Food for the Road 17: Good news for all

Today’s offering is a simple one as the “festive frenzy” sets in: watch the (what I’ve been told by a few is actually quite nauseating) animated version of Joy to the world below – paying careful attention to the sheep.

What went through your mind when, in the midst of all the joy and wonder, the one sheep went out into the darkness to sit sadly and gaze out at the surrounding hills?

For me, I am struck in Luke’s retelling of the shepherd’s story by the fact that those people of the land who came and saw the Son of God in the cradle just had to share the news with the city folk who were unaware.

Today, I invite you to share in some small way, the joy you’ve been given in Christ with another.

Food for the Road 15: Joy

To all looking for Joy in the midst of the world’s troubles …

One of my all-time favourite movies is an animated film titled “Inside Out” which is set almost entirely inside the head of an 11-year old girl named Riley. Inside there, five main characters – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust – work (somewhat together) to help her navigate her way through her world.

It’s well worth watching – on your own or with the grandkids – as the manic pixie-like character named Joy struggles to keep Riley happy after a stressful cross-country move and a difficult period at work for Riley’s father by dismissing the voices of all the other characters.

In the end, Joy discovers that her significance is much more than making Riley feel upbeat and positive all the time and that the experience of life as meaningful and worthwhile requires that Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust live and work alongside her too.

As we light the third candle in our advent wreath, we open ourselves up to Joy of the shepherds who were the first to receive the glorious news of the birth of Christ, the promised Messiah. The purpose behind the angel’s tidings was to bring good news that would cause great joy for all the people: people living under the oppressive force of Roman power, religious legalism, and poverty.

As the pronouncement sent the shepherds on a journey from their fields to seek the truth for themselves, may we bear glad witness to God-with-us on the highest mountains and in the shadows of the deepest valleys.

Yours in Christ
Yvonne

Day Twelve: Have Christ

Psalm 126
Habakkuk 2:1-5
Philippians 3:7-11

When my children were younger, the first (few) days of the December holidays were spent sorting through all of the stuff that they had accumulated; donating the intact things which they had outgrown to others; and tossing all of the sticky, broken, unidentifiable items in the bin. I could smugly claim that this agonising process (hated by both mother and children alike) was good parenting or great housekeeping but, in reality, we were simply making space for more stuff that would arrive over the course of Christmas, birthdays, school stationary shopping, and frivolous pocket-money purchases in the year to come.

Our Scripture readings today are all about sufficiency – a foreign concept in a day and age where either …

… we never feel whole or full enough and spend most (if not all) of our hard-earned money on accumulating more stuff in the vain hope that a George Foreman Grill or Miracle Bamboo Bra will transform our homes into the happy places we’ve always dreamed of …

or

… we adamantly reject the consumer culture, rail against the status quo, replace our entire wardrobe with a seasonal clothing capsule (at an extravagant price, 4 seasons a year),

and quote minimalist sentiments like “free yourself to be the mom who sits down and plays” that make others strive even more frantically to be less of a failure and exhaust us in our attempts to maintain the moral high ground ….

Here’s a wise word of warning from the prophet Habakkuk (chapter 2:5, The Message):

“Note well: Money deceives.
The arrogant rich don’t last.
They are more hungry for wealth
than the grave is for cadavers.
Like death, they always want more,
but the ‘more’ they get is dead bodies.
They are cemeteries filled with dead nations, graveyards filled with corpses.”

The more we have,
the hungrier we are for more.
More money.
More power.
More affirmation.
More understanding.
More data.
More time to myself.

What are some of your “mores?”

Don’t forget that the longing for more may actually include some good longings like “more prayer time” or “more time with my kids.” Include these too. 

The main problem with wanting more – no matter how good or righteous or wonderful that more may seem – is that it robs us of the richness of our present circumstance …

… even if that circumstance is a place of genuine poverty and despair ….

Read again and again (and even again) the words of Psalm 126 until your heart has taken hold of the joy of those who had nothing.

Where did that joy come from?

What did the apparent poverty of their circumstance create space for? 

The third chapter of Paul’s letters to the Philippians starts with an emphatic command to REJOICE IN THE LORD!

The source of this rejoicing? Being content to have Christ through the experience of both his resurrection power and a sharing in his suffering (Philippians 3:10).

More. Less. None of matters, Paul writes, compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ firsthand (Philippians 3:8).

Today, have Christ … invite him to fill a particular moment …

… a cup of coffee in a patch of sunlight …

… planting a seedling …

… ditching the George Foreman grill …

… laughing with your loved ones about something silly or nothing in particular at all

… just ENJOY!

 

An Advent Candle Poem/Prayer

For use in congregations/communities who light a candle each Sunday in Advent leading up to Christmas following the traditional pattern of prophets (hope), Mary and Joseph (faith), shepherds (joy), angels (peace) and Jesus (love) … a simple poem/prayer in five parts with an additional “verse” to be said as a conclusion to the prayer time until the final verse is offered on Christmas Day.

A candle for the Christ-King
For whom the prophets said to wait;
He may seem slow in coming
but we know God’s never late …

This one is for his parents
On their trip to Bethlehem
For they believed the promise
That God would be with them …

The third is for the shepherds
Whose hearts were full of joy
As angels came to tell them
About a special baby boy …

Oh! How those angels worshipped
and their song rang through the air:
“Glory be to God on high:
His peace be everywhere.”

And now, with great excitement,
We light the final flame –
For Love has come into the world;
Christ Jesus is his name.

***

This verse is to be said on weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4 to explain the presence of the unlit candles. On Christmas Day it is replaced with the final verse.

These candles still are waiting
For their chance to shine –
they remind us to be ready
for a very special time ….