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I found a site tonight called “Advent Conspiracy” (www.adventconspiracy.org) that encourages all of us to do less shopping and less spending and more worshipping and giving to those in need this Christmas season. Go to the site to see a great video on giving during Advent.

See the Advent Conspiracy Video...

The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.

So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.

And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.

Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All

Recently I was invited to give a 30-40 minute Praise and Thanksgiving Concert at 1st UMC in Warrenton, Ga.  I plan to release an album entitled Simply Breathing in January that will incorporate many of the songs from the praise concert. The following lyrics of It’s You are the heart of this album.

It’s You…

It’s your love that rescued me,
It’s your grace that bought me freedom
It’s your joy that gives me strength to go the distance.
It’s your death that gives me life,
It’s your blood that bought my healing,
It’s your presence that moves mountains in my heart.

I need You, more than anything.
I want You more than anything,
I love You more than anything.
Jesus, it’s you, it’s you, it’s you.

 

 

If we could all
just stop throwing stones,

and stoop, knees bent
and write in the dust,

we’d see that the dust
was once stone –
grand, and hard, and proud, and tough –
now ground and dissolved
in grace and tears.

So… how much better
to be a grain of dirt

on that kind prophet’s hands
than a stone
in the cold, accusing Temple
of the pure.

(from The Open Office: a tool for groups exploring a rhythm of life that has a liturgical edge to share resources.)

How often are we like the stone… cold, hard-hearted, distant and judgmental to those we love and to those around us. May the Spirit of Christ break up the hardness of our hearts, grind us into bits of dust through his grace, love and mercy. May we have a heart of tenderness, kindness, compassion for others.

Beannacht (“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

(Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, by John Donahue)

Original and Traditional Christmas Songs from Sojourn Artists, including Jamie Barnes, Dirt Poor Robins, Brooks Ritter, and more, of the Louisville, KY-based Sojourn Community. Available now for free or pay-what-you-want.

The emphasis here is on the already/ not-yet tension of Advent, the season of waiting and anticipation before Christmas.  Advent comes to us in the darkest season of the year — a season when the nights are long, the days are cold, and we look with anticipation for the return of the warmth in the spring.  The songs have both a dark sense of anticipation and glimpses of light dawning in the face of the Christ child.

As we celebrate this season, we celebrate that our Messiah has come, and we look with longing to the day when he comes again.  As St. John says, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus.”

Scripture and Prayer – Listening Prayer

“Speak Lord; your servant is listening” 1 Sam 3:10

God speaks to us in many ways: nature, people, and events… In listening to God in prayer, we focus on Scripture as God’s word to me here and now. What the text meant to the original writers/ hearers, to others throughout history, may be helpful – but it can also distract from what God is saying to me now. We are not trying to preach mental sermons to ourselves, nor discover insights that will be helpful to others.

In any relationship, there is a great difference between hearing the words and really listening. So being attentive in this form of prayer is essential. Inner quiet, relaxation, attentiveness, total honesty: “God I feel bored, angry, excited, scared…”

Use only a small passage of scripture. Taste God’s goodness. Ignatius of Loyola called this form of prayer an “application of the senses”. If you wish, you can use the same passage again and again, simplifying, returning to and resting at that point where you met God. Where God spoke to you. Savouring one phrase, one word. Resting “like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Ps 131:2)

Scripture is food. It needs to be taken in, chewed over, tasted, to be nourishing.

PICK a passage, eg. Can have it ready the night before, go to sleep with it, wake up with it…

PLACE solitude, can be uninhibited about our response, maybe a “special place”, a “prayer corner”…

POSTURE relax, do a relaxation exercise, music, flowers…

PRESENCE of God. “God you are here, you love me into being, you love breath into me, you wish to speak to me …”

PRAY eg. Begin with the Collect for Purity; ask for God’s Spirit, for grace to listen, to hear God’s word to me now…

Use imagination, PICTURE the scene, become involved, with whom do I identify? “That person is me” (2 Sam 12:7)

Read very slowly. PONDER. Can read aloud. Repeat. Read, Ruminate (Reflect) Respond (PROMISE), Rest. If a word or phrase touches your heart, savour it, repeat it, rest in it, return to it in a later prayer period, carry it in your heart for the rest of the day – for the rest of your life. Don’t hurry. Don’t try to look for lessons or profound thoughts.

Some scriptures: Gods covenant with me Is 54, Is 55; Deut 7:7-11
God loves me and calls me Rom 8:28-30
The choice to respond to God’s love Deut 30:11-20
Any favourite passages, one that suddenly comes to mind, a gospel passage, a psalm, a prayer.

*****

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Cranmer’s famous collect for Advent 2

(Excerpt from: Liturgy: Worship that Works – Spirituality that Connects)

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