Advent

Advent Week 1: HOPE

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Written By: Amy Gordon

Listen. Can you hear it? Lean a little closer.

It’s the sound of hope coming into a lost and dying world.
It’s the sound of peace coming into a struggling and chaotic world.
It’s the sound of love coming into a broken and grieving world.

It’s the sound of a Baby’s cry.

On that starry night in the little town of Bethlehem, when Mary welcomed Jesus into the world he had created, the sound of hope rang clear through the still starlit sky. Can you imagine how creation itself would have responded to that cry? Creation which was once perfect and whole and good - because God made it and said it was - now broken and yearning for that perfect union with it’s Creator once again.

And then suddenly there is the cry of a newborn baby. A cry that causes of all heaven and earth to leap for joy for hope has come! Finally, redemption is near. God’s plan for the salvation of his people, for the restoration of his earth, and for the redemption of his creation has begun. No wonder the stars all gathered together to point the wise men to Jesus, showing them the way to salvation. “He is here! The one you are looking for is right here! He is our Messiah!” And the angels declared, “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news that will cause great joy to all people.” Creation knew that God himself had come in the form of a human baby, for the cry of that baby declared to all who would hear that hope has come. Hope is here - for you and for me.

Do you ever wonder though, about those who missed it that night? Those people who walked passed Mary and Joseph as they were trying persistently to find a place to stay, a place to deliver the baby Mary was carrying. Or maybe those who looked the other way, or even casually bumped into Mary, brushing the holy contents of her pregnant belly. Did they ever come to know how close they were to God himself, how close they came to being part of the story?

There were many people in Bethlehem that night. Travellers, sojourners, all there for the same purpose but blindly missing out on the Present. All there for the same goal but sadly missing out on the Gift. All there together, caught up in the same mission but neglecting to stop long enough to truly embrace and engage in the moment that changed the world forever. They missed the message of hope and grace and love and truth that was sent to earth just for them on that long ago night.

If truth be told, we could be those people. We too often miss the heavenly offers of hope and grace and love and truth. We, like the wandering weary in Bethlehem that night, will be too caught up in our own troubles, in our own mission, in our own world to notices the touch of grace in our lives. There are numerous times throughout our days, weeks, years that God has sent messages and messengers to point us to Him, but we have been too tired, too distracted, or too busy to stop long enough to listen and to hear his voice. Our hearts and minds become cluttered with the urgent and we neglect the sacred. We miss out on the wonder of all God has for us. We just simply miss it. We miss Him.

This Christmas, let’s not miss it. Or Him. Let’s be fully present, fully aware, fully engaged in the wonder - and hope - of Christmas. Let’s listen for the cry of the newborn Baby - the cry of hope, peace, joy and love - and respond with a yearning that matches the exuberant joy of creation that night so long ago. Let us hold in our hearts an expectant of hope that cries out for redemption and restoration of our world and all God’s people.

Listen. Can you hear it?

It’s the cry of a Baby.

It’s the cry of hope.


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Advent: Joy

Written By: Cathie Ostapchuk

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 “Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” (Isaiah 12:6)

With all of our hearts we want to feel the joy and wonder of the most beautiful season of the year.  We yearn to be awestruck and captivated by the beauty and wonder of an Incarnate God who became small enough and human enough to fit into our world, without diminishing Himself or becoming any less fully divine.

Joy becomes a possibility as we consider the reflection of dancing, twinkling lights, illuminated stars, and anticipation in a child’s eyes receiving gifts they have dreamed about all year long.

And yet true joy, though possible, eludes us like a vapour. We want to believe that joy comes in the morning and in the mourning, but our joy is transient and tied tight to our contentment with our circumstances. 

I am unable to access the wellspring of joy when I am looking outward to external sources. I am disappointed and joy-less when the Advent season falls short in satisfying my shallow expectations of social, relational and even performance needs.

Jesus Himself recognized that joy can be fleeting and encourages us to look to Him as the source of joy.  “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)  Joy is only found in the secret place where the Holy One has taken His place inside of our hearts. We find Joy there in the grief, in the unmet expectations of the season, and in the quiet moments. We find Joy there in the singing and even shouting of “Joy to the world!” Joy emanates from the Christ Child who is found in our hearts out to the world. Joy was never meant to be found from the outside in. May we light the Joy candle in our hearts and then share it with the waiting world.

PRAYER

“They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Isaiah 35:10

Father, help me look inward before I look outward for the source of true Joy. Help me look forward to anticipate an eternity where I will experience everlasting Joy, before I look backward to my unmet expectations. Thank you for making Joy possible. Thank you for making Joy permanent – it is the only thing I have that overtakes and overwhelms me. Sorrow and sighing undermine and underwhelm my living in the moment and will not be part of my eternal future.  Thank you for making Your presence the reason I can sing for Joy. Take my singing and turn it into shouting glad tidings. I must shout Joy loud enough so the world will hear and turn away from the lights on the tree to the Light of the World. Would you help me wear everlasting Joy as a crown each day of Advent, and each day of every year, now and through eternity. May your Joy emanate from my heart so I radiate Your presence always. Amen.

The Painful Price Of Peace- Second Sunday of Advent

Written By: Cathie Ostapchuk 

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II Thessalonians 3:16

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

I gaze at my simple nativity set, handcrafted in wood, complete with Baby Jesus asleep in the manger, sheep and shepherds nearby, and the Wise Men kneeling with their gifts.  The Star wobbles from atop the arch of the stable, and all is innocent, serene, and seemingly untouched by the dark world that surrounds the lit vignette.

There is no indication in the image of this peaceful and quiet night that thirty-three years later the veil would be torn in half, and Jesus’ physical body would give up its’ soul to be once again in the right hand of His Father.  There is no indication that the Prince of Peace would have to suffer excruciating pain to bring the peace the world so desperately needs.  There is no understanding in Mary’s heart that she would have to give up her precious Son to hands of human hate and see Him choose to walk straight into a violent, bloody and lonely death.  All this the price for our peace.

We take the manger scene and the calm it evokes and want it to be the miracle for all that is keeping us from living joyfully, with confident hope.  We may not want to admit that pain was the only path to an eternal peace, and for us, it is pain that is the greatest gift for our transformation into Christ-likeness.

Peace comes at a price and has a power that cuts through every dark thought, every dark act, every unimaginable sin.  Would I receive it as a gift, and not squander it by allowing my fear to cohabitate with this immeasurable promise?  How much more valuable is it that peace can only come to us and was bought for us through His pain? 

Lord, I receive Your peace this second Sunday of advent. If Your peace had the power to shake the universe, it has the power to envelope me and keep me in perfect peace while the world spins out of control around me. 

May the Lord of peace Himself, give me peace at all times and in every way. The Lord is with me, the Lord is with you, Emmanuel.

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
World now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome To Our World
Welcome To Our World
(Chris Rice)