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Tag: Advent

Look Mom, It’s Christmas!

With a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, my youngest son excitedly pleaded with me to come to his room. “It’s decorated for Christmas!,” he exclaimed. He had been busily working on something for the 10 minutes prior, but like the distracted and multi-tasking Mom I am, I had not stopped to see what he was doing.

As I walked into his room, he proudly pointed at the top of his dresser. “Look, it’s for Christmas!,” he proclaimed. His dresser had been transformed by Christmas decorations, and it looked surprisingly good! I then realized that his decorations looked awfully familiar. He had carefully removed each piece from the living room bookshelf and painstakingly placed each one on the top of his dresser.

I looked at his face, and the pride was so evident. He had done his best to decorate. This had been his grand idea, and he had pulled it off. “Wasn’t I so happy?,” he seemed to be asking. How would I respond?

“It looks great, buddy! You did such a good job,” I told him.

Little did I know, this was the only encouragement he needed to continue his decorating escapades. The following day, as I unloaded groceries from our van, he disappeared again. Before I had finished unpacking groceries, he ran into the kitchen to find me. “Mom, come to my room,” he said and grabbed my hand. “What is it?,” I asked, trying to finish in the kitchen. “Come see my Christmas decorations,” he insisted.

I followed him down the hall and into his room, where he excitedly pointed to his dresser. There, next to the decorations he had previously taken from the living room, he had placed two more Christmas knick-knacks that he had confiscated from the entryway. These decorations had been hanging higher up on the wall, and I wondered how he had reached them.

“Um, those things are mine. I want you to leave those where I had them,” I gently responded. ” You need to ask before you take other people’s things.”

Crestfallen, he begged me to leave his new-found treasures. “I want them in my room!,” he insisted. I responded, “No those are my things, but I will give you something else you can put up in your room.” Easily persuaded, he wanted to see what else I had. I pulled a Christmas card off the counter and told him he could hang it up in his room. With his new treasure, he ran off happily to find the tape.

Within minutes, he was back in the kitchen stuffing paper into the garbage can. “What are you putting in the trash?,” I asked. As I got closer, I could see with dismay that, in order to hang up his card, he had taken down a poster his older brother had hung in the room they share. Before asking anyone, he had crumpled it up and stuffed it in the trash.

Losing my patience, and feeling sympathy for my older son, I explained that he could not take other people’s things. I told him that, because he shared a room, he had to ask his older brother before taking his older brother’s things down. At this point, feeling ashamed, my little guy burst into tears. As I hugged and rocked him, he told me that he just wanted everything in his room for Christmas.

Having four boys means that I find some interesting decorations in our home…

There’s a lesson here for all of us. Christmas is a time to celebrate our Savior, Emmanuel. He came to save us. All of us. There is enough of Him to share. Yet, like my son, we often find ourselves trying to hoard resources to ourselves at Christmas.

My son wanted to keep all of the decorations for himself, enjoying his own private Christmas. I have found myself feeling less than generous this month as well, with both my time and my finances. The more I feel overextended, the more I draw inward, finding myself guarding my time and resources. My guess is we can all relate to some aspect of this story.

The last two Advent candles symbolize joy and love. Jesus coming to save humanity is the manifestation of both joy and love. He came as an infant and grew up with the poor. He fashioned wood with his hands. He walked dusty roads and desert places in sandals. He had dirty feet and worn hands. He formed the universe with His words, yet had the patience to carefully disciple twelve ragamuffin men for 3 years. He did not keep his joy, love, or resources to himself. Not even his own life. There was and still is enough of Him to share.

Now, I am the first to preach boundaries, because all of us have limited time and resources to give. We certainly cannot give what we don’t have. However, as believers, we’ve been given a Messiah who loves in a way that multiplies and never runs out. In I John we are reminded that as an outpouring of the love He’s shown to us, we will love others. What could celebrating the love and joy of our Savior look like for you this Christmas?

Pause: Take a moment to rest and still your mind. Listen to and meditate on the song, We are the Reason, by Avalon. What are your reflections as you think about Christ’s love for you?

Renew: In what ways have you found yourself guarding your time and resources or overextending yourself this Advent season? Spend some time reflecting on what you want to prioritize this week.

Next: Think of one way you can show love to someone in your life this week and intentionally look for moments of joy.

May you experience the love and joy of our Savior.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Peace Like a River

Recently my youngest son swapped out his favorite nightly song list. As I tuck him in each night, I sing him three songs of his choosing. The B-I-B-L-E and He’s God the Whole World in His Hands used to be among his favorites, but I suppose recently he has grown tired of them. Suddenly, this month, he requested some new tunes. His updated nightly list includes the “Where?” song (aka Down in My Heart), Jesus in the Boat, and he now ends his personal playlist with “I’ve Got Peace Like a River.” This child clearly has a Mama who was raised in the 80’s!

Peace like a river. Are rivers peaceful? Some are peaceful like a lazy river, but others flow like an untamed torrent, creating rapids and crashing waterfalls. Still, Isaiah writes about Jerusalem this way:

For this is what the LORD says:

“I will extend peace to her like a river and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;”

Isaiah 66:12a NIV

God promises to bring peace to Jersualem like a flowing river. I love this quote by Beth Moore about peace: “God’s peace is like a river, not a pond. It is not stagnant. It is not confined. It moves. It forges tributaries. It breaks in. Brings life.”

God’s peace breaks into our lives like an undeserved gift of grace. In fact, when announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, the angels sang not just about joy coming to the world, but also peace:

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

Luke 2: 13 – 14 NIV

Peace to those on whom his favor rests.

On this second week of the Advent season, as we consider the candle of peace, let’s look more deeply at the meaning of peace. The noun “peace” can have two different definitions:

  • freedom from disturbance; tranquility
  • a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended

Often when I consider peace, I think of the first definition and dream of blissful tranquility. (Mom-life has me dreaming of this form of peace often!) I believe that most people in our culture would define peace as a lack of anxiety, a moment of calm, or an internal centeredness. Although as believers we do have moments of this kind of tranquility, I’m not sure the Christian life is meant to be lived free from disturbance.

So, the second definition may also deserve our attention. Peace can also be a “state in which a war has ended.” Perhaps, when the angels sang of peace, they were not just promising tranquility, but also declaring that the war would soon be over.

The angels’ declaration of peace was not to everyone. It was only to those “on whom his favor rests.” In other words, those who believe in the Son. For the children of God, there is no more war between life and death. No more wrath between God and man. No more debt to be paid. When Jesus came, He paid the price for our sin and gave us access to the Father God. We have been given the gift of peace.

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

Life may not always be tranquil on the outside, but our war is over. We are at peace with God. He is doing a new thing, moving in our lives, making tributaries, and bringing life. He carries us through grief, fear, and suffering, and promises a peace that passes all understanding. (Phillipians 4:7)

That kind of peace, friends, is a beautiful Christmas gift indeed.

Pause: If you have a few moments, practice praying a centering prayer based off of the angels’ proclamation. Inhale slowly and say, “Glory to God.” Exhale slowly, and say, “Peace on Earth.” Repeat 5-7 times. If you want to enjoy a song about peace, listen to Casting Crown’s rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Renew: Take some time to meditate on or journal about how Christ, the Prince of Peace, brought peace to us. How is His peace flowing and bringing new life?

Next: Thank the Lord this week for His gift of peace to you. Keep your eyes open for examples of peace in your life.

May the Prince of Peace forge rivers and tributaries of peace in your life.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Almost There

Advent brings with it the anticipation of a celebration. The word “advent” means: “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” I did not grow up in a church that celebrated Advent or lit candles, so I am later in coming around to the traditions surrounding it. For those of you who may also wonder about the celebration of Advent, the season is ushered in the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and with it begins a spiritual countdown of sorts to Christmas Day: the arrival of Christ.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It is fitting, with the anticipation of Christ’s coming, that the Advent candle lit on the first Sunday of December symbolizes hope. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Israelite people had been waiting a L-O-N-G time for the Messiah to come. They had long carried hope for what had been promised to them by the prophets. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9: 6-7 ESV

700 years! That is a long time to wait for a promise. One generation passed their hope on to the next, verbally telling and retelling the old stories and prophecies. Generations died, and new ones were formed, and still they waited. Finally, the beginnings of change arrived in the form of small miracles foretelling the Messiah’s arrival:

  • The angel Gabriel appears (Luke 1:19, & 1:28)
  • A priest mysteriously goes mute (Luke 1:20)
  • A barren woman is suddenly with child (Luke 1:24)
  • A small baby leaps in the womb (Luke 1:41)
  • Angels are found singing in the sky (Luke 2:13)

These miracles were not broadly publicized. Most Israelites had no idea they had even occurred. After hundreds of years of waiting, baby Jesus arrived with little fanfare or celebration.

The chosen Messiah certainly did not come in the way that the Jewish people had expected. They had been waiting in hope for a Savior who, as Isaiah had prophesied, would come and set up his own government. They were living under Roman rule and felt oppressed. They wanted a strong leader to come and save them, not an innocent babe arriving practically unannounced. Their vision was too small. They wanted to be rid of Roman rule, and God had bigger plans. Jesus didn’t rid the Jews of Roman rule. Instead, He banished sin and death itself, providing salvation for all people. God’s ways of delivering on His promises often look very different from our expectations.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Advent is a time of reflecting on Christ’s arrival 2,000 years ago, but did you know that Advent also continues in the present? We are not just celebrating a past event, we are anticipating what is to come! Jesus has promised he is coming back again, and we can fervently await his coming. The hope of Advent continues today!

As I write about Advent this Christmas season, I want to make the experience multi-sensory. Advent is a time for meditation and worship, and using more of our senses enriches that experience. For this reason, I will be including a song in each Advent blog post that parallels with the week’s topic. Almost There, written by Michael W. Smith and sung by Amy Grant, is a beautiful song all about waiting in hope. Enjoy!

Pause: Take a moment to still and quiet your mind. Listen to the song above, then read Isaiah 9: 1-7. Allow yourself to slow down enough to really meditate on the words.

Renew: What are you waiting for this Christmas season? What does Hope mean to you this Advent? Take time to think, pray, or journal about how Christ’s coming has changed the world and how it has changed you.

Next: In the busyness of the Christmas season, it is sometimes difficult to focus on Christ. Think of ways that you can live out Hope this Christmas season. Maybe it will be in the form of beginning an Advent tradition with your family or perhaps in loving a neighbor who is grieving and has lost their own hope this Christmas. Pray and use your imagination!

May you be filled with Hope this Advent season.

Pause, Renew, Next!

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