Tag Archives: Advent

Advent, Apologies, and Joy

I have never experienced Advent in the way that I am experiencing it this year.

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to seeing my children return from their first semester at Baylor University – TOMORROW (God, weather, and roads willing).  To be a little cheesy, this mama bear is ready to have her cubs around for longer that 48 hours.  I am so proud of them, and I feel that we have all adjusted as well as we could have given the apple cart upsetting that we experienced in August.  I look forward to some relaxing times with them in our old stomping grounds of Minneapolis as well as our new home in Bismarck.  The time between Thanksgiving and today has dragged along, but I am sure that the next four weeks will fly by.  *sigh*

Each ticking off of the Sundays of Advent brings me another step closer to the end of our first semester at the University of Mary.  Seriously – wow! We have really changed our ministry focus and have loved every minute with the students here. This unique experience as Protestants in a committed Catholic environment has stretched and grown us in ways that we did not know could happen.  The dialogues that we have had with students and faculty have been amazing.  As I see it, we are here for two purposes: to be in dialogue with brothers and sisters from other denominations and to provide ministry in the Protestant traditions for those students and staff of those traditions.  This is transformational – can you imagine a Protestant university hiring a Catholic priest to minister on that Protestant campus? I am still in shock and so grateful.  I am really digging our new gig.

Advent is a time of reflection as we await the arrival of the Christ child.  In my reflecting, I have realized that sometimes I hit “publish” on my blog posts without thinking it all through.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about this new call on our lives, and I need to share an apology – or maybe just a clarification.  In the post, I wrote about sitting in Mass one Sunday evening and thinking that I am not “here” for the Catholic students sitting around me in the service.  After I hit publish and shared the post on Facebook, one of the Catholic students whom I would count as a dear friend made a comment.  It was not her comment that made me reflect but just the fact that she and I are in fellowship that forced me to re-think my words.  Who am I to limit God’s call on my life?  I am  here to minister to whomever and with whomever God brings into my life. We are here to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love any who comes into our lives, and to share the love of Jesus with whomever will listen.  So – I’m sorry. Deeply sorry.

Two days ago was the Advent Sunday of Joy.  My college English writing students who paid attention enough to know that we do not capitalize words without reason to do so would be upset that I wrote Joy instead of joy; however, it just seems like joy should be capitalized this week.  Maybe I should shout it – JOY (by the way, to those who follow me on Facebook, that lady is still sending me emails in all caps.  Seriously.).

JOY! Yes, this Advent week reminds us of the joy that our souls find because of Christ’s arrival on Earth.  As the song says, “No more let sin and sorrows grow.”  With Christ’s arrival on Earth, all of what was known about God’s kingdom was turned upside down and changed forever. Jesus – Messiah – arrived to save us, free us, bless us, and reign in us.  He came that we could live abundantly.

When we look around us, life abundant seems hard to find some days.  Death, divorce, disease, and discord seem to be winning the fight.  We should probably get off of our computers, log out of Facebook accounts, leave our houses, and go find life.  It is out there waiting for us to live in the same way that we wait in Advent.  And the joy that we seek will rarely be found where we think it will be – fame, career, or wealth.  Instead – in the same unexpected way that Jesus – the King – was found in a humble stable, JOY will likely be found in humble ways of serving others and looking beyond our own wants.

Advent reminds us that we remain in waiting for the second coming of Jesus.  All of the discord that we combat by seeking joy will end when Christ returns and reigns forever as King of King and Lord of Lords.  We will wait…and wait…and wait.  While we wait, we will seek joy through service to God through serving others.

Each year at Advent – this year at Advent – let us remember that Christ came so that we could have life.  As we wait to celebrate Christ’s birth, let us remember that Christ came for a purpose.  As we wait, let us remember that Christ is coming again.  Amen.




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The Advent Grinch

Yesterday was Christmas!  It was a great day for the family, a great day of travel, and a great Christmas service at church.  The sermon was fantastic – it always is in my eyes (my huz is the pastor, but objectively speaking – he is one of the best).  In addition an inspiring sermon, though, was a thought-provoking advent meditation.  I asked the author/speaker if I could share his thoughts in my blog today, and he agreed.

Ben Sonquist is a science teacher who also has a great mind for theology; he and my huz have attended conferences about science and theology together.  He and his wife Amy are the Sunday School teachers for my children’s class as of January 8, and I am thrilled!  They have three sons who helped him out with the Scripture reading yesterday.  Thank you, Ben, for sharing your thoughts on my blog today!

Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, but I have a tendency to be a real Grinch.

A big part of my Scroogly ways has to do not with Christmas itself but with everything that leads up to Christmas. You could say my problem with Christmas is advent.

The beginning of the advent season marks the beginning of the angst season for me. Between scheduling the family visits, getting the kids here and there, budgeting gifts, and the barrage of holiday related commercials my focus quickly shifts to what’s wrong with Christmas rather than what’s right.

Over the advent season we have heard sermons and testimonies with themes like: Be the Light, Make the Most of Every Opportunity, Be Missionally Minded and Be the Miracle. These have been excellent reminders for me and have acted in a way that corrects my Christmas course.

Another reminder has come in reading The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. The letters are written from the perspective of a demon that is mentoring his nephew demon on how to corrupt his human patient. The book is set in 1940’s England but it might as well have been written about me today.

In the 11th letter Screwtape (the elder more experienced demon) reprimands his nephew for trying to leverage common fun things for corrupting his patient. In his reprimand he describes the danger of fun. (Remember this is written from the demons perspective)

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

Screwtape is wary of fun because he recognizes that everything that is good comes from God and fun is good.

Christmas, and everything that leads up to it, is fun. Visiting family is fun. Giving and receiving gifts is fun. Even commercials on TV are fun.  Screwtape knew that the pure joy in these is dangerous but they can also be twisted to distract us from our Father’s (his enemies) will.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 says: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

During Christmas I need to remember to be joyful even when I don’t feel like it because there is a lot of fun to be had. During Christmas I need to pray continually because even though everything that is good comes from God it is easy to lose sight of that. During Christmas I need to give thanks because I have been blessed with so much and it is all from God.  And I need to do all of this because it is God’s will for me, and you, in Christ Jesus.


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When Did Christmas Become Sexy?

Yesterday I went to my local CVS to purchase some gifts.  My huz and I went with two other couples to see  Gold, No Sense, and Brrrrrrr…., a dinner theater presentation by Seasons Dinner Theater.  We have seen their Christmas plays/musicals for several years in a row now, and we are always blessed by the message as well as the company.  I like to give a little gift bag with something cute or yummy in it to each of the couples as a way to say Merry Christmas!  I love to give gifts, so this is a great time for me!

When I bolted into CVS, I went directly to the seasonal aisle which is filled with seasonal treats, tins, and candles.  I decided against candles this year as I think that was the gift last year.  I started glancing up and down the shelves, and something caught my eye – not as a gift but as a mind-racing think.

The Christmas tin filled with M&Ms would be a great present…except for the sexy green M&M on the front with her Santa hat and hooker boots!!!  And the mind race began: when did Christmas become sexy?

I know that sex sells.  Products directly related to romance – perfume, diamonds, lingerie, and the like – would be stupid to avoid the sex appeal.  Beer commercials would hardly be beer commercials without a little sex appeal, and with 85% of beer drinkers being men, who are visual beings, who could blame the advertising agencies, really…

But then we have the products that do not seem to have much direct correlation to romance or sexuality.  Thin, beautiful ladies sitting on cars sells cars.  Sex even sells Coca-Cola, my favorite soft drink as the advertisement to the left shows (a New Zealand advertisement but not the only Coca-Cola girl in a swimsuit!).

But Christmas?

Well – if sex sells, Christmas apparently sells better with a little sex appeal thrown in.

I love the music on Mariah Carey’s Christmas CD; I would have bought the CD with or without the cover art to the left.  It would be fun to do a study to find out if that is true of the rest of America, though.  Does the impressive number of sales of this CD have more to do with the playlist (Silent Night, Oh Holy Night, Joy to the World, Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child, and more…yours for only$4.38 on Amazon.com) or more to with the fact that Mariah is gorgeous and wearing a suggestive Santa Claus outfit on the cover?
We are currently in the season of Advent, a time in the church calendar when we wait and prepare to celebrate the coming of the Christ child who would, as a friend’s blog shares, answer our grief with hope in the form of a person.  How did this time get hijacked by commercialization and advertising that now fill our minds with sexy Christmas images?  This time of waiting, expectation, and hope is not to be filled with sexy women or even “female” M&Ms (by the way, I had a lesson in M&M gender from my son this morning…a great time!) clad in Santa outfits.
I am not so naive as to think that changing culture is easy or quick, but something should be done.  I did not buy the M&Ms; is that a start?

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