Advent

I love Advent. It’s perfect for dark nights of the soul. Maybe because it includes so very many dark nights of winter.

It’s about waiting.

And waiting some more.

The first time people were waiting for the Messiah, they had no idea when he was coming. No clue just what they were waiting for. But they kept waiting and hoping.

It’s kind of like being in a dark night. You’re not sure why you’re there, how long you’ll be there, and what exactly you’re waiting for.

It’s a good thing growth happens in the dark.

And then, in Advent, just like in dark nights, suddenly there’s a bit of light.

All it takes is one small candle.

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Bringing a sense of anticipation.

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And with that light, color comes back into the world.

We’ve started two new Advent traditions this year to help our son, who’s 2 1/2, both wait and anticipate the coming of the Messiah.

The first is a Jesse Tree. I made ours out of a branch stuck in a jug full of sand. Each day, there’s a new ornament representing a new part of the story of God’s creation, redemption and ultimate consummation as we look toward the second Advent of the Messiah.

This picture clearly shows the ornament for day 3 of advent, which is the story of the flood, and is represented by a rainbow for God’s promise.

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The second advent tradition is an Advent Calendar that we’re filling up as we go. Each tiny bucket holds a person or animal from a Nativity/Infancy Narrative set I’m making out of peg dolls. The first two you can see in this picture, are the angel Gabriel and Mary. After we unwrapped them, we read the story of the Annunciation, and then put the figures in the buckets to show that 2 days had passed. We’ve also unwrapped Elizabeth, and will read the story of the visitation one night when his attention span is longer (we’re reading one story every night for the Jesse Tree already! And he’s only two ;-) )

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Our resources for this are the Good Dirt devotional, and The Children of God Storybook Bible.

(And if you want more DIY on how I made the calendar and ornaments, I’ll be posting over at Wayfaring Artist soon!

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For once, I’m content to wait in the dark, enjoying my little bits of light and bursts of color knowing that they’re just a tiny taste of what’s to come.

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Coldplay

from thefyrp on tumblr

from thefyrp on tumblr

How I feel about God is not God. While that might seem obvious on the surface, it’s intrinsically tricky to really know. You see, I grew up in a tradition where a great emphasis was placed on individual experience of the presence of God.

Specifically, a youth group I participated in had lively worship where we rocked out, dancing and kneeling, feeling all sorts of strong emotions and relating them to God. For years after, I would experience a certain rush of feeling in worship or get a little “high on God.”

Then I discovered Coldplay. (It was much holier in both my family and said youth group to not listen to “secular” music. I got stuck in that mindset for a while).

I’m not going to debate or discuss the merits of one kind of music over another, in worship or otherwise because there’s a lot of room for God to work in all sorts of places through all sorts of mediums.

But when I felt a similar rush of happy emotions over that mellow, piano-driven rock, I knew something was wrong.

So first I tried to make it about God. God could speak through anything, so God was reaching out to me through Coldplay.

See, the only thing I had straight at that point was that Coldplay was awesome, and Coldplay was not God.

And yet, Coldplay could produce some of the same “happy high” I associated with God through rocking praise music.

Turns out, I just like rock.

But now what was I to do when I could no longer pinpoint an experience of God based on how I was feeling? And how much of my relationship with God was just hype?

Now people find God in all sorts of places and practices but what helped me with this was the liturgy.

Even when I’d gotten to a point of feeling like saying, “Fine, God. If you’re not talking to me, then I’m done talking to you,” I still ended up talking to God because the liturgy made me. I couldn’t get away from it entirely without leaving the church (which is hard to do, btw, when you’re married to a priest).

And there’s something to be said for words that will pray for you when you’ve lost all ability to pray.

Oh God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Book of Common Prayer , p. 832

 

Flash

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Is caring over-rated or under-rated? I care too much, too little, my heart will explode, don’t bother me, wrapped up in my cocoon world with my own problems. Wings folded, limp and powerless.

If I come out into the sun, I’ll have to face the world, the world’s problems, crushing, screaming problems.

I huddle, wrapped in this tomb of silk, afraid of the courage that would set me free.

Free to fly in the sun and free to embrace the broken, hurting, beautiful, ugly, miraculous world. To show my colors, spread my wings, live my brief flash before I’m gone.

But such life! To soar out in the world warmed by the sun, kissed by the moon. To dance among the jeweled flowers, daintily adorned in delicate dew.

This I would miss? To stay curled in my cocoon, spun up in silk, safely dying?

I reach out and nibble; the bitter taste of my walls filling my mouth.

It is the taste of life.

I struggle, dragging the weight of my wings, limp and lifeless through the gap.

It is the struggle of life.

I shiver, wings crumpled, wanting back in my cocoon. It is destroyed by my exit.

Then the blood pumps through my veins: my wings fill and stretch, oh strange, oh glorious sensation!

I am free, rising and falling on the ever changing winds, flitting here and there to see the horrible wonders of the world.

I am alive.

Idol

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Much has been made of the fact that Jesus was put to death by the religious leaders of his time.

Many have talked about how the people in Jesus time were so wrapped up in their idea of who the Messiah would be and what they Messiah would do that they couldn’t see the Messiah when he stood in front of them. So they put him to death for blasphemy, for simply stating the truth of who he was.

And we like to shake our heads at them, at their idolatry of their idea of God. And we like to think how blind they were.

We need to look in the mirror.

Nothing has changed about human nature.

Their foibles and tendencies are our foibles and tendencies.

Our idea of God is always in danger of becoming an idol. Our idea of God is always in danger of becoming something that gets in the way of seeing more of the truth of who God is.

I’m an Episcopalian. In some of our churches, we display icons, beautiful works of art meant to assist in the contemplation of the sacred.

I know people who range from plain ol’ “I don’t get it” to calling them idols.

Could an icon become an idol? I’m sure on some level it could.

But I think icons are something easy to pick on. Much more subtle is the idol we make out of our idea of God, our very beliefs about God, our interpretation of the Scripture, or our favorite Christian leader figure.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis writes:

My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?

(Bantam ed. 1976, p.76)

I hope the shattering of my view of God is one of the marks of God’s presence because most days, it’s all I have to go on.

But as I come to terms with that idea, there’s a kind of peace that’s begun to invade at least a corner of my soul.

I hope it spreads…