Fourth Week of Advent

I thought last week’s post was late… this week’s was so late that we’ve inadvertently skipped a week! Welcome to the fourth and final week of Advent!

Maybe it’s appropriate for this week to be delayed a bit because of life being full. I was hoping this week to share some resources connected to the Advent Conspiracy – a church movement all about taking the focus away from consumption during Advent and instead focusing on worship, reducing spending, giving and spending time with people. There is a neat video about it: click though!

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Our Advent album recommendation this week is also an Advent Conspiracy one. Mike Crawford and his Secret Siblings, from Jacob’s Well church in Kansas City, have put together a fantastic album of original advent music in honour of the Advent Conspiracy. Proceeds from the album go to supporting water access programs.

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Our kids resource this week comes from Ali Beeston, who uses a couple of advent calendars to mark time during Advent with her toddler. She has some really helpful thoughts on explaining Advent and Christmas to a small child.

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Other resources this week? We have a poem by Glen Scrivener – a video version as well – where you can see him delivering it performance poetry style! Also, with just a week to go until Christmas, this is the week for using the Antiphons to count down until Christmas day. You might like to use them in your personal devotions. Click through to find all the antiphons, and one of our favourite versions of O Come O Come Emmanuel – which is a musical version of all the antiphonal prayers.

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Second Week of Advent

This post is late – two weeks into Advent, and life is already full to the brim with all the things that Christmas demands. Ugh. Matthew found this helpful blog post about ‘Advent Killers‘, written by Pete Scezzero. It was exactly the right thing to read as my to-do list of Christmas jobs and ministry tasks grows and grows. You might like it too!

Our kids resource this week has been put together by Amber from St Alban’s Five Dock, who has established an amazing Advent tradition with her primary school aged boys – they build their own nativity out of Lego! Click through for more.

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Our other resources this week are tied together around the theme of waiting for Jesus’ coming. Actually… what am I talking about? That’s pretty much all the resources we have! This week we have some especially pointed ‘waiting’ resources. First up, an album by Rain for Roots titled ‘Waiting Songs‘. It’s country, so I can only listen to it in small doses, but it’s a very beautiful album none the less.

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We’ve also got an excerpt from a sermon by Oliver O’Donovan from Revelation about waiting for the second coming of Jesus. We’ve got a poem by C.S. Lewis about a bird waiting for a time of endless summer. And we have a collection of paintings depicting the moment when Mary and Elizabeth joyfully reunite, knowing that God is going to work marvels through the babies in their wombs.

Jesus is worth waiting for!

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First Week of Advent

Advent is underway!

This year we are celebrating the season with once-or-twice weekly posts sharing some of our favourite Advent resources. We’ll be revisiting poems, songs, art, sermons and stories from previous years, but we also have some new resources this year.

One area we are developing at the moment is a collection of resources to use with children. There are no children in the Moffitt household, but some generous friends with children have volunteered to write up stories of how they celebrate Advent with their kids, and we can’t wait to share these with you as Advent unfolds. Our first reflection on celebrating Advent with kids comes courtesy of the Meoli family, who use The Truth in the Tinsel  to celebrate Advent with their toddlers. Check it out.

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This year we’re also going to share some of our favourite Advent music. Not just Christmas carols mind you – we’ve collected some true to form Advent music created especially to help Christians remember the coming of Christ. There are some traditional carols mixed in, but much of it is original contemporary music, written to help God’s people hold fast to the promise of his return and to faithfully wait for him. To kick us off this week we’ve included a link here to Advent by New York outfit Young Oceans. We love this album so much. Please have a listen if you are looking for something new for your Advent playlist this year.

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Our other resources this week are treasures from the archives. Given that many of us are putting up our Christmas decorations now, it seems like a good time to read Jane Williams’ reflections on Christmas decorations. We’ve also included John Milton’s poem ‘The Lord Will Come and Not be Slow‘ and a collection of some of our favourite Annunciation art. Click through for works by Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Kim Ki Chang and John Collier.

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Using a Jesse Tree

How do we teach children how to wait for God’s king?

The Jesse Tree is tried and true Advent tradition, used across Catholic and Protestant communities to tell the story of how God’s people waiting for their king to arrive.

In a classic Christian move, the Jesse Tree kind of reclaims one of those random Christmas traditions – in this case the Christmas tree – and turns it into a beautiful symbol for a gospel truth. Picking up on Isaiah 11, the tree becomes a reminder of God’s promise to restore Israel with a descendant from Jesse’s family.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

Households and churches that use Jesse Trees fill the tree day by day with different ornaments that represent significant moments in God’s plan to save the world through Jesus – starting with Genesis and ending with the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

There are so many resources out there to help you set up your own Jesse Tree. Here are some of our favourites. If you aren’t sure where to begin with telling these Old Testament stories, we strongly recommend using the Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s the perfect way to cover the whole Old Testament and Christmas in 24 days.

jesse-treekids-earngeys kids-mclennans

Advent Calendar Inspiration

Another advent is just around the corner. How will you mark time this season? Will you use a daily calendar? Or a weekly candle in your Advent wreath? Will you work your way through a bible reading plan or a series of devotionals? Will you set up a Jesse Tree?

There are so many great resources out there to create your own Advent calendar. Check out our two collections below – a round up of 12 DIY advent calendars to make at home, and a list of different devotional materials or printables that you can use in your own calendar.

There’s also a link to our Advent Bible reading plan!

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Have you found any other great Advent calendar ideas? Please let us know about other great resources that you love to use in the comments!

Stir Up, Lord

Stir up, Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they may produce abundantly the fruit of good works, and receive your abundant reward; through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.

Advent begins in a week. Time to prepare for our time of preparation!

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Nine Thoughts and Observations on Advent

photo (2)1. ‘Always winter, never Christmas.’  One of the things I appreciate most about the Advent season is the ability it has to unsettle my comfortable acceptance of the way things are. Whether you are prepared for it or not – indeed whether you like it or not – Advent arrives, and refuses admittance to the mere sentimentality and mercantilism of the festive season. Advent drags our attention to the past, yet at the same time does not allow our sight to remain there, but sets our eyes towards the future. The seeming contradiction of Advent teaches us that we live in disjointed times, where the reality of things is incongruous with the present systems of the world. For those who live by faith rather than sight, we are awaiting the day when the world of this day gives way to a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2. The hope for righteousness to make its (his) home among us is the promise of Christmas Day. The meekness and humility of the manger in no way obfuscates the reality that in one particular child dwelt the fullness of God. However, where the first coming was wrapped in swaddling clothes, the second coming will be wrapped in glory and light as Christ comes in power and majesty to lay bare the secret thoughts of our hearts as he judges the quick and dead. In setting the world to rights, Christ Jesus, the very personification of righteousness, will come at last to dwell with us. Such apocalyptic visions lay claim to our imaginations; how else could we live as though history will one day rhyme with justice? That our now and not yet will one day align.

3. As a season of preparation and waiting, Advent’s program for reading Scripture and prayer discloses the follies of my own lusty heart. Restless and unsated, I find my loves and desires unaligned from true rest and satisfaction. Our Advent preparation calls upon a reorientating our hearts in anticipation of Christ’s reordering of the world. Whilst all our work without love is worth nothing, Advent, like the entire liturgical calendar, calls us towards perfectly loving God, leaving aside our worthless works and instead use our bodies, heart, and soul, in worship. ‘You called and cried out loud O Lord, and shattered my deafness. Radiant and resplendent, you put to flight to my blindness.’ For to rightly live is to rightly love – and be loved.

4. We moved homes at the beginning of Advent. Amidst the cleaning and the boxes, the habits and practices we’ve developed over the past few years have kicked into gear around the household, helping our Advent devotion to remain uncluttered by the move. But what has surprised me most this year has been the smells of Advent. I forgot what it was like to arrive home to be greeted by a wreath hanging on the door, and the sweet fragrance of of flowers and leaves. It is an enthralling aroma, filling not only the senses but the stairwell of our apartment. Alas that these perfumes are also an aroma of death, as the flowers, the leaves, the wreath itself withers and fades. The search for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come is never far away at Advent.

5. Move past the wreath though, and inside you’ll find a Christmas tree – our first real Christmas tree. Not that our previous plastics trees weren’t real;  yet they were the verisimilitude of Christmas trees. One of our favourite seasonal poems is Eliot’s ‘On the Cultivation of Christmas Trees‘. Our tree is, for all intents and purposes, uncultivated. It is a wild brute of a tree, trimmed but untamed, with branches and trunks running whither they please. Yet this spindly wood, with one limb here and another there, resembles the members of the forest bringing their hands together in a resounding clap at the coming of the Lord. For Eliot the tree is an occasion for wonder, of amazement without pretext. To be awoken by the peculiar and exciting smell of our tree recalls to my mind the entwined fate of the world and my body. Fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy not at their annihilation or replacement but their transformation and perfection. My body will rise from the earth, and the earth itself shall be changed, for the Son of God has come to the world which he has made so that we might be renewed after his likeness.

6. In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son. The day is almost here, salvation is close to hand. The redemption of time lies at the heart of many Advent practices, as we mark the days until Christmas, ever vigilant for the coming of the Son of Man: wreaths and candles, calendars and trees, all trace the progression of not merely time across the season but the dawning of a great light amidst the darkness. This past week I have found myself each night praying the ‘O Antiphons’. These ancient prayers, (mostly known to us now in the Advent carol par excellence of our generation, ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel‘), forbid counting down to Christmas for its own sake. Instead, they invite us to consider the origins of our own impatience, making use of the time by exploring the nature of our desires. The ‘O Antiphons’ speak of an urgent longing; a longing which is addressed to Christ as a safe harbour for all kinds of holy desires rarely encountered in this world: wisdom, justice, peace, enlightenment, freedom, and unfailing companionship. The fleeting nature of such necessities fuels the Advent craving: Maranatha!

7. While the O Antiphons capture Scripture’s penultimate prayer, ‘Come!’, we dare not forget that Christ’s first coming was the fulfilment of Israel’s longing amidst the pain and grief of exile. This story too must be rehearsed and learnt again in anticipation of celebrating the feast. For Israel’s grief and longing is the story of a creation which finds itself estranged and exiled from the God who made it. In finding this wider story played out in the story of one people, the celebration of the Son’s journey into the far country is a celebration for all people. Israel’s consolation becomes our consolation, as our fears, our grief, our pain is met in the one who sheds light into all darkness.

8. Where Advent pulls our imagination and yearning in two directions, the season drives us towards the marvel of the incarnation, where the past and the future are ‘conquered and reconciled’, where God’s only begotten took on flesh, and became human, so that humanity might become like him. If the beginning reminds us of the end, and the first coming of the second coming, Advent’s focus on the new world naturally leads into the celebration of Christ’s birth. It was there that the new world was given birth in the coming of Emmanuel, and it is for his coming again, when God shall dwell among us forever, that we now look.

9. Let us therefore, celebrate the feast, not for its own sake, but as a foretaste of the perfection of all things when God will be all in all. Let us rejoice in the givenness of things, of creation not set aside to decay, but that dirt and earth was taken into the Godhead itself (for of such stuff are humans made). Let us rejoice in giving and receiving. At the conclusion of another Advent, which begins a new year but calls to mind a new world, let us rejoice in God’s prodigality, and respond with adoration, thankfulness, and hope: ‘This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.