Thoughts from December 3-8, 2017

Thoughts on Advent from the Past Week & Preparing Room for God

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Twelve years ago, I was pregnant with Penny at Christmastime, and seven years ago, I was pregnant with Marilee. Both times, it was pretty evident that we needed to be prepared for a baby to enter our lives. We fixed up the nursery. We bought new (and brought out old, in Marilee’s case) baby clothes. We moved furniture. We changed our work schedules. Adding new life to our household required us to make some room.

The Advent guide for today talks about preparing room for Jesus. We can allow Jesus into our lives in a few different ways—through serving others with the love he has shown us, through participating in Christian community (which includes taking communion, prayer, Scripture), and through inviting Jesus into our everyday work.

I’m in a stage in life where I am pretty connected to spiritual practices like church and prayer and Bible reading, and my work is also connected to spiritual things, but I’m not as active when it comes to serving others. So I’m wondering what, if anything, should change in my life, whether I should make room for Jesus in that way.

Is there an area of your life where you want to make room for Jesus?

Monday, December 4, 2017

I write in today’s Advent post about other religions and trying to honor those other faiths while also teaching our kids about our own Christian faith. My intention is to uphold what I see as distinct about Christianity—the grace of God manifested through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—while also recognizing the beauty and goodness that can be present in other religious traditions.

How do you talk to your kids about other religions? What have you learned from religious traditions that are different than your own?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

“Jesus is the reason for the season.” “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I kind of disagree.

Yes yes yes the season is about Jesus, but the way we say it can sometimes make it seem like Christmas is only about what we think of as “spiritual” stuff. It can play into the idea that what matters is the spirit, and that we should do away with the physical reality. Except that the physical reality–the gory mess of our world and the physical beauty and goodness of our world–is exactly what Jesus entered and exactly why it matters that Jesus did so in a physical body.
When you think of God, do parties come to mind? Wine and dancing and music and banquet halls and celebration? Does God’s face look like Marilee’s in the photo above when God delights in us and enters our reality?

Or do you have an image of Puritan simplicity? Or of rules or gray clothing or rice and beans or quiet prayers?

While there is certainly a place for simplicity, solitude, quiet, and fasting, when it comes to Christianity there’s also a place for feasting. Today’s Advent reading is about the importance of materialism for Christians at Christmastime. (for a copy of the Advent book.)

What do you think? Is the excess of this season a distraction from what it really means? Or is it an arrow pointing to a God of extravagant love and abundant grace?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Photo Credit: Jeff Weese

I’m working on a post for Christianity Today about the stories we tell our children about our history, and whether or not we should tell them the sad, ugly, sometimes horrifying reality of life. I’ll post it here when it comes up, but working on it has me thinking about how we want to tell stories where everything works out. Christmas can seem like one more story where everything works out, one more story that doesn’t engage with the reality of a broken world.But pain and suffering penetrate the Biblical narratives of Christmas, and these narratives invite us to consider God’s reality in the midst of a hurting world. We can try to numb ourselves from pain. We can try to distance ourselves from it. But Christians see Jesus as the one who enters into pain and suffering, the one who invites us to do the same. (Here’s the link to get the free ebook–again–if you want it)

What do you tell your kids when they ask questions about sad or hard things?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I write in today’s post about one thing we do as a family in order to prepare for Christmas to come.

This year, I’ve added a personal practice inspired by Justin Early over at The Common Rule. Justin is practicing the “waiting” of Advent by praying before he checks his phone for email or other messages.

I’m modifying his approach as a way to practice the discipline of waiting. I moved email and Facebook off the home screen of my phone. I’m waiting to check them until I’m sitting at my computer. Now that we are a few days into Advent, I’m a little less twitchy about pulling out my phone with every spare second, and I’ve been able to see how I really don’t need to read messages while walking to the bathroom, waiting for our kids to finish getting dressed in the morning, or sitting in line at school. In those moments, I can pray. I can talk. I can think. I can just sit there. I can wait.

The irony is that while waiting implies focusing on the future, this practice of waiting already has helped me to become more present right here and now. More attentive. More aware. More peaceful.

The waiting of Advent has more to it than what I’m describing. But this simple practice has offered me the beginning of a way to understand the grace, humility, and even wonder of waiting (the photo above is our kids at the top of the stairs last Christmas morning, waiting for the go ahead to race towards their gifts).

Psalm 130: 5-6: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”

Friday, December 8, 2017

What comes to mind for you when you think of the Bible?

I could write a whole book about my own thoughts on the subject, but as we turn to Luke’s Gospel today, I just want to remind everyone—myself included—that this is a collection of books that were written by different people at different times in different places with different purposes.

Luke wasn’t written as history or science as we know it today, but Luke does claim that the book he is writing is a careful exploration of events offered to “Theophilus” (which is both a proper name and a name that means God-lover).

For any of us who believe that there is a God out there who might be worthy of our love and devotion, this book was written with us in mind.
(These daily posts are meant to be paired with longer entries that offer a Bible reading and reflection in my Advent ebook, which you can access here.)

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