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Posts Tagged ‘advent’

We got Prince Caspian for Christmas at our house.  Some movies offer what no books can: moments of sight and sound and emotion woven together.  My favorite in this movie is Peter, High King, sitting back against the table of Aslan’s sacrifice staring at a carving of Aslan’s face and realizing that in his humanness, Peter is insufficient.  Peter fails.  And Aslan is always faithful.  Perhaps he imagines the look on Aslan’s face when Edmund returned, forgiven.  Now Peter knows too.  And has to go on. 

 

At the beginning of Prince Caspian is another moment.  If you’re not watching closely, you’ll miss it.  For just a second the view that had been following Lucy and Susan beneath the rail-station arch pauses to focus on the lion statue beside it.  The sight is full of memory, as though the roar from Narnia is trapped in that lion.  For a while I ignore the scene’s progression and I think of the year between leaving the Wardrobe and now.  

 

One of my dear friends had the opportunity to spend a semester at Oxford, England.  Surrounded by faith-friends and the sites of our favorite literature, my friend whose strength is imagination was four months in legendary England.  Now she is home, just in time for Christmas.  She grew while she was away, I know.  And maybe we all could have predicted how her return would affect her: “It’s like stepping back out of the wardrobe,” she says.  I see four children tumble onto the wood floor of a clean old attic. 

 

And I want to ask her, “Do you look for Aslan everywhere you go?”  I mean, you might hear a tune and think of fauns, or see some architecture like Cair Paravel’s.  A turn of phrase might bring back the voice of an old friend.  Just looking at the face of one who was with you there could bring it all back.  But mostly I think that those who have returned from Narnia would have learned to watch for Aslan. 

 

Of course Aslan is only a type of the true Lion, my King forever and Redeemer coming-back.  Jesus is the ever-present, always active One whom I can always seek.  Do I look for Him everywhere? 

 

It always reminds me of John, the disciple Jesus loved.  After three years of a close relationship – three years walking and talking and eating, crying and laughing, with God Himself! – this man says good-bye to his Friend.  Buoyed by the hope translated to the gospel he would write decades later, the hope of presence and return and friendship and comfort, he marched on through life.  But I wonder if sometimes he didn’t sit in the darkness and miss his Savior with all that he was.  Imagine his excitement to literally be a part of Revelation, to be in those visions, to see again One – hesitantly, as though John had pictured this moment so many times that he might only be dreaming again – like the Son of Man.  Familiar face, glorified, more like the few moments on the mountain than the months in the dust.  And John is back, Jesus speaking to him, comforting him, rewarding his hope.  But there is more to do.  John’s work on earth is not finished.  He is sent back to write the last words of the hope of new testament. 

 

Sent back.  Held back.  Cannot follow.  Kept waiting.  Watching.  Can’t sleep because you’re standing on the walls, straining eyes to see.  Can’t despair because the words are true, Jesus is coming back.  Must follow, because readiness is imperative for the return of the Bridegroom.  Readiness that glows with anticipation and faith-full faithfulness. 

 

Do you look for Him everywhere? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This week I’ve been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don’t like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they’ve “lost the magic.” If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can’t keep it in. The joy and “magic” are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that’s what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I’m not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I’m living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I’m too busy knowing it to think about it.

That’s what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus’, that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’ of our Bridegroom. He’s coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I’m waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”
– Isaiah 40:9

Based on Isaiah 40:1-11:
When God delivered Israel from Egypt, “different” was a glorious privilege. Isaiah was a prophet to a people who had become ashamed of being different. It had been centuries now, and Judah wanted to be the same as the wicked nations around her. The prophet’s message, however, was one of peace.

In our world today, peace is something almost no one has: nations war; businessmen rush to work; moms hurry from school to soccer to laundry; and people wonder during the quietest times, “Am I believing in the right thing? Will tomorrow work out ok?” As Christians, we have those answers. We have peace to offer a hectic world. But so often we are afraid to tell others about the difference God has made in our lives. Isaiah tells us not to be afraid to proclaim the message of peace – not only to say it, but from a high mountain, with strength, so everyone can hear.

What are we to proclaim? “Behold your God”: that God came to be with us and to lead us as our Shepherd. When God is with us, no one can stand against us. We can have peace. That is one of the things Jesus came to give us. He is called Immanuel: ‘God with us’ because His life and death allow us to have a relationship with God. How can you not shout it from the mountains?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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“Frank Woolworth discovered the demand for Christmas –

he was known as the Christmas man.”

– Jim Morrison as quoted in the November/December edition of the new Victoria Magazine

A dime store Christmas museum display about which the article was written contains ornaments, candles, Santas, toys, tinsel, ribbons, and lights. All this began over a hundred years ago. I’m holding Frank Woolworth personally responsible for all the Christmas junk overflowing every garage sale. Jim Morrison, curator of the National Christmas Center, credits Woolworth with merely meeting a demand already existent in the culture. The consumer-driven Christmas is not new.

In fact, it has sufficiently come of age to be opposed, rejected, and replaced by many people who are dissatisfied for one reason or another with the insistent “Buy, buy, buy!” chanted over the sweet chime of silver bells each December. Some recognize that a country built on debt is in serious trouble, and that luxury on credit is multiplying the disaster. Others want Christmas to be innocent and sentimental, and are unhappy that Santa is in PG-13 movies, advertising addictive substances, and hawking whosever product the companies want him to. There are the Christians who notice, while standing in lines of epic length wrapping around the department store, that there is precious little about Jesus. Angels and stars are the most religious articles with which most stores are comfortable. If Jesus is recognized, He is considered just another icon to be marketed. Finally there are families who are sick of kids seeing the world as a vending machine. They want to emphasize other values.

A friend from church discovered Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catologs this year. They contain suggested gifts for needy children and families around the world. Give a goat to a community, a week of food to a baby, a month of care to an orphan. At Christmas especially I like to give to charities. If you’re interested in spreading the good news of Jesus’ birth around the world, consider letting the missionaries from Samaritan’s Purse deliver a gift in your name, and share about Jesus at the same time.


Or you can do what my friend did, and send the gift in the name of someone on your Christmas list. Check off grandma and aunt Susie, your boss, and your Sunday school teacher by sending gifts in their honor. Let them know what you donated and why. What do you get for the person who already has it all? Look at the catalog to find out.

A documentary filmmaker creatively spun his category by touring the country with a gospel choir warning against the shopocalypse, and asking What Would Jesus Buy?  His presentation can be a little extreme, but the discontent with our materialistic Christmas comes through loud and clear.  Their website also has a suggested list of alternative gifts. 

One of my good friends and I are in the same boat this Christmas: we can’t decide what to put on our own Christmas lists, let alone what to get for our friends and family.  For us there is no conscious rebellion against the gifting tradition; we’re just out of ideas.  Don’t worry.  We are brainstorming. 

Credit for this post goes to my friends, because yet another one commented on this blog to inform me of a group called Advent Conspiracy which is trying to replace consumption with compassion this Christmas.  Their website has information on: what not to do, how not to do it, why not to do it, what to do instead, how to spend instead (supposing you actually had extra cash for Christmas, and weren’t going to simply expand your debt to buy smiles).  I haven’t studied the theology of this group (or of the documentary team); they’re a good resource to challenge you to think about how you celebrate Christmas. 

If you have already thought about how to center your Christmas on Jesus instead of property, what are your ideas?  Do you know any other programs or resources we can use?  Leave a comment.  Let us know. 

Thank you, all of my friends who are willing to make me think about radical Christian living, embracing sacrifice, and true compassionate giving. 

To God be all glory. 

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Isaiah 64:1-12

“And there is none that calleth upon Thy name,

that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee:

for Thou hast hid Thy face from us,

and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”

 ~ Isaiah 64:7 

Isaiah had been a prophet for a long time. He had visited the throne room of God and written the prophecies of Messiah in chapter 53. Now he saw the need for God’s presence among the people, because the people continued in their ways. No one stirred himself up to take hold of God, literally: to fasten onto God.  Everyone was perfectly content with their same sinful ways. But Isaiah remembered God’s awesome deeds and wasn’t content with anything else. His prayer in chapter 64 reveals his hope for more – God’s very presence in their lives. Only God’s presence could restore their peace. Today we need God’s presence in our lives as much as ever.

For years, each December I’ve written out a Christmas wish-list. I wanted clothes, toys, or candy. But Christmas is about God being with us, Immanuel. As Christmas approaches again, we should be hoping for God’s presence in our daily lives. Jesus told us He would be with us always, but how often to we realize that? Like a child Christmas morning who opens one gift and is no longer satisfied with it five minutes later, our weekly doses of God are just not satisfying. Jesus is the only gift that completely satisfies. Spend every day in His presence. Hope for it. Put it on your Christmas list. God will do awesome things for which you do not look!  

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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