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Posts Tagged ‘#advent2020’

The Apostle John wrote Jesus’ words, concerning love :

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13

This is a verse that we pull out when one has done a sacrificial act to save another, when one dies in battle, when one jumps in the line of fire to save the life of another.

This is the depth of love that we remember on this fourth Sunday of Advent. It is the John 3:16 love,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The God of Creation was so desperate that our lives be redeemed, he committed the greatest act of love, sacrificing his own Son, so that we might live.

When I focus on this greater love, in these ways, it would seem that most of us do not even have opportunity to show this greater love. For who among us encounters opportunity or reason to give up our lives for another?

What if,
perhaps,
greater love means something more?

What if greater love means sacrificing beyond our physical lives?

What if we are given opportunity to express greater love when :

  • we make efforts to befriend the less popular, less appealing, prickly person in our class, in our workplace … in our church pew
  • we respond with loving-kindness, rather than setting people straight, when
  • we leave the coffee shop, see a man begging just up the sidewalk and we take out coffee to him (and go on our day without … feeling the sacrifice personally).
  • we listen … rather than speak
  • we make the time to make the meal, write the note, send a gift to one who is grieving, lonely, one who simply comes to mind
  • we say yes, when we want to say no
  • we offer grace and forgiveness, when revenge might be a just response
  • we believe what we are told, rather than reading in to what we think is meant
  • we keep persevering … investing even when relationships poke and push us
  • we get out of our comfort zone to love others in ways that communicate love most to them

This greater love is the anthesis to what our world preaches today about cancelling friends, relatives and groups of people because they haven’t lived up to what we believe they should say, how they should live, what they should think.

It is up-side-down thinking. And this is exactly the kind of thinking … living that Jesus modelled. There is nothing he spoke more of in his recorded lifetime than love. It is through this virtue that he gave the first and second greatest commands (“love God, love others” Matthew 22:38-39)

This greater love, is the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 :

Love is patient, 
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking, 
it is not easily angered, 
it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.
Love never fails …
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. 
But the greatest of these is love.

This is the greater love of sacrificing for another.

May we be found loving other as Christ loves us.

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One of the words, opposite joy, is despair. When I think of despair, I think hopeless, lacking in peace.

It is interesting that today, this third Sunday of advent, we focus on joy, following peace and hope. Perhaps it is because we, our lives, are absent of joy if we have not received the hope and peace that only Christ can give?

Joy is not just a product of hope and peace, joy is, much like those, a choice.

Psalm 71:23 says, “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.” Notice first section, “my lips will shout for joy” … it is a statement of dedication, determination. The Psalmist is committing, vowing that whatever befalls he will shout for joy. He is making a choice. Charles Spurgeon has said of this Psalm, “this Psalm may be regarded as the utterance of struggling, but unstaggering, faith.”

Anyone out there struggling right now? We are in a pandemic people … we are ALL struggling with something in this time in our lives, in the history that is presently being written. We all have struggles that challenge our hearts and souls (and bodies). This is our current, common human experience.

But …

if we can look to the source of hope and peace,

if we can choose, by our will and our unstaggering (well … most of the time) faith to force joy from our lips … it WILL COME BACK TO OUR SOULS!

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). It is new every morning (Psalm 30:5). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Angels experience joy when one person repents (Luke 15:10). We should eat and drink with a merry (joyful) heart (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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After months of advertising online, displays set up at the ends of aisles, the advent calendars are now daily being opened each day, normalizing chocolate as a breakfast food. So, each evening we go to bed anticipating the delight of a piece of chocolate to start the next day … a joyful waiting.

This is part of this spiritual practise of waiting, of counting down, of anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth and the hope that he brought and continues to bring.

Waiting has also been a common practise during this pandemic. We wait, providing space for others, in the aisles in stores. We have waited in lines to get into stores and businesses. We wait to get outside of workplaces, stores and businesses to remove our masks from our faces. Teens have had to wait to get the varying levels of driving license. We wait for the day when travel re-opens. We wait for the day when church doors re-open for the whole of our church family to be together physically again. We wait to hold our elders, living in care homes, again. We wait …

This waiting, this frustrating, sometimes lonely, confusing practise of waiting is intensified when we do not have a known number of days, weeks and months, each with a chocolate token for our patience to countdown to the end of this waiting game. We all cry out,

I just want this to be done!
I want to be on the other side of this waiting!

We are weary from this waiting. Our patience is waining. And that is when our good side starts to get shadowed by impatience and we spew nastiness with our words and even our actions.

It’s good to hope, it’s the waiting that spoils it.

Yiddish Proverbs

And we do hope …

This first week of advent we are ruminating over the hope that is to come, but …

it’s not here yet!

… or is it?

“Before the first advent, the people of God were waiting in the dark. As we await the second advent, we are waiting in the light.” Rev Dr Glenn Packiam

As Christ-followers, our hope has already come … we are not living as hopeless people. We still are awaiting his second coming, but we are doing so in the light, already having Emmanuel … Christ with us.

So, as we wait, for Christmas, for the end of this pandemic, let’s remember the wisdom of the Apostle Paul,

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12


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Advent arrived this weekend … with hope as it’s theme.

I had intentions this weekend. Intentions to haul out the Christmas decorations, to stand the tree in the window to declare to our neighbors that we are celebrating.

It didn’t happen. Other things happened, errands, grocery shopping, chores, but mostly I sat on my behind, watching too much TV and going to bed early.

I find I am so … weary.

I think this Christmas season we are all weary. Though this pandemic may not have touched most of us directly with illness or the death of a loved one, we are all feeling the effects of isolation, withdrawal from social activities and an almost palpable tension in the air.

Then, this morning, I read quote, that a friend had posted :

“As my prayer become more attentive and inward, I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent. I started to listen. I first thought that praying entailed speaking. I then learnt that praying is hearing, not merely being silent. This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking, Prayer involves becoming silent, And waiting until God is heard.”

Søren Kierkegaard

And I found myself wondering … what if, rather than just be weary, lifeless and silent … what if I listened? What if we listened in the silence, until a still small voice cries out in our pandemic desert? What if, rather than succumb to weariness and apathy, what if we listen for the one who gives us reason to rejoice, to hope?

It is not trees, and concerts, and parties, and gift exchanges, and church services that are the reason for the season … HE is the reason that our weary world can rejoice, can have hope!

Perhaps we need to fall on our knees … and hear.

… the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine

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Approximately one hundred and sixty years ago, Emily Dickinson wrote a poem illustrating hope as a bird.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -



And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -



I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.

This metaphorical description of hope is as “the thing with feathers”, a “little bird” whose song is heard sweetest in the midst of the storms of life.

It is one of Dickinson’s most popular poems and I expect it is because the truth of her descriptive words resonate in the hearts of those who read it.

Hope … that ethereal quality that is available to us all, that gives sustenance to unfed souls, that keeps us vertical when we think we might drop and that never asks anything in return.

The apostle Paul said, “hope is as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19) and that it “does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Today, this first Sunday of Advent, 2020, we need this hope. We need to be reminded that it flutters all around (and even, in) us. It will not disappoint. And this year, this pandemic year, hope is sweeter than ever.

In the book of Isaiah (40:31), is another feathery metaphor of hope :

“those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Karla Sullivan

Progressive old soul wordsmith

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