SERIES #2 Reflections

 

 

Week 7: To Save Us All

Days ago we rang in the New Year. I remember when I was little, and the year "2017" only existed in movies with a future that was so far ahead of us. And now it is upon us. It's amazing how fast the time goes by.

This season tends to be a time of reflection for many of us. I find myself thinking about times past, my present reality, and also Christmases to come. I find myself thinking about an idealistic future holiday season because my current one, while incredibly joyful and full of love, seems so imperfect. And when I humble myself enough to admit that, the more I find camaraderie amidst so many people who feel the same way. We live in a broken world, and therefore our realities are also broken. So what is it about the birth of a child 2000 years ago that changes that reality?  The Christ-child brings us the thrill of hope!

I was recently reading about a certain Japanese art form called Kintsukuroi. Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing pottery, but there something unique about this certain form of art: instead of just gluing broken pieces of pottery back together, Kintsukuroi uses lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. The once jagged edges of the broken pottery are filled with exquisite streams of gold. Now, I'm sure that this isn't Christian in origin, but I love the parallel to the coming of Christ meeting human brokenness. If you look up pictures of Kintsukuroi, the pottery is in fact more beautiful after the repair than before it was broken at all. The pottery is made new. 

"...who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2: 6-11)

While we were still broken, still hurting, still completely and totally unable to love God as he deserves, he chose to take on the form of a human flesh in order to save us. Nothing that we could ever do could warrant ourselves worthy of that. He comes out of transparent and total love. He empties out himself for us. He gives the gift of himself to us, and He does so time and time again. 

As we continue the celebration of this Christmas season, let us welcome Him with open arms, allowing him to transform our reality. Let us allow him to make us new. 

O, come let us adore Him!

Written by Andrea Thomas

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Were there times this Christmas when you found your reality less than perfect? In what ways can you invite Christ into that?
  2. In this new year, what areas of your life can you invite Christ to make new?
  3. Is there a specific loved one you can pray for in 2017, for their openness and receptivity to Christ's healing?
  4. In what areas can you offer gratitude and thanksgiving to God for the blessings of 2016?

Week 6: You Gave Us Your Love

On Christmas morning, I opened the blinds on the front door just in time to see a full-grown man fly down our suburban street on a shiny new go-cart that I’m assuming was purchased “for the kids”.  He looked elated, like he had finally just checked that box on his fourth-grade Christmas list.  I saw kids riding new bikes, countless drones hovering close enough to smash with a baseball bat (I politely refrained), new dolls, new diamonds, new slippers…you name it, and people of all ages were out there playing with their new “toys”.

But for everyone out there that I saw reveling in the joy of these new temporal treasures, I knew there were also those who found themselves disappointed.  Disappointed because they seemingly didn’t get everything they hoped for or asked for.  Disappointed because they seemingly didn’t get anything at all.  Disappointed because they found themselves alone, or surrounded by people but still feeling alone.  And so went the first day of the Christmas season for those who celebrate it across the world; a variety of different experiences ranging joy to sorrow, delight to disappointment, and everything in between. 

As we journey through the rest of these days of Christmas – days that oftentimes get lost in a sort of transitional, dragged out anticlimax that lasts until we find ourselves back to work in full swing the by the second week of January – I sincerely feel like the Lord is inviting me, inviting us, to realize more fully exactly what he has given us.  It’s not something that we can fully appreciate when we first unwrap it.  It takes a little while to sink in, maybe the rest of our lives.  Perhaps St. John describes most concisely this gift we’ve been given in his most famous of scripture quotes when he says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” – John 3:16

God has given us the ultimate gift: the gift of himself.  Whether we know it or not, he has given us more than we were hoping for and more than we could have ever known to ask for.  God becomes one of us, he becomes Emmanuel, he becomes part of our story, our family, our situation and circumstance.  And he comes, not only as the Savior of the world…he comes as my Savior, as your Savior.  Let it sink in for a minute, we’ve heard it a thousand times, but have we received it? 

As we prayed about these things, Lizzy and I wrote this song “You Gave Us Your Love”.  I wrote about our new little baby Molly in our last reflection, and since then, we’ve realized two things about our lives since she’s arrived:

1) She’s real.  She’s here, she’s flesh and blood and blue eyes and an endless stream of dirty diapers.  In a beautiful way this love that we’ve shared for years now is suddenly not just an intangible reality but one that is living and breathing…one that literally has a name. 

2) She’s changed everything.  There is nothing or very close to nothing about our lives that is the same anymore.  Molly has changed what we think about, what we talk about, how we spend our time, what we worry about, what we dream about and plan for in the future, and on and on. 

Perhaps we can consider this Christmas season that what we’ve received in the gift of God’s own Son is not just a nostalgic story or another year of delight (or disappointment).  What we’ve received is the gift of a person who is real and who changes everything.  God’s love for us isn’t invisible or intangible anymore…it has a name, and his name is Jesus.  This love is the gift that has power changes everything about our lives.  All the things we think can never be saved, all the darkness that we think no light can penetrate, all the wounds, the sorrows, and the disappointments…this is where he desires to come, this is where he desires to be born. 

We have a beautiful manger scene on our coffee table with a bunch of little figurines.  I’m ashamed to say that this is the first year I’ve really noticed that, as romantic as it looks, this stable is clearly less than an ideal place for the labor and delivery of a child.  My heart, my situation, my family – all seemingly imperfect places, and less than ideal locations for the birth of God’s Son.  But this is exactly where he desires to come, to you and to me.  Right into our mess, right into our “stable”.  Why? Because he truly desires to give to us the perfect gift of himself, the gift of his love. 

Written by Greg Boudreaux of “Greg&Lizzy”

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. What did you get for Christmas?  

  2. Was it what you were hoping for?  

  3. Was it what you asked for?  

  4. Perhaps we can spend some time in these days of Christmas to let it sink into our hearts that God has given us the greatest gift of all…He gave us His love.  


 

Week 5: Starlight

 

I feel as though I spend most of my life moving toward a place of settled-ness. I'm striving for something that I'm certain will refresh my soul, settle my spirit...whether that be a new gig or job, a celebration with friends and family, a long overdue vacation. So, I'm just struggling through the drudgery, living for some event or achievement in the future that will make the everyday work worth it. And these moments when I am "in between," headed toward my new destination, I often find myself anxious and unhappy...not a deep sense of sadness, but a feeling that those "in between" moments just aren’t as worthy or good.

I've got to keep coming back to that trite but true saying, "the gift is the journey." God graces us with little glimmers of His love every single day. Often, it's in these moments that He reveals to us the people we are meant to encounter and to love on. Unfortunately, our busyness and single-mindedness as we travel towards the destination (often set by our own agendas) prevent us from encountering these little moments "in between."

Composing “Starlight,” I wanted to depict the long and exciting journey of the wisemen traveling towards the babe in the manger. I’m amazed by the curiosity, boldness, and trust that these three Kings had, dropping everything to follow the promise of a star.  The obligations that overwhelm me on a daily basis are nothing compared to the responsibilities these Kings bore. My own struggle to hear God’s voice amidst the clamoring of my own desires is so real. How then did three kings find time to even notice God’s sign in a star that shined a little brighter than the rest?

In this song, we travel, experiencing the journey alongside the wisemen. First, we encounter the sign from God and the start of a long and hopeful sojourn.  The second section bears the wonder at meeting Jesus, the babe. And the last portion of the piece symbolizes going forth from the nativity…the joy, life, and steadiness that this encounter with Love Himself gives us.

Written by Shawn Williams

-WISEMEN STILL SEEK HIM-


 

Week 4: Silent Night

 

The night everything changed...

Imagine the night when Christ was born, the night where God touched the earth; the stillness, the quiet, the calm of the night. Imagine what the earth must have felt the moment when Hope came down, God was with us, the moment he took on flesh as our Savior, the Savior of the World. A night so profound that even two thousand years later, we cannot comprehend the miracle that took place. 

As years have gone by, we as a society have gone overboard in the commercialization and hype of the Christmas season. A season full of stress, shopping, partying, chaos, peppermint mochas and tacky sweaters. How did we get so far away from the manger, how did we get so far away from the calm, still night when christ was born? As we journey this Christmas season, our invitation is simple; we invite you to pray with your family. Most importantly, we invite you to pray. Although there are times we get caught up in the chaos of the holidays, the simple reality is that our salvation became possible that Christmas night. Jesus, the hope we long for, the peace we need. 

My prayer this Christmas is that we may still our hearts. Christ came in the simplicity of the manger, not on a throne or in a palace or clothed in riches, he came humbly and still. Let us journey together to the manger, the night everything changed.

Written by John Finch

 
 

 

Week 3: In Need of a Savior

 

I got lost in DisneyWorld when I was six years old. 

My siblings and I were with my dad riding Space Mountain, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the most amazing thing: a Reba McEntire cd in one of those spiraling glass cases. I was mesmerized. Who doesn't love a little Reba? 

After only a few moments of distraction, I turned around to find nothing and no one familiar. Where was my family? I became overcome with fear. I was lost in the not-so-magical-feeling world of Disney. 

Luckily, my dad is a man with a plan, and he told us in the car that morning, "Ok guys, if anyone gets separated from the group, we are going to meet at Cinderella's Castle. Everybody understand? Cinderella's Castle. That's very important."

So there I stood. A little brown-haired six-year-old, who was frightened out of her mind. For whatever reason, I had the intuition at that age to keep it together. I wanted to cry and scream out for my dad, but I didn't want anyone to know I was lost. So, I started walking toward Cinderella's Castle. My dad told me later I was lost for about 30 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. I moseyed around the front side of the Castle....and I waited. I had to trust that my dad would come for me. And then, finally, out of the crowd emerged my dad. He came running towards me and I toward him. My dad found me. He came....for me.

The word "Advent" comes from the Latin word that means "coming". Right now, as a Church, we find ourselves in that season of waiting on Someone who is coming. Maybe we even feel a little bit lost. Sometimes, in seasons of waiting, it can feel like an eternity. And it can be agonizing.  When we are in a season of waiting, especially when we cannot perceive the end, the temptation is to become highly anxious, or even to despair. This isn't just in reference to the Advent season. This, in fact, is how many of us feel in our every day lives. Sometimes we simply feel, like I did in the park that day, in need of someone to save us. 

"The people in darkness have seen a great light...." (Is 9:2)

God knows intimately of your needs. He knows your areas of "darkness". He knows about the job, the finances, the family member in need, the broken relationship....he knows it all. We have a good Father in Heaven who, beyond all comprehension, sent His only son to this earth. And he did that, my friends, for us. He did that for you. 

Like my dad came searching for me, his daughter Andrea, Christ comes to seek and save you. Insert your name. It's personal, it's individual, and it's real. He knows your anxieties. He knows what distracts you, He knows what is keeping you from trusting him. He knows it all. And He comes for you. 

In this season of waiting, of feeling lost...let us choose trust. Trust that we have God who knows us and sees us. Trust that we have a God who comes to save his children; we, who are in desperate need of a Savior. 

Written by Andrea Thomas

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Are there any areas of your life that you don't believe God can make new? Can you identify what holds you back from fully trusting that God will take care of you?

  2. In what ways can you invite Him into your heart in a deeper way this Advent season? What can you practically do to create some space for God to move in your life? 

  3. This Advent series by The Vigil Project is all about the family: is there a family member in need who you can pray for in a special way this week, trusting that God sees their every need?

 
 

 

Week 2: Savior of The World

 

As we journey closer to the birth of the Christ-child at Christmas, we wait with anticipation and desperation. 

Scripture says, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." - Titus 3:3-7

In a world that offers doubt, we have a God who brings hope. In a world full of deceit, we have a God who brings truth. He's the Hope we long for, the peace we need and the one who authors our salvation. Our God didn't come to save himself, He came with a specific purpose; to save us all and bring us home to His son, Jesus, the Savior of the World.

Written by John Finch.

 


Week 1: Prepare Him Room

 
 

I’ve been swamped lately: a thousand things to do and no time to do them.  I finally saw an opening in my calendar for today and made a long list of things to accomplish.  Except for one small “detail”, I was poised to have a day of record-breaking productivity…enter Molly. 

Molly is my and Lizzy’s one-month old daughter.  She drinks milk and eats time.  With Lizzy out for the day spending time with her mom, I found myself alone with Molly, feeding, changing, rocking, holding, and repeating.  As soon as I provided for one of her little needs, the next one was on deck to absorb the next ten minutes, until finally I realized in a little bit of a panic that the day was slipping through my idle, bottle-holding fingers.  My day was shot, Molly made sure that I would accomplish nothing.

After she fell asleep in my arms late this afternoon, I began to reflect on the day, and I began to pray.  That’s when the Lord showed me a different perspective on all of this.  He reminded me of what I thought I already knew: Molly is priority number one, far ahead of all the other things on the list, however good they may be.  She deserves my time and my attention.  She has the right to inconvenience me and change my schedule.  And if there was a competition in my mind between she and the other things I had to do, then I am in need of some major conversion of heart.  She came into our lives as a pure gift, one worth celebration, and one for whom it’s worth making changes to our routine.

I feel like this is the invitation the Lord gives us in a real and tangible way this Advent season.  As we become busier and busier with things that are good and even Godly, perhaps we forget to make room for the one that matters most.  At Christmas, God desires to give us the greatest gift, his own Son, his own flesh and blood.  Do we have room in our lives, room in our schedules, room in our hearts to receive him? If we say yes, make no mistake - it will require changes to the way life is now.  If we invite him into the room of our hearts, he will take up our time, he will “inconvenience” us and change our schedule.  Why? Because our God, Emmanuel, is not an ethereal idea, or a nostalgic tradition: He is a person who requires our attention if we choose to enter into relationship with him. 

So, how is it that we make room to receive Jesus this Advent in a real and visceral way? Perhaps the best place for me to start is with Molly.  Perhaps the best place for you to start is with your own family, your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings.  Let’s take this Advent season to make room in our lives for the ones the Lord has already given us.  Let’s allow them to take up our time, to change our schedules, to receive and experience the gift of our love and care for them.  When we do this, we make room Jesus to come into the middle of our families and our relationships.  We make room for him to show us what’s most important.  We make room for him to change and convert all the selfish parts of our hearts.  As we do this, something beautiful happens: we become holy, and our families become holy.

Let us prepare room this Advent to receive Jesus at Christmas and to love him by serving our own families.

Written by Greg Boudreaux of Greg&Lizzy.

 

 

Reflection Questions:

1.  What are the things in your life that seem to be competing for your attention with your loved ones? What are you holding onto that’s absorbing your time?

2.  How can you make changes to your schedule, activities, and priorities to make room for Christ to come and to better love your family?

3.  How is God calling you to and giving you the grace for conversion of heart this Advent? How is he calling you and your family to holiness?