Advent 2: Lighten Up! – Martin Stewart

20171013_122721John 8:12

Jesus spoke…saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

In this, our southern hemisphere season of light, the darkness doesn’t have as much room to put its pressure on the light.

In the hearts of those who follow Jesus, the darkness has no room at all!  ‘Never’ is a strong word.  No room for alternatives.

However, when we examine ourselves, we find that there is a gap between God’s ‘never’ and us.  God says ‘never’, we say ‘maybe’. Continue reading

Lighten up! Advent 1 resource – Martin Stewart

Lighten Up!
Advent 1

light

[Introduction suggestion is appended below]

Isaiah 60 proclaims words of release to all who are burdened:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

[Isaiah 60:1-5 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised]

‘Has’ and ‘will’ and ‘shall’.
These are words from behind and ahead.

Something has been.  Something else will be or shall be.

The promised and the promising.

In the space between these worlds we make our way.
We are not alone, we are framed by God’s YES.

The day has dawned (again).

The darkness has passed (again).

Our light has come and is coming (always both).

Our light has come!

It is time, this Advent, to lighten up!

Option:
Have someone read the following words while a gentle piece of music is played and/or images of the community around you are displayed enabling people to see that the light is shining around them and through them:

Thread the light
Shine the light
Don’t hide the light
Live the light
And give the light
Seek the light
And speak the light
Crave the light
And brave the light
Stare the light
And share the light
Show the light
And know the light
Raise the light
And praise the light
Thread the light

[Words by Glen Hansard from the song ‘In the arms of this low’]

Possible Introduction for Advent Sunday

Advent in New Zealand is celebrated in summer – the season of light.

The days are at their longest, the night has to find its way in whatever gaps are left.  Summertime is also holiday time for many people thus there is a horizon through December of lighter days, less pressure, family get-togethers, and time and space to relax.

But there is a lot to get through until that space arrives, thus Advent in New Zealand is fraught with busyness, work deadlines, and pressure to get everything done, including all of the Christmas arrangements.

For most, the weeks that lead up to Christmas can have an element of being burdensome.
To what degree do we end up walking towards Christmas too heavily?
Can we make something of this season of light and more intentionally let the light in?
Is there also an invitation to the church to relax a little, to enjoy this time that reminds us of why we do what we do?

The light has come.  It has come already!  We are pointing to what the world has already been graced with.  God is with us!
It really is time to lighten up and join in with what God is doing!

Thus the theme, Lighten Up! 

[On Tuesday of each week through Advent I will post a resource on Candour for you to use, borrow, adapt (or ignore) the following Sunday.  It will include a bible passage, a photograph, some words, and a question for quiet reflection.
The idea is that you might invite people into a gentle reflective space at the start of weekly worship so that even our worship is entered into lightly!]

Words & Images by Martin Stewart unless otherwise stated

Lighten Up! An Advent Resource for 2017 – Martin Stewart

Lighten Up!
An Advent Resource for 2017
Prepared by Martin Stewart

Advent in New Zealand is celebrated in summer – the season of light.

The days are at their longest, the night has to find its way in whatever gaps are left.  Summertime is also holiday time for many people thus there is a horizon through December of lighter days, less pressure, family get-togethers, and time and space to relax.

But there is a lot to get through until that space arrives, thus Advent in New Zealand is fraught with busyness, work deadlines, and pressure to get everything done, including all of the Christmas arrangements.

For most, the weeks that lead up to Christmas can have an element of being burdensome.
To what degree do we end up walking towards Christmas too heavily?
Can we make something of this season of light and more intentionally let the light in?
Is there also an invitation to the church to relax a little, to enjoy this time that reminds us of why we do what we do?

The light has come.  It has come already!  We are pointing to what the world has already been graced with.  God is with us!
It really is time to lighten up and join in with what God is doing!

Thus the theme, Lighten Up!  On Tuesday of each week through Advent I will post a resource on Candour for you to use, borrow, adapt (or ignore) the following Sunday.  It will include a bible passage, a photograph, some words, and a question for quiet reflection.
The idea is that you might invite people into a gentle reflective space at the start of weekly worship so that even our worship is entered into lightly!

Advent 1

Psalm 60:1 proclaims words of release from all that burdens us: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

Advent 2
John’s Gospel has the Baptist telling us of the one who is ‘the true light, which enlightens everyone, [and] was coming into the world.’

Advent 3
Jesus invites us into the light saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

Advent 4

Jesus calls out to those who might listen, to let our lights shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Christmas Eve/Day
John, in his great prologue, paints the big picture…in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  Oh we really must lighten up!

Possibility People – Jill Kayser

“She’s very passionate isn’t she?” was a common response to my Kids Friendly sharing over the past 14 years. My ecumenical friends would call me ‘the passionate Presbyterian’ which some of them rather cheekily suggested is a misnomer (let’s hope not!)  I don’t mind being remembered as the ‘passionate Presbyterian’, but what I’d really love to be remembered as is a possibility person. Continue reading

The Burden of Being Jesus – Andrew Nicol

“I am not Jesus.” There you go, I admit it. My psych test at National Assessment was a bit of an ordeal, but there wasn’t a specific probe into messianic aspirations. I wonder if I’m the only one who’s slipped through?

What I mean is this—of course I understand I’m not quite like the messiah, but in reality I can behave as if my purpose is to be Jesus for others, or on slow days maybe his ‘hands and feet’. I’m beginning to suspect, however, that my family and congregation have spotted some potential discrepancies. Continue reading

Review – Mosaic

Reviewed by Christine Harrex, Lawrence-Waitahuna Presbyterian

Mosaic - God is love

I have always had a strong belief in the value of small groups.

More than twenty years of Sunday school teaching has shown me that when children are taught in small age-specific groups, meaningful relationships are established and learning is deep and personal. I have always been scathing of big group programmes where these opportunities are limited. Continue reading

Please Be Political… by Richard Dawson

Richard is the current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Aotearoa New Zealand

Politics is the ultimate expression of the fact that we have to exist with people who don’t think like us. Derived from the Greek polos – meaning ‘people’ – politics is the art and, perhaps, science of being a people – being together. Every expression of politics is basically a reaction to this fact. Continue reading

Editorial: Expecting my spirits to be lifted daily – Martin Stewart

Martin edits this blog but his day job is as one of the ministers in The Village Church in Christchurch.  He also writes a regular column called Wide Awake (after a U2 song) in Essence, a free monthly community magazine that circulates in South Canterbury.  He finds it an interesting challenge writing in a general way for an unknown but very wide community.  The following article is also published in Essence.

20171013_122721What lifts your spirits?

Is it an accidental thing that comes at you from time to time?
Or is it something you have looked for and grown to expect? Continue reading