Beautiful! One of my favorite Advent songs…
Today marked the first Sunday in Advent and not surprisingly I woke up this morning with a new sense of peace in my heart. God’s grace is amazing. When we seek Him with a repentant and desiring heart, He always shows up.
Yesterday on my blog I shared about the end of the liturgical church year. Today in church we went back to the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer and started a new season: Advent.
I love how the church takes us liturgically through the Christian year where-through the designated Scripture, prayers, and hymns that all fit together-we can truly align our hearts to God and to the true spirit and reason of the season.
Today, we lit the first of four candles in the Advent wreath.
As time passes from Advent Sunday to the Vigil of Christmas, the wreath will grow in the brightness of illumination – symbolic of the coming of Christ who is the Light of the World. The prophecies read with the lighting of the Advent wreath help us relate to the people of the Old Testament. They waited in anticipation for the coming day of the Lord as the mystery of the Incarnation unfolded through the centuries by prophets who prepared the way for His Coming.
In the Advent wreath, The first candle, The Prophecy Candle, announces the period of waiting upon God for the fulfillment of His promise.
Today’s Collect: ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Today’s Epistle was from Romans 13 about God’s commandments and especially to love one another. …”Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.“
And from the Gospel reading in Matthew 21, we find Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey. People spread garments before him and cut down branches from the trees and placed them before Him saying, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. ...then Jesus went into the temple of God and “cast out all of them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
The collect, epistle, and Gospel from Advent 1 today shared the theme of casting off the darkness and welcoming in the light. Jesus Christ is that light.
And from our Hymns today, I especially liked this line: Fling wide the portals of your heart; Make it a temple, set apart.
And the last verse: So come, my Sovereign; enter in! Let new and nobler life begin; Thy Holy Spirit guide us on, Until the glorious crown be won.
I’m glad to enter into a new season–one of hope and blessings. I have cast off the darkness. I am making a conscious decision to give up seeking the “gifts” and will seek “The Giver,” The Light, The Savior. This Advent I will try to focus on preparing my heart for the celebration of the birth of Christ and for His second coming-which is what Advent is all about.
And, as promised, I’ll try to blog each day of Advent and share what God shows me on this journey.
And I’ll end this blog post today as we end every Sunday service: with the “Last Gospel” read together: John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Advent begins this Sunday and I am in need of a some liturgical order and ecclesiastical grounding to calm the disorder of life and to fulfill my soul’s desire for a deeper connection with God.
I’ve always been a traditional, liturgically minded Christian. The world is chaotic. I like order. Lately, I feel unsettled, not very focused, functional or disciplined. I question whether I am lined up with God’s will in all that I do. I’m in a period of waiting for a breakthrough and praying for some real fruits from my writing and our ministry efforts. I recall more glorious times in my spiritual life where I felt overwhelming joy and peace in walking with the Lord. I’m stumbling in the valley and want to get back to the mountaintop.
So, during this Advent season, I am making a personal promise to be more focused, more thoughtful, more faith-filled EACH DAY. I will attempt to blog each day about this journey, even if it’s just a Scripture quote and photo and a few words of inspiration.
Liturgically (in the Anglican tradition), last Sunday ended the church year with “Stir-up Sunday.” The reason it’s called Stir-up Sunday might have something to do with the beautiful prayer (or collect) designated for last Sunday from our 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We prayed this prayer as a church community and it had deep meaning for me. My will needs to be stirred up, aligned with God’s will. I would love to see some fruits of my good works. Rewards? You bet. Here or in Heaven are welcome!
THIS SUNDAY is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of four weeks of Advent-our spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ (Birth of Christ) as well as His second coming. Here is our collect for this Sunday:
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and [the]* dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Let’s put on the armor of light. Come join me and let’s open our hearts to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. See you tomorrow!
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Continuing with Deacon Alfred’s Christmas Challenge to read a chapter of Romans a day, until Christmas. Romans 9 (with a short reflection and cute pics below):
New International Version (NIV)
9 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?”20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”[i]
“In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”
27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:
“Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
“MOM, IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!” I heard that a million times raising kids. (my adorable Jake and Betsy above) And, here’s another fav: “Why?” My favorite answer, “Because I’m the mom and I said so.” Oh, I used to love this response! For all of you new Moms or Dads, use that line! It’s so empowering. Kind of reminds me of this chapter in Romans. We are God’s children. God knows best. Quit your whining, beg for mercy instead.
Now, that sounds familiar. What parent can refuse a humble heartfelt request? Or a request from a cutie like the one above. (my Nick).
Our Father in Heaven probably can’t refuse a request for mercy from us, either. Even more than we can love our own children, He loves us. That’s all for today, busy day. Blessings to all and thanks for stopping by!
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Deacon Alfred Sturges’ challenge to read Romans, a Chapter a day, until Christmas has been an enlightening journey so far, but this chapter well….oh my…seriously, it reduced me to tears.
Today, during our church service, with a troubled mind and a heavy heart, I asked God a lot of questions. This evening, I read Romans 8, and seriously, every question was answered. I’m offering a few thoughts in the beginning of this blog post, then posting Romans. Pray. Read. Reflect. Ask God questions, any questions. And if you don’t say, “Wow!” at the end of this chapter, I’ll be very surprised. Let me know. First, a few short thoughts before you delve into Romans 8.
The season of Advent is about preparing ourselves for Christmas; for the coming of the Christ Child. We get used to saying those words, but what does Christmas really mean to the heart, to the soul? There’s one line in the song, O Holy Night, that sums it up for me:
Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
It’s my favorite Christmas Hymn. If you want to hear it, here’s the entire song, sung by Josh Groban:
“…the soul felt its worth.” Wow again! To me, this is what Romans, Chapter 8 is all about…the soul truly feeling its worth. I’ve been thinking about my soul during this challenge. It’s worth, how I see myself. How others see me. How God sees me. And something changed in my soul after reading this chapter.
Whether the world ends on the 21st or whenever we die and come face to face with God, I want to be prepared and be able to stand worthy before my Creator. I pray that this chapter touches your heart as much as it did mine. I pray that God shows you, through His Word, the worth of your soul. I’d love to hear your thoughts afterwards.
Here’s Romans 8:
8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We have become children of God by Christ’s death on the cross. And as we question and wonder, the Holy Spirit is at work praying to the Father on our behalf. And not only is the Spirit at work, but God the Father is at work, through this messy, sad, heartbreaking life, working ALL things for the good of those who love Him. Even if we are clueless about our lives, even if we are lonely, sad, and confused, God is taking the broken parts of our life and and making something purposeful, intentional and good. We are called, according to His purpose, to be in a relationship with God and committed to following His ways. And NOTHING can separate us from the love of God! NOTHING!
YOU ARE LOVED! YOUR SOUL HAS INCREDIBLE WORTH! WOW!
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