped myself in a sweater and sat in the breakfast nook using the light from the windows to handwrite Christmas notes. I felt a sort of kinship with characters in historical novels, returning to basics. In this third week of Advent we’re meant to focus on joy*, and, looking past the inconvenience of our power outage, I realized it was giving me the chance to slow down, to take extra time to consider the Coming that we await during this season of preparation.

Today’s entry in our Presbyterian Prayer Partnership brochure says, “During the consumer-driven days leading up to Christmas, pray for a spirit of gratitude and an awareness of ‘enough’.” The power outage was an appropriate opportunity to do exactly that! (Although I admit I was glad to discover power had been restored this morning.)

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*The four Sundays of Advent:
Advent I – Hope
Advent II – Peace
Advent III – Joy
Advent IV – Love

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God’s design in nature, life and writing

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If you look for it, there is texture and design to be found everywhere in nature.

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In our gardens, repetition is a part of good design, ensuring a flow from one area to another by repeating colours and shapes. Varying plant heights, providing contrasts of leaf texture, and planning a winterscape are also recommended for a garden with good rhythm in all seasons. When I’m creating a new bed, or refreshing an old one with new plantings, I try to incorporate these principles as much as possible. It isn’t easy, especially when I’m let loose in a nursery and am faced with the temptation to buy one of everything I like!

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What I struggle to achieve in my small garden beds God does naturally and on a grand scale. He is the consummate landscape designer. There are lessons I can learn from his examples spread so liberally around my world.

  • Most things flourish when allowed to grow in conditions that best suit them.
  • Weeds blooming naturally en masse are every bit as beautiful as any pampered cultivar.
  • Keeping plants constrained in rigid formations requires constant attention and will still be an exercise in futility.

These are not only gardening truths but also life truths. I tend to forget I am not the one in control. God designed, created and sustains. It’s important to confer with him and take some initiative, but I need to trust he has a plan and accept that he’s not obliged to share it with me.

Now that this New Year is underway I want to pursue my writing as the joy it is, and leave how it blossoms up to God. I’ll do my part, of course, but I’m trusting that whatever his plan is, it will be in my best interest and ultimately to his glory. There is nothing more awe-inspiring and peace-inducing than knowing God, the great Designer, is in charge.

Are you making any changes in how you approach your writing goals this year?

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Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.

1 Chronicles 29:11 – RSV

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