Advent Daybook, 22: There were shepherds (Christmas Eve)

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting. Join me, won't you? (see previous Advent daybook 2017 posts here)

*Note: If you're reading this in email, the formatting usually looks much better at the website. Just click the post title to get there.*


[H/T: Victoria Emily Jones at Art & Theology blog]


music for today: Handel's Messiah, First Part, Nos. 10-18, Robert Shaw Orchestra  

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For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

—-

”Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!”

—-

”For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people...”

—-

”And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
— Isaiah 9:6-7, Psalm 96:7-10, Titus 2:11, Luke 2:8-20 (ESV)

* Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 2).


prayer for today:

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

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A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King's College Chapel. The Festival was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.

The service includes carols and readings from the Bible. The opening carol is always 'Once in Royal David's City', and there is always a new, specially commissioned carol.

Download the 2017 booklet

You can also download the booklets from previous years.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 on 24 December at 3pm (10:00 EST or 07:00 PST). The service is also broadcast at 2pm on Radio 3 on Christmas Day, and at various times on the BBC World Service.

In the United States the service is broadcast by around 300 radio stations, including American Public Media and its affiliates (Minnesota Public Radio and WNYC-New York, for example). 


(see all Advent daybook posts from 2016 here)

A note from me about turning the corner to Christmas

ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A CHRISTMAS CAROL BY YELENA BRYKSENKOVA (SOURCE)

ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A CHRISTMAS CAROL BY YELENA BRYKSENKOVA (SOURCE)

Dear friends,

What a joy these past three weeks have been contemplating together the mercy and marvel of the advent of Emmanuel. Every year I battle a sense of futility - that this quiet space is meaningless in the midst of our sometimes frenetic need to get to the cozy, chaotic celebration part of Christmas. Every year the Holy Spirit meets me again in the ancient, sober texts of the prophets and the fierce hope of the people of God. I want to be a woman of fierce hope, and to embrace every spark and glimmer of light that comes down from the Father in word, practice, prayer, and beauty. I want to consume this light until it radiates from the inside out to help push back the darkness in this weary world. 

Every year God meets me through you. I ponder your stories of meeting through these humble blog posts the once and coming again King, and receive them as gifts just as plain as the ones beginning to accumulate under our Christmas tree. That even one other person knows the God of Christ more nearly and dearly this year because of this holy compulsion of mine to sift through each Scripture and song and prayer is the greatest gift. Thank you for walking the Advent road along with me.

We are turning a corner friends. I often daydream that before I publish the final Advent post (just as I do when I'm writing the Lent Daybook posts) I'll hear a trumpet and see Christ descending from the sky, returning to once and for all make all things new. If this does not happen before Christmas Day, we are given the responsibility to celebrate as if He did. This is no postscript to Advent; this is the Main Event! It's time to pull out the stops, and take on the holy calling of Feasting!

Will you join me?

In the past few years, I've written a couple of posts about how our family has learned, failed, and learned again how to keep Christmas well.

12 Ways to Savor the 12 Days of Christmas

Family Liturgies For Christmas & My Mama's Rule For Feasting

Christmas Confessions From An Exhausted Dad {Brian's guest post}

I may or may not post each day through Christmas. Some years I have every post planned and written a month ahead of time, but this year God has been insistent that I take the series one day at a time. Every attempt I've made to get myself organized and turn this into a project (which is not necessarily wrong, and typically a great blogging practice!) I have literally become physically ill. Most days, I've received this as a gentle discipline from my heavenly Father. It's reminded me of the Israelites trying to hoard manna in the wilderness when God wanted to provide for them their daily bread. So I'm waiting on God for Christmas Daybook posts in much the same way. Who knows? Maybe I'll be so absorbed in festive play I'll lose track of the calendar altogether! May it be so for all of us.

For these last hours of Advent, may we know with assurance that He has come, He is coming, and He will come again! Hallelujah!


p.s., I would love to hear about your own Advent journey! How has it been for you? Please feel free to drop me a comment below or send me a note

Advent Daybook, 21: Glory in the darkest place

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting. Join me, won't you? (see previous Advent daybook 2017 posts here)

*Note: If you're reading this in email, the formatting usually looks much better at the website. Just click the post title to get there.*


The Nativity , Gari Melchers ( source )  [H/T:  Diary of an Arts Pastor ]

The Nativity, Gari Melchers (source)

[H/T: Diary of an Arts Pastor]


music for today: "Glory in the Darkest Place", Brittany Hope  (lyrics

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[H/T: Global Christian Worship blog


But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

For thus says the Lord of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”

—-

”When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

—-

”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
— Zechariah 8:11-17, Revelation 6:9-11, Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)

* Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 2).


prayer for today:

I will sing of the love of the Lord forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. Psalm 89:1–2, NIV

Lord our God, gather us together in one flock to praise you with one heart and one voice. Let this praise ring out on earth in the midst of all the evils that still confront us. We thank you for your protection, for all the help and deliverance you give us. We thank you for the hope you put into our hearts. We thank you for the hope that we may yet see great things done through the working of your Spirit, for us your children and for all peoples and nations. For your love will not rest until life on earth has come into your hands and all may rejoice. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842–1919), via Plough.com

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(see all Advent daybook posts from 2016 here)


(see all Advent daybook posts from 2016 here)

Advent Daybook, 20: From every people and nation

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting. Join me, won't you? (see previous Advent daybook 2017 posts here)

*Note: If you're reading this in email, the formatting usually looks much better at the website. Just click the post title to get there.*


Love One Another , Laura James ( source )

Love One Another, Laura James (source)


music for today: "Uyai Mose / Come, All You People", Brehm Center 

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And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.

And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

—-

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

* Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 2).


prayer for today:

In peace, we pray to you, Lord God. {Sit in silence for a moment.}

For all people in their daily life and work;
For our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone.

For this community, the nation, and the world;
For all who work for justice, freedom, and peace.

For the just and proper use of your creation;
For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.

For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble;
For those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.

For the peace and unity of the Church of God;
For all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth.

For pastor; and all clergy and other ministers;
For all who serve God in his Church.

For the special needs and concerns of our friends, family, and community: _________________

Hear us, Lord;
For your mercy is great.

We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life. We are especially thankful for _________.

We will exalt you, O God our King;
And praise your Name for ever and ever.

Amen.
— Prayers of the People (Form VI), Book of Common Prayer

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We'll be making these! What about you?


(see all Advent daybook posts from 2016 here)

Advent Daybook, 19: The world is about to turn

My Advent daybook for these 24 days of waiting. Join me, won't you? (see previous Advent daybook 2017 posts here)

*Note: If you're reading this in email, the formatting usually looks much better at the website. Just click the post title to get there.*


Some of the 82 released Chibok girls before a meeting with Nigeria's President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. (Islamist militants of the Boko Haram group released 82 schoolgirls from a group of 276 they abducted in north-eastern Nigeria three years ago.), May 2017. AFP ( source )

Some of the 82 released Chibok girls before a meeting with Nigeria's President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. (Islamist militants of the Boko Haram group released 82 schoolgirls from a group of 276 they abducted in north-eastern Nigeria three years ago.), May 2017. AFP (source)


music for today: "Canticle of the Turning", Emmaus Way  (lyrics)

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The Messenger-Angel again called me to attention. It was like being wakened out of deep sleep.

He said, “What do you see?”

I answered, “I see a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top. Seven lamps, each with seven spouts, are set on the bowl. And there are two olive trees, one on either side of the bowl.”

Then I asked the Messenger-Angel, “What does this mean, sir?”

The Messenger-Angel said, “Can’t you tell?”

“No, sir,” I said.

Then he said, “This is God’s Message to Zerubbabel: ‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit,’ says God-of-the-Angel-Armies. ‘So, big mountain, who do you think you are? Next to Zerubbabel you’re nothing but a molehill. He’ll proceed to set the Cornerstone in place, accompanied by cheers: Yes! Yes! Do it!’”

After that, the Word of God came to me: “Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you. Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!”

—-

The God of gods—it’s God!—speaks out, shouts, “Earth!”
welcomes the sun in the east,
farewells the disappearing sun in the west.
From the dazzle of Zion,
God blazes into view.
Our God makes his entrance,
he’s not shy in his coming.
Starbursts of fireworks precede him.

He summons heaven and earth as a jury,
he’s taking his people to court:
“Round up my saints who swore
on the Bible their loyalty to me.”

The whole cosmos attests to the fairness of this court,
that here God is judge.”

—-

”I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One Seated on the Throne. It was written on both sides, fastened with seven seals. I also saw a powerful Angel, calling out in a voice like thunder, “Is there anyone who can open the scroll, who can break its seals?”

There was no one—no one in Heaven, no one on earth, no one from the underworld—able to break open the scroll and read it.

I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able to open the scroll, able to read it. One of the Elders said, “Don’t weep. Look—the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered. He can open the scroll, can rip through the seven seals.”

—-

“God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

“So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.
— Zechariah 4:1-10, Psalm 50:1-6, Revelation 5:1-5, Matthew 25:1-6,13 (MSG)

* Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 2).


prayer for today:

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. Psalm 50:14–15, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, we want to praise you together and to thank you with all our hearts for your goodness and your deliverance from our many needs. Accept our thanks, and help us go on our way with ever joyful hearts. Make us ready for whatever you have prepared for us, your children. Bless us in our individual lives and bless us in our community. Let your Spirit shed its rays into all places to comfort people’s hearts and to restore and strengthen their faith. May your name be praised forevermore. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842–1919), via Plough.com

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G.K. Chesterton has taught my family more about the true spirit of celebrating Christmas than almost any other teacher. (I've written about these lessons here, here, here, and here.) Above all, this theologian/social critic/blustery Englishman insists that we Christians learn the discipline of not taking ourselves too seriously. 

Here's a couple examples from Advent and Christmas Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton:

"You cannot be too solemn about golf to be a good golfer; you can be a great deal too solemn about Christianity to be a good Christian. You may put into your neckties solemnity, and nothing but solemnity, because neckties are not the whole of your life—at least, I hope not. But in anything that does cover the whole of your life—in your philosophy and your religion—you must have mirth. If you do not have mirth, you will certainly have madness." (Lunacy and Letters)
People are losing the power to enjoy Christmas though identifying it with enjoyment. When once they lose sight of the old suggestion that it is all about something, they naturally fall into blank pauses of wondering what it is all about. To be told to rejoice on Christmas day is reasonable and intelligible, if you understand the name, or even look at the word. To be told to rejoice on the twenty-fifth of December is like being told to rejoice at quarter-past eleven on Thursday week. You cannot suddenly be frivolous unless you believe there is a serious reason for being frivolous.  (“The New War on Christmas,” G.K.’s Weekly, December 26, 1925, quoted in Brave New Family.)

p.s., I'd love to hear what makes you laugh? Drop me a comment below.


(see all Advent daybook posts from 2016 here)