Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Monday Dec. 1st


Monday – Dec. 1st

Our Hope, God’s Promise: “O Come, O Come Immanuel” -

If you have not done so yet, consider making an Advent Candle or Wreath arrangement. All you need is four candles. If you have some evergreens go ahead and make a circle of evergreens and put the candles around the decoration. You can also go to a craft store and purchase a round piece of Styrofoam to decorate, or to put candles in. The lighting of Candles is done a week at a time. This first week we’ll light just the first candle each day. This is especially good for children to participate in as you read scripture and pray.

If you have four candles, light the first Advent Candle.

Our Readings: Isaiah 9:1-6 and 11:1-10

Isaiah 9:1-6 (NIV)
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan--
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIV)
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

A Hymn for Advent:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
[Refrain]

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
[Refrain]

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
[Refrain]

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
[Refrain]

A Meditation on Preparation in a World of Darkness:

The world is loud, boisterous, seeking fulfillment in trivial pursuits. Isaiah reminds me,

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness--
on them light has shined. (9:2)

My temptation is to constantly focus on the darkness. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times by the not-so-good daily news. The economy, terrorism, wars, unemployment, disease, death, and on and on it goes.

What I am reminded of from scripture is that God shines brightly in even the darkest places. Jesus said he is the “light of the world” – help me Lord, to remember that in these days ahead.

I long for the shoot that comes from the stump (Isaiah 11:1). Small signs of your presence: the smile of a child; the kind clerk who smiled and said “thank you”; the words of encouragement and the gestures of love from family and friends; and so many more “shoots from the stump”.

Let’s not succumb to a season of “bah, humbug” but walk in the expectation of Christ’s presence today.

Today: Look for one way in which God’s presence became clear around me.

We pray: O God, rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son.
As the light from this candle, may the bless of Christ come upon us,
brightening our way and guiding us by his truth.
May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world,
and to us, as we wait for his coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
As the candle is lighted, take some time to prepare your heart for this Advent day.

Joy to the World - Help is On the Way

It’s the first day of Advent– while you prepare for Worship this morning at church take a minute to ask God to direct you through this season that you might be prepared to “receive your King”.

In the first week of Advent we celebrate the PROMISE of His Coming. His promise is based on our need. We were made in his image, but there is emptiness in our soul that is the result of the Fallen nature of sin. But why did Jesus come? What in his coming announces God's heart? His desire for us to know and experience?
10 BUT THE ANGEL SAID TO THEM, "DO NOT BE AFRAID; FOR BEHOLD, I BRING YOU GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY WHICH WILL BE FOR ALL THE PEOPLE;
11 FOR TODAY IN THE CITY OF DAVID THERE HAS BEEN BORN FOR YOU A SAVIOR, WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD.

GREAT JOY!
Did you know that God is Joyful?
1 CHRONICLES 16:23-27 (NASB)
23 SING TO THE LORD, ALL THE EARTH; PROCLAIM GOOD TIDINGS OF HIS SALVATION FROM DAY TO DAY.
24 TELL OF HIS GLORY AMONG THE NATIONS, HIS WONDERFUL DEEDS AMONG ALL THE PEOPLES.
25 FOR GREAT IS THE LORD, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED; HE ALSO IS TO BE FEARED ABOVE ALL GODS.
26 FOR ALL THE GODS OF THE PEOPLES ARE IDOLS, BUT THE LORD MADE THE HEAVENS.
27 SPLENDOR AND MAJESTY ARE BEFORE HIM, STRENGTH AND JOY ARE IN HIS PLACE.

PSALM 16:11 (NASB)
11 YOU WILL MAKE KNOWN TO ME THE PATH OF LIFE; IN YOUR PRESENCE IS FULLNESS OF JOY; IN YOUR RIGHT HAND THERE ARE PLEASURES FOREVER.

Why do we often fall into the trap of thinking God is an angry, stern, just waiting for you to goof up God? Whoever or Whatever (I suspect the enemy of our souls) has tried to convey that image of God is lying to us.

When God sent his angels to Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, Zechariah and Elizabeth, they spoke the words, "don't be afraid".
We fear the unknown oftentimes. We fear that which we cannot control.
We need to hear the words all over again. In a world filled with economic crisis, terrorism, wars, divorce, disease, and on and on we could go, we need to hear God's word -- "don't be afraid, help is on the way!" God was coming near. Nehemiah the Governor heard that - "DO NOT BE GRIEVED, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH."
It doesn't say, "Joy FOR the Lord is our strength", nor, "Get the Joy of the Lord and you'll be strong". No, it says, "THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH". He is our source of assurance, our confidence, and our hope. It is in Him that we have the ability to rest in hope and begin our Advent journey with that assurance - "help is on the way".
JOHN 17:13 (NASB)
13 "BUT NOW I COME TO YOU; AND THESE THINGS I SPEAK IN THE WORLD SO THAT THEY MAY HAVE MY JOY MADE FULL IN THEMSELVES.

Joy is not in "paying back" those who you feel obligated to buy for; but Joy is found in buying gifts you want to give because giving is so much like God.
Joy is not found in trying to ignore the troubles around us -- i.e., in "being happy". Happiness depends upon happenings, and if my happenings don't happen to be happy, I won't experience happiness! Rather, joy is a deep source of assurance and confidence regardless of the circumstances -- because My Father cares deeply for me!
Joy is not the absence of pain and difficulties -- as if we can measure God's love by the lack of things that go wrong. Rather, Joy is the assurance that God loves us so much that he sent His own Son into the world to deal with our sin and pain. HEBREWS 12:2 (NIV)
2 LET US FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS, THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH, WHO FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS, SCORNING ITS SHAME, AND SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD.

God is full of Joy for his us. As you meditate on this first day of Advent, remember this, our God came into this world to remove it's curse so that we might, as redeemed ones first, know the fullness of His Joy.
11 YOU WILL MAKE KNOWN TO ME THE PATH OF LIFE; IN YOUR PRESENCE IS FULLNESS OF JOY; IN YOUR RIGHT HAND THERE ARE PLEASURES FOREVER.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

May this first day of Advent be a Day of Great Joy!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Celebrating Advent, 2008

Celebrating Advent

The word 'advent' is Latin for 'a coming or arrival'. The season of Advent for the church means the "coming" or "arrival" of Jesus. The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus - the Christ - in his First Advent, and as well, the anticipation of the return of Christ - the King - in his Second Advent. Advent always begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. In much of the church around the world Advent begins the church’s liturgical year. Advent is a season of preparation. It is not simply Christians acknowledging a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ and the proclamation of “joy to the world”…that all of creation might be reconciled to God.


Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing for Jesus Christ. Do we need Advent in our pre-Christmas season? Most people spend all four weeks of Advent (and then some!) buying or making gifts to give out for Christmas, scheduling Christmas travel, sending out Christmas cards, going to Holiday parties, and getting ready for a big Christmas gathering and meal. By the time it's over, we need a vacation from the holiday! Instead of feeling “joy”, many just feel exhausted and depleted, thankful that Christmas is finally over. That is a sad commentary on this period of time and the church’s lack of thoughtful reflection on the celebration of our Savior’s birth. [Just a note: I am teaching at Mad City Church this Sunday…the first Sunday of Advent…on this theme of “Joy”. You can access the teaching around Dec. 4 at http://madcitychurch.org/listen.asp.]

It has been my personal joy to include Advent readings – both Biblical and devotional in my daily quiet times for almost two decades. It has made the celebration of Christmas much more like a well prepared feast and not a quick stop at a drive through.

Beginning this Sunday, November 30th, and continuing for four weeks until Christmas Day, I’d like to invite you to an Advent journey with me. What do you need to come along? Not much. Come back to this blog as often as you can…hopefully at least once a day. Take some time to read and prayerfully reflect on the themes of Advent. Consider creating space for a time of meditation and reflection on the Incarnation of Jesus, our Lord. Each of these days is an opportunity to PREPARE your heart for the ADVENT of Christ – our celebration of Christmas. If you can do this in a household with others, especially your family, great; but if you can’t, do it yourself. My prayer is that it will make the time before Christmas much more special than ever before.

I’ve prepared many of these Advent meditations, but not all of them. There are some that are quite unoriginal as they represent the thoughts and prayers of Advent meditations I’ve accumulated over the years and therefore the contributions people who love this season as much me. –Elliott, Nov 29, 2008



Monday, November 24, 2008

First Snow and a Grandson Joy



It snowed today! First one of the year. They kept saying all weekend that there was a chance of snow, but I didn't go to bed that expectant. I awoke around 4:00 a.m. (bladder!) and looked out the window to see it was white outside. When I woke up for good, around 5:45, I went out to coffee, Christmas music chorales, my Bible, some time to pray...and then to wait...and wait...and wait.
I knew that very shortly my Grandson would be awake, and I was anticipating his first snow. Oh yes, he saw snow last year, but he was only 5 months-7 months old and I knew he probably didn't comprehend much of what was occurring. So this was special...the first snow and I wanted to be there.
I heard him arouse about 7 a.m. and Sarah had him in her arms when he came out the bedroom door. He saw me and smile, reached out for me -- which he doesn't always do -- and I took him in my arms. "Jack, you want to see something?" and we walked to the front big windows. We looked out at the white covered ground and trees, etc...and he smiled... "Ooooohhhh, Wooowww" were the first words from his smiling face.
I'm preaching on Joy this Sunday at church...this was a "joy-ful" encounter"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Getting Started Anew With Old Friends

Over the past few months we've had the pleasure of hosting a number of friends. It started in May with our friends from Beaminster, a village in County Somerset, England -- Richard and Norma Roberts. These are really dear friends whose presence with us for two weeks was a pure delight.

A week after they left, we greeted Lindsay back home for a long 5 weeks vacation. Lindsay has just graduated with a degree in Social Work from the University of Western England in Bristol, England...where she lives with her husband Peter. The time with Lindsay was really sweet. Wow, we miss you Honey every day!While Lindsay was home, her Aunt, my Sister, Molly came for a visit.
Molly is one of the neatest sisters a guy could ever have and to have
her with us for a few days was more fun! Molly is more than a sister,
she's a friend. When I get done with a conversation with her, I always feel encouraged, wiser, and loved... you can't beat that, can you.

Our summer at this point was only 1/3 way through at this point in time. We had all of these in a short 6 weeks of the end of May and June, with Peter coming over in late June to join Lindsay for the last two weeks of their stay.
They left in early July, but we were not done.

Andy had two friends from his days in England, Jez and Ellie, who came over -- only to leave after a few days for a cross-country trip to Vancouver, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver, and home again...with lots of other stops and spots along the way... Whew! As parents, our prayer was Have Fun, Be Safe! Please! Our prayers were answered.

But seriously, it was lot of fun to have them here with us. There are a lot of parents who struggle with their kids friends, but we have never had to struggle with that.

Glad you came Jez and Ellie, please come again.



OK.... there's more... my brother Ed and sister-in-law Janet moved back from Kenya, where they had served as Missionaries for a number of years. They moved back to Madison and live on the far west side. It's been a world wind for them with the birth of their first Grandson as well as the untimely death of Janet's mother. For us, it's been a wonderful time to have them around and have time to spend together.

Lastly our Grandson Jack brought his parents with him and have moved in to live with us since last August. Jack celebrated his first birthday with us in late June, and since August, I've had the pleasure of seeing this smiling face, and hearing "Papa" when he looks at me almost every day. I can't tell you the joy that Jack brings to me. He is a gift of God that I get to pick up, cuddle with, read to, hold, work with, and play with every day...it can't get any better than that!There it is...my first blog in a long while...thanks Emma for "chastising me" to start writing again. I'll try to be more faithful in "musing" life, faith, God.