I once heard William Willimon lecture at Otago University. He told a story of some students he had taken on a mission trip to Haiti during their summer break. During one of the final evenings of the trip, the students sat around a camp fire and shared their favourite passages of scripture with one another: Continue reading
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!
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.”
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.’
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.’
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.
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!
A few final thoughts for the year…
- 25th. This year is so good – a Sunday Christmas… almost a whole week between last Sunday and Christmas Eve. And, no meetings! Glory to God in the Highest! Could we look to Sunday-ising Christmas?
- Summer heat. Some emperor decreed that we should celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December but he failed to take into account the implications for people from the other hemisphere. Silly man! Actually, I don’t even think he knew there was another hemisphere!
I quite like the lights and the wrapped up warm idea of a winter Christmas but can’t be bothered going to the other hemisphere to experience it and missing out on summer here! I also think that some separation of Christmas from summer holidays and school starting would be more helpful for families struggling to pay all the bills. If it wasn’t for strawberries and raspberries I would advocate for a June Christmas celebration in NZ.
Lynne Barb has offered some thoughtful things about a southern hemisphere Christmas here: http://www.lynnebaab.com/blog/some-christmas-thoughts-from-the-souther
- Timing. I feel like I have had the best year of my life – truly, I have had a lot of fun and inspiration – new friendships, writing, poems, tramping, an Australian adventure, my band getting together after 34 years, big exciting developments in our church life, and my daughter Hana getting engaged to our dear friend Will. But I got the timing wrong. I conked out two weeks ago and now I am limping to Christmas. I have no complaints though – being in a team ministry has made it possible to get through a lot of things, but I’m done. I hope the stuff for Christmas passes muster for I am drawing very deeply from the well!
4. Rest. Anne and I have holidays starting mid-January, so we are holding the fort until then. Fortunately, it is usually a slow patch, and there are no meetings scheduled (I wonder what it will be like to have a whole string of evenings off!). We need the rest, and it looks like it will come to us. May it also come to you and your loved ones. Maybe that is the best thing about a summer Christmas, we work it hard until Christmas Day and then the NZ world stops, takes a breath and kicks off its shoes. So…
May the barbeque not run out of gas.
May the car not break down or the tent rip.
May the phone not ring with sad tidings.
May you find beautiful spaces to re-create and re-imagine in.
May the company you keep be light and friendly.
May the earth not shake, the seas not roar, nor your skin burn.
May your jandaled feet not blister or crack.
May the cool air in the evenings refresh you.
May the challenges of next year come slowly.
And may the God who graces us in Jesus Christ,
so grace you that your cup regularly overflows!
I wonder if you have some prayers that you have written or found that went well that we could share over the next few weeks as the Christmas season draws near?
Why not pop them in or send them to me martin(at)villagechurch.nz and I can load them.
I do know that there are some wonderful wordsmiths among you – how about flicking through some of your resources and sharing some of them – it might help us all as we work things up and look for something fresh!
I found this prayer that I had used in 2005:
A Franciscan Christmas Blessing for Justice and Peace
December 20, 2005
May God bless you with discomfort…
at easy answers, hard hearts,
half-truths ,and superficial relationships.
May God bless you so that you may live
from deep within your heart
where God’s Spirit dwells.
May God bless you with anger…
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people.
May God bless you so that you may
work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears…
to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
May God bless you so that you
may reach out your hand
to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with
to believe that you can make a difference
in this world, in your neighborhood,
so that you will courageously try
what you don’t think you can do, but,
in Jesus Christ you’ll have all the strength necessary.
May God bless you to fearlessly
speak out about injustice,
unjust laws, corrupt politicians,
unjust and cruel treatment of prisoners,
and senseless wars,
genocides, starvations, and poverty that is so pervasive.
May God bless you that you remember
we are all called
to continue God’s redemptive work
of love and healing
in God’s place, in and through God’s name,
in God’s Spirit, continually creating
and breathing new life and grace
into everything and everyone we touch.
Source: “Troubadour: A Missionary Magazine”
published by the Franciscan Missionary Society, Liverpool, UK: Spring 2005.