November 2008


For those who want to live by an alternative time – by the Christian calendar – today is New Year’s Eve.  Tomorrow the calendar will begin again with the first Sunday of Advent and we will enter into telling the cycle of the stories all over again.  I am excited.  My heart is longing for the rhythm and call of Advent – to listen and wait.

However, tonight we are having a new year’s eve party for some of those who have bought the calendar and want to know more about it.  Having never done anything like this before, I’m not sure how it will go, but I thought I’d post what we are planning to do for any who are interested.  The evening will be divided into two parts:  Looking back and looking forward.

Looking Back

We will start by looking back over the previous year.  Since we’ve just come off of Thanksgiving, we will participate in some real thanksgiving.  Each person will be given post-it notes on which they can write/draw the answer to the following questions (about this last year):

What people are you thankful for?  What events are you thankful for?  Where have you seen God this year?  What stories have meant the most to you this year?

We will read Psalms 113, 115, 116, and 118 and in between we will share what we have written/drawn on our post it notes.  Then we will stick those notes to an old picture frame I have.  We do this because our remembering and praising “frames” our coming year.  We can trust God because He has been faithful in the past and so we can look forward to the coming year with hope.

Looking Forward

Here we will talk about the calendar and how it can help form a rhythm for our lives.  We will explore each season and why we have it, as well as its symbols, stories and activities.

We will do this around our kitchen table because that is where we, as a family, engage the stories and participate in evening prayer.  We set the table with different color napkins – blue and white for Advent, purple for Lent, gray and red for Holy Week, and a long green table runner for Epiphany and Ordinary Time.  There is a golden plate in the middle symbolizing our times of celebration – Christmas and Easter.

We placed symbols on each napkin, along with a piece of scripture (or phrase) to be read.  Here are pictures of each one:

_mg_3777-copyAdvent – a vase full of water to symbolize the hopes and expectations, a sheep and shepherd to symbolize His common birth, Isaiah 9 as a reading.

_mg_3778-copyEpiphany – two common household jars with candles in them – symbolizing our call to be light to the world within our “jars of clay”, Matthew 5 as a reading

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Lent – a container of ashes, the two phrases most often used on Ash Wednesday

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Holy Week – this gets two spots on the table.  The first is a pair of “feet” and a bowl of water symbolizing the washing of feet.  (I would have put a palm leaf on this area, but we no longer live in Phoenix and I am hard pressed to find one in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year!)

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The second spot on the table shows a cross with 3 nails and the reading, “Finally Pilate handed Him over to be crucified”.

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Ordinary Time– some garden tools symbolizing our growing, planting, and working in the Kingdom.  The reading is Romans 12.

The seasons of Christmas and Easter are represented by a golden plate on the table.  We will partake of apples dipped in honey off the platter to symbolize the sweetness of celebration.  These are times in the calendar – birth and resurrection – when we can almost taste the sweetness of God’s story of redemption!

We will end the evening with a gift for each person – a picture of a door with this piece of writing.  (I did not write this, but found it somewhere on the web.  The author is unknown to me, as I forgot to document the person’s name.  Sorry!)

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New Year Commitment

We will not live a secluded, private faith

We will enter this new year through the door marked “COMMUNITY”

We will not pretend to be something other than what we are

We will enter this new year through the door marked “AUTHENTICITY”

We will confess our brokenness and our shortcomings, but not remain there

We will enter this new year through the door marked “HOLINESS”

We will not live in status quo, in fear of failure

We will enter this new year through the door marked “RISK”

We will turn down the volume of the noise in the world around us

We will enter this new year through the door marked “LISTEN”

We will give of ourselves and our possessions, holding on to nothing

We will enter this new year through the door marked “GENEROSITY”

We will not despair in the midst of a dark world

We will enter this new year through the door marked “HOPE”

We will work at mending old relationships and building new ones

We will enter this new year through the door marked “LOVE”

We will cast aside those things we find security in outside of God

We will enter this new year through the door marked “TRUST”

We will pour out our lives for the sake of our King and for one another

We will enter this new year through the door marked “SACRIFICE”

We will enter all these doors, following Jesus who has gone before us. He has turned the handle on each, thrown the door wide open and bids us to come follow Him.

FOR THE KING AND HIS GLORY, WE WILL ENTER EACH DOOR.

I had a conversation this morning with a friend about listening.  Listening to God and then following Him in the direction He reveals.  As I enter this new year, with Advent just around the corner, I am reminded that I want this Advent to be a season of listening.  I want to be sure to not get caught up in the busyness of the world around me, but rather become a listener – listening to stories of longing for hope and deliverance, listening to the cries of God’s people for a Messiah, listening to those in my community, listening to my family, and, of course, listening to God.

I came across this prayer that I wrote a while back and again, it reminds me to listen.  (I think there is a theme going on here!!)

Lord, my world is so often abuzz with noise

My body feels the obligation to always be doing

My mind is filled with a cacophony of voices

vying for my attention

I hear people

I hear endless words

I hear discordant sounds

…I hear everything, but You.

So as I enter into this day

I ask for Your grace and mercy

to be still

to rest

to be quiet

So I may open my ears and heart to You

Father, settle me in Your stillness

Jesus, teach me to listen

Spirit, speak

Today, I will listen

To the Three, I will listen

listening

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A new day dawns. The kingdom of God rushes in; sunbeams penetrating the darkness, dispelling the frigid night air. A frozen planet begins to thaw.

A new day dawns. Light cascades through atmospheric dust to reach a silent, suffering planet. Liquid gold laps upon her shores with redemptive fingers – wooing her, calling her out of dark dwelling places.

A new day dawns. Artemis bows her head to say good-bye. Her silvery locks kiss the golden hem of the Dayspring of whom she has been a reflection of glory. The coronation trumpets sound. A new day dawns.

A new day dawns -to a people dwelling in darkness where optical possibilities lie only in black and white. The dawn brings with it a burst of vivid, brilliant color and eyes which have never seen must learn to see again, this time within the frequencies of the broad color spectrum.

A new day dawns. Light has come, and it dances into every dark corner, sending out the invitation to come and join the dance.

OK, so I was asked by some people what the “evening prayer thing” looked like at our house.  So I thought I’d give a really concrete example…AND insert an idea for those with young children.

We do our evening prayer at our dinner table.  It is a logistics thing because that is where my family gathers at least one time a day and sits there longer than 10 minutes (as long as their mouths are full!!)  We do our evening prayer after we’ve finished eating, but before we clean up.

So here is what the weeks of Advent will look like: (remember you can find the whole Advent Evening Prayer in the last post)

Opening:  Our son (who loves fire) will light the candles at the table and read the opening lines.

Yours is the day, O Lord, Yours also is the night….

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Call to Wait :  our daughter will usually read this.  It is cool because as she reads it so often, she memorizes the scripture very quickly.

1My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
2He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. [Selah.]

5My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
6He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
7On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
8Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. [Selah.]


9Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
They are together lighter than breath.
10Do not trust in oppression
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
11Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
12And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,
For You recompense a man according to his work.

Stories:  Then I will tell the story.  During Advent, we will use the O Antiphons and the related scripture.  (If you have little ones, I would stop here and do some short activity with them.  Perhaps color a small picture of the story that was just read and make it into an ornament to add to the tree?)

Song:  Someone – my husband or one of the kids will read the song.  During Advent the first week is a “song” from the angels, the second is Mary’s song, the third week is Zacariah’s and the final week is back to the angels again.

Blessing:  Usually my husband gives the blessing.  However, the blessing we are using this year has a change of readers, so we’ll all say parts but my husband will be the official “leader”.  (The blessing we are using is one from Northumbria Community in Ireland.)

I hope this helps to give a little idea of what it looks like in one household at least.  I’d love to hear what it looks like in your house!!

Advent Evening Prayer

Yours is the day, O Lord, Yours also is the night….

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Call to Wait (Psalm 62)

1My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
2He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. [Selah.]

5My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
6He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
7On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
8Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. [Selah.]


9Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
They are together lighter than breath.
10Do not trust in oppression
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
11Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
12And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,
For You recompense a man according to his work.

Stories

(I am using the excerpts from the O Antiphons on these certain days)

November 30 – wisdom

December 4 – Lord

December 8 – Root of Jesse

December 12 – Dayspring

December 16 – Desire of Nations

December 20 – Immanuel

Song

Week 1 (Luke 1:13-17)

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.

It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Week 2 (Luke 1:42-55)

And [Elizabeth] cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Week 3 (Luke 1:68-79)

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant–
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-
Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES,
And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Week 4 (Luke 2:10-14)

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Blessing

*God of the watching ones,

Give us Your benediction.

*God of the waiting ones,

Give us Your good word for our souls.

*God of the watching ones,

The waiting ones,

The slow and suffering ones,

Give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls,

That we might rest.

*God of the watching ones,

The waiting ones,

The slow and suffering ones

*And of the angels in heaven,

*And of the child in the womb,

Give us Your benediction

Your good word for our souls

That we might rest and rise

In the kindness of Your company.

(* denotes a change in reader)

_mg_6208_11The Story-Formed Christian Seasons calendar provides a cycle for telling the stories of God. It gives us a framework for listening, celebrating and doing – and provides natural opportunities for all of us (including our children) to grow in wisdom and faith.

So as we come to the end of a calendar year (at least using the Christian Season calendar), I want to be intentional about how we begin this next cycle of seasons – Advent and Christmas. I know if I do not prepare now, I will have many good intentions but few plans that come to fruition.

Here is some of what we plan to do to get ready and to enter the Advent and Christmas seasons:

Placing visual and symbolic elements on our kitchen table

Since our table is the gathering place of the family each evening, it seems the best venue to display our symbolic elements. We will spend time each evening reading, reflecting, and praying so I want there to be visual elements around us too.

I am going to use a long blue table runner (blue is the color of Advent). The Nativity will be placed at the center of the table but will not contain Mary, Joseph and the Baby until the last week. I will have 6 candles on the table as well representing 6 different names and stories we will tell over the 4 weeks of Advent (we will use the “O Antiphon” writings found in the blog).

Evening Prayer

I am writing some biblical study and prayer forms that we will use each evening. It includes different passages from the scriptures that point us toward Advent and the story of the coming of the Christ Child. We will read it together and engage certain stories on specific evenings. (I will give calendar dates for what we will do when.)

For those will little ones, I will put in an alternate form. Perhaps only one of the passages of scripture and then a short activity would suit certain families (and attention spans) better.

New Year’s Eve Party

We are inviting friends over on Saturday, November 29th for a “New Year’s Eve Party” because for those of us following the calendar, November 30th begins a new year and marks the beginning of Advent. We plan to use the colors from the each season in decorating the table and we will all share a meal together. We will probably talk a little about each season and its significance and the Story that we tell during that season that shapes us.

We may spend some time in the “Hallel” Psalms (Ps. 113-118) because those songs focus so much on thanking God and we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving as a nation. We will most likely take from the Rosh Hashanah tradition of eating apples dipped in honey to remind us of God’s faithfulness in the year that has just past and looking forward to tasting His sweetness in the year to come.

(This is a new event for us, so it is a big adventure. We’ll let you know how it went and everything we did after it is over!)

Gathering Books for Christmas

During Advent, I will be pulling out my 12 favorite Christmas books and wrapping them up. Then, during each day of the 12 Days of Christmas, the kids will unwrap a book and we will read it together as a family.  (I have listed my top 12 books elsewhere in the blog.)

adventIn what seems like the whirlwind of fall, I am finding I have to become very intentional about living in God’s Story.  When I am not, I find myself swept away (and being shaped) by many competing stories all around me.  Here are a few:

1.  “fear the economy, hunker down, hoard all you can, money is security”

2.  “a certain political party or charismatic leader will lead us to a place where we are all happy, safe & secure”

3.  “work, work, work – if you stop to rest then disaster might happen”

4.  “uphold an image for the outside world to see; show them you’ve got it all together”

5.  “live to please everybody around you; be agreeable and don’t cause conflict, rarely say no”

All these stories have touched my life and influenced my behavior in the last few weeks.  That is something I am not proud of, but it is a true confession.  I struggle to live my hours, days, weeks and months within God’s story as much as anyone else.

So what do I need to do?  I find I must intentionally carve out time and say no to almost everything else (I say “almost” because I do not wish to cross the fine line between legalism and intentionality).  I choose intentional shaping of my life through God’s story – not just by mental ascent, but in action and ordering of my life.

So What? In the next few days I hope to blog about what our family plans to do to prepare for Advent and Christmas – how we hope to live differently than the competing stories that are all around us.  I want to give tangible ideas (that you can put on your calendar) for entering the season of Advent in a posture of listening and waiting.