Silence and Sound Advent Devotional

Faithful readers,

As promised, our contemplative Advent devotional is ready now for download.  Beginning Friday, December 1 through December 25, enjoy a reading and contemplative exercise each day.

Silence and Sound 2
Download Advent Devotaional

Silence & Sound Advent 2017 is our gift to you this Advent season. We hope that through this devotional, you are called to deeper understanding and fuller practice of the faith we share in Christ! We worked together across the world to compile these readings and thoughts as short daily readings with accompanying contemplations or actions you can pick up at any point in the day or integrate into your personal advent practice.”

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“Silence and sound are two vital themes in the Old Testament. Although this pair are often discussed as opposites, we have placed them on a spectrum–silence can sound like many different things. From the beginning, we encounter the silence of the void into which the Creator speaks, a certain silence of good creation at peace as the Creator rests; but also the silence of Adam during the Temptation, the silence of Eve as she gives the serpent too much shrift, the silence of dread that must have filled their ears, knowing the Lord God would show up. Silence gives the foundational mythos of Scripture its cadence, while sound accompanies the interventions of the Creator. God speaks, and the world is created, and so the morning stars sing for joy. Prophets prophesy and kings decree; people cry out in repentance, and then praise.

“All the way through, silence and sound punctuate this holy history of the Old Testament. The silence of pain: from the uncomfortable silence between Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah to the deathly silences Esther endured to save her people. The sound of distress: the sound of Israelites groaning under their slavery, the repentant sound of Nineveh’s decree, and the reluctant sound of Jeremiah’s prophecies. The silence of blessing: from the stupefied silence as his brothers are reconciled to Joseph to the hushed silence as the ark of the covenant is placed in the Temple. The sound of victory: the sound of the Lord God cursing the serpent, the sound of the ram’s horn and warrior’s shout crumbling Jericho, the sound of Isaiah’s response “Here am I.”

“Beyond these guiding narratives, we find silence and sound woven through the lives and the faith of believers throughout history. Silence and sound can be sources of strength when we have trained ourselves to hear them. If we will attune our ears and attend to the message, we will hear the glory of God in the sounds and silences of life. The Advent season is a reminder to us of the power of waiting and listening as well speaking out. May the voice of the Lord guide your lives and faith!”

Writers:

Bethany Stallings
Charlotte Cline-Smith
Meridith Matson
Nathan Bingaman
Scott Matson

Artist:

Ellie Stager
letterandjournal.com

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arrival of advent

The arrival of advent awaits us.  Beginning December 3, the church begins a season of expectation and waiting, culminating on Christmas Day as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A few friends of mine have put together a contemplative advent guide, which will be available for free.  Check back here later this coming week for a link to download.  This guide is meant to help you create some calm in the midst of this often busy season.  We hope it is a blessing and refreshment to your soul this season.

Check back here for a few of my original writing and poetry, as I’ll post on the day each one is read in the guide.

Peace to you this Christmas season.

instead, pray

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray.” Philippians 4:6 (The Voice)

I love trees.  Green, vibrant leaves.  Tall, dark brown trunks.  Nestled in a quiet forest.  This is calm: staring and examining them in stillness.

Growing up in Oregon only fostered my love for trees, and I am still fascinated by the redwoods – the tall, strong redwood trees.  Standing still and ageless, lining the long, winding roads between central Oregon and the coast.  (I confess my obsession with these trees could also be because Return of the Jedi was filmed in Oregon in the redwoods.. I digress.)

When I turned ten we moved into a new house with a backyard full of cherry trees and apple trees.  I dreamed of waking up early and picking fruit each morning – of course this dream quickly dissolved when we discovered birds ate all the cherries, which were only really ripe about two weeks out of the year, and the apples were filled with worms and all sorts of other creatures that shouldn’t be consumed.  The fruit produced by these trees remained uneatable.

Anxiousness often overcomes us and we discover the fruit born of our anxious thoughts are fruits of worry and fear. Thoughts planted in our minds blossom into something – thoughts of lust, fear, greed, pride, and a whole host of other fruits that are more flesh than spirit.

Instead of anxiousness and worry, Paul tells the Philippian believers to instead pray. No formula, no article entitled: “10 Steps to Worry Less.” Just a simple solution: pray. And the fruit of this action?  Peace.  A peace that “(is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” Philippians 4:7 (The Voice)

Paul goes on to list what the seeds of our thoughts should be: the seeds to plant that will produce the fruit of peace: “Fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praise worthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me – do it- and the peace of God will walk with you.” Philippians 4:8-9.

Seeds of beauty, truth, that which is lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy produce those fruits, which ultimately guards us with the peace of God.

Picturing those tall redwoods, or imagining the cherry and apple trees of my childhood, I see wormy apples and cherry pits left behind by the birds.  Uneatable fruit.  But today in my own anxiousness and worry, I pray.  Seeking to plant seeds of truth and goodness, producing not fear or multipied anxiousness, but instead peace.

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pass over

The Passover celebration commemorates God’s unbelievable rescue of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. As part of this incredible rescue, and the Israelites’ first born sons were saved from the angel of death by the blood of a lamb upon their door posts.

God, through Moses, parted the waters of the Red Sea so they could walk on dry ground, freeing them as slaves. God didn’t want his people to forget this significant event in history – so each year a special meal commemorated this day.

Our story today takes place at a Passover meal some 1500 years after the exodus.

Let’s find out more about this meal – with Jesus and his disciples.

John 13 (NET)
Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. 3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”)12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet.

So much is going on in this snippet, just before Jesus’ death.  Jesus demonstrates humility by washing the feet of the men he was closest too on this earth.  Jesus demonstrated servanthood by washing the feet of his disciples, but the events just hours away demonstrated ultimate humility – just hours later, he would be arrested, beaten, and killed upon a cross meant for a criminal.

THE ultimate act of a servant – dying for someone else.

The Passover meal included a lamb – when the Israelites were in Egypt, a lamb was sacrificed so that the firstborn Israelite wouldn’t have to die – the blood of the lamb was applied to the door and the angel of death passed over that house.

Each year they would say: “The lamb died instead of me.”

Exodus 12:

“Each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household” v.3
“Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames…” v. 7
“That same night the are to eat the meat roasted over the fire…” v. 8
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance.” v. 14

Generations to come celebrated this event – which is why Jesus, some 1500 years later, celebrates the Passover.

Jesus knew the events that would follow this meal: Judas’ betrayal, arrested and handed over to be beaten, humiliated culminating in his death.

Everything in all God’s big story pointed to this night – the tree in the garden where Adam and Eve took and ate the fruit lead to the next tree – the cross.
Everything God did,
every sin the people committed,
every sacrifice that covered the sins committed,
the prophets, priests, kings – they all pointed to this night.

Through Jesus, God said – “I am about to deal with evil and sin and death once and for all.”

This. Was. It.

All the hurts and heartaches.
All the lies and deceit.
All the pains we closely bear in our hearts.
All the ways we rebel against God.
This one act restored us so we can know God
and he could give us a second chance.

God was already making everything new –
from the first tree in the garden – to this tree, the cross.
God was rescuing,
God was making a way,
And God was working out his perfect plan for us.
Through the perfect Lamb of God – Jesus Christ.

“The lamb died, instead of me.”
“The lamb died, instead of you.”
“The lamb died, instead of us.”

The lamb died – so you and I could be saved, and know God the father.

John the Baptist when he saw Jesus said:
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

The Prophet Isaiah said this of Jesus:
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

Do you know the Lamb of God?
Did you know Jesus, the lamb of God died instead of you? That he died for you?

“The lamb died instead of me.”

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146,000 silent nights

Malachi 3:1  “’I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

These were last words God spoke.  For 400 years.

The people waited.
And they kept waiting.
400 years passed;
God was silent.
146,000 silent nights.
But all the people were watching and waiting,
and watching some more.

They were not fighting each other.
They were not worshipping other gods…
for the first time in a LONG time.

They knew God was with them as they watched and waited,
but, the promise…
from the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a son is born
Unto us a son is given
The peace, justice, righteousness…
they knew these were coming.
They knew HE was coming.

But, do you think the people wanted to give up?
Did they get tired of waiting?
Did they think God’s promises weren’t going to come to be?

Maybe.

But the next time God spoke, it wasn’t through a judge, king or prophet.
It was in the cry of a Baby.
God would break the silent nights, with a not so silent night,
through the screaming cry of a baby.
The Son of God,
Emmanuel,
GOD WITH US.

Two people waited expectantly day and night in the temple worshipping God, waiting for the Messiah, or the Christ.

Luke 2:25-32  “There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:
‘Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples— a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.'”

Luke 2:36-38  “There was also a prophetess, Anna […] . She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Simeon and Anna both were waiting,
and after waiting so long, they finally gazed into the eyes of God-
a baby.

Someone asked me last week – why do we celebrate Jesus coming at Christmas time so much? What’s so special about it?

Jesus was and still is the hope of all mankind.
Jesus was and is God – who came to earth to live as one of us,
to share in our sufferings, our struggles,
to live as we live,
and years later – this baby, now a man
would die on a cross and rise again
because of one reason:

LOVE.

God’s love for us – you and I and this entire world
is so big that he didn’t leave us alone,
He didn’t leave us to walk this life alone
He came to be with us,
He came to rescue us.

And that indeed is good news,
the good news of love
that was worth waiting for all those years.

Love.

 

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touch points

words seem to fail me all the time these days.  i should just stop talking, because i never can say the right thing.  i don’t even know what i really want to say either.  even right now.

the moment a heart breaks, one can never really know how they will survive.  i’m not trying to be dramatic, just honest.  i think that’s why we fear love.  intimacy.  we never know when the heart will break and we never can know if it will fully be put back together again.

it’s easier to just not feel than to let yourself feel sometimes.

i was driving home tonight after running with a friend.  rolled my windows down, opened my sun roof, letting in the crisper-than-usual september first air.  it was peaceful.  sometimes we have to search for those moments of peace.

the moon was also really amazing tonight.  just a sliver in the distance.

i don’t really know what i’m trying to say, but for some reason it didn’t need any capital letters.

YOU

YOU hold it in your hands
YOU carefully watch every move
every breath
YOU whisper: words of life
into every heart and soul

breathing in and breathing out
saying YOUR name unaware
grace upon grace
mercy upon mercy you say:
you are MINE and I am yours

we spout words of discontent
sentences of our “all knowing humanness”
YOU smile, YOU see, YOU hear
but we cannot see things the way YOU do
we cannot understand the workings of YOUR hand

we can never see all the ways
YOU cover us with your unending grace
the ways we divide and kill
the ways YOU cover us still
blind to YOUR covering grace, we are

YOUR light breaks through the darkness
as i stand facing the light of day
facing the light with the past behind
how could i ever not see YOU
how could i ever forget YOU?

YOU are everywhere and in my every breath
YOU are peace when all around is madness
YOU are joy (and my joy) when i have lost happy
YOU are grace covering every word and every move

YOU are.